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Stage 4 Bedsores

Also known as pressure ulcers, decubitus ulcers, or pressure sores, stage 4 bedsores are the most serious form of bedsores. These wounds develop when stage 3 bedsores are left untreated. A stage 4 bedsore is a life-threatening injury that requires immediate wound care from a medical professional. 

All bedsores are pressure injuries caused by prolonged pressure on the skin. Pressure can damage areas of the body that are in direct contact with a surface for an extended period without moving. Alternatively, friction or chafing from clothing or sheets can cause bedsores. 

This pressure doesn’t only damage the skin. It also compresses the veins and arteries running through the body, which limits the blood supply to the affected areas, slowing the speed at which the body can heal and restore itself. 

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What do stage 4 bedsores look like?

Early pressure ulcer stages are characterized by blisters, red splotches, dead tissue, and light tissue damage. Open wounds start to develop during the later stages. 

Stage 4 bedsore symptoms include: 

  • Open wounds that reveal ligaments or bones 
  • Blackened skin 
  • Unusual odor
  • Bone inflammation or infection (osteomyelitis)
  • Sepsis 

Stage 4 bedsores are usually obvious to nursing home staff and family members. If open wounds come into contact with clothing or bedsheets, blood stains will be visible on the fabric. Infected wounds will emit an unpleasant odor and secrete pus or fluid. Additionally, people with bedsores often complain of pain. 

If stage 4 bedsores have developed, nursing home staff have been negligent in their duties. This stage can be easily prevented with proper skin care and regular attention. If you become aware that an elderly family member has developed stage 4 bedsores, it is critical that you get proper medical attention for them immediately and hire a law firm that handles nursing home bedsore cases.

Is there treatment for stage 4 bedsores?

Stage 4 bedsores are life-threatening, so medical treatment should be sought immediately. 

The first step in treating stage 4 bedsores is to give the patient antibiotics for current and potential infection. 

To heal the wounds, doctors remove damaged, infected, and dead tissue in a process called debridement. Then, the affected area is kept dry and clean to allow it to heal naturally. If the wound doesn’t heal naturally or is healing too slowly, doctors can use skin grafts to repair the wound with healthy skin. 

The healing process for stage 4 bedsores is not quick. Even under the best of conditions, healing can take years. During that time, medical professionals will try to keep steady blood flow to the injured area by regularly repositioning the patient. 

How can stage 4 bedsores be prevented?

Unfortunately, bedsores are a fact of life for many older adults living in assisted living facilities. Elders with limited mobility spend a lot of time lying in beds or sitting in chairs, increasing their risk of developing early stages of bedsores. 

However, nursing home residents should never develop bedsores. Prevention of bedsores require diligence and an appropriate standard level of care. If a resident develops any stage of pressure ulcer, nursing home neglect is occurring.  

Nursing home staff members who are providing residents with proper care follow established practices to prevent stage 4 and all types of bedsores.

Healthy Meals

Poor nutrition contributes to bedsores. Malnutrition and dehydration inhibit wound healing. This means that minor injuries like blisters last longer, potentially becoming infected or developing into open wounds. 

Regular Repositioning

Bedsores develop when areas of the body rest or rub against an object for extended periods. Boney portions of the body, such as the shoulder blades and tailbone, are particularly vulnerable. Nursing home staff can reduce the risk of bedsores by regularly moving the resident to new locations and new positions. This limits the pressure on any particular area of the body and allows blood to flow through the body. 

Communication with Residents

One of the best ways nursing home staff can prevent stage 4 bedsores is to regularly speak with their residents. Seniors know their bodies, and they know when something is wrong. If they experience unusual pain or notice signs of cellulitis, including redness and swelling, a simple conversation can reveal that information. 

Periodic Checkups

Sometimes nursing home residents aren’t aware of developing bedsores because they are on a part of the body they can’t see. Some senior residents may hide bedsores because they are embarrassed to tell attendants about them. 

To counter this, assisted living facility staff should check residents for sores regularly. Early diagnosis of a pressure ulcer permits early treatment, which can prevent the wound from progressing to more dangerous stages. 

How does elder abuse cause stage 4 bedsores?

Nursing home abuse is often characterized in the media as malicious. But in reality, the majority of abuse in these settings is due to negligence. Nursing home attendants have a duty to provide attentive care to their residents. When they fail to provide proper care, they cross the line to abuse. Often, chronic understaffing and other systemic issues at the corporate level contribute to this abuse.  

Negligent behavior by nursing home staff allows easily treatable early-stage bedsores to evolve into stage 4 bedsores. 

The most common acts of negligence in nursing homes are: 

  • Failure to diagnose bedsores 
  • Not ensuring residents eat regularly 
  • Giving limited or no assistance with bathing 
  • Ignoring residents’ complaints of pain or wounds
  • Allowing residents to remain stationary for extended periods
  • Skipping regular checkups
  • Failure to assess, implement, and reevaluate care plans to mitigate risk of injury 

Neglect of this kind is usually due to apathy, which can stem from understaffing and overworking the existing caretakers. When apathy becomes systemic, a small sore can become a deep tissue injury without anyone noticing. 

Unfortunately, sometimes this behavior is malicious. Malicious elder abuse happens when staff are aware of bedsores and intentionally do nothing to relieve them or prevent more. This type of behavior requires immediate intervention. 

What to Do If You Suspect Nursing Home Abuse Has Caused Stage 4 Bedsores

The first thing you need to do is contact the personal physician of your elderly family member. Without immediate treatment, the situation will worsen. Even with treatment, they will need your support during the next few months or years, as they will likely experience significant pain and suffering. 

After you have ensured proper treatment for your loved one, you should contact a nursing home abuse law firm. Lawyers who have experience with eldercare will file a lawsuit against the responsible parties. You can seek damages to pay for medical treatment, move your loved one to a safer nursing home, and receive compensation for their pain and suffering. 

Potential secrecy on the part of a long-term care facility may mean you do not become aware of the pressure injuries your relative is suffering until months or even years later. Even if the medical threat has passed at that point, you still have the right to get legal compensation. However, you must act quickly. Illinois has a two-year statute of limitations on nursing home abuse cases. 

Nursing Home Abuse Lawyers Protect Your Elderly Loved Ones

Nursing home abuse is shockingly common in Illinois. Despite numerous laws that protect the rights of nursing home patients, many facilities flout those laws. Lawyers who have experience in the field of elder abuse are the first line of defense against this mistreatment. 

Nursing home abuse lawyers are familiar with the rights that residents have while living in senior care facilities. They are also highly familiar with the signs that indicate those rights have been violated. If you suspect abuse, a lawyer can perform an extensive case evaluation to determine whether you have grounds for a lawsuit. 

Recovery from stage 4 bedsores is a long and often painful process. A nursing home bedsore lawyer will hold nursing home facilities accountable and get you the financial compensation you deserve. 

At Levin & Perconti, we are experienced in nursing home abuse and neglect. Our attorneys have secured substantial settlements for nursing home abuse victims, incuding a $3 million settlement for a resident after a lengthy recovery from bedsores sustained at an Illinois nursing home. 

$1.4 million


against a facility located in the northern suburbs for a former nursing home resident who sustained injuries as a result of a pressure sore.

$2.8 million


record nursing home pressure sore settlement against a suburban Hillside nursing home and physician for a 59-year-old resident who developed multiple painful and infected bedsores which took four years to heal

$2.3 million


for the family of an 88-year-old assisted living facility resident who developed severe and infected bed sores which ultimately brought about her death. Her doctor was criminally indicted for his conduct and charged with involuntary homicide