Bedsores are an unfortunately common occurrence in nursing homes across the nation. When left untreated, these bedsores can become deadly because of complications that develop, including sepsis.
With thousands of nursing home residents facing severe sepsis-related health issues every year, it’s important to understand exactly why they happen and what measures may prevent them.
Understanding The Bedsore-Sepsis Relationship
Bedsores, also called pressure ulcers, are defined by Mayo Clinic as injuries to skin and other tissue layers caused by laying in one position for an extended period of time. This type of injury is especially common in places like nursing homes or hospitals where residents may be limited in their capacity to change positions and spend time outside of their beds.
While nursing homes can help prevent bedsores with precautions such as moving immobile patients every two hours, Health Leaders reports that facilities are failing to address the serious nature of the sores, causing life-threatening complications for thousands of elderly residents. This negligence defies federal regulations that require nursing homes to adopt infection-control standards to minimize harm.
As the toll of reported Sepsis-related fatalities grows, it’s evident that laws can only do so much.
So, what is Sepsis and how can it be identified?
The autoimmune disease which occurs as a bloodstream infection has a range of indicators.
Symptoms of sepsis include:
- Difficulty breathing
- Abnormally high heart rate
- Septic shock (blood pressure dropping to a critical low)
Sepsis will often develop in bedridden patients with pneumonia, urinary tract infections and other conditions, including pressure sores. When it is contracted through an infection, usually on or around the skin, the body’s immune system triggers an inflammatory reaction throughout the body.
Though infection may trigger sepsis anywhere on the body, bedsores have a higher likelihood of contracting sepsis because the body’s immune system is already compromised in those regions. Patients who go long periods of time without having their bedsores treated often develop moderate to severe sepsis.
Sepsis becomes severe when organs begin to malfunction or shut down entirely.
Recognizing Who The Bedsore-Sepsis Relationship Affects
The bedsore-sepsis relationship can affect people of any age group but seems to disproportionately affect the elderly. According to the Sepsis Alliance, residents over 65 years old are more susceptible to sepsis than any other group. In fact, residents who are 65 years and older make up 65% of sepsis cases in the hospitals despite only accounting for only 12% of the U.S population.
This vulnerability increases if the resident has any chronic medical issues such as diabetes or pneumonia.
Preventing Bedsore-Sepsis-Related Harm
Survivors of severe sepsis who were above the age of 60 were found to be over three times more likely to experience significant mental damage after experiencing it. So, even if an elderly individual survives sepsis, they may never be able to return to the life they had before it.
With such significant lasting impacts, it’s relevant to consider ways to intercept sepsis before it reaches lethal stages. The best way to ensure that sepsis does not occur in conjunction with bedsores, is to prevent the occurrence and progression of bedsores.
When visiting nursing home residents, loved ones should make sure the resident is moving regularly and not resting on their bony parts often.
If you or a loved one suspect that your loved one is not being treated well, contact your local department of human services.
The National Department of Health and Human Services site can be found here.
With vigilance and quick responses to potential crisis, the bedsore-sepsis relationship can be interrupted and thousands of residents could benefit.