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Preventable sepsis still too common in nursing homes

As your parent grows older, you may find yourself in the middle of a confusing role reversal where you have the concerns and responsibilities of a parent and your parent is vulnerable like a child. You may wonder whether your parent is eating enough, worry about the medications he or she is taking, and feel concern for your parent's overall health and wellbeing.

If your loved one is under the care of a Georgia nursing home staff, you may be even more concerned, especially if you have noticed signs of neglect when you visit your loved one. Since your parent's health may be quite delicate, he or she may be more vulnerable to infections that can lead to deadly septic conditions.

The tragedy of a septic infection

Sepsis occurs when your loved one's body overreacts to an infection and floods the blood stream with toxins. These toxins, instead of fighting the infection, begin to destroy the body's healthy tissue, resulting in rapid organ failure. Often, the chain of events happens quickly, and the victim may pass away within hours. What makes this situation even more tragic is that it is entirely preventable. Some common causes of infections that turn septic include these:

  • Nurses whose hands are unwashed when they insert or remove catheters or feeding tubes
  • Catheters and feeding tubes that remain in a resident too long or are poorly cleaned
  • Surgical wounds that do not receive proper care when a patient returns to a nursing home following an operation
  • Pressure sores that develop when nursing staff allows a patient to lie in the same position for too long

Pressure sores are a "never event," meaning they are preventable enough that they should never happen. If a member of staff turns a bedridden patient every few hours and allows the patient to lie on clean linens, there is every chance of avoiding a bedsore. Pressure sores can become severe very quickly, requiring agonizing treatment that may include cutting away dead tissue to prevent the wound from turning septic.

Seeking justice

Your loved one may be unable to express that he or she is in distress from sepsis, and a nursing staff that is oblivious to the symptoms of infection may discover too late that the infection has reached a septic state. In fact, in a single year in one state, nursing homes transferred over 6,000 residents to hospitals for treatment of septic infections, and 20 percent of those patients died of the condition.

If your loved one acquires an infection while under nursing home care, the staff should have training to act quickly. In the event your loved one's condition develops into sepsis, you have options for seeking compensation for his or her suffering.

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