Stage 4 Bedsores and Complications Due to Negligence
For people with limited mobility, bedsores are often a risk. Bedsores, which may also be referred to as pressure ulcers or decubitus ulcers, happen when the skin breaks down due to pressure over time. In many cases, bedsores occur when a person lies in a bed, sits in a wheelchair, or wears a cast for a long time.
Bedsores are graded from least severe (stage 1) to most severe (stage 4). A stage 4 bedsore carries a serious risk of infection or even death. Because stage 4 bedsores are often preventable, they may be a sign of hospital or nursing home abuse or neglect.
If your loved one has been diagnosed with a stage 4 bedsore, then they may be able to file a nursing home abuse lawsuit. Through this type of claim, they may be able to recover the compensation that they need to pay for life-saving medical treatment and better care at a more skilled facility. A seasoned Seattle nursing home abuse lawyer can evaluate your case during a free consultation and help you determine your best options.
What Are Bedsores?
Bedsores are injuries to the skin and the underlying tissue that develop as a result of prolonged pressure on the skin. They most often develop on skin that covers the bony areas of the body, such as the tailbone, heels, ankles, or hips.
Bedsores arise when the blood supply to healthy skin is cut off for more than two to three hours, and the skin tissue starts to die. If a bedsore is not treated, the skin turns purple and may break open.
People with medical conditions that limit their ability to change positions, or which cause them to spend a lot of time in their bed or a chair, are most at risk for developing bedsores. The risk factors for bedsores include:
- Immobility, due to a health condition, spinal cord injury, or another cause;
- Incontinence, as the skin is more vulnerable to bedsores with extended exposure to feces and/or urine;
- Poor nutrition and hydration, which can affect the ability of their bodies to maintain healthy skin;
- Inability to feel pain or discomfort, which can lead a person to ignore warning signs that they need to change position; and
- Conditions that affect blood flow, like vascular disease and diabetes, can increase the risk of tissue damage.
Bedsores can develop over the course of hours or days. Most of these pressure ulcers heal with treatment, but some may never heal completely. Preventing bedsores is the best way to avoid the complications associated with these tissue injuries, including:
- Cellulitis, or an infection of the skin and connected soft tissues.
- Cancer, as long-term wounds that do not heal, can develop into a type of squamous cell carcinoma.
- Sepsis, which occurs when the chemicals released in the bloodstream to fight an infection cause inflammation throughout the body, which can be life-threatening.
- Bone and joint infections, which can damage cartilage tissue (septic arthritis) and reduce the function of joints and limbs (osteomyelitis).
Importantly, these pressure sores can often be prevented. There are steps that a person or their caretaker can take to reduce the risk of developing bedsores, including shifting weight frequently, using cushions or a mattress to relieve pressure, adjusting the elevation of a bed, keeping the skin clean and dry, protecting the skin with moisture barriers, changing bedding and clothing frequently as part of the skincare routine, and inspecting the skin daily.
Caretakers should also watch for signs and symptoms of bedsores. Common warning signs of pressure ulcers include swelling, an unusual change in skin color or texture, pus-like draining, tender areas, or an area of skin that feels cooler or warmer to the touch than others. If a bedsore is caught early, it may be treated and steps can be taken to stop it from getting worse.
Treatment for bedsores may include cleaning the affected area, putting a bandage on the sore, and repositioning the individual often to avoid further damage. In some cases, a doctor or nurse may need to debride the sore to remove damaged or dead tissue using ultrasound, a laser, irrigation, biosurgery (maggots), topical treatments, or surgery. Medication may also be necessary to reduce pain and inflammation.
What Is a Stage 4 Bedsore?
Bedsores are categorized into four stages, based on the severity of the wound:
- Stage 1: The skin is discolored, and appears red in patients with lighter skin tones and blue/purple in individuals with darker skin tones. The skin does not turn white when pressed with a finger.
- Stage 2: There is superficial damage to the skin. The top layer of skin is lost, and the sore may look like a blister. At this stage, the top layer of skin can repair itself.
- Stage 3: a deeper, open wound that extends to the fatty layer of the skin.
- Stage 4: the most serious type of bedsore, the wound extends down to the bone. This increases the risk of muscle and bone infection, which can be life-threatening.
If a pressure sore becomes infected, this infection may spread to other parts of the body. In addition to skin infections (cellulitis) and bone infections (osteomyelitis), patients with Stage 4 bedsores are at risk of meningitis (an infection of the brain and spinal cord), bacteremia (blood infection), and endocarditis (an infection of the heart).
Stage 4 bedsores develop from existing bedsores. In other words, if a less severe bedsore is not treated in a timely manner, then it may develop into a more serious wound. With proper care in a nursing home, assisted living facility, or other health care setting, stage 4 bedsores are preventable.
It would be difficult for a healthcare provider to miss a stage 4 bedsore, particularly when examining the skin. A patient with a stage 4 bedsore may have discolored or blackened skin, exposed tissues, tendons, bones, ligaments, and/or muscles, and signs of infection, such as red edges, blisters, pus, odor, heat, and/or drainage near the wound.
Doctors can treat stage 4 bedsores in the same way that other bedsores are treated. However, because the ulcer is so severe, it may require further wound care, including surgery. In addition, a patient may need to be treated for any related infections.
Complications from Stage 4 Bedsores
Stage 4 bedsores are often accompanied by serious – and even life-threatening – complications. Most often, these advanced bedsores are linked to bacterial infections. Even with treatment, a person who suffers from this type of infection may not fully recover.
Common types of bacterial infections associated with stage 4 bedsores include:
- Cellulitis: a bacterial infection of the skin that leads to pain, inflammation and swelling, and redness. Without treatment, cellulitis can spread to the bloodstream or lymph nodes. It may even be fatal.
- Bacteremia: a bloodstream infection that can cause sepsis and septic shock. Bacterial infections in the blood may also spread to other parts of the body and cause infections in the bone or around the heart.
- Endocarditis: an inflammation of the inner layer of the heart which usually involves the heart valves. It is often caused by an infection, including from bacteremia that results from a stage 4 bedsore.
- Meningitis: An infection of the brain and spinal cord characterized by fever, a headache, and a stiff neck. Meningitis can be very serious and may even be fatal.
- Osteomyelitis: an infection of the bone that causes pain, redness, fever, and weakness. It is usually caused by a bacterial infection and may require amputation to treat.
With any of these infections, sepsis may occur. Sepsis happens when the body damages its own tissues as it fights off infection. This can cause organs to function poorly, and may even lead to death if it progresses to septic shock. Early treatment with antibiotics and IV fluids can reduce the risk of severe organ problems and death.
In addition to infection, stage 4 bedsores may also lead to tissue calcification. This occurs when calcium builds up in and around the bedsore and hardens. This can make it even harder for the bedsore to heal.
Each of these stage 4 bedsore complications can require extensive medical treatment, along with lengthy hospital stages. Some patients never fully recover from these infections and the damage that is done to the body. The medical expenses for stage 4 bedsore complications can be astronomical. In this situation, it may be necessary to file a lawsuit to recover compensation for these expenses.
Can You File a Lawsuit for Stage 4 Bedsore Complications?
In a nursing home setting, a stage 4 bedsore can be a sign of abuse, neglect, or negligence. Because stage 4 bedsores develop from less serious bedsores, if a resident has this type of injury, it is often because the staff failed to properly care for them. This may include not turning immobile patients, failing to check their skin regularly, and not providing the proper care for an existing bedsore.
If a nursing home, assisted living facility, adult family home, or similar care facility failed to provide proper care, they may be liable for your loved one’s injuries. These cases are often based on a theory of negligence, where the staff failed to provide the level of care and treatment that a reasonable professional would in a similar situation. In some cases, this may also be considered a type of medical malpractice, such as if a doctor at the nursing home failed to properly debride a bedsore.
A nursing home abuse or negligence lawsuit may allow you to recover compensation for past and future medical expenses, disability, disfigurement, reduced quality of life, past and future pain and suffering, and past and future emotional distress. If your loved one passed away as a result of nursing home abuse, then you may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit to recover financial compensation for your own losses.
How Long Do I Have to Sue a Nursing Home for Stage 4 Bedsores?
Nursing home abuse lawsuits are a type of personal injury claim. Under Washington law, you have 3 years to file this type of lawsuit. If you do not file a lawsuit before this statute of limitations expires, then your claim may be barred.
If you believe that your loved one was a victim of nursing home negligence or abuse, then you should reach out to a skilled attorney as soon as possible. Your lawyer can advise you of your rights and options for pursuing a claim.
Can You Sue a Nursing Home for Neglect?
Yes. If a family member has suffered an injury – like complications from a Stage 4 bedsore – due to neglect while in a care facility, then they may be able to file a lawsuit for their losses. Nursing home neglect occurs when a resident is not provided with adequate care, which leads to serious injury or even death.
Neglect can take many forms, including failing to provide for basic needs (like adequate skincare) or even medical malpractice, where a healthcare provider does not properly care for a wound (such as a bedsore). In these cases, a nursing home abuse attorney can help your loved ones get the compensation that they deserve for their injuries.
Help for Victims of Nursing Home Negligence
Stage 4 bedsores should be incredibly rare. If a patient is diagnosed with this type of pressure ulcer and suffers complications from it, the bedsore may have been a result of negligence. They may be able to file a lawsuit to recover money for their losses.
At Menzer Law, we are dedicated to helping people who have suffered injuries because of something that someone else did – or failed to do. We are fierce advocates for our clients, and never charge a fee unless we recover money for you. To learn more or to schedule a free consultation with a Seattle nursing home abuse lawyer, call our law firm at 206-596-0054 or fill out our online contact form.