According to the Nursing Home Abuse Center, there are more than 16,000 nursing home facilities in the United States, with more than 1.5 million Americans residing in those facilities. It is expected that there will be as many as 5.3 million Americans in nursing homes by the year 2030. Approximately 88 percent of these individuals are over the age of 65, and about 45 percent are over the age of 85. Since this is already a very vulnerable population, it is almost untenable that as many as two million infections occur in the United States nursing home facilities each year. There are a number of risk factors that could facilitate infection among the elderly population, including:
- Being recently released from the hospital
- Functional impairments
- Having a number of co-existing illnesses
- Having a feeding tube
- Having an indwelling device
- Overuse of antibiotics
- Older age
- Long-term institutionalism
- Presence of antibiotic-resistant organisms in the nursing home
Nursing home residents who come from hospitals or are transferred from one nursing home to another could potentially serve as carriers of a disease, introducing resistant organisms in their new residence to others. Because of this, nursing homes should have strict protocols in place for cleanliness to avoid serious infections among their residents. If your loved one developed a serious infection while in a nursing home that caused grave illness or even death, the Finn Law Offices can help. We understand what a difficult time this is and believe we can help you through it in the smoothest way possible.
What Infections are Most Common in Nursing Homes?
The infections most likely to occur in a nursing home include the following:
- Skin infections—The elderly who reside in nursing homes are particularly apt to be diagnosed with skin infections and soft tissue infections. Wounds can take a very long time to heal, and dry skin can serve as an entry point for bacteria. Some of the more common types of nursing home skin infections include intertrigo, herpes zoster, scabies, herpes simplex, cellulitis, necrotizing fasciitis, infected pressure ulcers, diabetic wound infections, and vascular ulcers.
- Sepsis—According to the Nursing Home Abuse Center, sepsis is the most common reason nursing home residents are transferred to a hospital. As many as 25,000 nursing home residents die each year as a result of sepsis, and as many as a third of all patients who develop sepsis do not survive. In most cases, sepsis could be prevented if the standards of care are carefully followed.
- E Coli—According to Web MD, multidrug-resistant bacteria, like E.coli, can be found in more than a quarter of those living in nursing homes
- Respiratory infections—Pneumonia and related lower respiratory tract infections are the leading cause of death among nursing home residents. There are as many as 3 episodes of pneumonia per 1,000 resident care days. Residents who have feeding tubes carry the highest risk of pneumonia. Among all those hospitalized because of pneumonia, about 18 percent are nursing home residents. Unfortunately, the elderly may have some atypical symptoms that can challenge the diagnosis of pneumonia while in a nursing home.
- MRSA—MRSA represents a serious health risk among those in nursing homes. MRSA is a dangerous bacterial infection that resists traditional treatments, therefore, can develop
- Hepatitis A—Hepatitis A is a largely preventable disease, however, when proper sanitation methods are not adhered to, the harmful effects can spread quickly from one resident to other residents, visitors, and staff members.
- Influenza—Outbreaks of the seasonal flu are very common among nursing home residents. Even staff members and residents who get flu shots may still get the disease, although it is a good idea for all staff members and residents to get flu shots every year. COVID-19 has shown just how virulent a flu outbreak can be in a nursing home where many residents have compromised immune systems.
- Gastroenteritis—Bacterial and viral gastroenteritis causes almost every attack of diarrhea in a nursing home environment. Since older adults produce much less gastric acid, they have a greatly enhanced risk of developing infectious gastroenteritis. While gastroenteritis on its own is not overly risky, the dehydration which often accompanies it is very dangerous for the elderly. Norovirus is a common—yet very contagious—cause of gastroenteritis in nursing homes; the CDC reports that more than a third of all norovirus outbreaks begin in nursing homes.
- Urinary tract infections—Urinary tract infections are among the most common infection in the nursing home. Indwelling catheters increase the risk of bladder infections and bacterial sepsis from urinary tract organisms. At least 3-7 percent of nursing home residents who have an indwelling catheter will get a UTI with each day the catheter is in place. By the time residents have had a catheter for 30 days, almost 100 percent of them will have bacteria in their urine.
How Nursing Homes Can Reduce Infections Among Residents
Nursing homes must take the following precautions to limit the spread of infection among vulnerable residents:
- Nursing home staff must carefully monitor patients with respiratory infections, looking for signs of bronchitis or pneumonia.
- Nursing home staff must move bedridden patients on a regular basis to ensure the patients do not develop bedsores or pressure ulcers.
- Nursing home staff must make sure all medical equipment, including catheters and IV needles, are carefully sterilized.
- Nursing home staff must always, without exception, follow accepted medical standards when administering a vaccine, taking blood, or giving a medication that penetrates the skin.
- Nursing home staff must always ensure that residents who are diagnosed with an infection take their complete course of antibiotics.
- The environment of the nursing home must always be clean and hygienic, including bedding, clothing, towels, and bathrooms.
Getting the Help You Need from the Finn Law Firm
When your loved one is in a nursing home, you are trusting that the nursing home staff will take every precaution to avoid infection. In many cases, infections that run rampant in a nursing home are due to negligence on the part of the facility—the facility that has a duty to care for your loved one properly. Attorney Larry Finn can help you when you find that your loved one has developed a preventable infection that can be life-threatening. You need solid, experienced legal assistance, and the Finn Law Firm will provide that for you and your loved one. Contact the Finn law Firm today.