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Nursing Homes Abuse Blog By Jonathan Rosenfeld

Infections In Nursing Homes

bacterial infectionsThere are a number of different risk factors that explain why nursing home residents are prone to infection. Underlying chronic diseases, weakened immune systems, and the fact that it has a large number of people live in a single space are all reasons that nursing homes can pose problems. Patients may also take medications or suffer from chronic conditions that make them prone to infection. Finally, certain residents have mobility and/or cognitive issues that would prevent them from taking care of their own personal hygiene adequately. Without the right staff training, chances are that infections could continue to develop and spread.

What are the common infections to be aware of?

There are a number of infections that are likely to occur with the elderly who live in nursing homes. While these are certainly not limited to nursing homes or elderly citizens, they are some of the more common:

  • Influenza – Between the months of October and March, seasonal influenza typically causes problems in nursing homes. In order to avoid complications such as bronchitis and pneumonia and lessen the usual problems with the flu it is recommended that patients take the seasonal influenza vaccines. Influenza can spread through coughing and sneezing. However, it may also spread from environmental surfaces and hands that are contaminated with the organisms, again demonstrating the necessity of proper hygiene for staff members.
  • Gastroenteritis – Gastroenteritis may develop because of viral and bacterial organisms. This leads to the inflammation of the intestines and stomach. Symptoms include diarrhea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. It is possible to contract the disease because of bacterial food contamination, including campylobacter, shigella, and salmonella bacteria. However, the most common form in nursing homes is the result of Noro Viruses. Not only are these extremely contagious, but it is also important that staff members properly monitor already weakened patients for serious complications such as diarrhea and vomiting, both of which can lead to dehydration.
  • Multi-drug Resistant Organisms – Examples include vancomycin resistant enterococcus (VRE) and methicillin resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). It is possible for MRSA to cause respiratory, urinary tract, wound, and skin infections. VRE is often located in the intestinal tract. It is possible for both these antibiotic resistant strains to transfer from patient to patient if the healthcare worker does not take steps to ensure proper hygiene.

There are no excuses for negligence

There is no denying that older patients are likely to be more frail and prone to infection than younger, healthier individuals. However, this makes it even more important for staff members at nursing homes to adhere to infection prevention standards. Unusual, widespread, and repeated infections may signal that the nursing home staff is negligent in its duty. While an infection is not always preventable, it is the responsibility of the nursing home staff to manage and contain an infection.

If you feel that the nursing home or long-term care facility that you or someone you care about is enrolled in does not take adequate measures to prevent or contain infection, it is important that you speak out and make your voice heard. While your case may be an isolated incident, remember that by speaking out, you may be preventing harm coming to others.

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