Understaffing and Bedsores

It is no wonder that understaffing in nursing homes and bedsores are related. Understaffing is one of the biggest causes of neglect in nursing homes, and bedsores are one of the most common physical injuries caused by nursing home neglect. Research has born this connection out and shows that residents who live in understaffed nursing homes are at greater risk of developing bedsores. They are also at a higher risk of suffering from malnutrition, dehydration, weight loss, infection, and pneumonia.

Though any person can develop bedsores, bedsores are a greater risk for patients who have mobility problems or who are completely immobilized. These patients require constant care and assistance in order to perform any type of task or activity. Mobility assistance is a responsibility of nursing home staff, but it is very time-consuming and often patients aren’t given as much as assistance as they require.

What Are Bedsores?

Bedsores are extremely dangerous forms of skin infection. They can occur at the surface level of the skin, but they can also develop deeper in the person’s skin. Bedsores start to develop when a portion of skin is under a lot of weight and pressure and loses circulation of blood and oxygen. After a long period of time some of the skin cells will begin to die and the wound will become infected and spread to surrounding skin cells.

Bedsores occur in hospitals when patients are immobilized and portions of their skin, usually on their back, lose circulation. If the person is not moved into a different position, in order to reestablish circulation and decrease pressure on that spot of skin, the bedsore will develop. Bedsore infections also develop and spread more quickly when the skin is very wet. This can happen when a patient has been neglected and his clothes are skin are wet with sweat or urine.

Bedsores are very dangerous, especially for elderly patients. If they are left untreated and are able to spread, they can be extremely expensive to treat and it may take years before the skin has recovered. If the patient is elderly and already sick from other illnesses, bedsores may become a contributing factor in their death.

How Are Bedsores Prevented?

At a facility that is well-staffed, bedsores are easy to prevent. Elderly patients, and especially those who have limited mobility, should be turned or repositioned once every two hours. Nurse’s aides should also make sure that their clothes are not damp, and should regularly change their clothes. If these two steps are followed, the risk of bedsores is very low. Unfortunately, understaffed facilities are not able to constantly turn and reposition every patient under their care.

Scope of Practice

Nursing homes are generally staffed with many different types of workers including janitorial staff, volunteers, secretaries, certified nursing assistants, and registered nurses. However, only staff members who have the right scope of practice are allowed to turn patients and provide mobility assistance. Typically, only certified nursing assistants provide this type of care. Though the nurses and doctors can also do this, they are usually very busy with other types of care that are outside the scope of practice of the nursing assistants.

Legal Action after Bedsores

It is now generally accepted that bedsores are a completely preventable injury. When serious bedsores develop on a patient, it is often because of nursing home neglect and might be due to understaffing issues. In some cases, there is even evidence that nursing home staff hid evidence of bedsores or chose not to tell a resident’s family members until it was too late. More and more families are now filing lawsuits against nursing homes to cover treatment for bedsores or to get compensation after their loved ones have died from bedsores.

Sources:

“Interview With Becky Kurtz, Jeanne Sher.” CNN Transcripts. (2002): n. page. Print. <http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0202/23/cst.09.html>.

“Report: Understaffed Nursing Homes Endanger Patients.” ABC News. (2013): n. page. Print. <http://abcnews.go.com/US/story?id=96416&page=1>.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2594332/?page=1

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