Nursing Home Infections

Nursing Home Patient in Hospital Bed

Most nursing home residents are admitted for care due to reductions in their functional or mental capacity. The more functional limitations a resident has the more likely they are to contract an infection.

 

Nursing Home Patient in Hospital BedInfections are a common cause of death in nursing homes. Every year between 1.5 million and 3.5 million nursing home residents contract an infection. That comes to roughly 1 to 2 infections each year for every nursing home resident. It is estimated that infections kill over 350,000 people every year. 50% of all hospital admissions by nursing home residents are the result of infections.

The elderly population in general is prone to contracting infections. There are many factors that make them prone to infections including, but not limited to, the following:

  • Natural decline in immune-system health;
  • Other conditions like diabetes, cancer, peripheral vascular disease, asthma, COPD;
  • Protein deficiency tied to malnutrition;
  • Thin skin and reduced mobility resulting in pressure sores and bedsores;
  • Antibiotic medication use which make make the elder more susceptible to getting an infection;
  • Dehydration;
  • Decreased mobility;
  • Open flesh wounds and pressure sores, bedsores;
  • Recent urinary catheter use; and
  • Recent feeding tube use.

Why Nursing Home Patients Are Vulnerable to Infections

Most nursing home residents are admitted for care due to reductions in their functional or mental capacity. The more functional limitations a resident has the more likely they are to contract an infection.

Also, nursing homes are not best equipped to diagnose and treat infections. Nursing homes are not equipped with microbiology laboratories that are needed to formally diagnose infections. However, almost every nursing home has the ability to take blood samples from residents and have them tested. Residents with infections will have an elevated white blood cell count. Nursing home residents with high white blood cells counts and other symptoms of infections need to be transferred to an area hospital for more thorough diagnostic testing that might include additional blood work, CT scans, or Xrays.

Many nursing homes do not have adequate infection-control programs simply because they are nursing homes. Infections flourish in cramped living conditions where communal dinning, shared food preparation, shared medical treatment and poor hygiene combine to create an environment that allows bacteria and viruses to thrive and easily transfer from resident to resident.

Nursing home residents are all breathing the same air and receiving the same medical treatment. They are also likely long-term residents living in these conditions for years at a time. All these factor combine to make the spreading of infections a common occurrence in nursing homes.

Common Nursing Home Infections Include

Nursing Home Infection Control Programs

Nursing homes must devise and implement effective infection control programs. An infection control program should be overseen by the nursing medical director, nursing home administrator and director of nursing. They need to be familiar with state and federal laws and need to put policies in place to deal with the following infection related issues: infection isolation procedures; infection recognition, monitoring and reporting; immunization and vaccine programs. The infection control system must both prevent and treat infections.

Federal Regulation 441 states that nursing homes must have an infection control program that is “effective for investigating, controlling and preventing infections.” Nursing homes must also “establish  and maintain an infection control program designed to provide a safe, sanitary, and comfortable environment and to help prevent the development and transmission of disease and infection.”

Federal laws also require nursing home to maintain records documenting every infection including who was infected, the type of infection and cause of infection. They also need to document all the actions and steps the nursing home took to address/treat the infection and prevent the spread of the infection.

Delayed Diagnosis of Infections

Nursing home patients that have an infection often times exhibit a change in their mental status, have reduced physical functions and other symptoms like recent falls, incontinence, irritability or loss of appetite. 1 out of every 3 nursing home patients with an infection will not have a fever. Nursing staff must never rule-out an infection just because the resident does not have a fever.

An elevated white blood cell count is a sign of an infection. Nursing homes have the ability to take blood samples from residents and have them tested to determine the white blood cell count. Nursing home residents with high white blood cells counts and other symptoms of infections need to be transferred to an area hospital in a timely manner for more thorough diagnostic testing and proper infection treatment.

Nurses are the physician’s eyes and ears. They are around the residents all the time and are in the best position to notice symptoms of infections developing in patients. Nurses are responsible for reporting the signs of infection they observe to the nursing home physician who then investigates and provides treatment. In certain cases a delayed infection diagnoses of a few hours or days could be too long and might result in an avoidable death.

Massachusetts Personal Injury Attorneys for Nursing Home Infections Due to Caregiver Neglect or Abuse

If you believe your loved one suffered an infection as a result of negligence or carelessness by a nursing home staff member, medical professional, or caregiver, you may be entitled to seek compensation for your loved one.  To find out, contact our experienced nursing home neglect lawyers today for a free consultation.

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We offer a free, no-obligation legal consultation to help you understand your rights and the value of your case. Our personal injury law firm takes cases involving elder abuse and neglect. We offer legal service to clients in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New Hampshire.

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