Can a urinary tract infection lead to death?
Nursing Home Abuse

Yes. If left untreated, a urinary tract infection (UTI) can lead to death. UTIs may lead to a form of  sepsis called urosepsis. The mortality rate of severe sepsis is between 20%-40%.

Infections are a major cause of hospitalization and death in nursing homes. Nearly 380,000 people die of the infections in nursing homes every year.

A urinary tract infection is caused when bacteria enter the urethra and infect the bladder or kidneys. The bacteria then multiply in the urine, and an infection develops. If the infection spreads into the bloodstream, then it can cause fatal problems like acute or chronic kidney failure.

The risk of death from urinary tract infection is especially high in elderly people, which is why nursing homes are required to take steps to prevent UTIs. When a nursing home resident develops a UTI, he or she should receive treatment for the infection as soon as possible.

Schenk Firm UTI

Can you sue a nursing home for UTI death?

Yes. Residents and their families may have a claim against the nursing home if the UTI was avoidable.

But what does avoidable mean? Whether a UTI is avoidable entirely depends on the nursing home’s actions.

Federal and Georgia regulations require that nursing homes do the following:

  • Conduct a UTI risk assessment. This includes a review of medications, clinical diagnosis, and physical abilities.
  • Create a Care Plan. The care plan must include specific action items to reduce UTI infections.
  • Update the Care Plan. The nursing home must consistently monitor and update the care plan.

So, a UTI is avoidable if the nursing home fails to take any of the three steps above.

When the UTI is avoidable, the resident’s family can make several claims against the nursing home. Recovery in a nursing home UTI lawsuit may be for medical bills, pain and suffering, and if applicable, wrongful death.

Nursing home UTI prevention

How to prevent urinary tract infections in nursing homes

Nursing homes are required by Georgia law to have UTI prevention measures. Preventions measures must be specific to each resident’s needs and include:

  • Rounding: Nursing home staff should develop schedules based on a resident’s toileting and sleeping patterns. This helps reduce instances of incontinent episodes.
  • Catheter Care: Catheters drastically increase UTI risk. Nursing homes must obey physician’s orders regarding the drainage, replacement, and maintenance of catheters.
  • Hygiene: Staff should use normal practices when cleaning residents or providing incontinent care. Rubber gloves, disinfectant, and clean linens are imperative not just for infection control, but for the resident’s dignity.
  • Infection Control: The nursing home must employ infection control policies for every staff member.
483.25(d) UTI

Federal regulations, including this one, require nursing homes to take reasonable steps to prevent UTIs.

Urinary Tract Infection Lawsuit

Nursing home UTI lawsuit defendants

In a lawsuit against a nursing home for UTI death, there may be many defendants, including the facility’s owners and corporate office.

There are two basic requirements to suing a nursing home for a UTI:

  • Did the nursing fail take steps to prevent the UTI, or fail observe the UTI in a timely manner (“negligence”)?
  • Did those actions cause the UTI and resulting complications (“causation”)?

In order to be successful in your case, you need sufficient evidence of both negligence and causation.

Why isn’t enough to show the nursing home’s negligence?

Because of the nature of a UTI, there could be many, many, causes other than or in addition to the nursing home’s negligence. The nursing home’s bad act must have actually caused the UTI to the reasonable exclusion of other causes.

How is causation proved in a nursing home UTI case?

Proving causation can often be the most expensive and difficult portion of a UTI case. Often, medical experts, analysis of labs and cultures, and cataloging medical records is required. At the end of the day, a witness must testify under oath, to a reasonable degree of medical certainty, that the UTI is a result of the nursing home’s actions, not the resident’s age, health, or other factor.

Nursing home negligence UTI

Not every urinary tract infection in a nursing home is avoidable. A nursing home is liable only where negligence leads to a UTI and serious injury.

Most often, a UTI lawsuit is the result of negligent behavior, not abuse.

  • “Neglect” is the failure of the nursing home, including all employees and service providers, to provide services to a resident that are necessary to avoid physical harm, pain, mental anguish, or emotional distress. 42 U.S.C. 483.5.
  • “Abuse” is the willful infliction of injury, unreasonable confinement, intimidation, or punishment with resulting physical harm, pain or mental anguish. “Willful” means the individual must have acted deliberately. 42 U.S.C. 483.5.

Nursing home negligence that leads to a UTI may allow the resident’s family to sue the nursing home.

Who brings claim against the nursing home for a UTI death?

If a resident dies from a UTI in a nursing home, then there are potentially two claims that can be made. One is for personal injury that is brought by the resident’s Estate. The other is for wrongful death. The  Georgia Wrongful Death Act determines who brings the claim and who shares in the recovery.

The following situations outline who can bring the claim for wrongful death and who can share in the recovery.

  • Surviving Spouse and No Surviving Children: If there is only a surviving spouse (no surviving children), then the spouse receives all of the recovery.
  • Surviving Spouse and Children: If there is a surviving spouse and children, recovery is shared equally. But, the surviving spouse cannot receive less than one-third, regardless of the number of children.
  • Surviving Children and No Surviving Spouse: If there is no surviving spouse, the surviving children share the recovery equally. But, only children that survive the resident recover. No recovery “flows through” a predeceased child of the resident (i.e., a resident’s grandchild would not recover through a predeceased child of the resident).
  • Estate: If there are no surviving spouse or children, then the Estate takes all of the recovery.

Remember, the above is only for the wrongful death claims, not any other applicable claims (i.e., personal injury or for the Nursing Home Bill of Rights).

What causes UTIs in nursing homes?

A UTI is caused when bacteria enter the urethra and infect the bladder or kidneys. Over 20% of infections in nursing homes come from the urinary tract. Risk factors for developing UTIs in nursing homes include the following:

  • In-dwelling Catheter: Catheters substantially increase the risk of UTIs.
  • Diabetes: Residents with uncontrolled diabetes have twice the risk of getting a UTI.
  • Age: Post-menopausal women are more at risk due to a decreased level of estrogen. Recent research shows that estrogen triggers creation of antimicrobial proteins.
  • Medications: Some medications cause the resident to retain urine, which breeds bacteria. Such medications include antihistamines, antipsychotic drugs, decongestants, and anticholinergic drugs.
  • Hygiene: Lack of proper hygiene can play a major factor in UTI development.
  • Kidney Stones: Bacteria can develop around a stone while present in the urinary tract.

Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)

If your loved one developed an infection at a nursing home or assisted living facility, and you are wondering if you have a claim, please feel free to call and speak to one of our experienced Georgia nursing home abuse lawyers today. Our consultations are always free. If you would like more information about this topic, be sure to click on our other videos, or better yet, click the subscribe button to subscribe to our YouTube channel. Thank you.