Roughly 1.5 million elderly adults live in nursing home facilities across the United States, and those adults experience an average of two million infections in nursing homes every year. Infections are associated with higher rates of death, lengthy hospital stays, and high healthcare costs.
While nursing home residents are older and more susceptible to infections, sometimes those conditions are caused by the abuse or neglect by the nursing home staff. If someone else’s behavior caused your loved one’s infection, you have the right to hold the at-fault party responsible.
The team at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm is here to help. We can investigate the details of your case and, if you are eligible, pursue compensation for your family’s injuries. You do not need to worry about how you will pay for our services. We work on a contingency basis and take our fee from the settlement you receive. That means if you get nothing, we get nothing.
We have worked on many cases like yours before and are proud of our results. For a free review of your case, contact Pintas & Mullins Law Firm at (800) 842-6336.
Common Infections in Nursing Homes
There are many common types of nursing home infections, including:
Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) in the Elderly
A urinary tract infection can occur in any part of the urinary system, including the kidneys, bladder, or urethra. While women are generally more susceptible to this type of infection, men are also at risk. These infections can be especially serious if the UTI spreads to your kidneys.
A 2004 nursing home study reported that 5.7% of nursing home residents over the age of 65 had a UTI. Patients who have a catheter are at a heightened risk of infection, especially if the healthcare provider does not take the proper precautions before touching a catheter.
Pneumonia and lower respiratory tract infections are a leading cause of death among nursing home residents. Signs of pneumonia can vary from mild to severe, and include pain when the patient coughs or breathes, confusion or changes in awareness, fever or abnormally low body temperature, or shortness of breath.
Adults over the age of 65 are less likely to develop a fever and more likely to have a low body temperature as a symptom of pneumonia, which can go undetected. Doctors may order blood tests or chest x-rays to diagnose respiratory infections.
Skin and soft tissue infections are common among the elderly. Cellulitis and infected ulcers are the most common. These conditions require accurate and quick diagnosis and treatment to prevent them from becoming life-threatening.
Sexually Transmitted Infections
Though less common, another type of infection that can be a clear indicator of abuse is the appearance of a sexually transmitted infection (STI). STIs are spread through sexual contact and can be the result of nursing home abuse.
For a free consultation with a nursing home abuse or neglect attorney, call Pintas & Mullins Law Firm at (800) 842-6336 today.
Signs of Elder Abuse or Neglect
Here are a few of the more common signs of elder abuse:
The most common signs that your loved one suffered physical abuse are the appearance of wounds, bruises, lacerations, dental problems, and pressure sores. They may also display signs of trauma, such as rocking back and forth.
Some warning signs of sexual abuse can include bruises around the breasts or genital area or torn, stained, or bloody clothing. Unexplained STIs are also another indicator of sexual abuse.
Signs that neglect caused your loved one’s infection include:
- A messy appearance with unwashed hair or dirty clothes
- The presence of bedsores or other preventable conditions
- Signs of depression
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Recoverable Losses from Nursing Home Abuse or Neglect
The nursing facility that provided care for your loved one is liable if abuse or neglect caused them to obtain and suffer from an infection. While we cannot estimate your losses without first examining the details of your case, some common awards include:
- Medical costs like hospital stays, surgical treatments, medication, doctor’s examinations, and other treatments
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Loss of quality of life
If your loved one did not survive the infection, your family may be entitled to awards, including:
- Pain and suffering
- Funeral and burial costs
- Loss of consortium
- Loss of companionship
- Out-of-pocket expenses related to your loved one’s care or death
- Lost wages from time off work providing care for your loved one
Urinary Tract Infections
A urinary tract infection (UTI) is the second most common type of infection seen among aging adults in long-term care facilities, according to a study in The Annals of Long-term Care.
UTIs are caused when microbes and bacteria enter the urinary tract, sometimes through the use of a catheter.
Symptoms of Urinary Tract Infections
The most common symptoms of a UTI for older adults in a nursing home are involved with urination. It’s the sensation to urinate frequently or suddenly, usually accompanied by a burning sensation during urinating, according to Mayo Clinic. There may be pelvic pain, an unusual color or smell in the urine, and possibly blood too.
Getting a UTI in a nursing home can have potentially harmful effects on the person’s health and can lead to long-term physical complications without treatment, like:
- Sepsis, or some form of poisoning
- Urethra shrinking in men
- Kidney damage
- Other types of infections
UTIs can be a painful, potentially deadly health risk for seniors in nursing homes. Here is what you can do to help prevent other seniors from getting UTIs in nursing homes.
Nursing Home Responsibility
Staff workers in nursing homes are responsible for keeping a clean environment. This includes wiping down equipment, disinfecting tools, and ensuring overall cleanliness to avoid bacteria spread among its aging residents.
The type of factors that come into play for the spread of bacteria that causes UTIs in nursing homes are:
- Low fluid intake by a resident.
- Lower immune systems from aging.
- Unclean catheters.
- Physical ailments that block urine flow, like enlarged prostate or kidney stones.
- Poor sanitary conditions, which can lead to microbe growth.
- Already existing medical conditions that can make UTIs worse.
Has your loved one suffered from a UTI in a nursing home environment? If so, there may be negligence involved either from the nursing home owners, management, or staff working with your loved one.
If you have suspicions about how the nursing home resident is being treated (or mistreated), you might want to discuss any possible legal options you might have to straighten out the situation for your loved one.
Issues in a Nursing Home Environment
In a nursing home, a resident’s lack of mobility may be enough to bring about a UTI. The person may need to urinate but is suppressing the urge while waiting for staff to help get the person there. The resident might not be able to communicate verbally that they need to go to the restroom. Another possible reason is a poorly managed staff, which may be involved with passive-aggressive behaviors with residents, and choose not to help.
That’s why the quality of care in a chosen nursing home facility is of the utmost importance. A family must be certain that their loved one will be taken care of through any illness at the nursing home.
In addition, loved ones must place trust in the nursing home staff to keep the environment free of bacteria, germs, and viruses. If the nursing home is overrun with bacteria, UTIs may be the norm rather than the exception.
Family members have the option of seeking legal advice from an attorney if they sense that the nursing home cannot care for their loved one responsibly and ethically. The first step that the family should do is to try to find a better nursing home for the parent. There may also be a state organization where a family can report any signs of resident distress in the nursing home.
Skin infections are, unfortunately, common among nursing home residents. They may occur because of poor hygiene or may develop as a result of bedsores. If you noticed an infection when you went to visit your loved one in a nursing home, it might be a sign of neglect or abuse.
How Seniors in Nursing Homes Can Develop Skin Infections
Senior citizens are generally more susceptible to infections than younger people because elderly individuals have weaker immune systems. That makes maintaining good hygiene particularly important.
Nursing home residents often need help using the bathroom or need to have their diapers changed. They may also require assistance with bathing and changing their clothes. Residents may be completely reliant on staff members to help with those tasks.
If a resident has a wound from a surgery or an accident, it may need to be cleaned, and the dressing may need to be changed several times per day. If that is not done, the individual may develop an infection.
According to the Mayo Clinic, bedsores can form when a person with limited mobility is left in one position for a long time in a bed or a chair. That puts prolonged pressure on parts of the body and can cause the skin to become broken or to be lost completely. Bedsores can be extremely painful and can limit a nursing home patient’s mobility even further. The skin can become infected and septic, which can be life-threatening.
Seniors who are incontinent may also be at risk of developing bedsores because skin exposed to waste is vulnerable. Dehydration and malnutrition can contribute to skin breakdown and make patients susceptible to bedsores.
Failing to meet residents’ hygiene needs and to prevent bedsores are forms of neglect. The National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care cites placing residents’ bodies incorrectly, not changing diapers or assisting them in the bathroom, and not giving them regular baths as examples of neglect.
What Nursing Homes Should Do to Prevent Skin Infections
If a resident requires assistance with toileting, bathing, and other activities of daily living, the nursing home should have a plan in place to make sure those needs are met. Staff members should be properly trained, and managers and employees should make sure the guidelines are followed.
The nursing home should also have procedures in place to prevent bedsores. For example, staff should be required to turn residents to relieve pressure on one area, keep patients’ skin cool and dry, provide motion exercises, and use pillows or mattresses that are designed to prevent bedsores.
Staff members should also routinely inspect residents’ bodies for signs that bedsores may be developing, such as swelling, draining of a fluid, and changes in the firmness, color, or temperature of the skin.
Infections May Be a Sign of Neglect or Abuse
Infections and bedsores are avoidable, but nursing home staff sometimes do not take appropriate actions to prevent them. Understaffing is a common reason.
Many nursing homes do not have enough staff members to care for their residents adequately. Patients may also suffer if staff members are not provided with adequate training on the importance of hygiene, the dangers of bedsores, how they develop, and how they can be prevented. If employees fail to meet residents’ needs and maintain good hygiene because of understaffing, lack of training, or for another reason, that is a form of neglect.
In some cases, infections or bedsores may point to abuse. Staff may deliberately avoid taking steps to keep residents clean and to prevent bedsores and may withhold treatment once a skin infection or bedsore has developed.
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Sexually Transmitted Infections
Under the Nursing Home Reform Act, residents in nursing homes have a right to be free from abuse and neglect, including sexual abuse. Sexual abuse of nursing home residents is more common than many people realize. Elderly residents of long-term care facilities are among the most vulnerable populations because they are often physically incapacitated and unable to protect themselves.
In addition, senior citizens may suffer from Alzheimer’s disease or dementia and may be unable to communicate. They may also be isolated from their families, completely dependent on nursing home staff, and afraid to speak out.
All nursing home residents are potential victims, but female residents and seniors with dementia are most likely to be victims of sexual abuse. An abuser may be a staff member, another resident, or a visitor.
Signs That Your Loved One May Have Been Sexually Abused
The National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care (The Consumer Voice) states that sexual abuse includes improper touching or coercion to perform sexual acts. There are several signs that your loved one may have been abused.
A newly diagnosed sexually transmitted infection (STI) may be a sign that your loved one is a victim of sexual abuse. You may notice that your family member has experienced injuries to the genital area that caused bleeding, irritation, and pain, or you may see bruises on the thighs or in the genital area. Those are signs of possible sexual abuse, according to The Consumer Voice.
You may not see any physical evidence of abuse, but you may notice emotional or behavioral changes. Your family member may avoid a particular resident or caregiver. He or she may be agitated or withdrawn and may suffer from anxiety, panic attacks, or symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.
Your loved one may experience sleep disturbances and nightmares. In some cases, victims of sexual abuse attempt suicide.
What Nursing Homes Should Do to Protect Residents from Sexual Abuse
Nursing homes are required to have policies in place to prevent abuse and procedures to investigate reported or suspected abuse. They are required to train staff on definitions of abuse and procedures for reporting suspected abuse. Nursing homes are also prohibited from hiring employees who have been convicted or disciplined for abuse.
How an Attorney May Be Able to Help Your Family Seek Justice
If your loved one has been diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection or you have other reasons to suspect sexual abuse, Pintas & Mullins Law Firm may be able to help your family seek justice. Since 1985, we have represented clients across the United States who suffered abuse and neglect in long-term care facilities.
Our team can investigate to find out who was responsible for the abuse. We may interview your loved one if he or she is able to communicate and explain what happened.
We may also review medical records related to the STI and any other signs of possible abuse. We may speak to you about your observations related to conditions at the nursing home, your loved one’s behavior, and any changes that you believe may be signs of abuse.
We may review the facility’s personnel records to find out if it conducted thorough background checks before hiring employees or if it knowingly hired someone with a history of abuse.
Our team can investigate whether the nursing home provided appropriate training for staff. We can find out if the facility was understaffed and if that contributed to the abuse or allowed it to continue undetected. We can investigate to learn whether managers failed to take measures to protect residents, covered up an allegation, or failed to investigate suspected abuse to protect employees or the nursing home’s image.
If we find that the nursing home acted negligently and that your loved one suffered sexual abuse, we may file a personal injury lawsuit against the facility. We can work to obtain a financial settlement as compensation for your loved one’s suffering and hold the nursing home accountable.
How a Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect Attorney Can Help
Our team is here to help you through the process of filing a claim from start to finish. We will investigate to determine what happened and how your loved one got the infection. During our investigation, we will gather evidence like witness statements, medical records, and video surveillance if it is available. We will also use medical records, bills, receipts, and other documents to calculate your total financial losses.
If we find the nursing home is responsible for your losses because of abuse or neglect, we will build a strong case to pursue compensation to the fullest extent of your family’s injuries. If we cannot reach an agreeable settlement, we will take your case to trial to pursue fair compensation. For a free evaluation of your case or to learn what options you have for recovering compensation, contact Pintas & Mullins Law Firm at (800) 842-6336.