Get Help After a Family Member Suffers Nursing Home Abuse
We trust nursing homes and other care facilities to treat our family members and give them the best possible quality of life. In reality, an estimated 5 million older Americans are victims of elder abuse, neglect, or exploitation every year, according to the Administration for Community Living, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
A surprising source of this abuse is improper wound care. Severe wounds can require round-the-clock maintenance, and inadequate care of wounds, like bedsores, can be deadly for nursing home residents. If you suspect your loved one is a victim of neglect or abandonment, call the experienced Dallas nursing home abuse lawyers at Crowe Arnold & Majors, LLP today.
What Is Improper Wound Care?
Improper wound care occurs when wounds are not given the proper care and treatment to facilitate healing. The wounds that most commonly afflict elderly nursing home patients are pressure sores, also known as pressure ulcers, decubitus ulcers, and bedsores. Pressure sores are caused by localized damage to the skin and/or underlying tissue due to rubbing or pressing against the skin.
Generally, wounds heal through four main phases:
- the hemostasis phase
- the defensive/inflammatory phase
- the proliferative phase
- the maturation phase
The body clots blood, destroys bacteria and debris, fills and covers the wound, and strengthens the new tissue (Shield HealthCare). With severe wounds, this healing process is begun and helped by wound care.
Wound care varies depending on the injury. Treatment for a pressure ulcer, for example, should include reducing pressure on the affected skin, controlling pain, preventing infection, and maintaining good nutrition. This often requires a strict schedule of repositioning, cleaning, and bandaging wounds. Nursing homes should document when a patient has been repositioned, when wounds have been cleaned and dressed, and which, if any, drugs have been administered.
When staff fail to care for a patient’s bedsores and injuries, it’s well within your rights to speak to our Dallas nursing home improper wound care attorneys about legal options moving forward.
Improper Wound Care and the Law
Caretakers in nursing homes and other facilities have an obligation to both prevent wounds and treat them properly when they occur. Pressure sores, for example, are preventable in most circumstances. When they develop, the facility may be considered liable for their existence.
Even when the development of a bedsore or pressure ulcer is defensible, improper care of the wound is considered negligent, meaning the staff failed to use reasonable care under the law, causing further damage to the patient. Lack of knowledge and training, improper documentation, improper ratio of staff to patients, and inconsistencies in the diagnosing or treatment of a wound can all make a care facility liable in civil court.
Improper wound care can even be considered medical malpractice, if administered by a licensed medical provider. If you believe that your loved one has wounds that could have been prevented or lessened with adequate medical care, you may be eligible to pursue a claim against the nursing home.
Your lawyer will work to prove:
- The caretaker/patient relationship existed.
- The caretaker was negligent – he or she did not meet the standard of care in the given situation.
- The negligence was a direct cause of the further injury to the patient. For example, your legal team must prove that nursing home acquired infections were the result of negligent wound care, not another factor.
- The injury led to specific damages. A severe infection could cause physical pain, mental anguish, and additional medical bills – these are the damages you may be fighting for in a civil case.
It is also important to note that under Texas law there is a limited amount of time to file suit based on nursing home neglect or physical abuse. Contact an experienced personal injury lawyer today to learn more information.
Types of Wounds that May Occur in a Nursing Home
Common types of wounds that nursing home residents develop include:
- Bedsores or pressure ulcers: these painful pressure injuries develop in areas of skin – usually joints and bony parts — when a patient remains stationary for too long. Regular turning and movement can help prevent bedsores from developing on the buttocks, elbows, tailbone, shoulders, hips, heels, and other common locations. If not treated properly, bedsores can quickly become serious infections in frail and elderly adults.
- Lacerations caused by falls or other accidents: many older residents struggle with balance and coordination, and are susceptible to falling and suffering deep cuts, fractured bones, and soft tissue injuries. These fall injuries are largely preventable and are often traced back to inadequate supervision, cluttered floors, or poor fall risk assessment protocols.
- Diabetic ulcers: Roughly 15 percent of diabetic residents may go on to develop open wounds on the bottoms of their feet, marked by discoloration, tenderness, and swelling. If untreated, acute diabetic ulcers can result in foot amputation.
- Post-operative wounds: Proper cleansing, skin hygiene, and moisture management are crucial to successful post-operative care. When healing incisions are not kept clean, infection can set in.
- Restraint injuries: the use of physical restraints like ties, vests, and belts can create a number of wounds on delicate skin, including deep abrasions, neural lesions, pressure ulcers, and fractures.
- Burns: scalding water spills, exposure to heating elements, and overheated drinks can cause major burn hazards to senior residents.
Just as there is no justification for physical or sexual abuse in a nursing home, there is no excuse for negligent wound care. Our mission is simple: to ensure that your elderly loved ones are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve, and that they receive the highest standard of care.
What Can Happen If Wounds Are Not Properly Treated?
Infections can set in rapidly, leaving nursing home residents susceptible to life-threatening complications that can prove fatal. Some of the graver outcomes of improper wound care include:
- Sepsis: when extreme infection goes untreated, this triggers a dangerous chain reaction in the body known as sepsis that can lead to organ failure, tissue damage, and death.
- Necrotizing fasciitis: also known as flesh-eating disease, necrotizing fasciitis is caused by bacterial infection that rapidly spreads. It is a medical emergency that can cause loss of limbs, sepsis, and severe scarring.
- Gangrene: greenish-black skin is the hallmark symptom of gangrene, which occurs when blood flow to tissue is cut off or as a response to severe bacterial infection.
- Cellulitis: this painful skin infection can be prevented with good hygiene and proper wound care. Cellulitis is characterized by redness, warmth, swelling, and tenderness of the affected middle layer of skin. The infection can spread to the lymph nodes, causing more complications.
Work With Dallas Nursing Home Improper Wound Care Lawyers
Crowe Arnold & Majors, LLP has over 25 years of experience representing those who have been injured due to no fault of their own. When your loved one is under the care of a Dallas nursing home, it is up to you to advocate for their well-being. If you believe that your loved one may be suffering due to improper wound care, give our Dallas personal injury lawyers a call at (214) 239-8587 for a no-cost consultation.