Nursing home residents are significantly at risk for contracting infections. This high risk is due to a number of factors, including advanced age and being in close proximity to others. There are a variety of infections and other diseases that are prevalent in nursing homes, but there are also measures nursing homes should take to prevent infections.
Risk Factors for Infection in Nursing Homes
There are numerous reasons why there is a high risk for infection in nursing homes. According to Clinical Infectious Diseases, the most significant risk factors are:
The typically advanced age of nursing home residents puts them at a higher risk of contracting infections. The main reason for this is immunosenescence, which Immunology describes as “the changes in the immune system associated with age.” In other words, as a person ages, their immune system naturally becomes less effective and more susceptible to disease. They also become less responsive to vaccines.
In addition to the gradual decline of their immune system, elderly people are more at risk for infection because of common medical procedures associated with their age. Implanted devices like prosthetic hips, pacemakers, and other medical devices always carry a risk of infection, and since elderly people frequently need these devices, their chance of infection also increases.
Another risk factor of age and infection is that dementia or other cognitive impairment often accompanies advanced age. People with cognitive impairment are less likely to remember personal hygiene standards or may be noncompliant with their medication or other requirements, which can lead to an increased risk of infection.
Another risk factor for infections in nursing homes is multiple comorbid disease. The Annals of Family Medicine explains that comorbidity is “the co-occurrence of multiple chronic or acute diseases and medical conditions within one person.”
Due to their increased age and decreased immune system, senior nursing home residents often have multiple comorbidities, or multiple diseases at once. The presence of comorbidities weakens the immune system even further, making nursing home residents especially susceptible to infections.
The presence of other and multiple diseases or infections also means that nursing home residents frequently undergo courses of antibiotics. Increased antibiotic use can lead to resistance to these drugs, making it even more challenging to heal infections once they are contracted.
The group living arrangement in nursing homes adds to the risk of infection for residents. In a typical nursing home, the residents often gather together throughout the day for activities and during mealtimes and may share bedrooms as well. This increased contact with multiple people means more chances for someone to come in contact with a person who has an infection and contract that infection.
Additionally, the health care workers in nursing homes may unknowingly bring in and transmit infections. The more functional immune systems of younger or healthier nursing staff may make them unaware that they are carrying an infection, and then they could go from room to room in a nursing home and pass on an infection that is much more difficult for a senior resident to resist.
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Common Infections in Nursing Homes
Some infections are very common in nursing homes. According to Future Medicine, the most prevalent infections in nursing homes include:
- Respiratory infections, such as pneumonia, aspiration pneumonia, and influenza
- Urinary tract infections, due to the increased use of urinary catheters
- Diarrheal diseases, including viral and bacterial gastroenteritis, norovirus, and C. diff
- Skin and soft tissue infections, such as wound infections, bed sores, ulcers, and scabies
Since living in a nursing home carries a high risk of contracting infections, residents, their health care workers, and other nursing home staff should be on alert to do all they can to prevent these infections and make the nursing home as safe an environment as possible.
Preventing Infections in Nursing Homes
While there is a high risk of infection in nursing homes, nursing homes are also required to take measures to prevent these infections as much as possible. As Inquiry explains, nursing homes that accept Medicare and Medicaid resources are required to implement infection prevention and control programs.
Some of the measures that nursing homes can take to prevent and control the spread of infections include:
- Employing a professional infection preventionist
- Implementing antibiotic stewardship to track and control how often antibiotics are prescribed to and taken by residents
- Holding infection control committee meetings
- Implementing electronic health records to more easily access prevalence and risk data
- Enforcing strict hygiene guidelines, such as hand washing and sanitizing equipment
If you believe a nursing home has neglected standards to prevent infection, you can consult the team at Ben Crump Law, PLLC, for help. You or your senior loved ones deserve to be protected from the risk of infection.
If you or they suffered because of neglect in a nursing home, contact Ben Crump Law, PLLC, today at (800) 959-1444. Since we work on a contingency fee basis, you will not pay anything unless we can negotiate a settlement for you.