Top 5 Causes of Sepsis in Nursing Homes February 12, 2024.

Top 5 Causes of Sepsis in Nursing Homes

Choosing to put your loved one into a nursing home is not an easy task. It is scary to think about your loved one being neglected while living there. Sadly, the elderly are the most vulnerable to neglect.

If an elderly person is neglected, it can lead to them developing severe infections. These severe infections can turn into sepsis if they are left untreated. 

If your loved one passed away from sepsis while living in a nursing home, you may be able to receive compensation.

Sepsis: Causes, Risk Factors, and Prevention

The Cleveland Clinic defines sepsis as when the body has a dangerous reaction to an infection. It is extremely life-threatening if it is not diagnosed and treated within a few hours. Sepsis causes extreme inflammation in the body. This reaction can cause tissue damage and organ failure. 

Sepsis is scary in all situations. But, it is especially scary if an older person develops it. The elderly population usually can’t recover from extreme illnesses as a younger person would.

Sepsis could happen to anyone, but it is a lot more common in older people. Risk factors for the elderly include:

  • Being 65+
  • Having a compromised immune system
  • Having chronic medical conditions
  • People who recently had a severe illness
  • People with severe wounds
  • People who have a catheter, a ventilator, or an IV

In most cases, sepsis is preventable. It is sad to know that many sepsis-related deaths in nursing homes could have been prevented with proper care. 

What Causes Sepsis in Nursing Homes?

The five biggest causes of someone developing sepsis in a nursing home are as follows:

  1. Inadequate Infection Control and Prevention
  2. Delayed Detection and Diagnosis
  3. Unmanaged Medical Conditions and Infections
  4. Inadequate Amount of Staff
  5. Poor Wound Care Practices

Continuing reading to learn about the five main causes of sepsis in nursing homes.

1. Inadequate Infection Control and Prevention

Nursing home neglect is a huge problem across the country. A study was done at 2000 nursing homes to see how common elder neglect is. About 95% of the residents had been neglected, or had seen another resident be neglected.

Nursing home neglect often causes the residents to have poor hygiene, if they can’t care for themselves. 

This can include:

  • Not bathing the resident
  • Not helping them wash their hands before eating or after using the bathroom
  • Not repositioning them to prevent bedsores

Poor hygiene often leads to other diseases or infections that can turn into sepsis. 

Sanitation issues are also common in nursing homes. This can have deadly consequences for the residents.  Whether the common areas aren’t regularly cleaned, or a resident’s IV port is contaminated, it can lead to sepsis. Many nursing homes aren’t held to the highest standard of cleanliness that they should be. From 2013-2017 a study was conducted on nursing home cleanliness. The statistics are disturbing. The Government Accountability Office found that 82% of nursing homes they inspected had little to no infection prevention protocols. 

2. Delayed Detection and Diagnosis

Sepsis can be hard to correctly diagnose. Sepsis symptoms are often confused with the flu, urinary tract infections, or staph infections. It is also difficult because there is not a single test that can be given to detect sepsis. Instead, medical professionals have to administer several tests to diagnose them.

The healthcare professionals at every nursing home should be aware of the acronym T.I.M.E. This stands for temperature, infection, mental decline, and extremely ill. If the resident has all of these symptoms then they need to be treated immediately for sepsis. 

Even though it is hard to detect, the medical professionals are responsible for correctly diagnosing the resident. This is extremely important because sepsis can kill someone in as little as 12 hours.

3. Unmanaged Medical Conditions and Infections

According to the CDC, people who have underlying medical conditions are at a greater risk of developing sepsis. If the medical conditions are not being properly managed in the nursing home, then the risk is even greater. To prevent sepsis, the staff needs to take special considerations when working with elderly residents. 

These special considerations would be to:

  • Give them their medication on time
  • Give them the correct medication
  • Give them the correct dosage of medication

Unmanaged medical conditions and untreated infections can also lead to a dangerous outcome. Infections that go untreated is how sepsis starts. 

Then, if the sepsis isn’t treated it progresses into septic shock. Septic shock is the most life-threatening stage of sepsis. At this stage, the person’s blood pressure drops dangerously low, which causes the major organs to fail. The mortality rate of septic shock for the elderly ranges between 50%-60%. 

4. Inadequate Amount of Staff

Nursing homes with inadequate staffing may have a difficult time caring for all of their residents. This could lead to residents not getting the treatment that they need. 

JAMA Network conducted a study in three hospitals to see if staffing shortages and sepsis- related deaths had a relationship. The research suggested if registered nurses provided more hours of care to a patient with sepsis, they had a better chance of recovery.

Of course, this study was done at a hospital, not a nursing home. But, the numbers don’t lie. If registered nurses spent more hours with a sepsis patient, the risk of dying would decrease.

5. Poor Wound Care Practices 

Wounds are a gateway for germs to get into the body. So, if wounds are not properly treated, a host of diseases and infections can occur. 

Wounds are not being properly treated if:

  • They are not cleaned often
  • New wrapping is not put on
  • An antiseptic is not used

With proper wound care it limits the risk of it getting infected.

Bedsores are common wounds in nursing homes. Bedsores are caused by sitting or laying in one position for too long. This shows negligence in itself because it means that the resident was not repositioned every few hours. It is even more negligent if the bedsore goes untreated. Untreated bedsores will likely cause an infection, which can turn into sepsis.

How The Mellino Law Firm Can Help You

If your loved one died from sepsis while living at a nursing home, you may be able to receive compensation. 

The experienced team at The Mellino Law Firm is ready to get justice for your loved one. Our medical malpractice attorneys have helped dozens of families get justice for their loved one who has passed away.

Contact us at (440) 333-3800 or fill out our online form today to request a complimentary case evaluation. Our legal team will reach out to you as soon as possible to talk about your potential case.