Sepsis/Infections

Infections are unfortunately common in many Florida nursing homes and assisted living facilities. That does not mean they are inevitable.

The Fort Lauderdale nursing home negligence attorneys at The Ansara Law Firm recognize that while long-term care patients are particularly vulnerable to these conditions, they can be protected when facilities:

  • Properly train their health care workers and other staff to understand fundamental principles of infection control.
  • Follow basic hygiene practices.
  • Teach staffers how to quickly recognize the symptoms of infection.
  • Provide immediate and appropriate treatment if an infection is identified.

As noted by researchers in the journal Aging Health, there are approximately 2 million people living in 16,000 nursing homes in the U.S., and these facilities calculate an estimated 2 million infections annually. That’s one infection per resident.

Most Common Infections in Nursing Homes

Common infections in nursing homes according to researchers include:

  • Urinary tract infections. These are the most common type of infection in nursing homes, occurring in approximately 7 percent of all nursing home patients with a urinary catheter, and in approximately 50 percent of those who have the catheter for 30 days or more. Residents with catheters for more than a month have higher death rates than those that don’t.
  • Respiratory infections. These would include pneumonia and lower respiratory tract infections, which are the No. 1 cause of death among nursing home patients and are also the primary reason for hospital transfer. The incidence rate of nursing home associated pneumonia is about 0.3 to 2.3 episodes per 1,000 resident care days.
  • Diarrheal Diseases. Bacterial and viral gastroenteritis is the cause of most diarrheal outbreaks in nursing homes. It is well-known that older adults have lower production of gastric acid, which means they are at higher risk for development of infections. In older nursing home residents, this condition is associated with a high risk of dehydration and a higher risk of death. Researchers record on average about 17 gastroenteritis outbreaks for every 100 nursing homes. Norovirus is the No. 1 cause, accounting for 50 percent of all cases annually. Clostridium difficile (or C. diff, for short) is another.
  • Skin and soft tissue infections. These would include bedsores (also known as pressure ulcers), as well as MRSA (Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus), which is a type of staph bacteria that is resistant to many antibiotics and is spread by skin-to-skin contact, often in crowded settings. Scabies is another source of problems in nursing homes, which is an ectoparasite infestation. Nursing home residents are especially susceptible to skin and soft tissue infections because of the physiological changes that occur with aging, including the atrophy of skin, reduced resistance to external infections and extending periods of healing.
  • Influenza. More commonly known as “the flu,” this condition represents a serious threat, given that 90 percent of all influenza deaths involve those over the age of 65. Nursing home residents are especially at risk – with attack rates of up to 60 percent and fatality rates as high as 55 percent – because residents tend to be older and more frail.
Risk of Sepsis in Nursing Homes

Sepsis is an extremely serious medical infection to which nursing home residents are especially prone. It occurs as a result of a severe infection. It is inflammation throughout the entire body – and it can be fatal if untreated as critical body systems can become damaged or shut down entirely.

The primary cause of sepsis is complication due to an infection. It’s possible for any kind of infection to lead to sepsis, but the most common types associated with it are:

  • Pneumonia
  • Abdominal infections
  • Kidney infections
  • Bloodstream infections

Sepsis is caused when a serious infection in the blood leads to a chemical release as the body launches a last-ditch effort to fight off invaders. The entire body becomes inflamed.

It’s dangerous for anyone, but it’s especially perilous for elderly patients because their bodies and immune systems are already weak. This is why it is imperative that sepsis in nursing home patients be treated immediately for the best chance of survival. That means patients need to recognize the various stages.

  • Stage I, Sepsis. At this point, symptoms will involve a fever of approximately 101 degrees, or a reduction in temperature to about 95 degrees. The heart rate increases – about 90 beats per minute – as does the rate of respiration.
  • Stage II, Severe Sepsis. At this point, the afflicted person will have trouble breathing. They will be in a great deal of pain, particularly in the stomach and abdomen. Their heart is racing. They will have a decrease in urination and other routine functions. Their mental state may be altered.
  • Stage III, Septic Shock. At this stage, the patient will go into a state of shock. Often, this involves a severe drop in blood pressure. When an elderly person goes into septic shock, it is extremely difficult if not impossible for health care workers to restore the individual’s blood pressure back to a normal pace.

If at any point a loved one develops sepsis as a result of an untreated or poorly treated infection, loved ones should contact an experienced nursing home injury lawyer.

Call the injury attorneys at The Ansara Law Firm at (877) 277-3780 or locally in Broward at (954) 761-4011. Serving Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade Counties.