Infections are one of the leading causes of death in nursing homes throughout the country. Unfortunately, many of these deaths are avoidable and preventable. However, when nursing homes are inattentive to the conditions that give rise to infections and then leave the infections untreated, nursing home residents are at risk.
Ultimately, an infection that is left untreated can turn into a very dangerous condition called sepsis. When someone develops septic shock, this is precisely how an infection can kill. If your loved one has developed an infection that has progressed to sepsis, it is important that you know more about this condition in order to better understand your legal rights. In many cases, sepsis can actually be a sign of nursing home negligence that can entitle your family to financial compensation.
Many nursing home negligence lawsuits result from the fact that a resident has died from or been injured by an infection. These lawsuits allege that the nursing home was negligent in failing to prevent and treat the infection. In order to understand how sepsis can result from nursing home negligence, it is important to know the various stages of an infection.
What Is Sepsis?
Sepsis is the poisoning of the blood which results from an infection. A toxic agent is introduced into the bloodstream as a result of the infection. Ultimately, sepsis will begin to result in organ failure. Left untreated, sepsis can kill someone in a short period of time. Even if it is treated sepsis can still be a fatal condition.
Sepsis can result in a rapid onset of a number of symptoms. While there are a number of symptoms that may occur, some of the more severe ones that are a sign of sepsis include:
- Abnormal heart function including a very rapid heart rate
- Difficulty breathing
- Significant pain and discomfort
- Disorientation or delirium
For nursing home residents, sepsis is an avoidable and unpleasant death. There are no two ways around the fact that a nursing home resident who dies of sepsis has suffered greatly beforehand. They have dealt with the extreme pain and discomfort of all of the symptoms as they rapidly degenerate.
Even if nursing homes are properly treating the sepsis, there are numerous medical procedures and heavy painkillers required. In other words, the pain and suffering experienced by a nursing home resident before they pass away from sepsis can be considerable.
There Are Different Stages of Sepsis
Even after a resident develops sepsis, there are even three different degrees of sepsis that can occur. The first stage of sepsis is simply called sepsis. There will likely be fever and an elevated heart rate along with some respiratory distress. The condition can progress to the second stage, which is known as severe sepsis. Not only will the symptoms above start to intensify, but there will also be organ failure. Severe sepsis is where the condition can become very serious and life-threatening.
The final stage of sepsis is called septic shock. This happens when the patient either does not respond to treatment or the condition is untreated in the first place. This is where the mortality rate begins to increase dramatically. In fact, septic shock is fatal in approximately 50 percent of the people who reach this stage.
The Symptoms of Septic Shock
Septic shock is accompanied by the following symptoms:
- Little to no urination
- Extremely low blood pressure
- Blood clots throughout the body that can cause organ failure
- Very low or high temperature
Even if the nursing home resident is able to survive septic shock, it will likely have long-term ramifications on their health as they may not make a full recovery.
As you can see, early detection of sepsis is a must in order for the nursing home resident to have a better chance of survival. However, when the resident is a victim of nursing home neglect, they likely are not getting the care that they need to notice the signs of sepsis and begin prompt treatment. This becomes an even more dire problem at understaffed nursing homes that are more prone to neglect.
Medical Treatments for Patients With Sepsis
If the nursing home does diagnose and treat the sepsis, the course of treatment begins with antibiotics. Sometimes, patients may also need to have procedures to remove dead skin or gangrenous tissue based on the severity of the infection. In addition, patients may also need oxygen or other intravenous fluids to maintain the level of oxygen and blood going to the organ so that organ failure can be prevented. Patients can recover from mild sepsis in about three to ten days. However, more severe cases take longer to recover from if the patient is even able to survive at all. Severe sepsis can require critical care for a month or more.
Sepsis and Pressure Ulcers
Sepsis is also how pressure ulcers can ultimately become fatal. There are four stages of a pressure ulcer. Stages I and II are when there is first a discoloration of the skin and then a small ulcer. Stage III is when there is a small crater in the skin before degenerating to a Stage IV pressure ulcer where the hole in the skin gets deeper and can reach into the muscle.
When the hole in the skin is large enough and it remains untreated, the resident can develop sepsis from the infection. A pressure ulcer at any stage can become septic, although ones that are more advanced have a higher chance of becoming infected. There are numerous warning signs that a nursing home giving the proper level of care should be able to spot that the pressure ulcer is becoming infected. The wounds can be leaking puss or giving off a foul smell. There can also be increasing pain in the area and fever.
In other words, pressure ulcers should not form in the first place, but if they do, they most definitely should not reach the level of sepsis. When your loved one has developed sepsis, there is a high chance that the nursing home did not provide the level of care that it was legally obligated to, causing your family member to develop a life-threatening infection.
There are no detailed statistics on the number of nursing home residents who develop sepsis each year. Roughly 25,000 people in nursing homes will die from sepsis, and most of these deaths are preventable. We can tell you that thousands of nursing homes each year are cited by the federal government for their failure to prevent and treat pressure ulcers. We can also tell you that there are countless settlements and jury verdicts each year where nursing homes are made to pay for their negligence that led to the case of sepsis.
Settlements for Pressure Ulcers that Became Septic in Illinois Nursing Homes
This is where a nursing home negligence attorney can help you. Settlements of wrongful death cases from pressure ulcers and other septic cases can tend to be higher because of the pain and suffering that is involved for the nursing home resident. For example, here are some recent Illinois cases that have involved either infected pressure ulcers or other cases of sepsis:
Settlement for $575,000 (2012) – An 85-year old woman was at an increased risk of developing bedsores. Two months after she was admitted to the nursing home, family members, and not the nursing home staff, discovered pressure ulcers on her heel and sacrum. As a result of her pressure ulcers, she was hospitalized with sepsis and dehydration. She did from her injuries. The lawsuit alleged that the deceased was a victim of nursing home neglect since they did not prevent, notice or treat her pressure ulcers before she developed sepsis.
Settlement for $625,000 (2013) – The resident died from sepsis. He had developed pressure ulcers that required treatment that the nursing home did not provide for or order. Specifically, his infected pressure ulcers required debridement that the nursing home did not provide. The plaintiff developed sepsis and infected pressure ulcers. Surgical debridement was finally performed at the hospital and the resident died on the operating table. This was a case where the nursing home failed to treat a pressure ulcer and it became septic.
Settlement for $300,000 (2013) – The resident died from sepsis which developed after pressure ulcers. The nursing home allegedly failed to prevent pressure ulcers and then did not give the appropriate treatment once the resident was dealing with them. Specifically, they failed to give daily skin treatment to resolve the pressure ulcers before they became gangrenous and septic.
Has Your Loved One Been Injured By a Nursing Home’s Failure to Treat an Infection? Get Legal Help Now
The attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers have handled numerous cases over the years where nursing home residents have died from infected pressure ulcers or have developed other severe infections due to nursing home negligence. Call us today to set up your free initial consultation.