Nursing home sepsis – a potentially life-threatening bloodstream infection that is a frequent complication of bedsores and a common sign of abuse – is prevalent in Illinois, according to a recent joint news investigation by the Chicago Tribune and Kaiser Health News.
Poor Staffing Levels to Blame
The study found that approximately 6,000 Illinois nursing home residents are hospitalized each year for sepsis, while one in five of these patients dies from the illness.
Sepsis typically occurs in bedridden patients suffering from pneumonia, urinary tract infections, bedsores, and other conditions. According to nursing home patient advocates, sepsis can be prevented by turning immobile people every two hours, among other precautions. However, nursing homes around the country routinely fail to prevent bedsores and infections that can lead to sepsis.
Experts blame the prevalence of sepsis-causing conditions on poor staffing levels in nursing homes. That problem is especially pronounced in Illinois, where nursing homes have among the lowest staffing levels for nurses and aides in the United States. The situation is even worse in Chicago: According to an analysis of government data, staffing levels at 78 percent of the nursing home facilities in the Chicago area fall below the national average.
As a result of these low staffing levels, Illinois nursing homes fall below national norms in terms of the presence of bedsores and the failure to properly treat them. According to the recent study, about 60 percent of Illinois nursing homes have been cited by inspectors for deficiency in the treatment bedsores. In fact, only three other states were cited more frequently than Illinois.
The high rate of sepsis in Illinois nursing homes brings with it significant expense. According to one analysis, Medicare pays Illinois hospitals more than $100 million annually for treatment of nursing home residents who have developed sepsis, with most of those patients coming from Chicago-area facilities.
Sign of Nursing Home Abuse
Bedsores (also known as pressure sores) are caused by unrelieved pressure on bony parts of the body over extended periods of time. This pressure restricts blood flow and can cause skin and tissue to die, resulting in the visible wounds known as bedsores. Bedsores occur when nursing home residents are left in the same position for too long, often sitting or lying in urine, feces, or wet clothing and bedding. Poor nutrition and hygiene also increase the likelihood of bedsores.
Nursing home facilities know of this common problem, and they have a heightened responsibility to implement a bedsore prevention program, one that involves moving residents at regular intervals and maintaining proper hygiene, nutrition, and hydration. Failure to do so could constitute nursing home abuse.
What Is Sepsis?
Should these bedsores develop because of nursing home abuse, they must be identified and treated as soon as possible. If they do not, this ruptured skin could lead to sepsis (also known as Septicemia), a bacterial infection of the bloodstream. While the white blood cells of healthy people normally can remove bacteria from the blood, when an unusually large amount of bacteria enters the bloodstream they become overwhelmed, resulting in sepsis.
Symptoms of sepsis may include the following:
- Loss of Appetite.
- Rapid Breathing.
- Irregular Heartbeat.
Sepsis can lead to serious infections of the skin, the respiratory system, the gastrointestinal system, the nervous system, and even the brain or the heart, often resulting in death.
One of the most common points of infection – and the reason sepsis so often results from bedsores – is the skin. The skin is the primary barrier between the body and the outside world, and it is the first line of defense against bacteria and viruses. Open wounds, such as bedsores, surgical incisions, and other cuts, allow large amounts of bacteria to flood the body, resulting in sepsis.
Failure by nursing home staff or medical personnel to monitor for or treat bedsores can cause sepsis. If sepsis occurs, those tasked with caring for the patient may be held liable for the illness.
What If a Loved One Has Nursing Home Sepsis?
If your loved one has developed nursing home sepsis, you may be able to pursue a nursing home abuse lawsuit for damages on his or her behalf. Proving nursing home abuse can be difficult, however, particularly in cases of wrongful death. You must demonstrate that the patient’s death was due to sepsis and that it was contracted because of negligence or improper treatment by the medical or nursing home staff responsible for the victim’s care. Identifying all of the parties potentially at fault for nursing home sepsis in a timely fashion is crucial because those who fail to bring their cases within the time specified by law usually find themselves forever barred from obtaining justice and compensation for their injuries.
Given these challenges, the families of nursing home abuse victims often feel that they might benefit from the assistance of an experienced attorney, such as the Illinois nursing home abuse attorneys at GWC Injury Lawyers.
With over $2 billion recovered for our clients, GWC is Illinois’ largest Personal Injury and Workers’ Compensation law firm.
If you or a loved one has been a victim of nursing home abuse, please contact GWC for a no-cost, no-obligation consultation with one of our attorneys. Call us at (312) 464-1234 or click here to chat with one of our representatives at any time.