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When Sepsis is a Result of Nursing Home Neglect

Older woman covered with a blanket closeup, sitting in a wheelchair in a nursing home.

Learn the warning signs and how a nursing home neglect attorney can help protect your loved one

Sepsis, also known as blood poisoning, is a life-threatening condition that occurs when the immune system has an extreme response to an infection, triggering a cascade of changes that can damage organs throughout the body. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that sepsis affects more than 1.7 million Americans every year and is responsible for around 350,000 deaths annually.

But what many people don't realize is that sepsis is often a result of nursing home neglect. Neglect not only puts vulnerable nursing home residents at risk of developing sepsis but also undermines their dignity and quality of life.

Nursing homes are responsible for providing quality care for seniors who can no longer live independently. However, understaffing and inadequate training can lead to neglect, which can manifest in various ways. For example, neglect may involve failing to assist with daily tasks such as bathing and feeding or neglecting to monitor a resident's medical needs. These lapses in care can leave residents vulnerable to infections that can in turn become sepsis.

What causes sepsis?

Sepsis can be caused by a variety of infections, including bacterial, viral, and fungal infections. Common sources of infection include pneumonia, urinary tract infections, and skin infections (e.g., infected bedsores). Sometimes, sepsis may also be caused by medical procedures or devices, such as catheters or ventilators.

Symptoms of sepsis can be subtle at first but rapidly become severe. Early warning signs include:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Rapid breathing
  • Confusion

As the condition worsens, symptoms may include low blood pressure, difficulty breathing, organ failure, and septic shock.

Prompt diagnosis and treatment are critical for improving outcomes in sepsis. Diagnosis is typically based on a combination of clinical signs and laboratory tests, such as blood cultures and imaging studies. Treatment may involve antibiotics, intravenous fluids, oxygen therapy, and other supportive measures to stabilize vital signs and address organ dysfunction.

In some cases, sepsis may progress to severe sepsis or septic shock, which requires more aggressive treatment, such as mechanical ventilation, dialysis, or surgery. Unfortunately, despite advances in treatment, sepsis remains a leading cause of death in patients, with mortality rates ranging from 10% to 30% — and nursing home residents are often in frail health to begin with, increasing their risk even further compared to other patients.

Given the severity and complexity of sepsis, prevention is critical. This includes strategies such as hand hygiene, appropriate use of antibiotics, and prompt diagnosis and treatment of infections. In addition, efforts to address nursing home neglect and improve infection control in healthcare settings are critical for reducing the risk of sepsis in vulnerable populations.

How nursing home neglect can lead to sepsis

Several risk factors make nursing home residents more vulnerable to sepsis, including advanced age, chronic medical conditions, and weakened immune systems.

Nursing home residents are often exposed to infectious agents due to shared living spaces, frequent contact with healthcare providers, and the use of medical devices such as catheters and feeding tubes. In addition, poor infection control practices, understaffing, and inadequate training can also increase the risk of infections and sepsis in nursing homes.

Unfortunately, neglect and inadequate care can exacerbate these risk factors. Common signs of neglect that can increase the risk of sepsis include:

  • Poor hygiene
  • Inadequate nutrition and hydration
  • Untreated wounds
  • Failure to monitor and treat infections

For example, if a nursing home resident is not helped to maintain proper hygiene, such as regular bathing and changing of clothes, they may develop skin infections or urinary tract infections that can progress to sepsis. Similarly, if a resident is not given adequate nutrition and hydration, they may be more susceptible to infections that can lead to sepsis.

Neglect can also contribute to the development of sepsis by delaying the diagnosis and treatment of infections. For example, if nursing home staff fail to monitor residents for signs of infection, such as fever or changes in mental status, infections can go unnoticed and untreated. This can allow the infection to progress and spread, leading to sepsis.

Inadequate staffing levels and high turnover rates can make it difficult for nursing homes to provide the level of care necessary to prevent sepsis. Understaffing can result in residents not receiving timely medical attention and poor infection control practices, such as failing to clean and disinfect equipment and living spaces properly.

The risk factors for sepsis in nursing homes are numerous, so nursing facilities must implement effective infection control measures, maintain appropriate staffing levels, and provide high-quality care to prevent neglect.

A Georgia nursing home neglect lawyer can fight for justice and accountability

Nursing homes and assisted living facilities are legally responsible for providing a safe and healthy environment for their residents. When they fail to meet this responsibility, they can be held liable for damages by victims and their loved ones.

At Kurle Justus, LLC, our attorneys are uniquely qualified to handle cases of nursing home abuse and neglect in Georgia. With our extensive medical and legal experience, we can provide compassionate and effective legal representation to help victims and their families seek justice and hold those responsible accountable for their actions.

For example, in one case, we obtained a $400,000 settlement for a claim involving nursing home abuse, neglect, and wrongful death.

If your loved one developed sepsis in a Georgia nursing home or assisted living facility—or if you otherwise suspect abuse or neglect—don't let them suffer in silence. Contact us today for a free consultation to learn how an experienced nursing home neglect attorney can be your voice for justice and aggressively advocate for your family's best interests.

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