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Unfortunately pressure sores in Arizona nursing homes are far too common and often caused by poor practices or neglect.

Either way, nursing homes are responsible for providing proper care for a bed sore to stop it becoming any worse.

This article covers how bedsores are caused, what can happen if they’re left untreated, and what legal recourse you may have for improper care.

What are bedsores?

Bedsores are injuries to skin and underlying tissue resulting from a prolonged pressure on the skin. They go by many names, including:

  • Pressure sores
  • Pressure ulcers
  • Decubitus ulcers

While pressure sores can appear anywhere on the body, they most often develop on skin that covers bony areas of the body, including heels, ankles, hips, and the tailbone.

For an overview of bedsores and answers to the most frequently answered question, read our Bedsore FAQs.

What causes pressure sores?

Bedsores often develop in nursing home residents that can’t reposition their body easily. Elders, in particular, are most susceptible to pressure sores for this reason.

You can find more information on the causes of bedsores and common reasons they develop in our article, “Causes and Liability for Bedsores.”

Who is most at risk of developing bedsores?

The elderly population are most at risk of developing life bedsores, especially more serious life threatening cases of pressure sores.

A study from the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services found that 80% of pressure ulcer-associated deaths occurred in people 75 years of age or older.

In the United States, approximately 60,000 people die each year due to pressure sore complications.

What happens if bedsores are ignored?

Failure to properly treat a bedsore can turn an unpleasant condition into something much more serious.

The following conditions have all developed in residents suffering from bedsores:

 

  • Sepsis or blood poisoning: the body’s often deadly response to infection. Broken skin on a residents bedsore can provide an opening for bacteria to enter, causing an infection. Sepsis is the most common reason for transfers from nursing homes to hospitals. If the pressure ulcer is on any area like the tailbone, buttocks, or the fenital area, infection rates increase because these wounds may be touched by urine or stool. Sepsis can be a very serious condition and one third of people who develop sepsis will die. Residents that recover may be left with life altering conditions, including: PTSD, chronic pain, chronic fatigue, organ dysfunction or limb amputations 
  • Bone Infections or osteomyelitis: an inflammation in the bones or bone marrow, as a result of an infection. This condition is very serious and requires aggressive treatment to prevent the spread of infection. 80% of bone infections are caused by open wounds, such as bedsores. The bones most susceptible to infection are the long bones in the legs, upper arms, spinal cord, and the pelvic bone. While the treatment for bone infections often begins with a course of antibiotics, it may require amputation to save the rest of the bone.
  • Joint Infections or septic arthritis: when infection spreads into the deeper tissue, it can very rapidly impact the joints.
  • Cellulitis: A common infection type is a bacterial skin infection that can affect the soft tissues. In addition to redness and extreme pain, a patient may exhibit significant swelling on the skin. This is often treated with a course of antibiotics. If not treated quickly, the consequences could be life-threatening infections that could spread to other parts of the body, such as the joints, bones, spinal cord, and bloodstream
  • Cancer: Non-healing chronic wounds, such as the ones that can be caused by an untreated decubitus ulcer, can lead to squamous cell carcinoma. This cancer is very aggressive and requires surgery for effective treatment.
  • Gangrene: Although rare, gangrene is a serious and life-threatening infection produced by the gas emitted from “clostridium bacteria.” This bacteria thrives in areas within the body that have little to no oxygen. The gas then releases dangerous toxins into the surrounding tissue that can cause a patient to suffer from terrible pain and swelling. The treatment for gangrene is most often having a surgical removal of the dead and infected skin, if not amputation of the entire infected area.
  • Deep Tissue Damage: Lack of blood flow to the skin can cause the skin to die is a matter of just a few hours. The damage can then spread even deeper into the tissue, causing permanent and sometimes life-threatening damage if not treated properly.

 

When bedsores turn fatal

While it’s not common, bedsores can cause complications that can ultimately prove fatal.

In these circumstances, if the care hasn’t been appropriate then there may be legal action you can take.

The following are examples of Arizona cases that were brought as wrongful death actions against nursing homes for the fatal consequences of improper pressure ulcer care.

These cases not only outline the potentially fatal consequences of improper care, but the legal recourse that may be available to you.

Cornerstone Hosp. of Southeast Ariz., L.L.C. v. Marner, 231 Ariz. 67 

The complaint filed by the plaintiff alleged that the care facility deprived the decedent of “proper nursing and medical services,” which resulted in:

  1. Development and worsening of pressure sores, including but not limited to a horrific pressure sore on her coccyx;
  2. Infections
  3. Dehydration and malnutrition.

In addition, the plaintiff alleged that the care of decedent constituted a breach of the care facilities duties, and was a deviation from the applicable standard of care in reckless disregard of her needs, constituting abuse and neglect of a vulnerable adult.

Estate of Cote v. Five Star Quality Care, Inc. (May 28, 2015.) 

The plaintiffs filed a wrongful death suit after the decedent, Doris Cote, received below standard of care during her stay at a care facility.

Cote was left dehydrated, malnourished, overmedicated, and developed a nasty decubitus ulcer. The ulcer caused a MRSA infection and, ultimately the death of the Cote.

The jury ruled in favor of Cote’s estate to the sum of $2.5 million.

Estate of Johnson and Johnson v. Raintree Healthcare Corp. fka Unison Healthcare Corp. dba The Arbors; and Arbors Health Care Center, Inc.; and Westervelt, M.D.

After a stroke, the deceased was admitted into a nursing home for rehab.

The decedent was nonambulatory and the nursing home staff failed to reposition him, causing Stage III and IV pressure ulcers.

Additionally, the nursing home failed to meet nutritional requirements for a person with bed sores.

This malnutrition resulted in inability to heal and caused further downward spiral, leading to death.

The plaintiffs also alleged breach of contract when the nursing facility failed to deliver healthcare as mandated by federal and state regulations, contracted for with Medicare and decedent.

Estate of Fassl, Birner and Fassl v. Home Health Resources, Inc.; Brown and Kilman-Lytle; and Golden Years, Inc. and McKirahan

Home Health Resources provided registered nurses and therapists from 10-17 times per week for 6 months after the plaintiff’s mother developed bed sores, which only worsened over time.

At which point, the defendant sought a secondary medical opinion on the treatment plan, to which it received a recommendation for immediate emergency hospitalization for a rotted necrotic, gangrenous foot with maggots.

It then arranged with a doctor to approve care orders.

The plaintiffs alleged that Arizona Health Services Administration Regulations required the defendant to coordinate patient care between the medical team so that an appropriate plan to meet patient needs occurred, and that it failed to recommend decedent be moved to a facility capable of meeting her medical needs, while there was a chance for survival.

The plaintiff’s expert opined that the defendant was incapable of handling care and failed to provide sufficient information on the wounds.

Fazio v. Life Care Centers of America, Inc. 87 2005 WL 5340316. –

The decedent entered the nursing care facility with a Stage I pressure sore.

During her care, she experienced neglect and mistreatment that led to aggravation of the bedsore, that it resulted in the pressure sore reaching Stage IV, and eventually her death.

he facility fell below the standard of care, by failing to adequately maintain her nutrition and hydration while she required a feeding tube. A plaintiff’s expert testified that

  1. The facility fell below the standard of care with respect to maintaining the feeding tube, and
  2. The neglect and abuse exhibited by the facility caused both the injuries and death of the decedent.

What’s Next?

If you or a loved one has been the victim of poor nursing home care that has led to the worsening of a pressure sore, you are not alone.

The consequences of untreated bedsores can leave an everlasting impact on your family.

If you believe you or someone you know has been a victim to malpractice, negligence, or abuse in a nursing home, contact the Thompson Law Firm for a case consultation.

Sources:

    • Mayo Clinic. Bedsores(pressure ulcers) https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/bed-sores/symptoms-causes/syc-20355893
    • Nursing Home Abuse Center
    • “Pressure Ulcers: More Lethal than we Thought?” Los Angeles County Department of Health Services; Los Angeles, California. DOI: 10.1097/00129334-200509000-00010
    • Fazio v. Life Care Centers of America, Inc. 87 2005 WL 5340316.
    • In re Estate of Fazio. 2009 WL 1830719.
    • Estate of Fassl, Birner and Fassl v. Home Health Resources, Inc.; Brown and Kilman-Lytle; and Golden Years, Inc. and McKirahan
    • Estate of Johnson and Johnson v. Raintree Healthcare Corp. fka Unison Healthcare Corp. dba The Arbors; and Arbors Health Care Center, Inc.; and Westervelt, M.D.

 

  • Estate of Johnson and Johnson v. Raintree Healthcare Corp. fka Unison Healthcare Corp. dba The Arbors; and Arbors Health Care Center, Inc.; and Westervelt, M.D.
  • Estate of Cote v. Five Star Quality Care, Inc. (May 28, 2015.)

 

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