Sepsis, which is also known as blood poisoning, is a potentially life-threatening illness that develops when bacteria gets into the blood stream. In elders, this bacterium often enters into the blood stream through pressure ulcers, (AKA bed sores). Sepsis may also occur from bacteria entering the blood stream via an IV, or a surgical wound, which is not properly tended to.
Sepsis is a very dangerous condition for elders, which can lead to a rapid demise in an elder living in a nursing home. Death from sepsis occurs after the levels of bacteria in the blood reach a tipping point, wherein the body’s immune system can no longer handle the infection, and organs begin to fail.
The symptoms of sepsis include fever, low blood pressure, rapid heartbeat, rash, shaking, hyperventilation, confusion, and changes in white blood cell count. Severe cases of sepsis will result in septic shock, which is an incredibly dangerous and often fatal condition for an elder.
Sepsis may be caused by coming into contact with a person with a bacterial infection, or may result from improper hygiene, or improper post-surgical care. The staff in California nursing homes must be properly trained to not only identify early symptoms of sepsis, but to ensure that all medical equipment is properly sanitized, all staff members routinely wash their hands and use gloves when tending to residents with any form of illness, and all bed sores are treated immediately.
Unfortunately, due to understaffing at many nursing homes, sepsis is a direct result of neglect of an elderly resident. Understaffing has been proven time and again to result in failure to provide proper hygiene for residents, which all too often can prove fatal.
The best defense against sepsis in a nursing home is proper prevention. This requires sufficient staff, which has received the proper training in hygienic standards, and is skilled in identifying early symptoms of both bedsores and sepsis.
While many long-term care facilities in California provide excellent care, others subject their patients to many forms of neglect or elder abuse. The California Welfare & Institutions Code §15610.57, addresses “neglect” in part by stating it is “the negligent failure to exercise the degree of care a reasonable person would have exercised had they had the care and custody of an elderly person.” This would include the failure to protect that elder from dehydration, bedsores, falls, and other injuries caused by safety or health hazards and any type of injury that does not fit the explanation provided by the staff.