Investigation Finds Widespread Preventable Sepsis in Nursing Homes

Investigation Finds Widespread Preventable Sepsis in Nursing Homes

Worried family of a male patient suffering from sepsis in nursing homes

According to a recent investigation by Kaiser Health News and the Chicago Tribune, American nursing homes are failing to prevent bedsores and other infections that lead to sepsis, a severe infection that is deadly if not cared for properly.

In all nursing homes,  infections often aren’t monitored closely enough to accurately define how many became fatal. Sepsis can quickly progress and become a serious, life-threatening condition – septic shock. Septic shock causes a decrease in blood pressure, which can trigger the organs to shut down.

Symptoms of sepsis include fever, cool hands and feet, and anxiety. Sepsis can be antibiotic-resistant.

According to a federal report, sepsis is the most common reason patients are transferred from nursing homes to hospitals. These cases end in death “much more often” than other hospitalizations, the report states. Sepsis is the most common cause of death in intensive care units, and account for 25 percent of all ICU patients. Individuals over the age of 65 are most susceptible to getting sepsis and septic shock.

Sepsis treatment costs Medicare more than $2 billion annually, according to Medicare billings from 2012 through 2016, a number analyzed by Definitive Healthcare. About 6,000 Illinois nursing home residents were hospitalized with sepsis each year, and one in five didn’t survive, according to Definitive’s analysis.

One of the most common citations nursing home receives is a level of poor infection control. Since 2015, 72 percent of national nursing homes have received citations for not implementing or following an infection-control program. Regulators and patient advocates often blame low staffing, as too few nurses and medical aides raise the risks of safety problems.