Sepsis and Home Care

If you are receiving home health care (also called home health services), this means that you need some medical care, but not enough to be admitted to a hospital or skilled nursing facility.

There are several advantages to receiving home care, such as you:

  • Aren’t exposed to the microbes (germs) that may circulate in the facility.
  • Have less frequent person-to-person contact with staff, volunteers, and others patients who could expose you to an infection.
  • Are in a familiar and more comfortable environment.

However, there is still a risk that you could contract an infection while you are receiving home care. Any type of infection could cause sepsis. If you are a caregiver to someone receiving home care, this information is important for you as well. Sepsis, which was often called blood poisoning, is the body’s life-threatening response to infection. Like strokes or heart attacks, sepsis is a medical emergency that requires rapid diagnosis and treatment.

Suggested Citation:
Sepsis Alliance. Sepsis and Home Care. 2023. https://www.sepsis.org/sepsisand/home-care/

Updated October 25, 2023.

 

More About Home Care

Infection Risks

When people receive home care, it is because they are ill, injured, or unable to care for themselves without help. Some of those people may be at increased risk of infection because they:

  • Are very old; the immune system becomes less robust as people age.
  • Are recovering from invasive medical or surgical procedures, or childbirth; open wounds are a source for infection.
  • Have an invasive medical device, such as a urinary catheter or intravenous; breaks in the skin or entries into the body can allow bacteria to enter.
  • Have one or more chronic illnesses, such as diabetes or COPD; people with chronic illnesses may get infections more easily.
  • Have a weakened immune system; a weakened immune system makes it harder to fight infections.
  • Are immobile; staying in one place for extended periods can increase the risk of pressure injuries (ulcers). It can also contribute to pneumonia because deep breathing and exercising helps the lungs expand and air flows more easily.
  • Are malnourished; the body requires nutrients to stay strong and to keep the immune system healthy.
Infection Prevention

Infection prevention is sepsis prevention. There are some simple steps to follow that will help decrease your risk of getting an infection while you are receiving home care.

  • Ask everyone, including the healthcare providers, who enters your home to wash their hands thoroughly with soap and water.
  • Wash your own hands frequently, especially before touching a wound, dressing, IV, or catheter, even if you will be wearing gloves.
  • Ensure there is a clean space to keep dressing or treatment supplies and ensure that the dressing changes are done in a clean environment.
  • Eat a healthy diet.
  • Get all recommended vaccines.
  • Move about as much as you can.
  • Take all medications, including antibiotics, for the recommended length of time as prescribed.
  • Don’t share personal items, such as towel, razors, and toothbrushes to reduce the spread of germs.

If you are the caregiver of someone receiving home care:

  • If the person is incontinent of urine or stool, ensure frequent changes of their briefs or pads. Clean the skin well, but gently. Report any redness or signs of the skin breaking down in the genital area to the home health provider.
  • If the person unable to move about on their own, they need regular positioning from side to back to side so they are not staying too long in one spot. This will reduce the risk of pressure injuries (ulcers or bed sores) from forming. Inspect the skin regularly, especially the hips, coccyx (backside), and elbows. These are the areas that break down most easily.

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