You weren’t exactly shocked to hear that your elderly aunt passed away. She was over seventy and had been in a nursing home for some time, so the call that she had died of organ failure at Norton Hospital was sad, but not entirely unexpected.

Unfortunately, many people who are given similar news never find out that a fatal organ failure was caused by sepsis – a blood poisoning that often occurs from a highly preventable infection.

If a wound becomes infected in a care facility, the staff must immediately provide fluids and antibiotics to prevent fatal septic shock. High fever, increased heart rate, skin changes and breathing problems are all indicative of a potentially fatal blood infection, but many such symptoms go unnoticed—and untreated—by nursing home staff.

Common Ways Patients Suffer Death by Sepsis in Nursing Homes

  • Negligence – Sepsis often begins as a small infection, such as a bedsore or urinary tract infection that goes unnoticed or is allowed to progress without medical intervention.
  • Improper wound care – Bacteria that cause sepsis can enter the body in many ways, the most common is through an open wound. Nursing staff should check known wounds regularly for positive signs of healing and ensure that any prescribed antibiotics are administered correctly.
  • Low cleanliness standards – An overworked nursing home staff may rush through cleanliness protocols for patients. Sedated or unresponsive patients with catheters or IVs are at particular risk of bacterial infection, with the added danger that they are unable to communicate their discomfort.
  • Acting too late – Many nursing facilities do not recognize the symptoms of sepsis until the patient is in critical danger and requires hospital treatment—which the elderly resident is highly unlikely to survive. A CDC review published in 2011 found that 20 percent of patients over age 65 died when hospitalized for sepsis, when only three percent of seniors died after being hospitalized for other causes.

While sepsis is one of the major causes of death in nursing home residents, it is by no means the only way your elderly relative could be at risk. To find out how to spot symptoms of neglect and abuse in Kentucky nursing homes, browse through our related articles or start reading our free guide, Fighting Back Against Nursing Home Abuse: What Families Need to Know to Help Their Loved One.

Matthew L. White
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Founder & Partner of Louisville Personal Injury Law Firm Gray & White Law

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