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Liability for Sepsis in Nursing Homes

Home » Liability for Sepsis in Nursing Homes

Sepsis is not a very common word, and its meaning is still unfamiliar to many people. Unfortunately, it is a growing problem in nursing homes and carries significant, life-threatening risks. When nursing home staff do not properly care for their residents, the likelihood of developing sepsis increases. If you have a parent or relative living in such a facility, you expect the best level of care. Nursing homes that negligently cause their patients to develop sepsis and other conditions can be held liable.

Sepsis occurs when the immune system is overwhelmed by infection, causing the body’s response to be extremely weakened. Sepsis can be life-threatening; if left untreated, it may cause septic shock, which often results in death. This is especially dangerous to the elderly in nursing homes who may have preexisting medical conditions or weakened immune systems.

To be diagnosed with sepsis, a patient must first have a confirmed or probable infection. Next, they must have at least two of the following:

  • Temperature greater than 101 degrees F or below 96.8 degrees F
  • Heart rate greater than 90 beats per minute
  • Respiratory rate of 20 breaths per minute

Some patients already have an increased likelihood of developing sepsis. But the condition can be caused as a result of how a nursing home treats its residents. Neglect or even abuse at the hands of irresponsible staff can leave a person without adequate care, increasing the risk. Some examples of nursing home behavior that can cause a patient to get sepsis include:

  • Caregivers who use medical equipment improperly. Many neglect standard infection control practices in handling catheters, IVs, feeding tubes, and other devices.
  • Failure by staff to wash their hands to guard against infection. This allows a resident with a compromised immune system to have indirect contact with someone else with a particular disease.
  • Not reporting or noticing existing problems. Sometimes caregivers simply overlook the condition of their patients, and treatable problems become aggravated and cause sepsis.

There are steps that nursing homes can take to decrease the chances of their residents contracting sepsis. For example:

Awareness. In some cases, simply being aware there is a problem can make all the difference. Staff should be trained to notice signs of sepsis, infection, or other abnormalities with their patients. Part of this is to also make sure someone else is not exposed to a patient experiencing health problems.

Observing standard health and sanitation practices. Caregivers are obligated to take great care when it becomes necessary to use catheters and other medical equipment. Standard sanitation practices include regularly washing hands to prevent infection and wearing sterile gloves. They should also ensure that ulcers, pressure sores, and other conditions are promptly treated to prevent potentially life threatening situations.

Taking extra precaution. The symptoms of sepsis may be unnoticed at first, or appear to be relatively mild. Low fever, low blood pressure, confusion, and other signs do not always raise the appropriate red flags. But these conditions can mean something serious for the elderly, so they demand appropriate action.

Because sepsis can set in quickly, the first signs could be missed, causing the patient to deteriorate rapidly. This is why having a properly trained nursing home staff and up to date equipment are vital. If your parent or relative are living in a nursing home facility, ask the caregivers about these things. Make sure they know that you take your family’s health seriously and are aware of the risk of sepsis.

Our Nursing Home Injury Attorneys Can Help

Nursing homes owe a legal duty of reasonable care to their residents. When this duty is breached, nursing homes can be held responsible when patients develop sepsis and other conditions. If a nursing home is held responsible, the facility may be forced to pay damages to the injured party. These can include liability for medical expenses and in cases of wrongful death. Call the dedicated nursing home injury attorneys of Schneider Hammers today to discuss your case.