Pneumonia is a painful inflammation of the lungs. In young people, it doesn’t usually present that much of a problem – antibiotics, puffers and steroids usually quickly correct the problem. However, when pneumonia happens in a senior citizen, complications can and do occur, largely due to other underlying conditions being present. One out of every 20 nursing home pneumonia infection patients dies from the illness. Most suffer severe complications.
What Causes Pneumonia?
The causes of pneumonia are many and varied. Usually, pneumonia develops due to the presence of viruses, fungi and bacteria that can congregate in the lungs, making it difficult to breathe. Then, oxygen levels in the bloodstream steadily decrease, and the vital oxygen isn’t delivered to the essential organs. Even though the infection has indisputably originated in the lungs, it can affect the kidneys and other organs including, but not limited to, the heart, liver and lungs.
What are the Symptoms?
Obviously, if you’re coughing uncontrollably and have fever and chills, a nursing home pneumonia infection might be suspected. The problem is that these symptoms most often present in young people, and in the elderly they may not be all that apparent. In fact, the symptoms in the elderly can often be very different and can be mistaken for other conditions. Symptoms can include:
- Chest pains
- Shortness of breath
- Coughing up green or yellow sputum
- Reduced appetite
The problem with these symptoms in seniors is that they can also indicate a variety of other conditions that might manifest in essentially the same way. That makes diagnosing pneumonia problematic when it comes to seniors.
How Is Pneumonia Infection Diagnosed in Seniors?
As we’ve said, diagnosing pneumonia in seniors isn’t easy. However, rattling and bubbling in the lungs is a tip-off. Doctors also use what is called a pulse oximetry test, which evaluates the oxygen levels in the patient’s blood.
Usually, nursing home pneumonia infections are caused by bacteria, or viruses. They account for about 40,000 deaths in any given year. Pneumonia can also be caused by staph infections, in which case patients usually either die quickly, or linger for a while after a bit of time on a respirator. Either way, it’s not a happy outcome.
The guidelines for treating pneumonia are strict. The protocol almost always includes the use of antibiotics. The problem is that so many infections are becoming resistant to antibiotic treatment, and it can be difficult, if not impossible, to determine which antibiotic is going to be effective in any given situation.
The important thing is that the pneumonia infection is treated as soon as it is discovered, in order to ensure the best possible outcome. Left untreated, pneumonia infections can result in permanent and irreversible scarring of the lung tissue, and even death.
Despite the best intentions of medical personnel and nursing home staff, a nursing home pneumonia infection can occur, and the results can be devastating. If you have a loved one who has incurred a pneumonia infection in a nursing home setting, it is important that you contact an attorney as soon as possible in order to determine what remedies may be available to you under the law.
If the nursing home has left your loved one’s pneumonia untreated, or worse, has been negligent in allowing a pneumonia infection to spread, then you may very well have a cause of action. A good attorney can help you explore your options, and help you to get the compensation you deserve for the harm done to you or your loved one.