If a loved one cannot safely live at home due to physical or cognitive disabilities, your family may have to make the tough decision to transfer them to a nursing home. In doing so, you expect your loved one to receive the medical care and personal support they need to live comfortably and healthily. Sadly, this is not always the case. Nationwide, there are nursing facilities that fail to uphold the expected duty of care, often with tragic consequences.
Nursing home abuse and neglect are prevalent, and many elderly individuals die as a result every year. Sepsis is a widespread health issue affecting nursing homes.
According to Kaiser Health News (KHN), researchers found sepsis treatment is the most common reason nursing home residents are transferred to hospitals. Moreover, these individuals are more likely to die in a hospital compared to people hospitalized for other conditions. The Mayo Clinic states septic shock, or advanced-stage sepsis has about a 40% mortality rate.
If your loved one has suffered septic shock death in a nursing home, and you believe abuse or neglect is to blame, your family may have a legal right to seek financial awards for damages including medical bills, funeral and burial expenses, and emotional pain and anguish.
Defining Sepsis and Septic Shock
Sepsis is a blood condition that occurs when the body is fighting a bacterial, viral, or fungal infection, such as an upper respiratory infection, pneumonia, urinary tract infection, clostridium difficile (C.diff), or pressure sores. The immune system combats infection by releasing chemicals into the bloodstream, triggering an inflammatory response.
Unchecked, this immune response can cause a severe and potentially life-threatening imbalance in blood composition. This can impede blood flow to vital organs, including the heart, brain, and kidneys, impairing their functionality.
Per the Mayo Clinic, sepsis can also cause blood clots to form, increasing the risk of stroke, gangrene, and embolism (obstruction of an artery). Septic shock occurs when there is acute organ failure because of sepsis.
Who Is at Risk for Sepsis
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), certain demographics are most at risk of sepsis. These include adults who are age 65 and older, infants under a year old, people with weak or compromised immune systems, or those with chronic medical conditions, including kidney or lung disease, cancer, and diabetes. Bedridden patients are also at high risk due to the increased risk of pressure sores (bedsores) and subsequent infection.
Symptoms of Sepsis
It is critical to monitor a patient for signs of sepsis, particularly in high-risk individuals. The following are common symptoms of sepsis:
- High or low fever
- Increased heart rate
- Increased breathing rate (at or higher than 22 breaths per minute)
- Confusion or other changes in mental status (in a person with an infection)
- Low blood pressure
- Low urine output
- Appetite loss
Sepsis is preventable, and in its early stages, it is often highly treatable. Nursing home staff and medical providers should know the risk factors for sepsis and how to prevent it. They should also know how to detect signs of sepsis and act swiftly if it occurs. Failure to do so can lead to septic shock. Even if a patient survives septic shock, they may suffer permanent injury, including increased susceptibility to future infections, according to Healthline.
Per Kaiser Health News, late-stage pressure sores are one of the most common causes of sepsis in nursing homes, despite the fact these are highly preventable. Nursing home staff can prevent pressure sores by turning immobile patients regularly and practicing other infection-control measures.
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When Sepsis Is a Sign of Nursing Home Abuse
It is important to take sepsis seriously and ensure your loved one receives prompt medical attention. If the condition is untreated or is recurring, this is a red flag that abuse or neglect may be occurring. Other warning signs include sepsis caused by unexplained injuries or bedsores.
These conditions are also warning signs of an unsanitary or unsafe environment:
- Dirty bed linens
- Insufficient sanitation in restrooms, bedrooms, kitchens, dining areas, and common living areas
- Clothing that is not washed regularly
- Failure to regularly bathe residents
- Insufficient staff or overworked staff
- Lack of hot water
- Staff minimizing complaints from patients or family members
- Staff taking longer than acceptable to respond to emergencies
How a Lawyer Can Help
If your loved one has died in a nursing home from septic shock, you may feel tremendous grief and confusion or anger at the injustice surrounding their death. It is important to remember nursing home abuse or neglect is not the fault of the victim or the family. Every patient deserves to be treated with compassion and respect. When nursing homes fail to provide this fundamental standard of care, they should be held responsible for their actions.
A personal injury attorney may be able to support you in your pursuit of justice. If your loved one died under suspicious circumstances that could involve nursing home abuse or neglect, you may have a legal right to pursue financial damages for medical bills, pain and suffering, funeral and burial costs, and other losses.
Contact Ben Crump Law, PLLC, at 800-959-1444 to speak with a team member and schedule a free case review. Get in touch with us today.
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