Lack of Proper Wound Care in Nursing Homes

July 8, 2024 / RP Legal

Nursing home patients are especially vulnerable to bed sores and other chronic wounds. Without proper care, they can experience unnecessary and painful complications. Every nursing home is required to take reasonable steps to protect the health and well-being of its residents and ensure proper wound care in nursing homes.

When they fail to do so, patients and their family members can take legal action against the facility.

That’s where the dedicated Columbia nursing home injury attorneys of Rikard & Protopapas come in. Contact our team to evaluate our lawyers wherever your case against a nursing home may be in South Carolina.

What Kinds of Wounds Do Elderly Patients in Nursing Facilities Suffer?

Nursing homes are responsible for providing adequate care to their residents. This means either taking steps to avoid the conditions that cause wounds or providing prompt medical treatment to care for them. For a number of reasons, various types of wounds are commonly found in the nursing home environment.

Elderly patients are known to frequently suffer:

  • Diabetic foot ulcers: Diabetic patients tend to experience changes in their foot bones due to their condition. A sore or lesion may develop, which is typically located on the bottom of the foot. In some cases, amputation of a toe may be required.
  • Surgical wounds: Many nursing home patients must have surgical operations, after which post-operative care is essential to ensure proper hearing. If this care is neglected, the patient may develop infection and blood clots.
  • Bed sores: Also called pressure ulcers, these wounds develop due to a patient being bedridden and rarely changing positions. These injuries can not only break down the skin but also disrupt the flow of blood and oxygen, causing cells to die.
  • Amputation wounds: If a patient needs an amputation for whatever reason, this serious procedure requires wound care to avoid complications. Without proper healing, the wound can become gangrenous.
  • Gashes and scrapes from falling accidents: Nursing home patients routinely fall and injure themselves, causing deep gashes and bleeding scrapes. The facility should immediately clean and dress these wounds to avoid infection and other problems.

Why Is Proper Wound Care Important?

The human body is designed to naturally heal itself from wounds. With proper hygiene and sanitation, plus the use of medications in some cases, the healing can progress rapidly and without major complications.

Nursing home wound care can account for the fact that elderly patients often have a more difficult time with healing. Their bodies are simply not in the same shape as younger individuals. They often have fragile, thinner skin and slower cell regeneration, which can slow down healing.

This is why it is especially important that the elderly’s wounds are cared for properly.

Certain prescription medications can also inhibit the elderly patient’s ability to heal quickly from the wound. Pre-existing health conditions such as diabetes can also impede the body’s natural healing mechanisms.

Because of the difficulty and additional time that is often needed for an elderly patient to heal, there is a higher risk they will develop chronic wounds. This can lead to additional issues.

What Are Potential Complications From Wound Infections?

Infection is one of the most significant risks that a patient can face after receiving improper wound care.

Signs of infection include:

  • Weakness
  • Confusion
  • Fever
  • Pus coming out of the wound
  • Redness or tenderness near the infected wound
  • Warm or swollen skin near the wound site
  • A foul odor emitting from the wound

The following complications become increasingly likely the longer the infection is not properly dealt with:

  • Sepsis: This is an extreme immune system reaction that may occur when an infection reaches the bloodstream. Sepsis itself is life-threatening and can easily lead to organ failure.
  • Cellulitis: An infection of the deeper skin layers and tissues, cellulitis can cause redness, swelling, and pain. The elderly patient may also experience dizziness, fever, nausea, and vomiting.
  • Osteomyelitis: This is a bacterial infection of the bone, resulting in symptoms such as pain, redness, and swelling. Elderly patients may suffer other symptoms such as fatigue and fever.
  • Necrotizing fasciitis: Although rare, this painful condition is considered a medical emergency. It occurs when a bacterial infection spreads into the fascial lining, a tissue that lies deep beneath the surface of the skin.

How Is Proper Wound Care for Elderly Patients Done?

The exact steps needed to care for the wound will vary by its nature and degree. In general, a medical professional will start by cleaning it.

A topical antiseptic will also be applied to the wound. The antiseptic is an important part of the healing process because it prevents deadly bacteria from spreading to the rest of the body. It also helps retain moisture in the wound, which aids the body during its natural healing stages:

  • Hemostasis: The prevention of continued bleeding.
  • Inflammation: Enables the body to fight infection and dispose of cell debris and pathogens.
  • Proliferation: When the wound contracts and new tissues are built.
  • Remodeling: Also known as maturation, the wound closes and ultimately heals.

Bandages are usually an integral part of the healing process, although its use depends on the exact characteristics of the elderly patient’s wound. Nursing homes, including the patient’s room, tend to have a high amount of bacteria present. Wounds are therefore covered with bandages to prevent this bacteria from causing infection.

Some patients may need a radiant bandage, which keeps the wound warm. A radiant bandage allows the blood vessels to remain dilated, which in turn enables the patient’s wound to better heal. Elderly patients who are at particular risk of infection or ischemia (a condition in which part of the body doesn’t get enough blood) may benefit from the use of a radiant bandage.

How Can We Help Prove Improper Wound Care and Pursue Recovery for Loved Ones?

By reviewing the evidence surrounding the nursing home’s treatment protocols, our firm can uncover exactly how the wound was treated (if it was treated at all). We can also interview the treating nurses and examine the wound itself to determine whether the care was adequate.

Another step is to take a look at the patient’s medical records to see if he or she developed any complications which indicate improper wound care. We often do all of this with guidance from medical expert witnesses.

Contact a Nursing Home Neglect Lawyer in South Carolina

Improper wound care in nursing homes remains a major problem and one that could affect your loved one. We are here to pursue the compensation your family member deserves for medical bills, pain and suffering, and other damages. Give Rikard & Protopapas a call today at 803-978-6111 to learn more, or fill out our form online.

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