Viruses and bacteria are the leading causes of respiratory infections in nursing home residents. Infections of the lower respiratory tract often are of bacterial etiology, although viruses also account for some of the syndromes. Sometimes, pneumonia results from other illnesses, such as flu, measles, and whooping cough (pertussis). Fungi may also trigger upper and lower respiratory system conditions, but only in rare instances.
For an infection to happen, microorganisms enter the body through inhalation. Once inside, these pathogens multiply and cause inflammation that leads to increased mucus secretions and other symptoms. Most cases of upper respiratory infections, such as colds, pharyngitis, and epiglottitis, show up as a runny or clogged nose, sneezing, sore throat, and fever.
Lower respiratory illnesses, such as bronchitis, bronchiolitis, and pneumonia, have more severe symptoms. Apart from colds, cough, and fever, patients experience chest pain, rapid breathing (tachypnea), and increased phlegm production. Those with pneumonia also suffer from non-respiratory symptoms, including headache, nausea, abdominal pain, vomiting, and diarrhea.
How Respiratory Infections Are Treated
Treatment for respiratory infections varies according to their causes. A health professional needs to diagnose the condition first before treating it. If you have a lower respiratory infection, the doctor will perform an exam and request an X-ray to check the state of the lungs. They will also require a sputum sample or swab from the nose or throat to determine the causative agent.
For viral infections, there is no known cure—most cases resolve themselves eventually. The doctor can prescribe medicines to manage the symptoms, also known as symptomatic treatment.
Antibacterials are useless against viruses, so refrain from taking these to self-medicate. But if the respiratory infection is bacterial, the physician will give antibiotics to fight the pathogens. Medication should be taken as the doctor prescribed; otherwise, the medication could have affected one’s health long-term.
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How Respiratory Infections Can Be Prevented
Once you know what causes respiratory infections in nursing home residents, the next step is to prevent their spread in care facilities. Older adults are among the most vulnerable because of their weaker immune systems, developing complications difficult to treat. Moreover, severe illnesses are sometimes fatal, as in the case of pneumonia.
Nursing homes should encourage everyone on the premises to practice good hygiene habits. Residents and staff members must wash their hands frequently and for at least 20 seconds before rinsing. Have common areas disinfected regularly and isolate anyone who is sick or exhibiting symptoms of possible infection.
Senior residents, particularly those with existing medical conditions, should have pneumococcal vaccines and annual flu shots to lower the risk of acquiring acute respiratory illnesses from others who have infections. To boost their immunity and improve resistance against infections, older adults must eat a balanced diet and take vitamin C regularly. Older people who smoke must also quit the habit, as it can weaken the lungs and resistance.
How to Look for Signs of Neglect in a Nursing Home
Respiratory infections are unavoidable, but their presence in nursing homes is not a clear sign of neglect. However, it might suggest there had been operational lapses, causing diseases to spread and infect many residents. But there are instances that negligence or abuse may have also occurred.
If you suspect ongoing neglect in the facility, look for other warning signs as well. Does your senior relative look malnourished, dehydrated, or unkempt? Do they have bedsores, are they wearing soiled clothes, or living in a place with safety hazards? These are a few red flags to note, so if you notice them, try to investigate the matter. You also can discuss your concerns about a nursing home with an attorney.
Seeking Legal Help
If you can prove that neglect or abuse has caused your elderly relative’s respiratory infection, it is essential to report the incident to the proper authorities. Consider working with a personal injury lawyer as well—they can help you work to recover compensatory awards for injuries suffered. Often, treating severe respiratory illnesses in older adults is costly, especially if there are complications.
Your lawyer can guide you throughout the process and help you understand complex legal terms and more. They will gather supporting evidence, including medical records and experts’ testimonies, to build a strong case for negligence and establish liability for the harms suffered. When it comes to calculating a fair settlement amount, they can work on behalf of you and your injured senior relative so that you can be presented with a suitable offer.
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