When Is a Pressure Ulcer the Result of Elderly Neglect?

One of the largest generations in American history is beginning to transition into the elderly stage of human life.  In this stage, many people become less independent and, as a result, require assisted living and clinical care.  As aging individuals become dependents, they tend to lose their mobility.  Pressure ulcers are a direct result of the inability of a person to reposition their body unassisted.  In nursing homes and hospitals, elderly people are too often neglected and the price they pay can be severe.

Pressure Ulcers and Their Stages

Pressure ulcers (often referred to as bedsores, decubitus ulcers, and pressure sores) are a form of breakdown of the skin caused by prolonged and unalleviated pressure, incontinence, dirty or untidy bedsheets, and more.  Typically, they form in areas such as the heels, hips, buttocks, tailbone, shoulder blades, and elbows.  They are categorized based on severity:

Stage 1

  • Reddening of the skin;
  • Skin is not necessarily broken;
  • The red area may be more sensitive than surrounding tissue;

Stage 2

  • Blistering;
  • The shallow breaking of the top layers of skin;

Stage 3

  • Breakdown through the entire skin thickness;
  • Sometimes tissue below the skin is exposed;

Stage 4

  • Tunneling through the skin to connective tissue; and
  • Muscle, tendons, and ligaments are sometimes exposed.

Understanding the severity of a pressure sore is important when trying to figure out the degree of neglect a person has endured.

How Big of a Problem Is This?

From the victim’s perspective, it can be an enormous problem.  Pressure ulcers are very painful and can lead to local infection, sepsis (systemic infection), cellulitis, osteomyelitis (infection of bone tissue), and even death.

On a much larger scale, the prevalence of pressure ulcers in America is much higher than it should be if you consider that these injuries are preventable.  According to a report issued by the National Pressure Ulcer Advisory Panel, 2.5 million Americans develop pressure ulcers every year.  Additionally, this condition contributes to 60,000 deaths annually.

A Result of Neglect

Pressure ulcers are preventable which means they are a result of neglect.  However, proving negligence can be difficult.  An article by Today’s Wound Clinic states that in order to pursue a suit, you must be able to prove:

  • A duty was owed by the accused provider;
  • The provider strayed from the acceptable standard of care;
  • An injury did, in fact, occur; and
  • The injury was caused by that breach of duty.

To make matters more difficult, care providers can falsely document their actions and physicians forget to put in orders.  These actions (and inactions) lead to the development of dangerous pressure ulcers every day.

If you believe you, or a loved one, are the victim of neglect and that negligence has resulted in the formation of a pressure ulcer, you need help.  Christopher C. Walton is an award-winning elder abuse attorney in San Diego.  He has the skills and experience to help you and your family navigate this troubling and complex issue.  Contact Chris today for a free consultation.