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Sepsis can kill nursing home residents if left untreated

Nursing home residents often have a bevy of health challenges when they go into the facility. In most cases, elderly residents can't handle the demands of living at home, so, of course, they count on the employees of the nursing home to care for them.

There are some instances in which residents have life-threatening or serious illnesses and conditions that must be treated appropriately in a prompt manner. One particularly troublesome condition is sepsis, a life-threatening complication that can occur because of an infection.

Elderly residents are at risk

Sepsis can occur in anyone, but it is most often associated with people who have weakened immune systems. Since many elderly patients fall into this category, sepsis is particularly dangerous for older nursing home residents.

The presence of an infection is a key indicator when a sepsis diagnosis is made. There are three stages to sepsis, each of which can lead to organ system damage and other emergency situations.

Sepsis starts when infection-fighting chemicals are released into the blood stream. These cause an inflammatory response in the body, and this response causes the condition. Sepsis can be treated with antibiotics and large amounts of fluids. Early detection and swift treatment are critical.

Symptoms of sepsis

A patient with the least serious form of sepsis will have at least two of the following symptoms:

  • Heart rate above 90 beats per minute
  • Body temperature above 101 degrees F.
  • More than 20 breaths per minute

If the condition progresses to severe sepsis, the resident will have at least one of the following signs of organ failure:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Decreased urine output
  • Decreased platelet count
  • Abnormal heart function
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Abrupt mental changes

The worst form of sepsis is septic shock. These individuals will have the signs of severe sepsis and will likely also have very low blood pressure that can't be managed by giving the patient fluids.

Monitoring is critically important

Nursing home staff members must properly monitor the residents under their care. This includes taking vital signs.

If there are indications that something is amiss or if residents complain of symptoms that can point to infections, medical care is necessary. When nursing homes don't provide this type of care, residents' families may decide to take legal action against the nursing home.

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