Sepsis in Nursing Homes
When you place a loved one in a nursing home, you have a right to expect that they will be well cared for and healthy. When staff in a nursing home or long-term care facility negligently care for patients, they are at high risk of developing infections.
Did your loved one develop sepsis in an Illinois nursing home due to negligent care? If so, the personal injury attorneys 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. Call us toll-free today at (888) 424-5757 for a free legal case review.
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.
The deadly condition, sometimes referred to as severe sepsis, sepsis infection, septic shock, severe sepsis, or septicemia, must be diagnosed and treated as early as possible to improve the patient's chance of survival and possibility of recovery.
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
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 nursing home patients developed sepsis during their admission to Chicago, IL, long-term care facilities.
Septic Shock in Nursing Homes
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) define septic shock as a "medical emergency that occurs when an infection causes your body to respond by going into widespread inflammation." Septic shock can lead to multiple organ failures and death.
Sepsis Alliance is a nonprofit organization that works to improve sepsis awareness and education for medical professionals and the general public.
Responsibility of Nursing Home Staff to Prevent Sepsis & Infections
Nursing homes have a legal responsibility to provide patients with medical care that complies with industry standards-- including infection prevention protocols.
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 use
- Disposing of single-use medical equipment after use
- Isolating patients with known infections
- The registered nurse must be alert to the signs and symptoms of sepsis
- Cleaning rooms and bathrooms with proper sanitation
As a result, when staff fails to meet the standard of care, they may be held accountable if their nursing home negligence results in injuries or avoidable sepsis infections to residents.
The timely and aggressive management of sepsis in nursing homes 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.
Why Nursing Home Residents Are at an Increased Risk of Developing Sepsis
The body's reaction to fight an infection causes chemicals that release an inflammatory response at one or more points in the body.
Other risk factors and medical conditions associated with the elderly patients developing sepsis in nursing homes include:
- Advanced Age: Most cases of sepsis in nursing homes in the United States involve elderly people.
- Injuries or Wounds: The healing process in the elderly is often significantly longer than in younger, healthier patients, making it challenging for a wound or injury to heal completely.
- Compromised Immune System: Many assisted living facility residents’ immune systems become compromised while battling multiple diseases.
- Medical Malpractice and Medication Errors: Staff members making mistakes can lead to severe problems, including infected wounds.
- The Use ofBreathing Tubes and Intravenous (IV) Catheters: The use of these devices can create an ideal environment for bacterial growth that could, over time, degrade to a blood infection (sepsis) due to the resident's compromised immune system.
- Poor health and nursing home residence –Poor nursing facility care and battling more than one illness at a time could stress the body to the point where it cannot fight off a sepsis infection.
Although patient transfers to hospitals are often necessary, they are also disruptive, leading to poorer outcomes.
Signs and Symptoms of Sepsis in Your Loved One
A quick diagnosis and immediate treatment of sepsis are crucial to the patient's survival. Because of that, it is essential to understand how the infection presents itself in a Chicago, IL, area nursing home resident.
Immediate medical care is required if your loved one is experiencing:
- Fast heart rate
- Intense chills
- Abdominal pain
- Blood poisoning
- Hyperventilation (quick breathing)
- Difficulty urinating
- A drop in blood pressure
- Unexpected high fever
- Hypothermia (lower than normal body temperature)
- Cognitive impairment, including memory loss
- Difficulty breathing
- Blood clots
- Kidney failure
- Pale skin
After sepsis occurs, patients are at a higher risk of suffering an organ dysfunction.
The emergency department visits for sepsis have increased in the United States over the past decade. Additionally, a federal report on sepsis in assisted living facilities says that this life-threatening condition is rising.
The Link Between Nursing Home Abuse and Sepsis
Several studies have looked at the link between nursing home abuse and sepsis. One study found that nearly one-third of nursing facility residents diagnosed with sepsis had also experienced some form of nursing home abuse or neglect.
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 discoloration of the skin that does not blanch when pressure is applied. The rash may be one of the first signs that a person has sepsis.
The body's inflammatory response to infection can cause 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 nursing homes. One study found that the 30-day mortality rate for nursing home residents with sepsis was 26.9%.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Sepsis
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), "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) is a nonprofit news service covering health issues. According to Kaiser Health News, more than 1 in 4 nursing home residents will suffer from sepsis each year. And, of those, 1 in 3 will die.
Sample Chicago, Illinois Sepsis Settlement
Our law firm secured a $550,000 settlement for the family of a nursing home patient who developed a stage four pressure sore during an admission to a Cook County facility.
Even though the facility provided wound care, the patient eventually developed septic shock, which resulted in his death. The settlement was achieved during pre-litigation negotiations with our Chicago nursing facility's sepsis attorney and the insurance company.
Chicago, Illinois Nursing Home Abuse Lawyers Working on Nursing Home Sepsis Cases
Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC understands the devastation caused when nursing home residents develop sepsis.
Our Chicago nursing home abuse lawyers draw upon our network of experts in nursing care and sepsis care. We are prepared to fully evaluate Chicago sepsis cases to hold the negligent facility fully accountable.
As Illinois nursing home sepsis lawyers who regularly prosecute these cases, we pride ourselves on the detail-oriented nature of our case evaluation, where we anticipate many of the defenses raised in these cases from the inception of our involvement.
The preemptive mindset allows our consulting physicians to review the case and provide evidence for a successful resolution in prosecuting your sepsis lawsuit.
Nursing Home Sepsis & Infection FAQs
Below are some frequently asked questions raised by families who have a loved one who developed sepsis in a 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?
Medical professionals categorize people with sepsis according to the severity of their condition. The categorization helps provide a unified system for treatment.
There are three different stages of sepsis, including the initial infection (sepsis), which is associated with a fever, and elevated heart and respiratory rates.
The second category of sepsis is severe sepsis which is categorized by organ failure in addition to 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 with septic shock generally have severe sepsis symptoms and very low blood pressure. Most people with septic shock 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 shock cases are treated with antibiotics via a catheter.
If the medics determine that a person has severe sepsis in a nursing home, they may prescribe additional medical care, including but not limited to continuous renal replacement (a type of dialysis).
People with septic shock may also require medical equipment such as an endotracheal tube, intracranial pressure monitor, NG tube, or a catheter to help the person's body remove toxins from their body.
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?
To protect nursing home residents from the damaging effects of sepsis requires diagnosing the sepsis symptoms during the initial stage before they progress to a life-threatening illness. The five most common infections suffered by the older adults in nursing facilities that could progress to sepsis include:
- Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs): 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, pressure sores, pressure wounds, and decubitus ulcers begin as a reddened area on the resident's skin within ninety minutes of immobility. The sore 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) condition.
- 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.
- Gastrointestinal (G.I.) Infection: The presence of elderly residents in a long-term care facility and the susceptibility to infection caused by a weak immune system create the ideal environment to spread contagious infections. Many residents will develop highly infectious Helicobacter pylori or other infections.
- Clostridium difficile (C. Diff): A bacterial condition easily transmittable to other residents or nursing home staff.
Is Sepsis in Nursing Homes Considered to Be Abuse or Neglect?
Yes, whenever 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 nursing homes fully accountable when sepsis develops in a patient.
What Damages Can Be Recovered in a Nursing Home Sepsis Lawsuit Against a Skilled Nursing Home?
Like other types of nursing home neglect cases, the family of a nursing home patient who suffers serious 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 medical condition of the person involved.
However, in the United States, the plaintiffs (surviving family members) file sepsis wrongful death lawsuits against the defendants (nursing homes). The average settlement amount is about $400,000. A nursing home abuse lawyer can guide you in terms of the value of a case.
Hiring a Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer to Resolve a Nursing Home Sepsis Lawsuit
If your family member developed sepsis at a nursing home, we invite you to discuss your case with a Chicago sepsis attorney.
Call us at (888) 424-5757 (toll-free phone call) for a free case evaluation today. We accept all nursing home abuse and neglect cases through contingency fee agreements.
The arrangement will postpone payment of all our legal services until we have successfully resolved your case through a jury trial or negotiated settlement.
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 nursing home sepsis case today.
Our Chicago, Illinois law firm currently represents clients throughout the United States and Illinois, including the following localities: Cook County, DuPage County, Kane County, Lake County, Will County, Aurora, Naperville, LaSalle, and Berwyn.
We follow social distancing to prevent the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).