Pressure Injuries: The Hidden Injuries of Nursing Homes

 Pressure injuries are very serious injuries that can take months to heal and sometimes lead to death.  A pressure injury, also referred to as a pressure ulcer, bed sore, or pressure sore, is caused when blood flow is restricted to the skin and tissue under the skin that causes it to break down. These types of injuries often occur on parts of the body where the skin is compressed between a bone and a surface such as a wheelchair or mattress. Pressure injuries commonly occur on older adults who are confined to a wheelchair or bed due to immobility. Commonly affected parts of the body include the tailbone area, heels, hips, ankles, and back.

Information About Ulcers Developed in Nursing Homes

Statistics show that more than 1 out of 10 (11%) of residents will develop a pressure ulcer while residing at a nursing home, but that does not mean that a pressure sore is inevitable.

Federal regulations require that the facility must ensure:

“A resident who enters the facility without pressure sores does not develop pressure sores unless the individual’s clinical condition demonstrates that they were unavoidable; and a resident having pressure sores receives necessary treatment and services to promote healing, prevent infection, and keep new sores from developing.”

Under the regulations, pressure ulcers are avoidable if the facility fails to do one or more of the following:

“Evaluate the resident’s clinical condition and pressure ulcer risk factors; define and implement interventions that are consistent with resident needs, resident goals, and recognized standard of practice; monitor and evaluate the impact of the interventions; or revise the interventions as appropriate.”

A pressure ulcer was unavoidable if the resident developed a pressure ulcer even though the facility took all the proper steps. Nothing relieves the nursing home from the duty to provide the required preventative care. A nursing home that does nothing cannot defend on the basis that nothing would prevent the pressure ulcer.

Washington regulations are similar to federal regulations. In Washington State, the Vulnerable Adult Statute allows recovery when a facility demonstrates:

“A pattern of conduct or inaction by a person or entity with a duty of care that (a) fails to provide the goods and services that maintain physical or mental health of a vulnerable adult, or that fails to avoid or prevent physical or mental harm or pain to a vulnerable adult; or (b) an act or omission by a person or entity with a duty of care that demonstrates a serious disregard of consequences of such a magnitude as to constitute a clear and present danger to the vulnerable adult’s health, welfare, or safety.”

What is a Vulnerable Adult?

(a) Sixty years of age or older who has the functional, mental, or physical inability to care for himself or herself; or

(b) Found incapacitated under Chapter 11.88 RCW; or

(c) Who has a developmental disability as defined under RCW 71A.10.020; or

(d) Admitted to any facility; or

(e) Receiving services from home health, hospice, or home care agencies licensed or required to be licensed under chapter 70.127 RCW; or

(f) Receiving services from an individual provider; or

(g) Who self-directs his or her own care and receives services from a personal aide under chapter 74.39 RCW.

A successful claim under the Vulnerable Adult Statute allows the injured party to recover attorney’s fees and costs. This is an important statute as the number of people in nursing homes continues to increase. There are 13.5 percent of people over the age of 85 – nearly two million people – living in nursing homes today. It is imperative that we treat elderly people, who are some of the most vulnerable among us, with respect and dignity. Unfortunately, some nursing homes look at the elderly as a source of profit. Prior to admitting a loved one into a facility, you should check the facility’s safety track record.

Hiring a Yakima Nursing Home Injury Attorney

If you have a loved one who developed a pressure injury while in a nursing home and you believe the injury should not have occurred, contact the attorneys at Abeyta Nelson Injury Law. We have extensive experience in successfully handling these claims.

-blog written by Attorney David Abeyta, Abeyta Nelson Injury Law



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