More than 60% of the people who develop severe sepsis are over the age of 65. Approximately 20% of the patients 65 years and older that are hospitalized due to sepsis die. Sepsis is common in elderly people living in nursing homes, assisted living facilities and other long-term care facilities.
Sepsis is Dangerous and Can Quickly Lead to Death, Especially Among the Elderly
Sepsis, also known as “blood poisoning” and septicemia, is a potentially fatal condition that results when the human body’s immune system releases large amounts of chemicals into the blood stream in order to fight infections.
The release of these chemicals into the bloodstream can cause inflammation throughout the body. This widespread inflammatory response is known as Systemic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (SIRS). This inflammation can cause blood clots by reducing blood flow to the extremities and organs depriving them of vital oxygen and life-sustaining nutrients. This can lead to multiple organ failure or septic shock which occurs when the heart weakens and the blood pressure drops.
More than 60% of the people who develop severe sepsis are over the age of 65. Approximately 20% of the patients 65 years and older that are hospitalized due to sepsis die. Sepsis is common in elderly people living in nursing homes, assisted living facilities and other long-term care facilities. Sepsis isn’t contagious. As previously stated, it is caused by the body’s immune system when it fights infections. Therefore, infections are a primary cause of sepsis.
Infections are common in the elderly population living in nursing homes. As many as 1 to 3 million infections occur in long-term care facilities like nursing homes every year. The following are some of the common nursing home infections that cause sepsis:
- Urinary Tract Infections
- Skin Infections including Cellulitis and Bedsores
- Respiratory Infections including Influenza and Pneumonia
- Gastrointestinal Infections including Clostridium diﬃcile (C. diﬃcile)
- Antibiotic Resistant Infections including MRSA
- Infections caused by catheters, IVs, breathing tubes and feeding tubes.
Nursing Home Negligence Can Contribute to Sepsis and Sepsis Complications
Sepsis is very hard to diagnose, and all too often sepsis goes undiagnosed and untreated in nursing homes. Delayed sepsis diagnoses and improper sepsis treatment is a serious problem in understaffed nursing homes and nursing homes that overwork or undertrain their staff. Also, most cases of sepsis are preventable. The best way to prevent sepsis is to prevent the main cause, which is infections.
Infection-control programs play an important role in the prevention and identification of nursing home infections that cause sepsis. A nursing home can be found negligent and responsible for nursing home infections and sepsis if it fails to develop and implement an adequate infection control program.
The American Medical Directors Association explains in its guidelines that a nursing home’s infection-control program needs to have policies in place to identify, monitor, treat and prevent infections.
Federal Regulation 441 requires nursing homes to have an infection control program that is “effective for investigating, controlling and preventing infections.”
Federal regulation 441 goes on to state that nursing homes must also “establish and maintain an infection control program designed to provide a safe, sanitary, and comfortable environment and to help prevent the development and transmission of disease and infection.”
Severe Sepsis and Septic Shock
Sepsis is commonly divided into three stages: sepsis, severe sepsis and septic shock.
The first stage of sepsis results in a fever, high heart rate above 90 beats per minute and a respiration rate above 20 beats per minute.
There are over 700,000 cases of severe sepsis in the United States every year. 30% to 40% of the annual 700,000 cases of severe sepsis result in death. Severe sepsis occurs when someone has both sepsis and at least one organ dysfunction. Tachypnea, or abnormally rapid breathing, is a common symptom of severe sepsis. Rapid breathing rates are common because the most common cause of sepsis is a lung infection. Other symptoms include altered mental state, oxygen saturation levels below 90%, low blood pressure.
Septic shock results when a patient has all the symptoms of sepsis/severe sepsis and very low blood pressure that does not respond to fluid replacement. Septic shock results in death 40% to 70% of the time.
Nursing Home Pneumonia Resulting in Sepsis
Respiratory infections are the most common cause of sepsis and pneumonia is most common respiratory infection leading to sepsis. Sepsis is very hard to diagnose; therefore any resident with pneumonia should be considered at risk of acquiring sepsis. Nursing homes therefore need to monitor all residents with pneumonia for signs of sepsis.
Sepsis, Urosepsis and Urinary Tract Infections
Approximately 25% of patients with sepsis can trace the cause to a urogential tract infection like a urinary tract infection.
What Can You Do if You Suspect a Nursing Home is Liable for a Loved One’s Illness or Death?
Sometimes a nursing home can be held liable for a loved one’s injuries and their resulting complications, including death. When a nursing home neglects patient needs they may have committed a type of medical malpractice for which you can seek compensation.
If you believe your loved one has suffered any form of nursing home neglect or abuse, contact our experienced and compassionate nursing home neglect lawyers today for a free consultation.
We offer a free, no-obligation legal consultation to help you understand your rights and the value of your case. Our personal injury law firm takes cases involving elder abuse and neglect. We offer legal service to clients in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New Hampshire.
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