You or someone close to you is experiencing sudden pain, and your or your relative’s health is rapidly declining in other ways. You start trying to figure out what may be causing all of this, and there’s a discovery of an advanced-stage bedsore. What do you do? First, seek medical assistance from a competent physician, then call a Little Rock pressure injury lawyer for help.
An attorney can advise you whether Arkansas law may allow you to recover compensation for the medical bills and other costs you’re sure to amass on your road to recovery.
What Are Pressure Injuries?
If the terminology “pressure injuries” sounds unfamiliar to you, that may be because it’s just one way of referring to an adverse medical condition many others call:
- Pressure sores
- Decubitus ulcers (the condition’s scientific diagnosis)
- Pressure ulcers
No matter what name you refer to them by, this type of injury impacts both the skin and the tissue underneath. Spending an extended period of time applying pressure on the skin in one position is the primary cause of pressure injuries.
Populations Most at Risk of Developing Pressure Injuries
According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), at least 2.5 million in our country receive pressure ulcer diagnoses every year.
Those individuals with the highest risk of developing pressure ulcers are those who have limited mobility, especially if it impacts their ability to regularly shift their positioning in their bed or a chair, including a wheelchair. Thus, elderly individuals, spinal cord injury patients, and any others who have conditions that restrict their ability to easily move about can potentially develop pressure injuries.
However, there are other factors that increase a person’s risk of developing bedsores in addition to mobility issues, including:
- Dehydration and malnutrition: The skin of anyone that is nutrient deficient, dehydrated, calorically deprived, etc. may decrease in integrity.
- Sensory perception concerns: Anyone with a neurological disorder, paralysis included, that limits their ability to feel is at risk for developing pressure injuries as they do not realize when pressure or pain exists, and shifting is necessary to avoid an exacerbation of their condition.
- Circulatory concerns: Vascular disease or any other condition that impacts how blood circulates can damage skin tissue, leading to pressure ulcers.
- Urinary or fecal incontinence: Feces and urine can reduce the quality of a person’s skin, leaving them more vulnerable to developing pressure sores compared to others.
Why Nursing Home Residents Develop Pressure Ulcers
We mentioned above how older people and those with limited mobility generally have the highest chances of suffering from bedsores. These are some of the same individuals who may reside in an assisted living facility, like a nursing home, expecting to receive more attentive, dedicated care than their loved ones could provide them at home. The sad news is that while there are many nursing homes that offer high-touch caregiving that residents desire and families expect, there are some rogue actor facilities where care is lacking.
A landmark Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) National Nursing Home Survey in 2004 showed how 11% (or 159,000 individuals) have bedsores. There are various pressure injury stages, and most residents interviewed at the time were suffering from stage 2 bedsores.
That same research revealed that nursing home residents aged 64 or younger were most apt to develop pressure injuries, as were those living in the facility for a year or less. At least 20% of those residents who’d experienced recent weight loss also had bedsores.
Nursing home residents develop pressure injuries for the same reasons described above, with limited mobility being the primary cause.
Statistics published by ProPublica in July 2023 show that at least 64 of the 218 nursing homes in our state have serious deficiencies. That data also shows that 196 of those facilities specifically have infection-related concerns. Apparently, such issues have been so serious in at least 31 facilities that Medicare payment suspensions occurred at them.
Bedsores are one of the strongest indicators of nursing home neglect. Why? It comes down to how they appear. Pressure injuries show up along portions of the body that remain in one place for too long. While nursing home residents aren’t the only individuals who can suffer these injuries, they are one of the most vulnerable populations that can. If these assisted living facilities’ residents are unable to move, or require a staff member’s assistance to shift them but don’t receive it, pressure injuries develop.
Consider reaching out to a Little Rock pressure injury lawyer if you or someone close to you received such a potentially life-threatening diagnosis, such as a decubitus ulcer, while under someone else’s care. Our McMath Woods P.A. attorneys will help you sort out if someone shoulders liability for what occurred and, if so, advise you of legal remedies you can pursue to secure compensation to cover outstanding bills and discourage negligent parties from ever inflicting similar harm upon others. An initial case evaluation with our legal team is completely free.
Skin Surfaces Most at Risk of Developing Pressure Sores
Pressure injuries most often show up along the following body parts:
- The heels
- On the rear portion of the ears and head
- The elbows
- The shoulder blades
- The lower back
- The rear end
- The inner portion of the knees
- The hips
While pressure injuries most commonly show up along the body parts listed above, they can really show up virtually anywhere where there is weight concentrated on one area of the skin. And no matter where, they can all end up causing permanent injuries or death under the right set of circumstances.
Complications Associated With Pressure Sores
There are health complications that can arise from someone having pressure sores. One of the most obvious is cellulitis, which is why a person’s skin will appear swollen and red when they have a pressure injury.
If left untreated, the cellulitis will penetrate additional layers of skin and underlying tissue and can result in:
- An abscess: Indicated by an accumulation of pus at the injury site.
- Joint or bone infections: This is most common when a pressure injury is at an advanced stage, which means it permeates through some of the topmost layers of skin and underlying tissue all the way to the bone.
- Sepsis: A situation whereby bacteria from the infected wound comes into contact with the bloodstream, which can make it necessary to amputate limbs to save a patient’s life.
Skin cancer, and more specifically squamous cell carcinoma, is also a potential adverse diagnosis that patients with pressure injuries may receive.
And, of course, pain or discomfort associated with the symptoms above may only worsen the more serious a patient’s bedsores are. Permanent, debilitating impairments and death are a reality decubitus ulcer patients face.
Are Bedsores Preventable?
Pressure injuries are completely preventable. Some ways in which caregivers can reduce the chances of a patient developing these bedsores include:
- Shifting patients’ weight in chairs or beds at least once hourly
- Elevating portions of residents’ beds and seating surfaces (potentially using cushions if necessary)
- Ensuring patient skin is kept clean and dry
- Asking residents if they are experiencing any itching or pain around certain portions of their bodies
- Changing patient bed linens and clothing regularly
- Evaluating skin that has continued contact with surfaces or medical devices for potential redness, inflammation, or other signs of distress
It’s also important to note that, according to a Patient Safety Network (PSNet) resource shared by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), stage 3 and 4 pressure sores are among nearly 30 serious reportable surgical, product, patient, radiologic, care management, criminal, and environmental “never events.”
Pressure injuries shouldn’t occur if caregivers, including nursing home staff, regularly shift or turn patients in their wheelchairs or beds. And, certainly, if a bedsore does develop, it should never deteriorate to a stage 3 or 4. These stages are particularly complex to treat and could lead to irreversible health impacts, even death.
Don’t let negligent caregivers or assisted living facilities off easy if you or a loved one has developed a pressure ulcer. Holding them accountable is key to ensuring no one has to go through what you have ever again. It’s also key to you receiving top-notch care that just might keep you alive and ensure you have the best quality of life moving forward. So, connect with a Little Rock pressure injury attorney in our office now to learn more about Arkansas law and the protections it affords victims of neglect like you. There’s no risk or obligation associated with meeting with a lawyer at our firm about this.
Types of Doctors That Treat Pressure Injury Patients
Since there are several stages or grades of pressure injuries, the medical providers a victim may need to see may vary depending on the severity of their injuries. Healthcare professionals that treat bedsores include:
- Wound management professionals: Specially trained nurses who can manage surgically inserted drains, monitor for post-operation hematomas, and the grabbing or opening up of incisions that can occur when re-positioning patients are often necessary members of health care teams who treat pressure injury patients. These professionals also help with changing wound dressings and monitoring for signs of infection.
- Orthopedic surgeons: These physicians may need to disinfect and administer antibiotics directly into an injury site to stave off or slow an infection’s progression and, in some cases, even remove tissue, medical devices, or limbs, depending on the severity of a patient’s condition.
- Plastic surgeons: This type of doctor may need to become involved in treating bedsores if a patient’s wound requires debridement and musculocutaneous flaps must be created.
- Occupational or physical therapists: Hospitals or rehabilitative care facilities often require patients to demonstrate a capacity to move about normally before their discharge to a nursing home or their residence, where there may be less dedicated care. Those with decubitus ulcers must often receive physical or occupational therapy to regain strength or functionality in their affected body parts to be considered well enough to return to their prior living environment.
If you or your loved one currently has pressure injuries, you know just how costly receiving often life-saving medical care from the professionals described above can be. Fortunately, Arkansas law allows you to file a claim demanding a settlement offer or pursue a jury trial to secure an award to cover expenses like these when someone else violates the standard or duty of care they owe you.
Compensation You Can Recover by Filing a Pressure Injury Lawsuit
We outlined some of the medical providers you may need to see above to paint a clearer picture of how injuries like these involve much more than just going to see your general practitioner and them writing you a prescription or putting a Band-Aid on your wound and sending you home.
As someone with pressure ulcers, you may have medical expenses for or associated with the following:
- Initial emergency room or general practitioner bills (when the initial diagnosis occurred)
- Ambulance bills
- Home health aide or in-home nursing care (for wound management or hourly shifting)
- Follow-up doctors’ visits
- Assistive devices like wheelchairs, walkers, canes, a lift chair, or hospital-style bed
- Prescription medications
- Cushions to alleviate pressure along certain portions of the body
- Placement in a higher-touch (more attentive) assisted living facility
The list above includes only a few of the many different medical costs someone with a decubitus ulcer may incur. While it can be hard to believe that there is any silver lining in a discussion about bedsores, the good news is that you don’t have to bear the burden of costly medical bills and other injury-related costs like lost wages, pain and suffering, and others on your own—especially since the harm you’re enduring isn’t your fault. You can file a pressure injury lawsuit to recover these damages, and one of our lawyers at McMath Woods P.A. can help.
When To Consult With a Little Rock Pressure Injuries Lawyer
You or your loved one do not have to wait until you develop full-thickness pressure injuries to take legal action against the party who contributed to you or your relative finding oneself in such a situation. Instead, you may be able to file suit when you notice earlier-stage bedsores and instances of caregiver negligence like:
- Poor personal hygiene (to include dirty undergarments and linens)
- Staffing shortages leading to reduced check-ins with patients or residents
Deciding to take legal action early on allows you and your Little Rock pressure injury lawyer to begin compiling evidence necessary to prove liability and secure a judgment in your favor. If you wait too long to file a claim or lawsuit, a deletion of staffing and medical records, video footage, and photographs of what occurred could possibly occur.
A Little Rock pressure injury lawyer is here to discuss the viability of you filing a lawsuit against the negligent party that harmed you or a close family member. So, reach out to our law firm, McMath Woods P.A. to discuss what happened to you and your rights. Your initial consultation with one of our attorneys will be completely free.