Elderly patient in hospital bed
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Bed sores due to substandard care

While not all bed sores can be prevented, standards of care have been developed in order to prevent them in most cases. Bed sores, also known as decubitus ulcers, pressure ulcers or pressure sores, often occur in hospitals, nursing homes and long-term care facilities when a patient has limited or no mobility. When a patient is unable to move, due to a spinal injury, paralysis, coma, surgery or any other reason, he or she must rely on the attending staff to ensure that all necessary steps are taken to prevent bed sores from developing.

What are bed sores and why are they dangerous?

A bed sore is an injury to the skin and underlying tissue caused by unrelieved pressure or shearing (often from sliding down in bed). These ulcers usually occur on the buttocks or bony prominences, such as the tail bone, hips, heels, elbows and shoulders. These body parts are under the most pressure when you are lying in bed or sitting for long periods of time.

Bed sores develop in stages, becoming more serious as they are left untreated. They begin as redness or swelling and later develop into open wounds. If left untreated, the sores will continue to worsen, leading to deep wounds and increased risk of infection. These sores can lead to sepsis, gangrene and even death.

For a more detailed, medical explanation, see the resources section at the bottom of this post.

Bed sores can be prevented…and should be.

Medical facilities need to take extra care to ensure that this problem does not occur. While every patient’s needs are different, it is generally accepted that the prevention of bed sores require that:

  • the patient be moved at regular intervals (usually every two hours);
  • the patient is kept dry and clean;
  • the patient receives proper nutrition and hydration; and
  • when necessary, special devices be used (such as special mattresses or cushions).

What should you do?

If you believe you are seeing the signs of bed sores at any stage in yourself or a loved one, the most important thing to do is discuss the issue with the attending medical professionals and ensure that the condition is properly treated to prevent it from getting worse.

It may be the case that you or your loved one developed bed sores as a result of negligence on the part of the facility. Untreated bed sores can result in pain, serious infection or even death. In addition, patients usually incur additional medical expenses for their treatment. An experienced attorney can help you understand the laws in your jurisdiction and assist you in determining if you should be compensated for your injury.


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