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With every passing hour, statistics suggested that sepsis has a mortality rate increase of 7 percent. Sepsis, also called septicemia, is a severe infection caused by bacteria in the tissue or bloodstream. This condition is marked by chemicals in the body releasing into the bloodstream to fight infections. In the body’s attempt to fight the infection, it leads to inflammation. Unfortunately, sepsis in elderly populations is very common, but it can also be extremely deadly. If your loved one develops sepsis in a nursing home, the nursing home staff needs to treat the condition aggressively. If that does not occur, then you should speak to a nursing home sepsis lawyer immediately.
With more than 40 years of experience, The Carlson Law Firm has been working hard to negligent nursing homes responsible for their actions. Our firm has one of the leading nursing home attorneys, Ernest Tosh, ready to fight for you. Contact us today to schedule your free consultation with our nursing home sepsis lawyer.
How do the Elderly Get sepsis?
Sepsis in elderly patients starts out as a simple bacterial infection and eventually leads to blood poisoning. But for elderly people, even the simplest infections can have deadly outcomes. Because of weakened immune systems, elderly nursing home residents should be monitored closely when a bacterial infection is present. If properly treated, an infection is usually localized and curable. However, when left untreated, a minor infection can increase in intensity and scope to the point where the entire body suffers from a systemic severe infection. At this point, the infection is often referred to as sepsis or septicemia and is life-threatening.
The skin is one of the main sites of infection. Normally, the skin serves as a barrier against all manner of viral and bacterial threats, but any cut or other open-wound can allow a bacterial infection that can cause sepsis to develop. These include surgical sites, points of entry for intravenous lines, and sites of skin breakdown such as decubitus ulcers or bedsores. Additional sepsis prevention includes monitoring the skin for the development of bedsores and taking steps to prevent bedsores from developing. If sepsis develops in a patient who was improperly monitored or treated, the medical professionals in charge of administering care may be held liable.
Bacterial infections can come from any number of illnesses or afflictions, such as:
- Bed sores
- Bacterial or fungal foot infections
- Bacterial pneumonia
- Elderly influenza
- Gastrointestinal infections
- Urinary tract infection
- Respiratory infections
- Infections from catheters, IVs or other tubes
Sepsis Risk Factors
It is possible for anyone of any age to develop sepsis. However, elderly people are most at risk for developing sepsis. Sepsis is becoming increasingly widespread as medical technology continues to advance. People are having more surgeries and transplants that lead to increased risks for infection. Additionally, anyone with the following conditions can develop sepsis:
- Weak immune system
- Chronic illnesses, like diabetes, kidney or liver disease, AIDS and cancer
- Severe lacerations or cuts
- Severe burns
In addition to these risk factors, microbes are becoming more and more immune to antibiotics that would otherwise control infections. For older patients, the effects of aging and functional limitations can contribute to sepsis—putting them at a higher risk. Sepsis in elderly residents may be hard to spot. As symptoms progress, the person’s condition can deteriorate rapidly. Furthermore, sepsis in elderly patients is most likely to stem from a respiratory tract infection or UTI.
Sepsis is possible for anyone of any age to develop and is considered a medical emergency. The symptoms of sepsis can be difficult to spot and can sometimes be mistaken for other serious illnesses. Many researchers believe that there are three stages of sepsis.
- Stage 1:
The first stage of sepsis is the least severe. It is easy to mistake sepsis symptoms for other types of infections. Symptoms are usually a fever and increased heart rate.
- Stage 2:
The second is more severe. It is often characterized by symptoms of difficulty breath and possible organ malfunction.
- Stage 3:
Stage three is the most severe and is called septic shock. It is characterized by life-threateningly low blood pressure.
Because the first stage of sepsis is the least severe seeking medical treatment as soon as possible is the key to surviving sepsis. Persons with this infection may experience fever, chills, loss of appetite, rapid breathing and irregular heartbeat. Many times, sepsis develops at the same time as infection in another part of the body, such as a respiratory, skin, or gastrointestinal infection. Sepsis may also coincide with or precede meningitis, an infection of the central nervous system. In severe cases, the infection can lead to infections of the brain and the heart and subsequent death.
Whenever a caregiver suspects sepsis, seeking urgent medical care is necessary for survival rates. Symptoms can come quickly. Some things to look out for include:
- Fever, chills and shivers
- Fast heart rate
- Rapid rate of breathing
- Unusual levels of sweat
A nursing home sepsis lawyer from The Carlson Law Firm can help you navigate the complex laws around nursing homes. We will help you get a fair recovery for your loved ones injuries from sepsis.
Late-Stage Sepsis (Sepsis Shock) Symptoms
In a nursing home, a resident should never make it to late-stage sepsis. Nursing homes have a responsibility to do everything in their power to recognize and treat sepsis immediately. Importantly, elderly patients have higher rates of survival when the condition is caught early. Severe sepsis in elderly patients is fatal in 50 to 60 percent of most cases. Late stage sepsis can kill patients who otherwise might have recovered fully from their original injuries or illnesses. If sepsis in elderly residents leads to death, you may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit. Contact a qualified nursing home sepsis lawyer to discuss your specific situation.
Another early sign of sepsis in elderly patients is confusion along with chills. Additionally, weakness, faster breathing and dusky skin appearance will present in elderly patients with sepsis. In general, symptoms of late-stage sepsis include:
- Dizziness or faintness
- Confusion or drops in alertness
- Unusual changes in mental state including a feeling of doom or a real fear of death
- Slurred speech
- Diarrhea, nausea and/or vomiting
- Severe muscle pain and extreme discomfort
- Difficulty breathing – shortness of breath
- Low urine output
- Cold, clammy, pale, discolored or otherwise mottled skin
- Cold and pale extremities
- Loss of consciousness
Another indicator of sepsis includes red streaks or red lines on the skin. These streaks are caused by local inflammatory changes in blood vessels of lymphatic vessels. This is worrisome because it is usually a sign that the infection is spreading.
What to do to prevent Sepsis in Elderly Patients
In general, a person with sepsis is contagious. Not from the sepsis infection itself, but from the bacterial or fungi that is causing the infection. Depending on the aggressiveness of the infecting organism, bacterial and fungi infections are easily transferable. Prevention comes in the form of taking basic precautions like hand washing, sterile gloves, masks and clothing coverage.
Additional prevention measures such as vaccines and good hygiene are key to preventing infections. Another good tip is to treat an infection before it has the opportunity to spread. This is especially important in people with weakened immune systems like elderly residents in nursing homes. However, if a nursing home has failed to treat sepsis it is an obvious sign of neglect. Contact a nursing home sepsis lawyer right away to discuss your case.
Sepsis Diagnosis and Treatment
In almost every case of sepsis, patients will require hospitalization. A doctor will look for at least two of the symptoms listed above. However, proving a sepsis infection requires a blood test. Once a positive blood test has found blood poisoning, a doctor will need to identify the bacterial causes and begin treatment. In 2017, the FDA approved a test that identifies bacterial causes and their susceptibility to antibiotics 42 hours faster than current tests.
As mentioned above, the sepsis mortality rate increases 7 percent per hour. For most patients, treatment occurs in an intensive care unit (ICU). Critical care medicine specialists, infectious disease specialists and others administer treatment to sepsis patients.
Appropriate antibiotics to treat sepsis are usually given in combinations of two or three at the same time. Commonly used antibiotics include:
Once the infecting organism is identified, labs can determine which type of antibiotic is most effective. The prognosis of sepsis depends largely on the severity of the infection. For example, patients with no sign of ongoing organ failure have about a 70-85 percent chance of survival. However, in patients with septic shock, the survival rates plummet to 40-60 percent. Because elderly patients have the highest mortality rates, nursing homes have a responsibility to make sure their patients receive proper medical care right away. If your loved one is suffering from debilitating injury or passed away from a sepsis infection, you should contact The Carlson Law Firm right away. Our nursing home sepsis lawyer is ready to help you get the justice your loved one deserves.
A Nursing Home Sepsis Lawyer Can Help
Sepsis is a serious condition. Nursing home staff have a responsibility to stop it before it even occurs. When a nursing home resident developing the condition is a sign of neglect. Treatment for the initial infection should occur before it has the opportunity to create the conditions that lead to blood poisoning. If you believe that a loved one may be the victim of nursing home neglect or abuse you should take action quickly and contact us to set up a free consultation with a nursing home sepsis lawyer. We have the skills to get your loved on the justice he or she deserves.
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