Infections in Nursing Homes

Talk to a Corpus Christi Nursing Home Neglect Lawyer

In nursing homes, the risk of infection can increase when large numbers of elderly people, with underlying conditions like weakened immune systems and chronic illnesses, occupy common spaces. When you combine those factors with cognitive and mobility issues that often result in poor hygiene, you have the perfect breeding ground for infections. And, if staff aren’t properly trained, it’s very likely that infections will spread rapidly. If a patient is harmed in a nursing home due to infections, an attorney can help hold the home accountable.

Serving Nueces County and all of Texas from offices in Corpus Christi, the nursing home neglect lawyers at Bandas Law Firm may be able to help you. Call (361) 238-2789 for a free consultation!

Common Nursing Home Infections

There are several infections that are common among elderly people in nursing homes. Of course, this is not to say that these infections occur only in nursing homes, or only among the elderly. The issue is that the elderly are more vulnerable in general when they acquire an infection. They can become very ill, or even die, from an infection that might simply leave a younger person feeling miserable for a few days. When a death in a nursing home occurs due to an infection, an attorney can help the family by preparing a wrongful death lawsuit.

The most prevalent infections among elderly nursing home residents are included below.

Gastroenteritis

Gastroenteritis is a painful condition of the stomach and intestines. It is usually bacterial or viral in origin and leads to inflammation of the digestive tract. Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal cramping that can range in intensity from mild to disabling.

Gastroenteritis is frequently spread by means of food contamination (including Shigella, Campylobacter and salmonella bacteria), but in nursing homes, it is most commonly the result of the Norovirus, which is extremely contagious. Cleanliness is vital, so it’s extremely important that staff members practice proper hygiene and that surfaces are thoroughly cleaned and disinfected. Patients should be carefully monitored for dehydration.

Influenza

Influenza (more commonly referred to simply as the “flu”) is most common in the late fall to early spring (between October and March) and can cause significant trouble in nursing homes. Complications from the flu can lead to pneumonia or bronchitis.

The best protection against influenza is vaccination. Once it’s entrenched in a facility, it can spread quickly by means of coughing and sneezing. As with gastroenteritis, cleanliness is of the utmost importance. Staff members should practice rigorous personal hygiene, and surfaces should be cleaned and disinfected regularly. Complications from influenza can be fatal in the elderly, so monitoring is vital.

Pneumonia

Pneumonia is a painful inflammation of the lungs. In young people, it doesn’t usually present much of an issue – 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. 1 out of every 20 nursing home patients with pneumonia dies from the illness. Most suffer severe complications.

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.

Staph Infection

Staphylococcus aureus, more colloquially known as “staph,” is a bacterium that almost any healthy person will carry on their skin. It usually doesn’t cause any harm, but when it finds its way into the body through cuts, scratches, or mucous membranes, it can cause an infection. Usually, the infection looks like a pimple or boil, with pus coming out of it, and for most people, it’s a simple matter of a trip to a doctor to have it drained. For nursing home residents, it can be more problematic.

The trouble with nursing home staph infections is that they don’t go away easily. Often, older people have weakened immune systems and other health issues. They have also likely been exposed to a good many antibiotics, over the near century that antibiotics have been in use. Add this all together, and a staph infection can become very hard to treat.

Nursing home staph infections spread because of persistent contact with things like clothing, bedding, and dressings that have touched the skin of an infected person. They spread quickly and easily, and in virtually no time they can cause significant health problems. When you factor in the use of catheters, and other medical implements, you have a perfect storm for the spread of infection.

Multi-Drug Resistant Organisms (MSRA) & Vancomycin-Resistant Enterococcus (VRE)

These are organisms that are highly resistant to antibiotics. Examples include methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and vancomycin-resistant enterococcus (VRE). VRE causes intestinal disruption, and MRSA can cause urinary, skin, wound, and respiratory infections. Either of these organisms can be transferred easily if staff fail to observe proper personal hygiene and strive for a clean work environment.

C. Diff Infections

C. diff is short for Clostridium difficile. It’s a type of highly invasive bacteria that forms spores and causes diarrhea and other types of gastric discomfort. When C. diff is at its most severe, it can be life-threatening, causing a condition known as toxic megacolon. In its worst manifestation, C. diff kills on average approximately 14,000 U.S. citizens every year, many of whom are occupants of nursing homes. In the past three years, cases of C. diff have tripled.

Nursing home C. diff is indisputably linked to medical care at all levels. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), no fewer than 94% of C. diff cases are connected directly to medical care. 75% occur in people who were recently cared for in clinics, doctors’ offices, and nursing homes.

When Does the Spread of Infection Constitute Negligence?

Negligence can be a factor in nursing home infections, and an attorney can help to determine when this is the case. Obviously, older people are more prone to infection than people who are young and healthy. When a frail, elderly person contracts an infection, the potential for serious harm, or even death, is also more likely than it would be for someone who is young and strong. This is why it is so important for nursing home staff to take every measure possible to prevent infections, and if they cannot be prevented, to then manage and contain them.

If you or someone you care about has been harmed because staff in a nursing home or other long-term care facility did not take reasonable, adequate measures to prevent infections, you may have the basis for a lawsuit. A Corpus Christi nursing home infections attorney at Bandas Law Firm may be able to assist you in determining if you have a cause of action and can work on your behalf to gather the evidence needed to proceed.

To learn more about infections and their link to nursing home neglect, contact Bandas Law Firm at (361) 238-2789. We are available 24/7 to offer guidance.

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