Sepsis occurs when your body has an extreme, life-threatening response to an existing fungal or bacterial infection. Nursing home residents are particularly vulnerable because they have several risk factors as identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
- They are adults aged 65 or older.
- They typically have weakened immune systems.
- They are more likely to have chronic medical conditions such as cancer, kidney disease, or diabetes.
A nursing home may be liable for a resident who develops sepsis if caregivers are negligent for the underlying infection, or if they did not treat sepsis promptly.
If you have a spouse, parent, or another family member who developed sepsis in a nursing home, please call our law firm. We will review your case and help you pursue compensation if there is evidence of liability.
Call Pintas & Mullins Law Firm for a free consultation: (800) 842-6336.
How Nursing Home Negligence Contributes to Sepsis
It is expected that nursing home staff will take reasonable measures to help prevent underlying or primary infections that could lead to sepsis.
These measures include:
- Moving bedridden patients regularly to prevent pressure ulcers and bedsores.
- Sterilizing IV needles, catheters, and other medical equipment.
- Following accepted medical standards when taking blood or giving medication or vaccines that penetrate the skin.
- Monitoring patients with respiratory infections for signs of pneumonia or bronchitis.
- Cleaning any cuts or open wounds properly.
- Making sure that residents with a diagnosed infection complete their course of antibiotics.
- Maintaining a clean and hygienic environment, including bathrooms, bed linens, towels, and clothing.
When nursing homes are negligent in the prevention of an infection that leads to sepsis, they may be held accountable for your loved one’s suffering and losses.
We Can Help You Pursue Compensation and Justice
The Pintas & Mullins Law Firm wants to prevent further suffering and economic loss caused by someone’s negligence. If we find that it is more likely than not that nursing home negligence contributed or caused your loved one’s sepsis, we will pursue compensation on your behalf.
You pay nothing upfront, and there are no out-of-pocket fees. We will take your case on a contingency-fee basis, so you do not pay unless we successfully recover awards for you and your family.
How We Hold Negligent Nursing Homes Accountable
If your loved one developed sepsis in a nursing home or assisted living facility (ALF), you should talk to a lawyer who understands these kinds of cases.
As your legal advocate, our lawyers will:
- Investigate the circumstances under which your loved one developed sepsis, including the underlying infection and subsequent care once sepsis occurred.
- Examine the timeline of events for signs of mismanagement, error, or failure to obtain the proper care for a sepsis patient.
- Conduct interviews with nursing home staff, residents, family members, and other witnesses.
- Secure medical experts to review the patient’s health history and records.
- Look for prior complaints, lawsuits, or violations related to similar cases.
Sepsis is a life-threatening, but preventable, condition. We can hold a negligent nursing home accountable when the staff does not provide adequate care. Contact the Pintas & Mullins Law Firm today to learn more: (800) 842-6336.
Proving Liability for Sepsis in a Nursing Home
Any nursing home that overlooks negligence by its staff should be held responsible. You may be entitled to compensation if your loved one developed sepsis in their nursing home. We will prove liability by establishing the following conditions:
- The nursing home had a duty of care to take reasonable measures to prevent the underlying infection and to treat sepsis symptoms responsibly.
- The nursing home breached this duty of care by failing to treat the infection and its causes that led to sepsis.
- We present evidence that the nursing home’s failure caused the injury and losses.
A lawyer with Pintas & Mullins Law Firm can determine if the nursing home breached its duty of care and is therefore liable for your loved one’s injuries and losses.
Seeking Compensation for Sepsis
If diagnosed quickly, there are effective treatments for sepsis. The usual treatment is a course of antibiotics and making sure that patients do not dehydrate from the high fever that can accompany this condition.
However, sepsis can be fatal. According to the CDC, out of the 1.7 million adults who contracted sepsis each year, about 270,000 of them pass away as a result.
Depending on your situation, a lawyer with Pintas & Mullins Law Firm may seek awards for:
- Emergency medical care
- Pain and suffering
- Diminished quality of life
- Wrongful death
- And more if you qualify
We know that your loved one’s health and safety is your priority. Our legal team can pursue compensation on your behalf so that you can focus on your family. For a free consultation, call today: (800) 842-6336.
How We Pursue Losses on Your Behalf
The Pintas & Mullins Law Firm can help you recover losses in two ways:
- By filing a claim against the nursing home’s insurance.
- By filing a lawsuit against the nursing home and seeking a court award.
In our experience as nursing home abuse and neglect lawyers, some facilities do not want the negative publicity of a trial. Other times, it may be in your best interest to pursue compensation and justice in court.
Each state has a different statute of limitations for legal action. You should have the chance to explore all potential options, so we recommend that you contact our nationwide firm today.
Know the Signs of Sepsis
There is a risk of sepsis whenever a person has an infection. According to the CDC, the primary symptoms of this fast-moving and potentially fatal condition are:
- Fever or chills
- Elevated heart rate
- Confusion or feeling disoriented
- Pain, sometimes extreme
- Shortness of breath
- Sweaty or clammy skin
People with sepsis need medical care right away, especially in older adults with other health issues.
Can Poor Hygiene Cause Sepsis?
Maintaining good hygiene is necessary to prevent illness and disease, especially when it comes to sepsis.
A serious medical condition, sepsis starts at the beginning of an infection and spreads throughout the body. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, severe cases of sepsis can result in organ damage and septic shock, which causes dangerously low blood pressure.
Elderly adults make up the most vulnerable population for developing sepsis, due—in part—to weakened immune systems and any other diseases they may have, such as cancer or diabetes.
When your loved one has an infection that worsens due to unsanitary conditions and poor hygiene, you should seek professional medical help immediately.
The Importance of Keeping Wound Sites Clean
Keeping a wound site clean plays an important role in preventing the spread of any infection. If a caregiver does not clean wound sites right away, it may be considered neglect. According to a report from Reuters, many nursing homes deal with a high turnover of staff. Poor training and understaffing can lead to neglect of your loved one living in a nursing home.
For example, when a caregiver fails to wash their hands or wear gloves, they place your loved one at risk for infection. Dirty conditions in your loved one’s room, such as unchanged bedsheets and uncleaned sinks, also create breeding grounds for dangerous germs.
Nursing Home Neglect and Hygiene
In addition to keeping a clean room, caregivers have a responsibility to assist help loved one with their daily tasks. You trust the nursing home staff to keep your loved one bathed and clean on a regular basis.
Pressure sores can develop when your loved one remains in a bed or wheelchair for too long. Sometimes referred to as bedsores, these painful ulcers can result in an infection that, if left untreated, can progress into sepsis.
Patient neglect is never acceptable. Everyone deserves the right to wear clean clothes in a safe and clean environment. A nursing home should never allow a staffing shortage to put your loved one’s health at risk. If poor hygiene caused sepsis in your loved one, it is your right to pursue justice on their behalf.
Seeking a Nursing Home Neglect Lawyer
At Pintas & Mullins Law Firm, we take on nursing homes that abuse or neglect elderly adults. Our legal team fights for justice on behalf of vulnerable loved ones living in assisted living facilities and nursing homes.
Elderly patients rely on their caregivers to help them by bathing them, washing their hair, and dressing them in clean clothes. If a nursing home fails to administer proper care for these tasks, they may neglect their patients to the point that poor hygiene brings about sepsis.
A nursing home lawyer may be able to help gather key evidence and assemble a case to hold the nursing home accountable if neglect and poor hygiene caused sepsis.
Sepsis can worsen over time and lead to other health complications in the future. Legal representation may help hold insurance companies accountable for the losses suffered by your loved one if they receive a sepsis diagnosis.
Sepsis can occur when your body’s natural immune system releases too many chemicals into your blood. This causes widespread inflammation that can quickly lead to blood clots, internal bleeding, organ damage, and in severe cases, death.
The initial infection that causes sepsis can be fungal, viral, or bacterial. According to the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS), bacterial infections are the most common cause of sepsis.
Why Nursing Home Residents Are at Higher Risk for Sepsis
The Mayo Clinic confirms that elderly people are more likely to develop sepsis. This is particularly true for nursing home residents.
The risk of sepsis is greater for nursing home residents for several reasons:
- They live in close quarters (often sharing a room), with communal dining and recreational activities.
- Nursing home residents may already have compromised immune systems, due to chronic medical conditions such as diabetes or cancer.
- They are more likely to need invasive medical devices, like catheters or breathing tubes.
- If they are bedridden, they are more prone to bed sores or pressure ulcers, which open the skin to potential infection.
- They may have grown immune to standard antibiotics or they are at risk for dangerous drug interactions if antibiotics are combined with other medications.
It is possible that someone who survives sepsis is more vulnerable to future infections and could contract sepsis again, according to the NIGMS.
How Sepsis Is Treated
There is no time to waste if your spouse or parent develops sepsis. Most nursing homes cannot treat sepsis as effectively as a hospital’s intensive care unit.
Doctors and nurses will first try to stop the infection from doing more damage.
Most of the time, sepsis is treated with:
- Antibiotics (or several rounds of antibiotics), often given intravenously
- Pain relief so that the patient can rest
- Fever-reducing medication
- IV fluids to avoid dehydration
Sometimes surgery is necessary to remove an infected organ or body part.
The NIGMS estimates that 1.7 million adults in America develop sepsis each year. Approximately 270,000 people will die from sepsis, and sadly, the numbers tend to increase each year.
This increase in septic cases may be attributed to:
- People are living longer in general, including those with chronic medical conditions.
- As our population ages, more people are moving into nursing homes.
- More people have organ transplants, which greatly increases the risk of sepsis.
- Antibiotics are prescribed more frequently, which may reduce their effectiveness in patients being treated for sepsis.
How Nursing Homes Can Take Steps to Prevent Sepsis
While there is no cure for sepsis right now, the best way to avoid this life-threatening condition is by preventing (or quickly treating) the underlying infection.
Your loved one is more at risk for developing sepsis if he or she is not getting proper care from nursing home staff.
A nursing home should take the following steps to prevent sepsis:
- Regularly turn and move bedridden or wheelchair-bound residents to avoid pressure points and bedsores that can create an open wound.
- Keep medical equipment such as catheters clean and sterilized.
- Observe patients with respiratory infections for signs of bronchitis or pneumonia.
- Make sure that patients with edema (swelling) do not develop cuts or wounds.
- Keep rooms and surfaces clean and disinfected.
- Check on ill residents for signs of sepsis, which can quickly become life-threatening.
You have the right to check on your loved one to make sure that he or she is receiving proper care. Visit regularly or if you live too far away, call on a regular basis. It’s a good idea to communicate with your loved one’s primary caregivers and the facility’s physician.
How to Recognize Sepsis in a Loved One
Sepsis might be difficult to recognize if your loved one is already sick with pneumonia, bronchitis, or another infection. Nursing home staff should always be on the lookout for sepsis.
According to the Mayo Clinic, the symptoms of sepsis include:
- Fever of 99 degrees or more
- Elevated heart rate
- Dizziness or vertigo
- Difficulty breathing (shortness of breath) or rapid breathing
- Sweaty or clammy skin
- Increased or sudden confusion or mental fogginess
- Low blood pressure
- Decreased urinary function
Nursing home residents with sepsis should be taken to the nearest emergency room to begin treatment.
What are the 6 Signs of Sepsis?
When it comes to sepsis, there are some common symptoms, but having sepsis does not guarantee an obvious display of any of them. Here are the 6 most common signs and symptoms of sepsis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
- A fever or chills
- Difficulty breathing
- Extreme pain or discomfort
- Elevated heart rate
- Skin that is sweaty or clammy
Of course, this is a non-exhaustive list of symptoms. With sepsis, early recognition, prevention, and intervention can be lifesaving. Just like most health situations for nursing home residents, recognizing a case of sepsis requires constant care and attention. These 6 signs of sepsis can range from subtle to severe.
Sepsis is the body’s reaction to an infection, but it is a dangerous condition because your body overreacts to the infection and causes many complications that can result in death if left untreated. For most patients, it begins outside of the hospital. According to a CDC study, a majority of sepsis patients had chronic health concerns that led to more frequent medical attention or made use of health care services.
When sepsis happens to nursing home residents, it can quickly become a case of life or death. In some cases, especially in more vulnerable populations, sepsis can lead to septic shock, which can be fatal.
How Sepsis Happens
According to the Mayo Clinic, sepsis typically happens in people who are immunocompromised or have preexisting infections. Adults over 65 are especially more vulnerable to infections, and likely to require 24/7 care, such as that in a nursing home.
Patients with skin, lung, gut, and urinary tract infections can be more vulnerable to sepsis than other patients, per CDC findings. Any nursing home resident with a history of infections or chronic disease needs constant monitoring for any of the 6 signs of sepsis. However, that is sometimes easier said than done.
Nursing Homes and Understaffing
Although the Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987 stipulates that nursing homes must be adequately staffed, the act does not indicate a particular number or patient-to-staff ratio. Consequently, organizations that run nursing homes are able to take advantage of this and understaffed facilities. This leads to a very high and often unmanageable patient-to-staff ratio.
In addition, working in a nursing home is not for the faint of heart. It can be high-risk, low-pay work. Nursing home work does not only require comprehensive training in specialized care for senior citizens, but an abundance of emotional labor. Emotional labor leads to emotional exhaustion, which can contribute to neglecting responsibilities, or even abusive behavior at work.
How Abuse and Neglect Contribute to Sepsis
Your loved one may be suffering abuse or neglect in his or her current care setting, even if it is unintentional. When a nursing home staff member becomes overwhelmed with individual tasks and keeping up with the needs for an influx of residents, the nursing home residents can suffer as a result.
With improper care, your loved one could suffer from any of the following factors that contribute to sepsis:
- Weakened Immune System: Without regard for a weakened immune system, your loved one is at a higher risk of developing complications from an infection.
- Lack of Hygiene and Health Monitoring: Hygiene and constant monitoring is important for at-risk people like nursing home residents. Missing one small symptom could lead to a seriously bad case of sepsis.
- Misdiagnosed Infections: When infections are misdiagnosed or completely missed, they do not receive proper treatment, which leads to more severe consequences.
- Antibiotic Immunity: When medical professionals frequently treat symptoms with antibiotics, it can lead to antibiotic resistance. This can cause more severe infections that are difficult or impossible to control.
Of course, there are more ways that mistreatment or a lack of constant monitoring could lead to serious health problems in our vulnerable populations. But if you notice any of the above conditions in your loved one’s nursing home, it could be a sign of increased vulnerability to sepsis or more serious consequences from infections.
Symptoms of Sepsis Can Indicate a Bigger Problem
Nursing home abuse and neglect is not always obvious, but there are some common factors and indications of it. If your loved one frequently suffers from infections, has ever had sepsis during his or her residency in a nursing home, or other chronic health issues, consider if anyone’s negligence is contributing to it. Remember that nursing home abuse and neglect are not always intentional; sometimes mismanagement of nursing home staff or residents can lead to fatal consequences.
If your loved one in a nursing home recently suffered sepsis, or is showing signs of infection, do not wait until the situation becomes deadly. You can work with a nursing home abuse and neglect lawyer to help you navigate the situation with everyone’s best interests in mind.
How Do Elderly People Get Sepsis?
Sepsis occurs when you have a severe and adverse reaction to your body’s own immune response following an infection. Sepsis can quickly become life-threatening if not immediately diagnosed and treated, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Seniors may develop sepsis after exposure to a primary infection, such as pneumonia or bronchitis. Caregivers can reduce the risk of this disease by taking reasonable steps to stop the spread of the initial infection. They should also be alert in looking for signs and symptoms of sepsis.
A failure to diagnose and treat this condition may be a sign of nursing home abuse or neglect.
Elderly People are at a Higher Risk for Sepsis
According to the Mayo Clinic, older people have a higher risk of getting sepsis following an infection because they:
- May already have a weak or compromised immune system
- May have other chronic medical conditions such as diabetes, cancer, or kidney disease (among others)
- Might have invasive medical devices like breathing tubes or catheters that can be infected
- May develop bedsores or pressure ulcers
- May have grown resistant to standard antibiotics
In addition to the previously mentioned risk factors, seniors who live in a group setting such as a nursing home or assisted living facility (ALF) might also be more likely to develop sepsis. A study in the Journal of Critical Care found that people who live in nursing homes are seven times more likely to develop sepsis than their counterparts who live independently. Any type of infection—viral, bacterial, or fungal—can spread quickly, especially if nursing home employees are not attentive.
Nursing Homes Should Closely Monitor Residents for Sepsis and Septic Shock
Nursing home staff members should always be on the lookout for signs of sepsis in residents who already have an established infection. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the symptoms of sepsis often include:
- Raised heart rate
- Change in mental state, such as confusion or disorientation
- Shortness of breath and/or rapid breathing
- Sweaty or clammy skin
Sepsis can quickly become septic shock. This is a life-threatening condition that needs immediate medical attention.
According to the Mayo Clinic, symptoms of septic shock typically include:
- Low blood pressure
- Cool, pale arms and legs
- Decreased urine output
- Elevated fever of 101 degrees or higher
Each year, about 270,000 adults pass away from sepsis, according to the CDC.
How Nursing Home Abuse or Neglect Contributes to Disease
Nursing homes can significantly reduce the chances of infection and lower the risk of residents developing sepsis. Unfortunately, not all nursing homes take reasonable steps to protect their residents.
These precautionary steps can include:
- Sterilize invasive equipment such as catheters and breathing tubes
- Use universal precautions when taking blood or giving intravenous medication
- Monitor patients with respiratory infections for concerning developments in their health
- Clean and bandage open wounds
- Ensure residents with a diagnosed illness finish their prescribed course of antibiotics
- Keep residents and their surroundings clean and hygienic
- Rotate bedridden residents regularly to avoid bedsores that may become infected
The best way to prevent sepsis is to reduce the risk of a primary infection. If an elderly loved one is living in a nursing home or an ALF, you have the right to ask about what steps the medical staff is taking to prevent sepsis.
What to Do if Your Elderly Loved One Gets Sepsis
Time is important if your elderly relative or spouse develops sepsis. The Mayo Clinic suggests that early and aggressive medical treatment is necessary to prevent death from sepsis. Nursing homes and ALFs are typically not equipped to deal with sepsis and should arrange for residents to be taken immediately to the nearest hospital.
Sepsis is diagnosed with blood and urine tests. Doctors may also order imaging tests such as computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
Successful treatment for sepsis includes:
- Broad-spectrum intravenous antibiotics
- Intravenous fluids to prevent and address dehydration and electrolyte imbalance
- Vasopressors to treat dangerously low blood pressure
Some elderly people with sepsis may need oxygen, even if they do not normally require respiratory support.
What are the Stages of Sepsis?
Sepsis is a dangerous medical condition that happens when your body’s chemical response to an infection off balance. It is also known by the name septicemia. The high levels of chemicals can damage your organs and require immediate medical attention. The chemicals that cause sepsis create inflammation, which can reduce blood flow and cause multiple organ failure.
The Three Stages of Sepsis
Septic shock occurs when your blood pressure drops dramatically because of sepsis. It can also cause organ failure. Generally, there are three recognized stages of sepsis.
In stage 1, high heart or respiratory rate, an infection, and high or low white blood cell counts can all indicate sepsis. If treated in stage 1, patients may avoid many of the adverse health outcomes associated with sepsis.
In stage 2, you can expect to see acute organ dysfunction with low blood pressure or decreased blood flow through internal organs. Patients may experience less urine output, difficulty breathing, and abdominal pain, among other symptoms. A transfer to a hospital for intensive care is likely for a nursing home resident with stage 2 sepsis.
In stage 3, you can experience septic shock. You may experience sepsis-induced hypertension and higher-than-normal lactate levels. Up to 50% of sepsis patients in stage 3 die.
Signs of Sepsis
A patient’s outlook severely improves with earlier medical intervention. However, signs of early-stage sepsis can be difficult to spot unless you have learned what the stages of sepsis are. Some signs of sepsis include:
- Less urine output
- Rapid heart rate or breathing
- Discolored skin
- Mental changes
- Decreased body temperature
- Respiratory distress
- Low body temperature
In addition to these signs of sepsis, laboratory testing can diagnose other clinical signs, such as low platelet counts and high lactic acid levels. Due to the high mortality rate, it is important to treat any sign of the condition very seriously and err on the side of early intervention.
In most cases, sepsis stems from an infection—either bacterial, viral, or fungal infections. Patients with bacteremia, pneumonia, urinary infections, or GI tract infections are more at risk for sepsis than those with other types of infection.
There are many different tests available to diagnose and monitor sepsis. These tests include blood, urine, and secretions. X-rays, CT scans, ultrasounds, and MRIs could identify signs of serious infection in various body parts, depending on the site of the suspected infection.
The treatment for sepsis will depend on what stage it is. Supplemental oxygen, IV fluids, and antibiotics can treat early signs of sepsis; these are available treatments for someone still under nursing home care. Doctors use blood tests to monitor treatment progress.
For more serious cases of sepsis, more medical intervention may be necessary to relieve the symptoms of the condition. This includes possible dialysis, use of a ventilator, or surgery to remove badly damaged tissue. For patients with low blood pressure, vasopressor medication could help to increase the patient’s blood pressure.
Risks and Complications
Generally, older people and very young children are at an increased risk for sepsis, especially if they have existing wounds, illnesses (including diabetes and cirrhosis), or an otherwise compromised immune system. Often, the patients who end up with sepsis have an infection that is not well-treated with antibiotics or corticosteroids. If sepsis is not caught and treated early, complications include:
- Organ failure
- Blood clot formation
- Higher risk for future infections
Health professionals estimate that 30% to 50% of the patients who advance to stage 3 sepsis will die from their illness. This rate could be slightly higher for septic shock in the elderly, who may already suffer from other serious medical conditions that require treatment.
Sepsis and Nursing Homes
Sepsis cases in nursing homes are a major problem, as many seniors are at an increased risk of developing the condition due to other chronic health conditions. Nursing homes should implement measures to keep residents safe—that include monitoring them for early signs of sepsis, cleaning rooms, and maintaining proper sterilization and handwashing procedures. If caregivers understand what the stages of sepsis are, this could potentially prevent many cases of sepsis within nursing home populations.
Bedsores, difficult-to-treat infections, and pneumonia are all precursors for sepsis. These conditions are also signs of nursing home neglect. You can reduce your loved one’s risk of developing sepsis by choosing a nursing home where the level of care is high. No one should have to worry about whether the care provided by a nursing home contributes to a loved one’s health problems.
Septic shock typically strikes elderly people, the very young, or people with compromised immune systems, according to the Mount Sinai Health System. This life-threatening medical condition occurs when a patient with sepsis develops dangerously low blood pressure. If a person’s blood pressure is too low, vital organs — including the brain and heart — cannot receive enough oxygen and stop functioning.
The best way to prevent septic shock is to prevent sepsis.
How Sepsis Can Become Septic Shock
Sepsis develops when your body’s natural immune system releases too many chemicals into your blood as a result of a bacterial, fungal, or viral infection. This deluge of chemicals disrupts your body’s natural systems and can result in organ failure, blood clots, or loss of life. If a patient with sepsis does not respond to fluids and antibiotics, they may go into septic shock.
Nursing home residents with pneumonia, bronchitis, or another kind of infection must be watched closely for signs of sepsis. If sepsis becomes septic shock, patients must be treated immediately with vasopressors to elevate their blood pressure and get enough oxygen to their heart, lungs, brain, and kidneys.
The mortality rate for septic shock is high. More than 50 percent of patients with sepsis and septic shock die, and the rate is even higher if the infection is in the abdomen, according to a study in Langenbeck’s Archives of Surgery.
Signs of Septic Shock
Nursing homes are not equipped to treat patients with sepsis, let alone septic shock. That is why it is important to know the symptoms of this often-fatal condition.
Symptoms of septic shock include:
- Extremely low blood pressure, especially when standing
- Fever or extremely low body temperature accompanied by chills
- Little or no urine output
- Rapid heart rate and palpitations
- Arms and legs that look pale and feel cool to the touch
- Extreme agitation, lethargy, or restlessness
- Difficulty breathing
- Discolored skin or rash
- Decreased cognitive ability
It can be difficult to know if an elderly person’s cognitive status decreased because of septic shock or from known conditions, such as dementia. Doctors have several ways of confirming septic shock.
How Doctors Diagnose Septic Shock
In addition to checking for a confirmed underlying infection, doctors have several options to check for septic shock.
These diagnostic methods include:
- Physical examination including blood pressure, temperature, and other physical assessments
- Blood tests to detect bacteria, blood oxygen levels, abnormal acid-base balances, infections, and signs of organ failure
- Chest X-ray for signs of fluid in the lungs or pneumonia
- Urine sample, if possible, to check for infection
Doctors may order a blood culture to confirm the exact nature of the infection, but they normally start with a broad-range antibiotic to begin combatting the infection.
Treating Septic Shock
There is no specific medication or course of treatment for septic shock. The goal is to treat the infection as quickly as possible and to maintain blood pressure to avoid organ failure.
Treatment for septic shock might include:
- Ventilators to help the patient breathe
- Vasopressors to boost low blood pressure
- Antibiotics delivered intravenously
- Other medication to prevent blood clots from forming or breaking off and causing a cardiac event or stroke
- Dialysis for kidney function
- Intravenous fluids
- Sedatives to keep the patient calm and allow rest
Depending on the location of the infection, doctors may have to operate to drain fluid. Some patients develop gangrene (tissue death) in their extremities. They may need to have the affected body part (arm, leg, hand, or foot) amputated to avoid the infection spreading throughout the body.
Prevention Is Key
Septic shock may be prevented with aggressive, proactive care when a patient develops an infection. Adults over age 65 should be vaccinated for the flu, pneumonia, and shingles (chickenpox).
Nursing home staff should be aware of red flags that may indicate an infection that could lead to sepsis and septic shock.
The most common risk factors for septic shock include:
- An underlying infection, usually bacterial
- Open sores, such as bedsores or pressure ulcers, that become infected
- Patients with chronic medical conditions like cancer, diabetes, and kidney disease
- Patients who do not take or finish prescribed antibiotics for underlying infections
Effects of Sepsis
Our bodies have a natural defense system for infections caused by microbes, including virus, fungi, or bacteria. Sometimes, however, these defense systems go into overdrive, creating a dangerous medical condition called sepsis. When your body is flooded with these immunity chemicals, the reactions can range from blood clots to organ failure.
Approximately 40 percent of those with sepsis die, according to the Mayo Clinic. Sepsis survivors may need kidney dialysis, an organ transplant, or have other lifetime medical issues.
There is no cure for sepsis, only treatment consisting of antibiotics, fluids, rest, and pain relievers.
Complications From Sepsis
The effects of sepsis range from moderate to life-threatening.
According to the Mayo Clinic, complications from sepsis include:
- Reduced or impaired blood flow to vital organs, including the heart, kidneys, and brain.
- Blood clots that can cause a heart attack or stroke.
- Tissue death in the arms, fingers, legs, and toes, which can lead to gangrene.
It usually takes several weeks and possibly months, to recover from sepsis. Some people, particularly those in high-risk groups, may have physical and cognitive impairments their entire life as a result.
Those at Greatest Risk for Sepsis
Sepsis is usually caused by a bacterial infection, although it can be triggered by a virus or fungi. Anyone can develop sepsis, but it tends to be more common in certain groups of people, particularly:
- Adults over 65 years old.
- Pregnant women.
- Infants up to one-year-old.
- People with chronic medical conditions and/or weakened immune systems—including those with cancer, AIDS, diabetes, lung disease, or kidney disease.
- People who have had organ transplants.
Your chances of surviving sepsis depend on how quickly you can receive treatment. There is no time to waste once sepsis symptoms are detected.
Treatment of Sepsis
Most nursing homes cannot adequately treat sepsis. Patients should be transported by ambulance to the nearest hospital for prompt, aggressive treatment. Elderly patients need to be monitored closely for respiratory and heart function problems.
The typical medications used to treat sepsis include:
- Antibiotics starting with a broad-spectrum to fight a variety of bacteria until doctors can pinpoint the microbe that is causing the infection.
- Intravenous fluids to avoid complications of dehydration, which can further reduce one’s chance of recovery.
- Vasopressors that constrict the blood vessels and can help if one’s blood pressure is dangerously low.
- Additional care might include insulin if blood sugar levels are too low or too high; painkillers, sedatives, oxygen, and dialysis for kidney function.
Sepsis survivors need to rehabilitate, recover slowly, and rest often.
Long-Term Effects of Sepsis
Sepsis is one of the most debilitating medical conditions you may experience because it affects your entire body. It will take time to recover from the physical effects and the mental and emotional strain.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), those who survived sepsis are likely to experience some of these common long-term effects of sepsis:
- Organ failure or dysfunction, such as lung problems, kidney disease, or heart disease
- Painful and/or disabling muscle and joint problems
- Impaired or decreased cognitive function
- Limb amputation of hands, arms, legs, or feet due to gangrene
- Lowered self-esteem
- Trouble sleeping and/or having nightmares
- Panic attacks
- Extreme fatigue or weakness
- Weight loss
- Dry skin, hair loss, and brittle nails
It may take your elderly loved one more time than a younger person to recover from sepsis. Help your loved one to set small and achievable goals. This makes them more willing to continue with their recommended rehabilitation and treatment.
How Long Does Sepsis Take to Kill You?
Every case of sepsis is unique, and complications can be fatal in a number of different ways. Complications from sepsis can kill you in anywhere from a few hours to a few days. In addition, once you survive sepsis, you are at risk for complications later. According to the National Institute of General Medical Sciences fact sheet on sepsis, “people who have experienced sepsis have a higher risk of various medical conditions and death, even several years after the episode.”
The Society of Critical Care Medicine concludes that sepsis is “common, costly to treat, and presages significant mortality for Medicare beneficiaries.” Although anyone can develop sepsis, people who are immunocompromised, younger than one year, or over 65 are most vulnerable. The following is a quick guide to understanding sepsis and how long sepsis can take to kill you.
Sepsis Can Be Fatal
Sepsis is a common medical issue that can spiral into something much more serious. For sepsis to occur, there must be an underlying infection that escalates to a more severe level, triggering multiple organ systems. While sepsis can be treated if caught in a timely manner, it is not always addressed before it causes issues. Additionally, it can create long-term complications or a higher risk of problems later.
Immediate Complications of Sepsis
When sepsis happens, there are some clear and time-sensitive issues that may arise. For a sepsis diagnosis, the patient will have a “probable or confirmed” infection, according to the Mayo Clinic. Treating sepsis, of course, means treating the symptoms of an exacerbated infection. While each case of sepsis is unique, patients may exhibit any of the following common symptoms:\
- A shift in mental status.
- A systolic blood pressure reading “less than or equal to 100mm Hg.”
- Respiratory rate “higher than or equal to” 22 breaths per minute.
When sepsis goes unnoticed or untreated, it can lead to more serious problems, like septic shock. The Mayo Clinic explains that sepsis does not take long to kill you: “Septic shock is more likely to cause death than sepsis is. … the average mortality rate for septic shock is about 40 percent.”
Long-Term Complications of Sepsis
Complications from sepsis will not necessarily happen when it is first diagnosed. As a result of more severe cases of sepsis, some patients will experience long-term side effects ranging from mild to debilitating. Here is a non-exhaustive list of complications one might endure after surviving a bad case of sepsis:
- Insomnia, difficulty getting to or staying asleep.
- Disabling muscle and joint pain.
- Decreased mental (cognitive) function.
- Organ dysfunction (e.g., kidney failure or respiratory problems).
- Limb amputation.
There are more possible outcomes for someone who suffers from sepsis, mild or severe, which is why it could be helpful to talk to a lawyer who has dealt with sepsis cases before. Some of the people most commonly affected by sepsis include nursing home residents and people in long-term care facilities.
Nursing Homes and Sepsis
Nursing home patients are more likely to experience sepsis for two main reasons: People who are 65 or older are at higher risk of sepsis, and nursing home abuse or neglect can be contributing factors to sepsis.
People who work in nursing homes are often overworked and overloaded with much more than one typical working person can handle. Studies show that not only do nursing home staff members tend to do a lot of practical tasks that families are no longer able to do like cleaning, bathing, feeding, and socializing with residents, but they also are expected to take on a lot of emotional care. This can be as simple as keeping an upbeat, positive attitude for residents, or making sure residents get proper attention and social time.
Of course, this type of work becomes overwhelming when the patient-to-staff ratio becomes too high, which happens often in nursing homes. As a result, nursing home care work is considered a “high turnover, high burnout” field. When nursing home care staff becomes overwhelmed, health issues happen more frequently. Here are the types of necessary tasks that could fall off the radar of an overwhelmed nursing home staffer and how they could lead to severe sepsis infection:
- Insufficient Care for Chronic Conditions: People with underlying illnesses are more likely to acquire a sepsis infection and die from it.
- Improper Hygiene: Adults over 65 are more susceptible to infections than the rest of the population and can experience sepsis if hygiene is not prioritized.
- Overuse of Antibiotics: Someone who is frequently prescribed antibiotics may develop antibiotic resistance. This could make it difficult to treat new infections, especially when they are used as a cure-all for frequently sick patients.
Again, sepsis is not a one-size-fits-all diagnosis, but there are some common contributing factors. Do not wait for the next severe case of sepsis to act; it is always better to begin building your case as soon as possible.
Do You Need an Autopsy to Sue?
If your loved one recently passed away and you suspect neglect or abuse was a contributing factor, you do not need an autopsy to sue. In fact, one report on the autopsy and the elderly patient says that the elderly have the lowest rate of autopsies of “any age group.” In most cases, then, having an autopsy performed when your elderly loved one dies is not expected.
Even though some of the greatest medical discoveries come from performing autopsies, according to the same report, there are some common reasons that elderly people do not have autopsies after death.
About Autopsies for Elderly Populations
Autopsies are how some of the principles of medicine became a reality. When someone dies from otherwise unknown reasons, an autopsy can help clarify the cause of death. Autopsies provide insight on someone’s death, as well as previously unknown health issues that individual had. The report referenced earlier said that “We learn causes of death or are humbled, perhaps, to see that the cause of death is so often less clear than we had concluded.”
However, autopsies in general are in decline, especially in older patients. Doctors are more likely to rule a nursing home patient’s death simple complications of old age or disease, rather than thoroughly investigating it, with one report citing “infectious and cardiovascular disease the leading causes in elderly death.” This shows a change in attitudes of approaching elder care and autopsies in general. After all, most nursing home care reform was not incorporated into legislation until the late 20th century, with medical professionals increasingly aware of the legal implications of medical malpractice.
What Autopsies Show
Autopsies reveal a full physical and chemical portrait of what happened to the deceased person in the moment of death. They can be costly, but provide invaluable insight to risks and complications that were possibly unthinkable before.
Typically, autopsies are done in special circumstances where the death is considered unexpected, or if the death is a result of suspected violence. For most nursing home residents, death is not entirely unexpected, and autopsies are not performed.
Additionally, reasons for limiting autopsies on the elderly include:
- Performing an autopsy on an elderly person is too costly, typically not reimbursed by Medicare.
- Alternative imaging techniques (CT, MRI, PET scan, SPECT, ultrasound) are considered sufficient enough
- Medico-legal fears: Understandable concern about lawsuits is a huge deterrent to autopsy in spite of the obvious potential for educational, clinical, and research gains.
This is not an exhaustive list of why autopsies are limited for deaths of elderly patients. In the case of some older people, death can be expected. However, that does not mean that all deaths that happen in nursing homes are necessary. Sometimes, nursing home residents die due to unnecessary abuse or neglect.
Building a Case Without an Autopsy
Nursing home abuse and neglect is increasingly common, despite legislative measures against it. According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, impacts of elder abuse can “exacerbate existing health conditions,” and even increase the risk for premature death.
If you suspect that your loved one recently died due to the neglect of a nursing home staff or medical expert, you do not need an autopsy to prove neglect. Any chronic health condition can be exacerbated by abuse or neglect, especially if the neglect is simply ignoring the good care of your loved one.
Abuse, Neglect, and Death
The effects of abuse and neglect in nursing homes can lead to problems in every aspect of life, and occasionally even death. When your loved one does not receive good, quality care from a nursing home, it can impact their physical wellbeing, social resources, medical costs, psychological state, financial wellbeing, and more.
Although elder abuse is a more recent area of study, elder abuse is more frequently reported than ever. It is possible to build a lawsuit without the evidence of an autopsy because there are many other ways to prove instances of neglect and abuse. If you ever noticed any of the following in your loved one’s nursing home, it could be a sign of commonplace neglect or abuse:
- Staff is overworked and outnumbered by patients
- Staff is inattentive to individual needs of patients
- Nursing home is cluttered or dirty
- Residents are unattended for long periods of time
- Residents are frequently sick or becoming injured in the nursing home
- Residents have bruises or unexplained injuries
- You noticed any physical or emotional changes in your loved one’s behavior while he or she was a nursing home resident
This is a non-exhaustive list of signs your loved one’s nursing home is capable of abuse or neglect. In the modern world of nursing home medicine, some medical staff would write these conditions off as typical “difficult patient” behavior, but that is not always the case. If you suspect your loved one is a victim of abuse or neglect, a legal professional could help you build a case, with or without an autopsy.
Call for a Free Consultation
If your spouse or parent developed sepsis due to negligent or even questionable care while in a nursing home, call the Pintas & Mullins Law Firm for a free consultation: (800) 842-6336.