Infections such as urinary tract infections (UTIs), pneumonia, soft tissue infections, skin infections, gastroenteritis, and other respiratory infections can spread in nursing homes and infect the residents due to a lack of hygiene, poor prevention and management, and the close quarters of the nursing home residents. However, sexually transmitted diseases are also a growing occurrence among residents of nursing homes and pose a considerable risk to nursing home residents’ health.
Types of Nursing Home Infections
Nursing homes are small communities of elderly people, many of whom have weakened immune systems. The possibility of illnesses, diseases, and medical conditions that can cause an infection is higher than the general population. With a population susceptible to infections in a closed environment, the opportunity for the spread of infection is substantial. Some types of nursing home infections include the following:
Lower respiratory diseases and pneumonia are common infections in the elderly, and one of the leading causes of death among nursing home residents. In fact, nursing home residents account for up to 18% of all hospitalizations in the United States for pneumonia. Some elderly patients do not develop typical pneumonia symptoms such as a high fever, chills, muscle pain, or pleuritic chest pain, and therefore, can remain undiagnosed for a considerable length of time. Nursing home staff members should be extremely vigilant regarding the development of pneumonia for all residents, since it can be easily spread.
Urinary Tract Infections
Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are common infections in nursing homes. Due to the increase of catheter use, more bacteria may enter the urinary tract and cause bladder infections or bacterial sepsis. UTIs in older adults residing in long-term care facilities occur at an abnormally high rate.
Gastrointestinal infections that cause vomiting and diarrhea can spread through nursing homes quickly and cause serious infections leading to severe injuries and death. Elderly residents often do not have as much gastric acid production and are at a greater risk of developing these diseases, since they have less of a chance to combat them when they begin to spread. Dehydration due to gastrointestinal diseases can cause hospitalizations and death.
Skin and Soft Tissue Infections
As nursing home residents age, their skin becomes thinner as a result. Due to the atrophy of the dermis and epidermis, there is a decreased ability to fight off any skin infections and heal when they occur. Chronic wound infections are common in nursing homes, along with diabetic wound infections, herpes zoster, scabies, herpes simplex, cellulitis, necrotizing fasciitis, and other skin infections. These infections can become so serious that they lead to bone, skin, and blood infections that can result in death.
Sexually Transmitted Diseases
While our loved ones may be elderly, they are still human, and the occurrence of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) among nursing home residents in the United States is on the rise. Three factors contribute to this increase in STDs in nursing homes: belief that STDs are not possible, a belief that pregnancy is not possible, and the introduction of medications such as Cialis and Viagra.
The real issue is that many residents believe that they are not vulnerable to infections that are sexually transmitted. These residents may have lived in a culture that simply did not experience a rise of STDs, and therefore, they may not be as educated or informed about their ability to contract these infections.
What Nursing Homes Should Do to Prevent Infections
Nursing homes have a responsibility to ensure that their residents are safe from the spread of infections. In order to prevent the spread of infections, nursing home staff members should follow these steps:
- Keep the entire nursing home as clean and sanitary as possible.
- Make sure to keep anyone with a communicable infection away from other residents.
- Watch carefully for signs of pneumonia and contact emergency services or a doctor if any patient begins to develop respiratory infection symptoms.
- Ensure the maintenance and cleanliness of catheters to prevent infections.
- Monitor the skin of residents and bandage wounds to prevent possible infections.
- Keep any resident with an infectious condition away from common areas.
- Monitor residents for sexual activity and discuss consequences, such as STDs, with them.
Contact a Nursing Home Lawyer
If you believe your loved one contracted an infection due to the negligence of a nursing home, visit with one of our nursing home lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm. Please call us at (800) 614-4857 to help you determine your legal rights. We do not avoid difficult cases, and you pay unless we win.