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Nursing Home Residents Developing Sepsis at Alarming Rates

Recent data shows nursing home patients developing and dying from sepsis at alarming rates. Sepsis is a bacterial infection that gets into the bloodstream and, especially for elderly populations, can be fatal. A nursing home resident developing sepsis is likely a sign of neglect. Often, sepsis sets in after a patient has developed a pressure sore, an open would on the body often on the buttocks. Pressure sores, more commonly called bedsores, are caused by several potential failures in providing proper care such as: failure to turn and reposition a patient, failure to provide proper continence care, and failure to provide pressure relieving measures or devices. Pressure sores are preventable, even in nursing homes.

2015 data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) shows that 94% of nursing homes had at least one citation for conditions that increased risks for infection, including sepsis. In Illinois, about 6,000 nursing home residents each year who were hospitalized had sepsis, and about 1 in 5 of those did not survive. Many of the cases where sepsis developed stemmed from a pressure sore developing and not being properly treated in a nursing home.

Why is this a widespread and persistent problem? Nursing homes simply do not staff appropriate numbers of nurses and/or nursing aides, and low staffing leads to low quality of care and general inattention to patients. Bedsores and sepsis are just one sign a nursing home is neglecting patients’ care. Other signs may be falls, frequent UTIs, suspicious bruising, and altered mental status. It is important to look for signs and symptoms of abuse or neglect for any loved one in a nursing home.

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