The care you or a loved one receive at a nursing home may vary with the color of your skin. A recent study published in the Journal of American Medicine entitled "Association of Race and Sites of Care With Pressure Ulcers in High-Risk Nursing Home Residents" authored by Dr. Yue Li found that black nursing home residents are more likely than white nursing home residents to develop bed sores.
Bed sores, also known as pressure ulcers or decubitus lesions are skin lesions that can develop on any part of the body as a result of unrelieved pressure, friction, humidity, and a number of other factors. Bedridden nursing home patients are particularly prone to developing bed sores as they are often lay in the same position for a long period of time. Nurses are advised to turn patients regularly (typically every two hours) to relieve any pressure that may cause a sore. If not treated, bed sores can lead to potentially life-threatening conditions such as gangrene, bone and muscle damage, and sepsis.
Previous studies suggested that black nursing home residents develop more pressure ulcers than white patients. The objective of this study was to determine whether that disparity has decreased with recent efforts to improve the quality of nursing homes. The study analyzed the cases of patients that had reportedly developed pressure ulcers from over 12,000 nursing homes from 2003 to 2008. The case sample consisted of about 2.5 million patients that were at a high risk of developing pressure ulcers.
Although the overall rate that patients received bed sores decreased from 2003 to 2008, the study showed that black residents are still more likely to develop pressure sores than white residents. The rate among white residents decreased from "11.4 percent in 2003 to 9.6 percent in 2008", while the rate among black residents decreased from "16.8 percent to 14.6 percent".
The researchers also found that the highest rate of bed sores occur among black residents in nursing homes housing the highest percentage of black residents. Conversely, the lowest rate was among white residents in nursing homes with the lowest percentage of black residents.
These results may be due to a number of factors. The nursing homes with the highest concentration of black residents may not be as well funded or staffed as those housing mostly white residents. Research as shown that the facilities that tend to house a large concentration of black residents tend to be not-for-profit or urban facilities. Dr. Li suggested that these facilities are most likely lacking in adequate number of nursing staff and nursing assistants needed to attend to bedridden patients. In addition, Dr. Li argued that more research should be conducted to take into account factors such as mattress quality and disposable undergarments.
I would be extremely interested hearing the results of more research addressing this topic. I urge researchers expand on Dr. Li's findings and look more closely at the differences in care at urban and not-for profit nursing homes and private nursing homes. Have you or a loved one received care at a nursing home and seen a disparity between the care received by black residents and white residents? Do you think that your care suffered because of the color of you skin. Please feel free to call me toll free at 866-889-6882 to discuss your experiences and the legal options available to you.