Sepsis in Nursing Homes: Compensation in South Carolina

March 14, 2024 / RP Legal

Nursing home infections are a dangerous complication at skilled nursing facilities in South Carolina.

Sepsis is completely avoidable, and it leads to tens of thousands unnecessary deaths each year. This painful condition does not have to happen to any elderly resident.

Nursing home staff can prevent sepsis by providing proper care for residents. If they have failed in their basic obligation, the family can file a negligence lawsuit against the nursing home. The Columbia nursing home abuse and neglect attorneys at Rikard & Protopapas can investigate your loved one’s death and help you take legal action.

How Nursing Home Residents Develop Sepsis

Any infection can be dangerous and life-threatening for a nursing home resident. In serious cases, an infection will progress to sepsis.

At this point, sepsis will begin to affect the rest of the body. The victim’s body will try to fight the infection in any way it can, Unfortunately, it can also turn on their own body, including the vital organs that someone needs to live.

Sepsis can affect the:

  • Kidneys
  • Liver
  • Lungs
  • Heart
  • Central nervous system
  • Hematologic system

Some nursing home residents will develop multiple organ failure, which can cause death. Further, sepsis becomes extremely critical when it progresses to septic shock. Here, the blood pressure will drop dramatically. At this point, sepsis can lead to death.

Symptoms of Sepsis in a Nursing Home

Symptoms of sepsis among elderly nursing home patients include:

  • Rapid breathing and heart rate
  • Shortness of breath
  • Confusion or disorientation
  • Extreme pain or discomfort
  • Fever, shivering, or feeling very cold
  • Clammy or sweaty skin

How Should Nursing Home Staff Prevent Sepsis?

Nursing home staff may often miss the early signs of sepsis. They may not even be looking in the first place, or staff can confuse signs of sepsis with other health conditions.

Sepsis often is the result of a lack of attention to hygiene and the resident’s care. A urinary tract infection is one of the common causes of sepsis. Here, staff may not frequently change a resident as often as needed. The bacteria may fester and infect the kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra. Unfortunately, nursing home staff may not treat the UTI in time to keep it from worsening.

Pressure ulcers are another common cause of sepsis in a nursing home. Nursing home staff must continuously change the resident’s position, so one part of their body is not rubbing against a hard surface, such as a mattress or a wheelchair rest. If the resident is in the same position for too long, their skin may begin to break down.

When a nursing home resident does develop a pressure ulcer, staff must provide the proper care to the affected area to keep it from growing into a life-threatening infection. In some cases, the infection can grow into a gaping hole because staff failed to treat the resident’s skin and care for the wound.

Normal care and vigilance can prevent nursing home sepsis. However, many nursing homes cut back on staff in order to enhance their own profits. The remaining staff is stretched thin, and they cannot possibly perform the care that they need for all the residents. Many dangerous conditions go unnoticed and untreated, and the residents pay the price with their health.

While Sepsis Is Devastating, It Is Preventable

Even if a nursing home resident survives sepsis, most will never be the same again for the rest of their life. Sepsis takes a large toll on the body, weakening it dramatically. If the sepsis progresses to the point of septic shock, the mortality rate approaches 40%. Any case of sepsis will take away from a resident’s quality of life in the long term.

Many infections are preventable in the first place. If the nursing home staff sufficiently focuses on hygiene, and they exercise the necessary vigilance, they can keep infections from developing in the first place. Even when a resident does develop an infection, the nursing home staff can and should keep it from progressing by providing the appropriate level of medical care.

Challenges in a Nursing Home Sepsis Lawsuit

It can be considered negligence in many circumstances when your loved one develops sepsis.

A resident’s family needs to prove what the nursing home did or did not do that would have intervened.

There are many challenges that you may face when arguing that sepsis was the result of negligence, including:

  • The nursing home may claim that your loved one’s primary cause of death was another health condition other than sepsis.
  • You would have to obtain evidence that shows what the nursing home did or did not do to discover, monitor or treat the condition.
  • Your loved one may not have been able to tell you what they encountered and how they were treated.
  • The nursing home would argue that your loved one’s damages are minimal because they were beset by other health conditions.

It is up to families to be vigilant and spot the signs of nursing home neglect. However, families may often learn of negligence after their loved one has already been injured or died. They would then need to develop a case that would allow them to obtain compensation from the nursing home. Hiring an attorney can help.

Contact a Nursing Home Neglect Lawyer in Columbia

When your loved one has been injured or died from sepsis, you want justice and accountability that will come in the form of financial compensation. The nursing home abuse attorneys at Rikard & Protopapas will fight for your family at every step of the way, building the case that you need to take on the nursing home.

Skilled nursing facilities take notice when they see us representing you in an abuse case. You can speak to our experienced lawyers by calling us at 803-978-6111 or by sending us a message through our website. We charge you nothing upfront, and we are not paid unless you win your case.

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