Elderly people, especially those who are in long-term care facilities, are more susceptible to illness, injury, and medical complications. One serious complication that nursing home residents are at risk of is septicemia, or sepsis.
Here’s what to know about this critical condition and how an experienced nursing home abuse lawyer can help your family get justice for your loved one’s suffering.
What Is Septicemia?
Sepsis, sometimes called blood poisoning, is an infection in the bloodstream caused by bacteria. Usually, this condition occurs following some type of illness or injury. For example, a common cause of sepsis is an esophageal or bowel perforation during routine endoscopies and colonoscopies.
When this happens, food and fecal matter leak into the open body cavity where the bloodstream picks them up and moves them throughout the circulatory system. The longer this goes on, the more the body is damaged by the infection until death eventually occurs.
Stages & Symptoms Of Sepsis
There are three stages of sepsis, each characterized by different symptoms:
- Stage 1 – Early sepsis. Patients will usually have a fever or a low body temp, a high heart rate (over 90 bpm), and a high respiration rate (more than 20 breaths per minute). Treatment during Stage 1 is ideal and has a good prognosis.
- Stage 2 – Severe sepsis. Patients that are septic and do not receive treatment can progress as the infection begins to attack their internal organs, including the kidneys, heart, and liver. Blood tests usually reveal high levels of bilirubin, white blood cells, and enzymes that indicate the kidneys and liver are being impacted.
- Stage 3 – Septic shock. Patients that continue to progress will experience septic shock and are at extreme risk of total organ failure and death. Patients in shock will have high levels of lactic acid in their bloodstream as their muscles and organs break down, and treatment of the infection at this stage is significantly more difficult.
Risk Factors For Sepsis
Some people are at a higher risk of developing sepsis than others. Here are some things that could be increasing the chances of your loved one becoming septic:
- Being over age 65
- Internal to external medical devices, like catheters and IVs
- Being in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU)
- Low immunity
Causes Of Sepsis In Long-Term Care Facilities
Sepsis in nursing homes is often the result of neglect and failure to adequately monitor patients. Residents who aren’t being supervised properly can fall and become injured, leading to an infection that becomes septic over time. Or patients who are septic can become worse without identification or timely treatment.
Some common causes of septicemia in nursing homes include:
- Infected bedsores
- Urinary tract infections
- Cellulitis at an injection or IV site
- coli, C. diff, staph, and MRSA bacteria
- Some strains of streptococcus
- Hospital Acquired Infections (HAIs)
Septicemia Treatment & Prevention
Treatment of sepsis is considered a medical emergency and always requires inpatient hospital care and close monitoring to ensure the patient doesn’t worsen. Patients will receive IV antibiotics, fluids, oxygen, and other medications to treat the infection and rehabilitate any organs that were damaged during the process.
In extremely severe cases, some patients may be put on a ventilator or dialysis to help with bodily functions until the infection is cleared.
Prevention of sepsis in nursing homes is key and involves:
- Keeping rooms and objects clean and disinfected
- Monitoring and treating bedsores early and frequently
- Quarantining patients who are sick and using Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) when providing them with medical care
- Frequent hand washing for residents and staff at the nursing home
How To Help An Elderly Loved One After A Sepsis Infection
Depending on what stage of sepsis your loved one is at, there are different things you can do to help them. Start by consulting the nursing home about their condition or another doctor for a second opinion. If possible, they should be started on treatment right away.
If your loved one’s condition is very serious or they have died as a result of the infection, you may have the opportunity to take legal action against the nursing home and any physicians that were involved in your family member’s care. An elder abuse lawsuit can help you pursue financial compensation for costs related to your loved one’s illness and passing, and can also penalize negligent or abusive nursing homes for their actions.
At Mazow | McCullough, we understand how delicate elder abuse cases can be and our legal team is dedicated to providing you and your family with comprehensive, compassionate support when you need it most. Contact our office today with questions or to book your free initial case consultation by dialing (978) 744-8000 or (855) 693-9084.