Every two minutes, someone in the U.S. dies from sepsis. Despite its prevalence, many people are unfamiliar with this life-threatening medical issue. To raise awareness about what sepsis is, how to recognize its symptoms, and the importance of timely treatment, September has been named Sepsis Awareness Month.

Sepsis is the body’s response to an infection, and occurs when the immune system sends infection-fighting chemicals to the entire body rather than just to the infection. The damage from these chemicals causes impaired blood flow, organ damage, and death. Of the 2 million people who develop sepsis in the U.S. each year, one-quarter of them will not survive. For those that do survive, many develop post-sepsis syndrome (PSS), which can cause long-term physical and psychological effects.

Any type of infection can lead to sepsis, including open wounds, the flu, or urinary tract infections. Elderly adults, anyone who has a weakened immune system, and those with pre-existing conditions are more likely to develop sepsis, making patients in nursing homes or long-term care facilities particularly vulnerable. To prevent sepsis and its effects, the best course of action is to put into place measures to avoid infection.

Sepsis and Long-Term Care Facilities

At Stark & Stark, many of the clients we help develop sepsis in long-term care facilities as a result of pressure ulcers and urinary tract infections. Both of these risks can be minimized or avoided with proper care and attention. The majority of pressure ulcers can be prevented with the implementation of care plans, while urinary tract infections are often caused by the inattention to a patient’s bathroom needs.

Too often, we hear stories of patients being unattended to, resulting in unnecessary infections. Without regular and attentive care, patients can be left to lay in their own feces. The combination of unrelieved pressure, constant moisture, and fecal bacteria create a perfect situation for skin breakdown and for severe infections to make it into the bloodstream. Unfortunately, many of the victims we help don’t recover from sepsis.

It is critical facilities put care plans into place to limit the risk of infections. These plans should include frequent turning and repositioning, the use of low air loss mattresses and pressure redistributing surfaces, and the implementation of an adequate toileting program, among other things. Precautionary measures to avoid the spread of germs should also be prioritized.

If an infection occurs, immediate treatment is essential to reduce the risk of sepsis. 

Time is of the essence in treating sepsis, with early detection often contributing to the ability to properly treat and cure sepsis. If you visit a loved one in a nursing home and find him or her to be unusually lethargic, confused, or has a temperature, contact the treating doctor and request a medical examination immediately. If you suspect your loved one has developed sepsis because of neglect, contact the Nursing Home Negligence and Abuse Lawyers at Stark & Stark.