Infections and Septicemia

Infection in an elder or person with declining health can have severe consequences if it is not promptly identified and treated.

Urinary Tract Infection (aka UTI or Bladder Infection)

Urinary-tractThe kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra work together to eliminate urine from the body.  Kidneys remove waste from the blood in the form of urine.  The ureters transport the urine from the kidneys to the bladder, and the bladder stores the urine until it is emptied through the urethra.  A UTI can develop when bacteria clings to the opening of the urethra, begins to multiply, and eventually works its way up the urinary tract. UTIs are more common in women than men.  Doctors believe this is because bacteria living in the rectal area is closer to the opening of the urethra in women.  Also, patients who require a catheter are susceptible to contracting a UTI.

In young and middle-aged woman, painful burning during urination is a clear sign of a urinary tract infection.  However, most elderly adults don’t experience any pain.  It is also rare for an elderly person to get a fever.  If they do, it may be a sign of a very serious infection requiring emergency care.  In elders, the earliest signs of a UTI may be a sudden onset of confusion or inability to complete tasks that were easy two days earlier.  Other signs of a UTI include urinary incontinence, sudden onset of imbalance or falling, decreased appetite, lethargy, and blood in the urine.

A simple lab test is available to determine whether or not there is infection.  If treated promptly, the infection will usually clear up in a few days.  However, if the infection is not promptly treated, it can spread to other areas of the body, and the patient may suffer more serious consequences. Many of the nursing home clients represented by The Gebler Firm, PC were not promptly diagnosed with a UTI, or were not promptly treated for the UTI.  As a result, the patient developed sepsis, a life-threatening infection of the bloodstream.  Unfortunately, the first time the family learned of this serious problem was after the patient had been transferred to the Emergency Room. Vital organs had already begun to shut down, and the family was told that the infection had progressed so far that nothing could be done to save the patient’s life.

The following is recommended by health care professionals to help prevent UTIs:

  • Drinking plenty of fluids to flush bacteria out of the body;
  • Urinating promptly after the urge arises so bacteria is not held in the bladder; and
  • Women should wipe front to back, to move rectal bacteria away from the urinary tract.

Infections from open bedsores and wounds

Stage 3 BedsoreBacteria, such as e-coli, MRSA and C-Diff, can enter the body through any open wound.  All bedsores that are left untreated become a breeding ground for infection, especially as the flesh around the wound begins to die.  Open bedsores that develop on the buttocks, hips or coccyx (tailbone) are particularly susceptible to infection because open wounds located near the rectum are more likely to become infected from fecal and urinary bacteria.  This is especially true if the patient is not kept clean and dry after a bladder or bowel movement.

It is estimated that approximately 60,000 people die each year from bed sore infections.  If the infection is not promptly identified and treated, it can spread throughout the body and into the blood, causing  sepsis.

For more information related to bedsores caused by neglect go here.

Signs that an infection may have been caused by neglect

The following signs may suggest that an infection was contracted due to neglect:

  • The patient was repeatedly left lying in soiled diapers, clothes or linens.
  • Open wounds were not kept clean, dry and free of urine and feces.
  • Nursing staff was repeatedly observed moving from one patient to another, without sanitizing their hands.
  • The family was not informed of any infection until the patient was in an emergent state.
  • Catheters were not regularly cleaned or changed.
  • The staff repeatedly failed to respond to calls for assistance to the bathroom.
  • The patient was diagnosed with an infection usually caused by fecal or urinary bacteria (such as e-coli, C-Diff or MRSA).

What can I do if I think my loved one contracted an infection due to neglect?

If you believe your loved one may have contracted an infection at a long-term care facility due to neglect, contact The Gebler Firm, PC for a free consultation.  We are available to speak with you by phone at 1-800-871-6998, or you may submit an on-line consultation request.

We would be honored to speak with you about your rights, and explain the options that are available.  We don’t charge any attorney fees unless we obtain a recovery.

We encourage you to act quickly.  The law limits the amount of time you and your loved one have to pursue legal action.  In some cases, this can be as short as six months.

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Disclaimer:  The information on this site is for informational and educational purposes only.  None of the medical information is intended to be a substitute for professional medical judgment.  A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions.

Injured Elder