No Symptoms Until Death: Urinary Tract Infections Can Cause Sepsis Deaths in Nursing Homes

Untreated urinary tract infections can be fatal in nursing homesUrinary tract infections (UTIs) are the second most common type of infection in the human body. A UTI occurs when bacteria enter the urinary tract and cause an infection. Children and younger adults may experience a burning sensation when urinating, a fever, or other symptoms that encourage them to get medical attention and they often feel better after taking antibiotics.

However, while anyone—of any age—can develop a UTI, the symptoms and consequences of such an infection are different for older adults.

Kentucky Nursing Home Residents Are at Risk of Developing Urinary Tract Infections

Nursing home residents face specific risks that increase their chances of developing a dangerous UTI. For example, someone who has any of the following risk factors may have a greater chance of developing a UTI:

  • Diabetes.
  • Inability to completely empty the bladder (urinary retention).
  • Daily use of a urinary catheter.
  • Weakening of the muscles of the bladder and urethra.
  • Enlarged prostate.
  • Kidney stones.
  • Incontinence.
  • Lack of bowel control.
  • Immobility (bedridden patients, coma victims, or residents who have difficulty moving without assistance).

Additionally, people who have had bladder surgery in the past, post-menopausal women, and people who live in institutional settings may have an increased risk of develop a UTI.

Nursing Homes in KY Have a Duty to Provide Nursing Home Residents With Reasonable Care

A nursing home may be negligent if the staff members fail to:

  • Change catheters frequently and according to protocol.
  • Keep up with the hygiene of a nursing home resident.
  • Change soiled sheets or undergarments promptly.
  • Monitor residents for symptoms of UTIs.
  • Get prompt medical help for any patient who may have a UTI.
  • Administer medication as prescribed by a doctor.

Any of the factors may be more likely if the nursing home is insufficiently staffed or if the staff that are working there do not have adequate training to prevent UTIs and to recognize symptoms of UTIs.

Symptoms of a Urinary Tract Infection

Painful urination is one symptom of a possible UTI. However, even without pain, a UTI should be considered if a nursing home resident:

  • Has a fever.
  • Has a sudden change in behavior, such as confusion.
  • Is overtired.
  • Has back or side pain.

Subtle symptoms, such as a change in behavior or confusion, are more common than other symptoms such as fever.

How a Urinary Tract Infection Is Diagnosed and Treated

While the symptoms of a UTI may be difficult to recognize, the diagnosis is typically straightforward. A UTI may be diagnosed with a urinalysis. In other words, the nursing home resident’s urine is tested for the presence of bacteria. In some cases ultrasounds, x-rays and CT scans may also be used to determine if there are abnormalities in the bladder or kidneys.

If bacteria are found in the urine, then treatment involves antibiotics. In some cases these may be oral antibiotics that can be administered in the nursing home. However, more significant UTIs will require intravenous antibiotics in the hospital. Proper fluid intake is also important so that the nursing home resident urinates often and flushes out the bacteria.

What Happens When a Urinary Tract Infection Goes Untreated

An untreated UTI can spread throughout a nursing home resident’s body causing kidney infections, kidney failure, and sepsis—an often-fatal infection in the bloodstream. Sepsis can result in organ failure, gangrene, blood clots, and death.

In many cases, a nursing home death resulting from a UTI could have been prevented with proper procedures, with regular medical checkups, and with daily patient care. If UTI patients are transferred to hospitals for treatment, they may have already progressed into sepsis and may not be able to recover from their infections.

If your loved one has suffered a UTI in a nursing home then you deserve to find out if the infection could have been prevented and if your loved one could have been spared her suffering. To learn more, we invite you to download our free guide, Fighting Back Against Nursing Home Abuse: What Families Need to Know to Help Their Loved One, to read the related articles on this page, and to contact us anytime via this website.

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