Infections are far too common in nursing homes, and elderly residents are particularly vulnerable to infection. Estimates suggest that millions of infections occur in nursing homes every year, and they are a major cause of hospitalizations and even death. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at www.cdc.gov/longtermcare/). Nursing homes have a responsibility to provide care in a manner that minimizes the development and spread of infection. Additionally, caregivers need to be trained to recognize the symptoms of infections so that they can provide treatment as soon as possible because, if left untreated, infections can have devastating effects.
Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)
Here at Jehl Law Group, we frequently hear complaints about UTIs. When nursing homes are understaffed or have irresponsible staff, residents’ diapers may go unchanged for hours on end, or residents with catheters may not receive proper catheter care. In addition to the loss of dignity when caregivers allow these conditions to occur, laying in urine or feces increases the risk of UTIs. Likewise, when facilities fail to provide proper hydration to their residents, it increases the likelihood of UTIs. If these infections are not timely treated, they can lead to other problems like falls, sepsis, and even death.
Symptoms of UTIs include:
- Confusion/Altered Mental Status
- Decreased Consciousness/Lethargy
- Loss of appetite
To help prevent UTIs, nursing homes should provide proper care by cleaning residents who are incontinent (unable to control their bowels or bladder), assisting residents who need help using the restroom, and providing proper hydration and catheter care. It is also important for a nursing home to timely assess residents so if there is an infection, it can be timely treated. If you believe you or a loved one has been neglected and contracted a UTI as a result, feel free to contact us.
Pneumonia causes inflammation in the lungs and can be deadly to elderly nursing home residents who have underlying conditions. Nursing home staff should be trained to recognize the warning signs and symptoms to prevent a catastrophic outcome for a resident with pneumonia. Those symptoms include:
- Cough with the possibility of coughing up mucus or blood
- Chest pains
- Shortness of breath
- Fatigue or weakness
- Audible crackles and rales
- Lack of appetite
Aspiration pneumonia or aspiration pneumonitis occur when foreign materials, such as food, vomit, liquids, or secretions, are inhaled into the lungs. They have similar symptoms to the above and are often the result of a choking incident. The risk of aspiration can increase if the nursing home staff fails to provide a diet with the proper consistency, such as a mechanical, soft, or pureed diet. Furthermore, if staff fails to raise the head of the bed during meals or if staff leaves a resident with swallowing difficulties alone during meals, it can also increase the risk of aspiration.
If you believe you or a loved one contracted pneumonia or aspirated due to nursing home neglect, do not hesitate to contact Jehl Law Group.
Other Infections in Nursing Homes
- Upper Respiratory Infections (URIs): Whereas pneumonia causes inflammation in the lungs, URIs affect the other parts of the respiratory system, such as the nose, throat, and windpipe. URIs include the common cold, sinus infections, laryngitis, pharyngitis, bronchitis, and the flu. If left untreated, URIs can cause serious complications and lead to pneumonia and other life-threatening conditions.
- Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and Vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus (VRE): Sometimes called super bugs, these infections are resistant to treatment with normal antibiotics. They are spread in nursing homes when caregivers fail to wash their hands or properly implement procedures to prevent the spread of infection. Without proper treatment, these super bugs can spread throughout the body and become life-threatening.
- Sepsis: Often referred to as an infection of the blood, sepsis occurs when an infection is left untreated and allowed to spread throughout the body. In trying to fight off the infection, the body can actually injure itself. If left untreated, sepsis progresses and can cause septic shock, which is deadly.
- Osteomyelitis: An infection of the bone, osteomyelitis can have serious consequences and may require the amputation of a bone. It can occur when pressure sores develop and become so deep that the bone is exposed.
- Clostridium difficile (C. diff): C. diff may be caused by the treatment for many other infections—antibiotics. It’s most notable symptom is diarrhea. If proper hygienic measures are not taken to contain the infection, it can spread rapidly in a nursing home. Because of the diarrhea, C. diff can cause dehydration or malnutrition if caregivers do not take proper measures to ensure proper hydration and nutrition. Colitis, which is inflammation of the colon, is a common complication of C. diff that is not timely assessed or treated.