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Recognizing Sepsis in Nursing Homes: Early Detection is Key

Kaiser Health News, along with an analysis conducted by Definitive Healthcare, released statistics in September 2018 detailing the severity of sepsis infections among nursing home residents. Approximately 25,000 nursing home patients are transferred to hospitals annually due to sepsis. Treatments for the infection are not cheap or quick — Medicare spends roughly $2 billion each year caring for sepsis sufferers.

In fact, sepsis was found as the leading cause of transfers from nursing homes to hospitals. Sadly, these cases lead to death “much more often” than other medical conditions, and the elderly pose an additional risk of getting the disease due to weaker immune systems.

Knowing the symptoms of sepsis and early detection are both key in preventing further, incurable damage to a loved one’s health.

What Is Sepsis?

Sepsis is caused by a severe infection that leads to inflammation throughout the body. It typically is known as an infection in the blood. For elderly people with already weak immune systems, a person’s body may injure itself and actually do more harm than good in an attempt to fight off the infection. If left untreated, sepsis can be deadly.

What Are Common Risk Factors For Sepsis?

Sepsis occurs when infections are not properly treated and have the opportunity to worsen and spread. Common risk factors for sepsis include:

  • Abdominal Infections
  • Bloodstream Infections
  • Catheters and Other Devices
  • IV Line Infections
  • Kidney Infections
  • Pneumonia
  • Untreated Pressure Sores
  • Urinary Tract Infections

What Are The Stages and Warning Signs of Sepsis?

There are three different stages of sepsis, each with its own symptoms.

  • Stage 1: Sepsis – One of the first symptoms may be a fever above 101.3 degrees Fahrenheit, or a temperature below 95 degrees. Additionally, symptoms at this stage may include a heart rate over 90 beats per minute and a respiration rate of over 20 breaths per minute.
  • Stage 2: Severe Sepsis – In Stage 2, a change in mental state may be noticeable, accompanied by difficulty breathing, pain in the abdomen, a decrease in urine output and continued abnormalities with heart rate and its pumping speed.
  • Stage 3: Septic Shock – This is the most severe, potentially deadly stage of sepsis. The patient will go into shock, and there may be a severe decrease in blood pressure. In elderly residents particularly, it can be difficult to restore blood pressure back to a normal level once it has significantly dropped.

The best treatment for sepsis is identifying and tackling it in its earliest stages, as soon as it is detected.

Why Is It Such a Widespread Problem?

Kaiser Health News identifies understaffing as a culprit of reduced levels of care, and in turn, the higher spread of infection. Fewer staff generally equates to sometimes not even addressing basic needs, such as feeding and grooming. When basic tasks are neglected, more involved tasks, such as turning and repositioning patients every two hours to avoid bedsores, are more likely to be neglected as well. Without consistent turning and repositioning, pressure is not released, which can result in the development of an open wound that is prone to infection.

Unfortunately, poor infection control is frequently cited as a culprit of the spread of sepsis as well. According to Kaiser Health News, 72% of nursing homes nationally have been deemed as “not having or following an infection-control program” since 2015.

Additionally, 37% of homes nationally have been cited for risk of pressure sores or not treating them properly. Untreated pressure sores, in turn, can lead to a higher rate of sepsis.

Failing and neglecting to properly care for patients can have severe consequences for both patients and their families. If you or someone you know has been affected in a nursing home by untreated wounds or infections that have led to sepsis, you may be entitled to compensation.

Our law firm handles every case we have with care. For years we have fought for our clients and won big verdicts, and we would be glad to do the same for you. Please contact us for a free, confidential consultation at (901) 322-4232, where we have staff on hand ready to answer your questions.