clipboard with sepsis information sheet and medicationsNursing home residents are particularly susceptible to developing infections. Some of these infections are easily treatable with antibiotics, and other infections are life-threatening.

Many different types of infections—including those of the urinary tract, lungs, and even the skin—can cause a dangerous reaction in your body known as sepsis. Without the right treatment, sepsis can damage tissues and organs and ultimately cause death.

People over the age of 65 and those with weakened immune systems or chronic health conditions are at higher risk of having an infection turn into sepsis. Therefore, there are things about this condition that every nursing home resident and their family members should know.

Causes of Sepsis

Almost any infection can cause sepsis. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Mayo Clinic, some of the common underlying infections that result in sepsis include:

  • Pneumonia
  • Infections of the digestive system, including stomach and colon infections
  • Kidney infections
  • Bladder infections
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Blood infections
  • Staph infections
  • Strep infections
  • E Coli infections

For many people, these infections do not turn into sepsis because the body releases chemicals to fight the infection or it is treated with antibiotics. However, the body may have a bad reaction to the chemicals produced to fight the infection, and sepsis may result.

What Happens When Sepsis Occurs

Symptoms of sepsis may include:

  • Confusion
  • Trouble breathing
  • High heart rate
  • Fever

Immediate medical care is needed before organ damage occurs. Sepsis may impair blood flow to vital organs such as the heart, kidneys, and brain. Sepsis can also cause dangerous blood clots in organs, arms, fingers, legs, or toes.

Sepsis may progress to septic shock. Septic shock occurs when you have:

  • A diagnosed infection
  • Low blood pressure that requires medication to be maintained at a safe level
  • High levels of lactic acid in your blood after receiving fluid replacement

Approximately 40% of people who experience septic shock die from the condition. Those who survive septic shock have a higher risk of suffering from future infections, some of which may be life-threatening.

Prompt treatment may help lower these risks. Treatment should include oral or intravenous antibiotics to treat the underlying infection, IV fluids, blood pressure medications, oxygen support, and possibly surgery to remove the infection.

Sepsis Can Be Avoided With Attentive Care

There are two ways to avoid sepsis. First, infections can be prevented. Nursing home staff members have a responsibility to use reasonable care to prevent the spread of infections. Reasonable care could include frequent handwashing, clean linens, clean bathrooms, and sterilized equipment, for example.

Second, sepsis can be avoided by making sure that any infections that do develop are quickly diagnosed and treated. This requires nursing home staff to be aware of the potential signs of an infection, to alert medical staff to the possibility of an infection so that a prompt diagnosis can be made, and to provide treatment.

If a nursing home fails to use reasonable care to avoid a resident’s infection or if the nursing home fails to get the resident medical care to diagnose and treat the infection and sepsis develops, the nursing home could be legally responsible for the damage that occurs. The nursing home could be liable for all damages resulting from sepsis including, but not limited to, medical expenses, out-of-pocket costs, funeral costs, physical pain, and emotional suffering.

It is incredibly difficult to see a loved one suffer or die because of nursing home negligence. If you have questions about what happened or if you think your loved one’s sepsis could have been prevented with reasonable care, we encourage you to contact Gray and White Law today. Our staff nurse and experienced nursing home injury lawyers will find out what happened, advise you of your rights, and hold the nursing home accountable for any negligence that occurred. Call us today to schedule your free, no-obligation consultation.

Mark K. Gray
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Louisville attorney serving the seriously injured in Kentucky

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