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.
Nursing Home Negligence Can Contribute to Sepsis
You trusted a nursing home to care for your elderly loved one. If their abuse or neglect played a role in your family member becoming ill or passing away from sepsis, their administration should be held responsible. You and your loved one should not continue to suffer from someone’s negligent actions.
A nursing home abuse and neglect lawyer can help you recover damages such as medical expenses, pain and suffering, or in some cases, wrongful death.
To learn more about potential compensation for nursing home abuse and neglect, please call Pintas & Mullins Law Firm for a free consultation at (800) 842-6336.