In reviewing nursing home cases, a common problem that our lawyers see is elderly people who develop sepsis. According to a recent report by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), more than half of Americans who were polled had no idea what sepsis is.
Sepsis is a very serious medical condition. Once obtained, the death rates have been reported between 28 and 50 percent. Understandably, the elderly, very young, and those with a compromised or weakened immune system are at the higher end of the fatality rates for this serious medical condition.
According to Kary Pryzmus, a CDC sepsis coordinator, “Sepsis is the body’s overwhelming response to infection.” Ms. Pryzmus in a recent interview with NBC, stated: “Sepsis has been known in the past as being a blood poisoning or a complication of a certain condition. When we hear someone passed away from a complication of pneumonia they won’t say the word sepsis.”
In the nursing home setting, sepsis is frequently associated with an open wound or sore. Once a person develops an infection, the risks of the body becoming “septic” is exponentially increased. Bacteria can also enter the body through other methods, such as through a surgical wound (like around a feeding tube) or through the lungs in the form of bacterial pneumonia.
According to the CDC, the warning signs that a person may have sepsis are the following:
• Shivering, fever or very cold.
• Extreme pain or general discomfort, often described as the “worst ever.”
• Pale or discolored skin.
• Sleepiness, difficulty waking up, or extreme fatigue.
• A state of confusion.
• The feeling of impending death.
• Shortness of breath.
• Failure to improve despite high dosages of antibiotics and other medications.
Ms. Pryzmus, when asked, correctly noted that it is essential to get a person with these symptoms to an appropriate medical provider. Unfortunately, far too often, nursing homes either do not timely recognize these symptoms in patients, or the facilities’ staffs believe they can treat the patient in-house. The delay in treatment can be, and often is, fatal.
Sepsis should be a rare event in nursing home settings. The best way to prevent it is to ensure that the patients/residents do not develop sores. But if sores or illness do arise, it is essential that nursing home staff promptly transfer the patient/resident to a more acute facility, such as a hospital emergency room. Because the elderly are already at a heightened risk of death from sepsis, timely and appropriate treatment is essential to their survival and recovery. If you need more information on this subject, contact Ben Locklar, a lawyer in our firm who handles Nursing Home Litigation, at 800-898-2034 or by email at Ben.Locklar@beasleyallen.com.
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