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Pressure ulcers may signal nursing home neglect

You don't want to seem paranoid, but if you suspect something is not right with your loved one who is living in a nursing home, you have the right—and perhaps the obligation—to ask some questions. It is true that some nursing homes are understaffed, and some staff members do not receive the training they need to do the job well. However, your loved one's health and wellbeing may be at risk if neglect leads to pressure ulcers.

Pressure ulcers, or bedsores, form when someone remains in the same position too long without moving. The pressure of the surface, even a soft mattress, compresses skin tissue against bones, which cuts off the blood supply and causes the tissue to deteriorate and die. Left unchecked, these sores can lead to life-threatening injuries.

Questioning your loved one's care

Because your loved one's aging skin may already be delicate, he or she is far more susceptible to pressure ulcers. Additional risk factors may include incontinence that irritates the skin, diabetes, poor nutrition and certain diseases like cancer or Alzheimer's. Since these risk factors are prominent in nursing homes, you would expect your loved one's staff to take precautions. If your loved one suffers from bedsores, you may ask the following questions:

  • How long did your loved one sit in the chair or lie in one position in the bed without help to move?
  • What are the policies for changing and laundering your loved one's clothing?
  • Does your loved one routinely sit or lie in soiled clothing and bedsheets?
  • Why did the nursing home staff fail to notice the early signs of a pressure ulcer when bathing your loved one?
  • Did the nursing staff bathe your loved one frequently enough to keep his or her skin clean and to check for delicate areas in the skin?
  • Does the nursing home staff take the time to check residents daily for early signs of pressure ulcers, such as changes in skin color or temperature?
  • Is the nursing home making sure your loved one receives nutritional meals to avoid becoming too thin?

In very delicate skin, it is not always possible to avoid bedsores, but once they begin to develop, a skilled staff can treat them quickly to prevent them from worsening. An untreated pressure ulcer can spread as deep as the bone and may even affect nearby organs. This may lead to surgical procedures, painful treatments and permanent injury. If your loved one has untreated bedsores that have caused great suffering, you may wish to speak to an attorney about your options for holding the Maryland nursing home accountable.

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