Nursing Home Sepsis

sepsis nursing home


Sepsis is a severe infection caused by bacteria in the tissue or blood stream. Properly treated, an infection is usually localized and curable. When left untreated, a minor infection can increase in intensity and scope to the point where the entire body suffers from a systemic severe infection. At this point, the infection is often referred to as sepsis or septicemia and is life-threatening.

Persons with this infection may experience fever, chills, loss of appetite, rapid breathing and irregular heartbeat. Many times, sepsis develops at the same time as infection in another part of the body, such as a respiratory, skin, or gastrointestinal infection. Sepsis may also coincide with or precede meningitis, an infection of the central nervous system. In severe cases, the infection can lead to infections of the brain and the heart, and subsequent death.

The skin is one of the main sites of infection. Normally, the skin serves as a barrier against all manner of viral and bacterial threats, but any cut or other open wound can allow a bacterial infection that can cause sepsis to develop. These include surgical sites, points of entry for intravenous lines, and sites of skin breakdown such as decubitus ulcers or bedsores.

Prevention can in part include monitoring the skin for the development of bedsores, and taking steps to prevent bedsores from developing. If sepsis develops in a patient who was improperly monitored or treated, the medical professionals in charge of administering care may be held liable.

This illness can kill patients who otherwise might have recovered fully from their original injuries or illnesses.

Sources of Sepsis

Sepsis starts out as a bacterial infection. Infections are common in nursing homes, and because of their weakened immune systems, the elderly should be monitored more closely than others, even for seemingly minor infections. Nursing homes are often not sufficiently staffed or trained to provide the type of monitoring that is necessary to prevent this illness.

The bacteria can come from any number of illnesses, including:

Urinary tract infections

Respiratory tract infections


Infections from catheters, IVs or other tubes

Bed Sores

Nursing home staff must be extremely vigilant to reduce the, the risk of infection developing sepsis. Competent nursing home professionals know how to care for and even avoid these underlying conditions. Unfortunately, not all professionals are competent and not all nursing homes have enough staff. The result is that sepsis occurs more often than it should.

Studies have shown that nursing home residents have a much higher risk of developing sepsis than older adults in the general population. In fact, according to a study in the Journal of Critical Care, nursing home residents were diagnosed with severe sepsis seven times more often than non-nursing home residents (14% vs 1.9%). Because sepsis is a serious, life-threatening condition, if you have a loved one in a nursing home it is extremely important to understand what sepsis is, how it is treated, and most importantly, how to prevent it.

Signs and Symptoms

The most important factor that can make a difference in the outcome for a resident who develops sepsis is how quickly treatment is provided. If the nursing home staff is not attentive to residents with infection, sepsis can rapidly take over.

Regardless of where it comes from, the illness shows itself through several symptoms. You should question the care of your loved one when and if you notice:

Fast heart rate

Drop in blood pressure

Fast breathing (hyperventilation)

Body chills

High fever or lower-than-average body temperatures (hypothermia)

Confusion or cognitive impairment

Skin rash

It requires a very complicated treatment plan with intensive monitoring in order to ensure that the treatment is not causing further complications.

How The Carlson Law Firm Can Help

If you believe that a loved one may be the victim of nursing home neglect or abuse you should take action quickly and contact us online or call us at  866.441.1417 to set up a free consultation. Someone from our team is available to speak with you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

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