Poor Hygiene in Nursing Homes

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Not only can poor hygiene be a sign of nursing home abuse or neglect, but it can also spread germs and infection. The immune systems of elderly people are not able to fight off germs as well as they used to. Because of this, residents are always vulnerable to disease and infection; should they come into contact with pathogens, they could suffer serious medication conditions that could could lead to fatal illness. Diligent and competent nursing homes know this, and take all measures to ensure germs do not spread. If your loved one is a victim of poor hygiene in a nursing home, call our Illinois nursing home abuse attorneys. We represent clients in all 50 states and will travel to meet you!

Understaffing Can Lead to Poor Hygiene

Residents require assistance with many everyday tasks, such:

  • Changing clothes
  • Going to the restroom
  • Changing bandages
  • Changing diapers
  • Taking a shower

Unfortunately, poor hygiene can be a direct result of improperly trained or understaffed nursing home employees. When there is not enough staff to assist residents with basic tasks, or when these tasks are not performed properly, residents can be left in a less than hygienic state; for example, they may stay in the same dirty clothes or bedding for days, not be bathed, or not have their wounds cleaned.

In addition to the care of the patient, nursing home employees should also keep the premises itself clean. For example, bathrooms, dining areas, kitchens, and bedrooms should be cleaned regularly to avoid any potential problems with infection or viruses. If they are not sanitized properly, disease can spread quickly to residents.

Effects of Poor Hygiene

One important factor of your health revolves around maintaining proper hygiene. Practicing proper hygiene can improve your health in many ways, while poor hygiene can cause a variety of diseases and ailments. Good hygiene practices include behaviors that support the cleanliness of your hair, teeth, hands, eyes, and other parts of your body. Understanding the effects and diseases caused by poor hygiene and how you can prevent them may keep you healthier, happier, and may even save you money on medical bills. According to the Nursing Homes Reform Act, nursing homes must observe a standard of care for each patient that includes maintaining their personal hygiene.

Conditions and Diseases Caused by Poor Hygiene

Poor hygiene can negatively impact your health in several ways. Sometimes acute conditions emerge as the result of poor hygiene, while long-term diseases and chronic ailments may manifest themselves in the lives of individuals who depend on a caregiver for assistance with personal hygiene, such as nursing home residents. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that the effects of bad hygiene may include:

  • Lice: Lice may infest the scalp, pubic area, or other parts of the body with ample hair growth.
  • Scabies: A small mite that can infect the skin, causing a rash and discomfort.
  • Tooth decay: This can occur from improper dental hygiene and can result in painful and expensive dental care.
  • Diarrhea: Bacteria and viruses can cause diarrhea, which can lead to life-threatening dehydration if someone does not properly address it.
  • Water Illnesses: A variety of illnesses caused by exposure to or ingestion of unpurified water sources that may contain foreign bacteria or chemicals.

These only represent a few of the many potential diseases and conditions caused by poor hygiene. If you or someone you love lives in an environment maintained by other people, or if they depend on caregivers in their everyday life, make sure caregivers closely monitor their hygiene to avoid the negative effects of poor hygiene.

Healthy Behaviors That Support Good Personal Hygiene

According to research from “Hand hygiene: Back to the Basics of Infection Control”, one of the best things caregivers can do to support healthy hygiene involves frequently washing their hands. Washing your hands for at least 20 seconds can help kill germs that may otherwise spread to parts of the body and trigger infection or disease.

Bathing regularly and effectively also offers a good way to avoid poor hygiene. If someone else assists your loved one with their daily needs, they should bathe them properly and often. Brushing a resident’s teeth and flossing regularly also falls within the responsibilities of a caregiver in a nursing home. Failure to perform any of the regular, daily hygiene practices for residents can prove detrimental to their health. Always do your best to protect your hygiene, and if your loved one resides in a facility like a nursing home where others maintain the premises, report any breaches of protocol that could affect your health or the health of a loved one.

Poor Hygiene Proper Sanitation

Practicing behavior that supports proper sanitation is critical to your health and hygiene and can prevent a variety of health conditions and diseases. If your loved one depends on others in some way, or if they live in a facility like a nursing home, you want to make sure the caregivers and staff practice proper sanitation in accordance with the standard of care as outlined in the Nursing Home Reform Act. If caregivers do not provide a clean environment and a medical issue results from their negligence, you may qualify to take legal action. The more you understand how sanitation and hygiene affect your health may help you notice any red flags in your loved one’s health.

The Importance of Proper Sanitation and Good Hygiene

Sometimes the importance of hygiene occurs as an afterthought in the discussion of health; however, taking appropriate sanitary measures to maintain hygiene can save your life. Poor hygiene and insanitary spaces can cause disease and infections that prove fatal in severe cases. Though nursing homes have a high standard of care, some fall below it when it comes to sanitation and hygiene, according to The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Not everyone lives in a fully independent environment. Perhaps your loved one relies on others to assist them with their daily routine. Behavioral techniques you can implement to help ensure a sanitary environment include washing your hands, proper bathing techniques, dental care, frequent cleaning, and mindfulness of spreading germs in public spaces. These responsibilities shift when an elderly person can no longer care for themselves. A nursing home bears the responsibility to maintain the premises of a facility, for example. More specifically, the trained staff and overseeing administration bear responsibility for maintaining a sanitary environment and looking after residents’ hygiene.

If you feel like a loved one’s health remains in jeopardy because of another party failing to provide a safe and clean environment, report your concerns immediately and consider removing your loved one from the facility. You also have a right to seek legal representation to pursue a negligent party for losses, such as medical bills.

Diseases and Health Issues Cased by Poor Hygiene and Sanitation

The diseases and health conditions caused by a lack of sanitation vary greatly in severity, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In minor cases, an acute and mild infection or rash may occur. More serious cases include life-threatening infections or ongoing health issues that can affect your life for a long time. Some diseases and ailments caused by failure to provide proper sanitation include:

  • Tooth decay
  • Cavities
  • Gum Disease
  • Bacterial and Viral Infections
  • Food Poisoning
  • Rashes
  • Mites, Lice, Scabies, Pinworms, Ringworm
  • Diarrhea
  • Trachoma

Dealing with an elderly loved one’s medical issues can cause you stress and can financially tax your family. If you feel like your loved one suffered because someone else failed to provide proper sanitation in an assisted living facility, you may qualify to take legal action.

Poor Hygiene Signs

If your aging loved one has not received proper hygiene care, such as oral or physical hygiene, in a nursing home facility, this could indicate a larger problem with their care. Signs of poor hygiene in a nursing facility could indicate elder abuse or neglect.

If you notice that a loved one living in a nursing home or receiving home health care shows the signs of poor hygiene, the situation warrants further investigation. It could mean a loved one is not receiving the level of care that they need. It is important to follow up with all health care providers to ensure that they address the signs of poor hygiene as quickly as possible.

Signs of Poor Hygiene

Many signs can indicate that someone has poor hygiene. While some of these could indicate a temporary problem, such as bad breath after a meal, a person displaying several of these signs for an extended time period likely has poor hygiene. Some of these signs include:

  • Unbrushed or greasy hair
  • Body odor
  • Soiled clothes, bedsheets, or diapers
  • Bad breath
  • Tooth decay
  • Skin issues
  • Dirty nails

The Aging Health

journal also notes that frequent infections can be a sign of poor hygiene. If you know someone in a nursing home or memory care facility that is exhibiting these signs or does not seem to be getting the personal hygiene care they need, this could be a sign of neglect or elder abuse. Often, a person’s external appearance can provide some indication of their level of care.

Poor Hygiene and Mental Health

Researchers and medical professionals have long recognized the impact of mental health on hygiene. Patients that exhibit signs of poor hygiene could be suffering from a mental illness as a result of a disease like Alzheimer’s or dementia.

Depression can also cause someone to experience a period of poor hygiene. They may not care much about their appearance or investing the effort required to keep up with their hygiene needs. Loved ones that notice any sign of poor hygiene should investigate the situation further. Some easy modifications to their routine could help address any hygiene concerns.

Impacts of Poor Hygiene

Poor hygiene can have negative, long-term health impacts on a person’s life that reach far beyond one’s body odor making others uncomfortable. Some of the more serious outcomes of poor hygiene include:

  • Frequent infections and illnesses: While seniors are more likely to suffer from infections and illnesses due to multiple diseases and weakened immune responses, a string of infections could be a sign of poor hygiene. If the bacteria on their hands or in their living environment continue to enter the body, more infections could occur as a result.
  • Periodontal or gum disease: Poor dental hygiene can cause significant inflammation and damage to gums. Gum disease could develop as a result, which could even cause teeth to loosen from their sockets, and gums to bleed. The New York Times has noted that poor dental hygiene in nursing homes is an all-too-frequent occurrence.
  • Poor self-esteem: People with poor personal hygiene often have a reduced sense of self-worth or self-esteem. Being socially impacted or isolated as a result of hygiene issues can make this worse.

These are just a few ways in which poor hygiene can contribute to more severe conditions, especially when such poor hygiene is allowed to continue for an extended time period. One day of skipping a shower and developing a body odor will not likely lead to an increased risk of frequent infections. However, not brushing your teeth for weeks at a time will increase your risk of gum disease.

If you notice any signs of poor hygiene in a loved one living in a nursing facility, it is crucial to address these issues with their caregivers before your loved one experiences any long-term impacts of their poor hygiene.

Poor Hygiene Unclean Premises

Unclean premises are dirty, full of debris, or otherwise unsanitary.

In long-term care facilities, unclean premises cause accidents and can increase the likelihood of infections in patients. It is a nursing home’s responsibility to maintain clean and sanitary premises that promote safety and health.

Dangers of Unclean Premises

Unclean premises are dangerous to your loved one’s health. Some of the most notable dangers of unclean premises are:

  • Tripping hazards: Unclean premises are usually full of tripping hazards. Many of them may be difficult to see since they are low to the ground or could be impeded by other objects laying around. Some pose an even greater danger if your loved one trips and falls on other items in the area.
  • Accidents: Unclean premises can also lead to many accidents. Falling objects, tripping hazards, and fall injuries can result from multiple hazards within the area.
  • Infections and illnesses: Maintaining a sanitary environment is one important step for infection prevention. Unclean premises can be contaminated with viruses and bacteria that live off of unclean surfaces or food waste. Coming into contact with them while in the area can lead to serious illness and expensive medical bills, especially for seniors with compromised immune systems.
  • Respiratory issues: Because unclean premises are dirty and badly maintained, air pollution is a serious concern. The air quality in the area can lead to respiratory issues due to rotting waste, mold, airborne dirt, and bacteria and viruses in the air.

There are too many dangers associated with unclean premises that it is unrealistic to cover every possible hazard on a list. Seniors who live in facilities with unclean premises should be taken care of and not put at an increased risk.

Signs of Unclean Premises

No matter what kind of commercial property you visit, whether it is a restaurant or a nursing home, the signs of unclean premises are similar. Some signs to look out for include:

  • Bad smells: Bad smells can be caused by food waste or waste that has not been properly disposed of. A lack of general cleaning contributes to reduced air quality and can also lead to bad smells.
  • Dirty floors: A buildup of dirt on the floor shows that the staff has not cleaned them in a long time. This presents a fall hazard, as dirty floors can become slippery.
  • Debris: Loose debris lying around shows that the area is not being maintained properly. That debris becomes a tripping hazard and can also present a health hazard, depending on what the debris is made out of.
  • Unmaintained buildings: Buildings that do not receive regular maintenance fall apart quickly. This indicates a lack of effort on the part of the property owner. If the situation continues, the building’s deterioration will become a safety hazard.
  • Stained signs or walls: Stains on walls or signs show that the staff has not cleaned them in a long time. It takes a considerable amount of time for the stains to appear. Without proper cleaning and removal, the stains will become permanent.
  • No soap or paper towels in bathrooms: A lack of cleaning supplies in areas like the bathrooms shows that there is little focus on hygiene and cleaning in the facility.

These are some of the signs that a place is unclean and potentially dangerous. Extreme care should be taken when moving through unclean premises, as many of the potential hazards can remain unseen.

Responsibility for Clean Premises

The responsibility for cleaning premises falls on the management team and the staff. The management team of the facility is responsible for the upkeep and can be held responsible when accidents occur. If the staff is negligent in cleaning and securing the facility, then it is up to the management team to ensure that there is a cleaning plan that they are to follow. Otherwise, the facility will begin to decay, and the chance of accidents happening increases.

Legal Recourse

If your loved one is involved in an accident in an unclean residential care facility, you may be able to file a lawsuit against the property owner or whoever is responsible for the property. Your lawyer will need to determine who is liable for the accident. While it is a property owner’s responsibility to maintain the premises, your lawyer must prove that the condition of the area where the accident happened is a result of negligence by the cleaning staff.

Our Nursing Home Abuse Lawyers Can Help

If you have begun to notice signs of poor hygiene—such as dirty living areas, foul odors, obstacles in walkways, uncleaned surfaces, pest problems, or clothes worn for several days—it is critical that you act quickly. At Pintas & Mullins, we can help you investigate the situation and take appropriate legal action. We understand the issues surrounding poor hygiene in nursing home facilities and can help hold responsible parties liable.