Pressure Ulcers in Assisted Living Facilities

Pressure ulcers, also known as bedsores and pressure sores, have continuously been a critical issue for older adults in assisted living facilities. Left untreated, even the slightest pressure ulcer can develop into a critical and sometimes fatal condition.

Individuals who have lost their ability to move freely are vulnerable to the development of pressure sores. Sitting in a chair or lying in bed for long periods of time can decrease the flow of blood to the skin, which can cause the skin tissue to deteriorate and eventually die. The erosion of necrotic tissue from the area can form a hole in the skin. The ulcer becomes vulnerable to bacteria, allowing infection to destroy healthy tissue while infecting the bones and blood.

Like any wound on the skin, pressure ulcers can cause severe pain and take a long time to heal properly. Usually, these bedsores can form on bony, protruding areas of the body such as the heels, hips, ankles, and tailbone. Constant pressure due to immobility and lack of repositioning can occur while lying in bed or sitting in a chair or wheelchair.

Keeping patients from developing pressure ulcers requires intensive care and constant vigilance—a responsibility that may be more than an assisted living facility can handle. Understaffing and lack of training often leads to a deficiency of proper health care for the older adults residing in assisted living facilities. This problem is likely to continue as more aging baby boomers are living longer into their retirement years.

In accordance with state and federal regulations, most pressure ulcers in assisted living facilities are preventable and should never develop while the health of the resident is regulated by basic nursing care. This is because pressure ulcers can be very painful and can possibly lead to horrific infections. When an elderly person develops a pressure ulcer while residing in an assisted living facility, those who are responsible for providing their care (i.e. nursing staff, administrators, managers, physicians, and facility) should be held financially accountable.

Research has shown that long-term care facilities that fail to provide proper quality of care put their patients at high risk of developing pressure ulcers. An assisted living facility whose resident develops a pressure ulcer under their care clearly shows that the facility lacks the proper resources to prevent their residents from deteriorating. These facilities should know that they are not allowed to retain residents they are unable to care for. If a patient’s condition clearly puts him or her at risk of developing pressure ulcers, an assisted living facility should not agree to retain the patient from the beginning.

Although assisted living facilities are not as heavily regulated as nursing homes, they must be proactive when residents experience deterioration or develop pressure ulcers. Furthermore, assisted living facilities who are not equipped with meeting a patient’s needs have a responsibility to advise the individual and their family of their need and suggest a transfer to a more suitable long-term care facility.

Despite the ever expanding number of assisted living facilities, most are simply not capable of providing a substitute for nursing home or hospital care. Because these facilities operate with little regulation, this increases the vulnerability of many older adult residents. Title 22 under the state regulations for assisted living prohibits an assisted living facility to retain a resident if he or she has any pressure ulcer that is open, no matter the size or the area of its location. Although an assisted living facility is “legally” allowed to retain a patient with a pressure ulcer at stage 1 or 2, the facility must transfer the patient to a nursing facility if the ulceration is at stage 3 or 4.

Moreover, it is important to know that the license of an assisted living facility is a “residential” license—not a “medical” license like that of a nursing home. Assisted living facilities can provide neither medical staff nor medical service. A pressure ulcer is a medical issue that must be addressed in a medical environment.

If you or a loved one has suffered from a pressure ulcer while staying at an assisted living facility or other health care institution, there is a strong possibility that the facility was not providing the care that they should have. At the Law Offices of Ben Yeroushalmi, we advocate for those who have experienced a pressure ulcer due to elder neglect in residential care facilities. We will work with our experts to do a comprehensive assessment to determine the cause of the pressure ulcer and advise you on your legal rights and options. We believe that the suffering older adults experience from preventable pressure ulcers is reprehensible, and we will pursue your matter with urgency to obtain a just verdict and will not hesitate to take your case to trial. Please contact us immediately for a free consultation.