Fort Myers Nursing Home Bedsores Lawyer
Nursing home bedsores, also known as pressure sores, pressure ulcers, and decubitus ulcers, are a type of open wound on the skin caused by pressure, force, or friction for a prolonged period of time. As our Fort Myers nursing home injury lawyers explain, bedsores occur far too among skilled nursing facility patients, and the primary cause is neglect.
People who are elderly and suffer disabilities are at higher risk of bedsores if they cannot easily move on their own and must rely on caregivers to regularly reposition their bodies. When a person is not moved properly or frequently enough, loss of blood flow can result in tissue damage and decay. Bedsores are mostly found on bony areas like the tailbone, hips, heels, ankles, shoulder blades, and the back and sides of the head. Not only are they extremely painful, but when they bore into the tissue beneath the epidermis (top layer of skin), they can cause serious illness, infection, and even death.
Because bedsores are both clinically devastating and largely preventable, they were deemed by the National Quality Forum as a “never event,” meaning they should never happen. Yet they are one of the five most common harms experienced by patients in health care facilities. MedScape reports that bedsores affect as many as 2.5 million patients in acute care facilities nationally and result in some 60,000 deaths each year.
The Mayo Clinic notes that bedsores can develop over a matter of days or even just hours. Most will heal if they are treated swiftly and properly, but some never do.Why are Nursing Home Bedsores So Common?
People who are at the highest risk for bedsores are often those who need skilled nursing care.
Those at highest risk are those with:
- Immobility. This can be the result of an injury or disability or just general poor health.
- Incontinence. Skin is more vulnerable to bedsores if it sustains extended exposure to stool and urine.
- Lack of sensory perception. If someone cannot feel pain or discomfort in certain areas of their body, they may not be aware that they need to change positions until the sore has significantly worsened.
- Poor hydration and nutrition. If people do not get enough calories, fluids, proteins, minerals, and vitamins, their skin will not be as healthy, and they will have a harder time fighting off infection.
- Medical conditions that impact the flow of blood. Health issues like heart disease and diabetes add to the risk of tissue damage.
Nursing homes accept the responsibility to care for people with these conditions and owe a duty of care to take preventative action, identify bedsores quickly if they do develop, and respond swiftly and appropriately.
Bedsores are preventable with frequent repositioning, proper nutrition, daily exercise, and good hygiene (i.e., washing, drying, and protecting skin). Certain assistive devices such as wheelchairs, cushions, and mattresses can help relieve pressure by assuring the body is well-positioned. Adjusting bed elevation can also help. At-risk patients should be regularly inspected for warning signs of pressure sores, which include changes in the skin’s color and texture, swelling, pus, surface temperature variations, and tenderness.Do I Need a Lawyer for a Nursing Home Bedsores Claim?
It is important for family members of loved ones who have suffered a nursing home bedsore to discuss the situation with a Fort Myers injury lawyer, especially if the result was a serious infection, long-term illness, or death. This is important for three reasons:
- Compensation. Nursing home injuries can leave victims or their estates saddled with a sizable amount of medical debt, particularly when infection snowballs to affect numerous bodily systems and functions. A successful nursing home bedsore claim can help offset these losses and compensate for physical pain and emotional suffering.
- Nursing home bedsore cases are complicated. Nursing home negligence cases often involve numerous defendants. The facility owner and the operator may not be the same entity. The doctors, nurses, therapists, and dieticians sometimes have different employers. That can make establishing legal liability a challenge, especially because bedsores are often caused by a pattern of substandard care, as opposed to a single, easily identifiable incident. There is poor planning, staffing, training, monitoring, and supervision that come into play, as well as nursing home company policies, practices, and business decisions. Sometimes, there is a question about whether these claims should be filed as general negligence or medical malpractice. Some nursing home negligence cases involve medical malpractice. Determining whether your case is negligence or medical malpractice is not always straightforward. It matters, though, because there are many differences between general negligence and medical malpractice claims. For example, negligence claims can be filed within four years, while medical malpractice cases have a two-year statute of limitations. Further, medical malpractice cases require expert witness testimony just to make it through the early stages, whereas that is not necessary for a general negligence claim. Nursing home lawsuits also often allege a violation of a resident’s rights under F.S. § 400.022. Finally, many nursing homes will demand the case be arbitrated rather than litigated. Arbitration tends to favor the facility. An experienced injury lawyer can fight to have your case weighed in a court of law rather than by a paid arbitrator.
- Accountability equals better care. Florida nursing homes and assisted living facilities have the capacity to care for some 200,000 elderly and disabled patients. These places promise to provide quality personal assistance and medical care – and usually charge between $48,000 and $90,000 annually to do it. This is a significant responsibility that should not be taken lightly, particularly given how vulnerable so many of these residents are to injury, illness, and medical complications. When they fall short of their legal duty of care, civil claims and litigation are a means to hold negligent providers accountable. These claims can also deter other skilled care providers from cutting the same corners in the future, leading to better care. This is particularly true when courts allow for punitive damages, per F.S. 768.72, reserved for intentional misconduct and gross negligence.
If your loved one has suffered nursing home bedsores in the greater South Florida area, we can help.
Contact our Fort Myers personal injury attorneys at Garvin Injury Law today at 239.277.0005 or online for a free case review.