Sepsis in Nursing Homes

Sepsis is a condition where the body’s immune system tries too hard to fight an infection, causing damage to healthy organs. Severe cases lead to septic shock, which may cause organ failure and death. Nursing home residents are more likely to contract infections that can lead to sepsis. If someone you love developed sepsis in a nursing home, compensation may be available — get a free case review.

What Is Sepsis?

Sepsis occurs when the body overreacts to an infection.

The body typically fights infections by sending chemicals into the bloodstream. However, this can lower the body’s blood pressure and damage major organs and tissues. Without treatment, patients may go into septic shock — a very deadly condition that causes organs to stop working.

Nursing home patients are at a higher risk of developing sepsis. These patients are typically older adults who may have trouble fighting infections. Nursing home residents may also have pre-existing health problems, which put them at an even greater risk of sepsis.

Staff has a duty to prevent serious infections that lead to sepsis in nursing homes. If an elderly resident you love develops sepsis, it may be the result of nursing home abuse or neglect.

In these cases, you may be able to get justice and compensation by pursuing legal action.

Sepsis Symptoms in Nursing Homes

The signs of sepsis can come on very quickly. Those suffering from sepsis will likely be in a lot of pain as the body attacks healthy tissues and organs.

Other warning signs of sepsis include:

  • Rapid breathing
  • Fast heart rate
  • Confusion or disorientation
  • Fever and chills
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sweaty and clammy skin

“I was in agony. I’ve never felt anything like it.”

– Kim, sepsis survivor

If you or a loved one is living in a nursing home, it’s important to know these sepsis symptoms and get medical help if they appear. While nursing home staff should be able to recognize these signs too, some fail to take action.

For example, staff at an Oregon nursing home didn’t hospitalize an older woman with dementia after her temperature rapidly dropped below normal. Instead, they tried to warm her by putting blankets on her.

The woman was finally taken to a hospital, where she was diagnosed with severe sepsis and died three days later.

Sepsis Rash

Those with sepsis may also develop a rash of tiny red spots on their skin. According to the Mayo Clinic, sepsis rashes develop when blood flow is interrupted to major organs. This causes blood vessels to explode and blood to clot below the surface of the skin.

Without treatment, Johns Hopkins notes that a sepsis rash will worsen and start to look like a bruise. Severe cases cause skin damage and discoloration.

Did your loved one suffer from sepsis while in a nursing home? Call (800) 896-7040 to see if you can pursue compensation.

What Are the 3 Stages of Sepsis?

Doctors have classified 3 stages of sepsis based on the condition’s severity. The most extreme cases are considered septic shock.

Stage 1: Sepsis

In the first stage of sepsis, patients often experience common symptoms like a fever and shortness of breath. Doctors will also look at the patient’s blood pressure. if it has dropped below 100 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg), sepsis may have set in.

Stage 2: Severe Sepsis

As sepsis worsens, patients may develop additional symptoms due to organ dysfunction. Notable symptoms in severe cases of sepsis include discolored skin, a lack of urination, and heart problems. Patients can also lose consciousness.

Stage 3: Septic Shock

In cases of septic shock, the body’s blood pressure drops so low that major organs start to shut down. Any previous symptoms the patient had exhibited in the earlier stages remain. In rare cases, gangrene can even set in due to septic shock.

According to the Mayo Clinic, doctors look at two major factors to see if septic shock has set in.

  1. The patient needs medication to have a blood pressure reading of 65 mm Hg or higher.
  2. The patient has too much lactic acid in their blood, which means the cells are using oxygen inefficiently.

Septic shock is the most dangerous stage, and patients are at risk of dying.

Call 911 immediately if you believe a loved one is suffering from sepsis — urgent medical care is needed to prevent septic shock and death.

Who Is Most at Risk of Developing Sepsis?

Anyone can develop sepsis, but infants, older adults, and those with existing health problems are at the greatest risk.

Those most at risk of sepsis include:

  • People over the age of 65 or under the age of 1
  • People with chronic health problems like diabetes
  • Those who have weakened immune systems
  • Those who survived sepsis before

What Causes Sepsis in Nursing Homes?

Sepsis is caused by infections that the body can’t fight off. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that a wide range of bacterial and viral infections can lead to sepsis.

Infections that cause sepsis in nursing homes can include:

  • COVID-19
  • E. coli
  • Flu
  • Staph
  • Streptococcus
  • Urinary tract infections

Sadly, nursing home infections are a common issue for residents. Assisted living facilities have dozens of residents living together, so without proper care, infections can spread quickly.

Bedsores are another risk factor for sepsis in nursing homes. Bedsores (also known as pressure ulcers) are deep, open wounds caused when blood flow to the skin is cut off. Severe bedsores can become infected and cause residents to suffer from sepsis.

Sepsis Can Be a Sign of Nursing Home Neglect

If someone you love developed sepsis, it may be a sign of nursing home abuse or neglect.

Staff members have a duty to recognize and properly treat sepsis and the conditions that may cause it. If they do not do so, they have failed to uphold the basic standards of care that all nursing homes should have.

For example, a 69-year-old resident died after a bedsore on her foot went untreated, leading to sepsis and gangrene. The registered nurse who was supposed to care for the resident was arrested and charged with neglect. In this case, the link between sepsis and nursing home neglect was all too clear.

Preventing Sepsis in Nursing Homes

While sepsis in nursing homes is a very serious health problem, it is often preventable. Long-term care facilities and their staff members should have sepsis prevention methods in place to keep residents safe.

“Detecting sepsis early and starting immediate treatment is often the difference between life and death. It starts with preventing the infections that lead to sepsis.”

– Former CDC Director Brenda Fitzgerald, M.D.

To prevent sepsis in nursing homes, staff should:

  • Closely follow infection control protocols
  • Make sure residents wash their hands regularly
  • Monitor residents to make sure they recover from infections
  • Promptly treat open cuts or wounds
  • Send residents to a hospital immediately if they might have sepsis

Facilities that fail to keep patients safe from sepsis may be committing nursing home negligence.

Sepsis Treatment Options

If a loved one has developed sepsis, they need medical attention immediately. Prompt medical care can help prevent someone from going into septic shock.

There are several treatment options for sepsis, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

Treatments can include:

  • Antibiotics
  • Blood pressure medication
  • Supplementary oxygen
  • Intravenous fluids
  • Kidney dialysis
  • Surgery to remove dying tissue

Health care professionals can recommend specific treatments based on the patient’s needs.

Death From Sepsis in the Elderly

Johns Hopkins Medicine reports up to 50% of those who go into septic shock die. Among older people, the rate is even higher. Up to 60% of elders die from sepsis, according to a study published by the World Journal of Critical Care Medicine.

“Elderly patients with sepsis die earlier during hospitalization and the elderly are more likely to require skilled nursing or rehabilitative care after hospitalization as compared to young adults.”

– World Journal of Critical Care Medicine

However, it is possible to survive and recover from sepsis with proper medical care.

Sepsis Survival Rate by Age

A study published by the International Journal of Gerontology noted that the mortality rate for sepsis increased as patients aged.

Sepsis Survival Rates By Age
Under 6054.4%
60-8039.3%
Over 8021.1%

Nursing Home Wrongful Death From Sepsis

Nursing home staff members are trained to properly address life-threatening health problems like sepsis. If they fail to do so — and someone you loved died as a result — a nursing home wrongful death may have occurred.

Given how dangerous sepsis is, there’s no excuse for any form of nursing home neglect that causes a resident to die from this condition. Fortunately, you can hold nursing homes accountable for your loved one’s death with legal help.

Nursing Home Sepsis Lawsuit

By working with a top law firm, you may be able to file a lawsuit and pursue compensation if someone you loved developed sepsis in a nursing home.

Compensation from a nursing home sepsis lawsuit can be very helpful since treating this condition is often very expensive. In one example, the medical costs for one elderly patient who had bedsores and sepsis cost over $400,000, according to Kaiser Health News.

You may even be able to file a lawsuit if someone you love died from sepsis in a nursing home. Wrongful death lawsuits explain why your loved one would likely still be alive had they not developed sepsis. They also note how the facility could have kept them safe.

When you work with attorneys that specialize in nursing home abuse cases, the process is hassle-free. Your lawyers will build a case on behalf of your loved one while they focus on healing.

Take Legal Action for Sepsis in Nursing Homes

No one should ever have to suffer from sepsis in nursing homes — especially when staff can often prevent it. If your family member or loved one suffered from sepsis while in a nursing home, legal help may be available.

By working with a nursing home abuse lawyer, you can:

  • Gather evidence to build a case
  • File a nursing home sepsis lawsuit
  • Pursue financial compensation and closure
  • Hold the nursing home and its staff accountable

Get a free case review today to see if you may be eligible to file a lawsuit for financial compensation.

You deserve justice. Get a free legal case review now.

Author:Nursing Home Abuse Justice Team
Nursing Home Abuse Justice Team

Nursing Home Abuse Justice was founded to shine a light on nursing home and elder abuse. Every day, thousands of people in nursing homes and assisted living facilities are abused. Our team helps educate seniors and their loved ones on the common causes, signs and preventions of nursing home abuse. We report on real-world studies and current events from respected news outlets to expose this national problem.

Last modified: May 28, 2021

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