A recent Illinois nursing home negligence settlement deals with a recurring issue in many Chicago nursing home abuse cases – the development of pressure sores, also known as bed sores or decubitus ulcers. In Clapman v. Manorcare Health Services, Inc., the plaintiff brought a claim against an Illinois nursing home after she developed a large sacral pressure ulcer. The Illinois nursing home abuse case settled for $650,000 prior to trial.
In Clapman, the plaintiff alleged that the nursing home failed to develop a plan of care to prevent the plaintiff from developing pressure ulcers. Essentially, whenever a patient is recognized as being at risk for developing pressure sores, or any other type of skin breakdown, the medical providers have a responsibility to develop a plan, referred to as a plan of care, to try and prevent the at risk issue from occurring.
While the nursing staff at Manorcare did develop a plan of care for the plaintiff, it failed to include any provisions to prevent the development of pressure sores. This lack of a prevention plan was the main issue in Clapman and was what the plaintiff attributed her eventual osteomyelitis to.
Pressure sores are a common problem among nursing home residents, or any bedridden patient. Pressure sores commonly develop when one’s skin stays in one position for too long of a period of time. However, pressure sores can also be brought on by too much moisture on the skin, increased friction, increased traction, or inadequate nutrition. Patients with diabetes are particularly prone to bed sores due to the poor circulation that is a side effect of their disease.
Having a care plan in place for patients at risk of developing pressure sores is of the utmost importance because prevention is the best strategy to deal with pressure sores. This care plan should include many of the following components:
-daily inspections of the skin to detect early signs of discoloration or redness;
-repositioning of the patient every two hours;
-applying body powder to damp areas to help keep the skin dry;
-using heel or elbow protectors to help prevent skin breakdown to bony areas; and
-using special beds or mattresses that help reduce the pressure on the skin.
When a care plan is not put in place to prevent the development of pressure sores the at risk patient typically ends up developing these painful pressure sores, which can extend their hospitalization and potentially be life-threatening. In Clapman, the lack of a prevention plan did end up extending her hospital stay; fortunately, she eventually recovered. Bed sores can become so severe that they lead to a blood or bone infection, which can lead to the patient’s death.
It is important to note that while prevention is key in the treatment of bed sores, it is not always possible. Even with an adequate care plan in place many bedridden patients still develop bedsores. However, in order to avoid medical liability, the nursing home or hospital must not only prove that they developed an adequate plan of care for preventing pressure sores, but also that the medical staff followed it.
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