Life After Sepsis Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

My mom was always very sharp mentally but after she had sepsis, she became much more forgetful and we worry about her living alone in her home. Is this normal?

Several people have written to Sepsis Alliance describing problems like memory loss, inability to concentrate, and difficulty performing mental tasks that used to be easy for them. Many have asked us if this is normal or if they will get their memory back and we have to tell them that we don’t know. It does seem, however, that the older you are when you get sepsis, the higher the risk of there being a problem with your memory afterward.

According to a study, “Long-term Cognitive Impairment and Functional Disability Among Survivors of Severe Sepsis,” published in October 2010 in JAMA, “Severe sepsis in this older population was independently associated with substantial and persistent new cognitive impairment and functional disability among survivors. The magnitude of these new deficits was large, likely resulting in a pivotal downturn in patients’ ability to live independently.”

The researchers looked at patients who were a mean age of 77 years old. The pateints were tracked over the following five years or so, depending on the patient. The results showed that, compared to patients who did not have sepsis, those who had severe sepsis were three times more likely to have moderate to severe problems with their thinking and memory and one and a half times more likely to be limited in performing everyday tasks.