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Jonathan Rosenfeld

March 2, 2023

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Nursing home sepsis is a serious infection that can occur in nursing home settings due to poor hygiene or contaminated equipment. Nursing homes must take measures to prevent and quickly identify potential sepsis cases to save the lives of patients.

Early signs and symptoms of sepsis include fever, chills, rapid breathing and heart rate, confusion, and decreased urine output. Proper diagnosis should involve laboratory tests followed by appropriate antibiotic therapy.

Nursing homes should maintain effective staff training programs on how to identify early sepsis symptoms and administer effective preventive measures for the facility’s residents.

Did your loved one develop sepsis in a nursing home due to negligent care? If so, a Chicago nursing home sepsis attorney at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, LLC can hold the facility accountable for its negligence.

Our Chicago nursing home abuse lawyers have assisted families with sepsis cases and look forward to helping you with your personal injury civil lawsuit during this trying time. Call our Chicago office toll-free today at (888) 424-5757 for a free legal case review.

Sepsis in Chicago Nursing Homes

What Is Sepsis?

Sepsis (septicemia) is a life-threatening illness caused by a bacterial infection in the bloodstream that frequently enters the body through open wounds or pressure sores. The poor infection control program in nursing homes can lead to sepsis outbreaks.

Doctors characterize sepsis as a severe infection that spreads throughout the body.

Deadly sepsis, sepsis infection, septic trauma, severe sepsis, or septicemia must be diagnosed and treated [1] as early as possible to improve the patient’s chance of survival.

Diagnosing sepsis in nursing home settings can be a difficult task. Healthcare professionals need to be able to recognize the signs and symptoms of sepsis so that they can initiate timely treatment and prevent serious complications.

Common tests for diagnosing sepsis include blood tests to check for inflammation markers, bacterial cultures, chest x-rays, echocardiograms, CT scans, and urine analysis. If a diagnosis of sepsis is suspected, doctors should start aggressive antibiotic therapy as soon as possible to reduce the chances of serious complications and mortality.

Sepsis in Nursing Homes

Sepsis is diagnosed through a comprehensive physical examination and tests that include:

  • Heart rate above 90 beats per minute
  • Hyperventilation (more than 20 breaths per minute)
  • White blood cell count below 4000 cells/mm [2]

The condition can trigger an inflammatory response that may result in organ damage, blood clots, and other permanent damage.

Critical care medicine is a branch of medicine concerned with diagnosing and managing life-threatening conditions such as sepsis.

Our law firm has prosecuted cases where elderly and disabled patients developed sepsis during admission to Chicago, IL, long-term care facilities.

Septic Shock in Nursing Homes

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) defines septic shock as a “medical emergency that occurs when an infection causes your body to respond by going into widespread inflammation.” When the body becomes septic, it can lead to multiple organ failures and death when proper medical attention is not given.

Sepsis Alliance [3] is a nonprofit organization that works to improve sepsis awareness and education for medical professionals and the general public.

Chicago Nursing Home Sepsis Attorney

Responsibility of Nursing Home Staff to Prevent Sepsis & Infections

Elderly care facilities have a legal responsibility to provide patients with proper medical care that complies with industry standards– including infection prevention protocols. [4]

For example, nursing homes need to implement basic infection prevention techniques such as:

  • Staff regularly wash hands, particularly when caring for new patients
  • Wearing personal protective equipment and removing it after providing medical attention
  • Disposing of single-use medical equipment after use
  • Maintaining cleanliness around patients with weakened immune systems

As a result, when staff fails to meet the standard of care, they may be held accountable if their abuse or neglect results in injuries or avoidable sepsis infections to residents.

The timely and aggressive management of sepsis in assisted living facilities can be life-saving.

Family members shouldn’t visit a sepsis patient when ill, even if it is just a cold because a sepsis patient’s immune system is already compromised. They could easily catch something more serious from a sick family member.

What is Sepsis?.

An Increased Risk of Developing Nursing Homes Sepsis

The body’s reaction to fight an infection causes chemicals that release an inflammatory response at one or more points.

Other risk factors and medical conditions associated with elderly patients developing sepsis in nursing homes include:

  • Advanced Age: Most cases of sepsis in nursing homes in the United States involve elderly people. Nursing home residents over 60 are most at risk of developing sepsis without immediate treatment.
  • Compromised Immune System: Many nursing home residents will develop weakened or compromised immune systems while battling multiple diseases.
  • Medical Malpractice and Medication Errors: Nursing home staff members making mistakes can lead to severe problems, including infected wounds and septic shock.
  • Poor Health in a Nursing Home: Poor care and battling more than one illness in a nursing home could stress the body where it cannot fight off a septic shock infection.
  • Negligent Care: Forced bed rest, lack of repositioning, improperly maintained intravenous lines, and inattentively caring for patients with medical problems.

Although patient transfers to hospitals are often necessary, they are also disruptive, leading to poorer outcomes. Preventing sepsis in nursing homes by following skin care protocols saves lives.

Signs and Symptoms of Sepsis.

Signs and Symptoms of Sepsis in Your Loved One

Sepsis develops rapidly. An immediate diagnosis and treating sepsis are crucial to patient survival. Because of that, it is essential to understand how the infection presents itself in a Chicago, IL, area resident at a nursing home.

Immediate medical care is required if your loved one is experiencing:

  • Fast heart rate
  • Intense chills
  • Abdominal pain
  • Blood poisoning
  • Hyperventilation (quick breathing) [5]
  • Difficulty urinating
  • A drop in blood pressure
  • Unexpected high fever
  • Hypothermia (lower than average body temperature)
  • Cognitive impairment, including memory loss
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Restricted blood flow
  • Severe urinary tract infection (UTI)
  • Kidney failure
  • One or more pressure ulcers (severe bedsores)
  • Confusion
  • Pale skin

Weakened Immune Systems: People With UTIs Can Quickly Develop Sepsis in Nursing Homes

Immediate treatment for septic shock can save lives. After sepsis occurs, patients are at a higher risk of suffering from dysfunctioning vital organs, including kidney disease.

Bedridden patients with septic shock die within days or hours due to impaired blood flow, developing blood clots, or organ damage. [6]

The link between Negligence and Sepsis

Several studies have examined the link between assisted living abuse and sepsis. One study found that nearly one-third of assisted living residents diagnosed with sepsis had also experienced abuse or neglect at nursing homes.

The most common abuse linked to sepsis was physical abuse, neglect, and emotional abuse.

Another study found that residents of nursing homes diagnosed with sepsis were more likely to die than those not diagnosed with the condition.

A Sepsis Rash

A sepsis rash is usually a red or purple skin discoloration that does not blanch when pressure is applied. The rash may be one of the first signs that a person has sepsis.

Clinical outcomes for residents with sepsis in nursing homes are variable and often poor due to the high prevalence of comorbidities and functional impairments. Sepsis patients in the intensive care unit (ICU) often require aggressive treatment and close monitoring.

Hospital transfers are a vulnerable time for nursing facility residents. In particular, those who are cognitively impaired or have comorbidities are at higher risk for developing sepsis.

The sepsis survival rate is low in assisted care facilities. One study found that the 30-day mortality rate for elderly and disabled patients with sepsis was 26.9%.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Sepsis

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) [7], “Sepsis is a potentially life-threatening condition caused by an infection. When sepsis occurs, the body’s response to the infection can cause injury to its tissues and organs.

The patient’s blood pressure, respiration, and body temperature are monitored for changes. If any of these vital signs drop suddenly or the patient’s skin becomes mottled or discolored, it may be a sign of sepsis.

Kaiser Health News (KHN) on Sepsis

Kaiser Health News (KHN) [8] is a nonprofit news service covering health issues. According to Kaiser Health News, more than 1 in 4 nursing home patients will suffer from sepsis yearly. And, of those, 1 in 3 will die.

Nursing Home Sepsis Attorney Chicago

Chicago, Illinois Nursing Home Abuse Lawyers Working on Sepsis Cases

Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, LLC understands the devastation caused by a nursing home resident developing deadly sepsis.

Our Chicago nursing home abuse lawyers draw upon our network of nursing and sepsis care experts. We are prepared to fully evaluate Chicago sepsis cases and hold the negligent facility accountable.

Nursing Home Sepsis & Infection FAQs

Below are frequently asked questions from families with a loved one who developed sepsis in a retirement facility or nursing home.

If you have additional questions, we welcome you to contact our law firm for a free legal case review with one of our experienced sepsis lawyers.

What Are the Stages of Sepsis?

Healthcare professionals categorize people with sepsis according to the severity of their medical condition. The categorization helps provide a unified system for treatment.

There are three stages of sepsis, including the initial infection (sepsis), which is associated with a fever, and elevated heart and respiratory rates.

The second sepsis category is severe sepsis, categorized by organ failure and the above conditions. Organ failure can manifest in various ways, such as unconsciousness, patchy-colored skin, and decreased urine output.

The third and most severe stage of sepsis is referred to as septic shock. People who go septic generally have severe sepsis symptoms and very low blood pressure. Most people who do not get their septic symptoms treated within 24 hours die from complications.

How Is Sepsis Treated?

The severity of the condition will dictate the type of medical care provided. However, most severe sepsis and septic trauma cases are treated with antibiotics via a catheter.

If the medics determine that a person has severe sepsis in an assisted living facility. In that case, they may prescribe additional medical care, including but not limited to continuous renal replacement (a type of dialysis).

It is crucial that nursing homes provide professional medical advice as soon as possible as the window of opportunity to treat sepsis is relatively small. If not treated quickly, the condition can turn fatal.

What Are the Most Common Types of Infection in Nursing Home Residents?

  • Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) typically develop from limited mobility, a diabetic condition, or catheter use.
  • Skin Infections and Open Wounds: Cellulitis, shingles, and fungal or bacterial infections can cause common skin infections. Some nursing home residents develop MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), a strain highly resistant to antibiotics.
  • Bedsores: Pressure ulcers can quickly degrade to a stage IV life-threatening bedsore creating an open wound exposing bone, muscle, ligaments, tendons, and tissue. Without appropriate, immediate medical attention, the patient can die within weeks due to life-threatening septic (blood infection) or osteomyelitis (bone infection).
  • Influenza: The vulnerable population lives in a closed environment that increases the susceptibility to acquiring a highly contagious and often fatal influenza disease. Without proper treatment, influenza can develop into pneumonia which remains the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. One out of every nine deaths caused by influenza involves older adults.
  • Clostridium difficile (C. Diff): A bacterial condition easily transmittable to other nursing home residents or staff.

Is Sepsis in Nursing Homes Considered to Be Abuse or Neglect?

When a long-term care facility resident does not get adequate sepsis-related care, or medical symptoms are ignored, it indicates neglect or abuse.

Our Chicago nursing home negligence attorneys are committed to holding medical facilities and elderly and disabled adult care centers fully accountable when sepsis develops in a patient.

Can Damages Be Recovered in a Sepsis Lawsuit Against a Skilled Nursing Home?

Like other types of nursing home negligence cases, the family of a patient needing assistance who suffers severe medical complications or death during an admission to a nursing facility can recover compensation for economic and non-economic damages.

  • Economic damages generally include past and future medical expenses related to the condition.
  • Non-economic damages generally refer to the pain and suffering your loved one endured when injured and the pain experienced while receiving medical treatment. Illinois does not have any limits or ‘caps’ on non-economic damages.

The amount of a negotiated settlement or jury trial award for a wrongful death involving a sepsis infection varies depending on the age and the underlying serious medical condition of the person involved.

However, in the United States, the plaintiffs (surviving family members) file sepsis wrongful death lawsuits against the defendants (elderly care facility or disabled adult care company). The average settlement amount is about $400,000. A nursing home neglect lawyer can guide you in terms of the value of a case.

Hiring an Attorney to Prosecute a Case Involving Sepsis in Chicago Nursing Homes

If your family member developed sepsis at a nursing home, we invite you to discuss your case with a Chicago nursing home sepsis lawyer.

Call us at (888) 424-5757 (toll-free phone call) for a free case evaluation today. We accept all assisted living care center cases through contingency fee agreements.

Schedule Your Free Consultation

At Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, LLC, our law firm discussions with you during your free consultation will remain confidential through an attorney-client relationship.

If you have any questions concerning nursing home neglect or abuse, contact us today for a free case review of your sepsis case.

Resources: [1] CDC, [2] Cleveland Clinic, [3] Sepsis Alliance, [4] WHO, [5] Johns Hopkins, [6] NIH, [7] CDC, [8] KHN

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Jonathan did a great job helping my family navigate through a lengthy lawsuit involving my grandmother's death in a nursing home. Through every step of the case, Jonathan kept my family informed of the progression of the case. Although our case eventually settled at a mediation, I really was impressed at how well prepared Jonathan was to take the case to trial.

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