Why Do Nursing Home Infections Happen?
Nursing home infections occur due to factors like weakened immune systems among vulnerable residents and the frequency of staff and visitors coming and going.
Unfortunately, nursing home infections are a common problem across the country.
Some nursing home infections are unavoidable, but others are due to poor quality standards in nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and other long-term care settings. In many cases, nursing home neglect is a factor.
Here are some reasons that nursing home infections happen:
- Chronic diseases and illness: Many nursing home residents are already ill and have weakened immune systems, making them susceptible to infection.
- Frequent visitors and staff: Many residents of care facilities get regular visits from family members and friends. Staff members also come and go regularly. This high level of external visitors can mean germs also travel into facilities.
- Lack of infection control in nursing homes: Nursing homes may not take adequate measures to prevent and contain the spread of germs and bacteria, often leading to serious health risks for residents.
- Nursing home neglect: Staff may fail to perform proper hygiene or medical care, leaving illness or infection untreated and leading to severe consequences, like bedsores.
- Old age: Being over a certain age can weaken a person’s immune system and increase their risk of infection.
- Shared spaces and resources: Being in close quarters and sharing resources like food can put residents in frequent contact with diseases, bacteria, and germs that cause infections.
If you or a loved one suffered from a serious nursing home infection, it could be due to nursing home neglect. And you may have legal rights.
Common Nursing Home Infections
The following are some of the most common infections found in nursing homes.
Candida auris (C. auris) is a problematic fungus because of the severe and often drug-resistant infections it can cause. Identifying C. auris can also be challenging, leading to incorrect treatments. Common symptoms are fever and chills that do not clear up with antibiotics.
The fungus was discovered in 2009, and the CDC warns it is rapidly spreading. It can thrive on surfaces for weeks, causing outbreaks in nursing homes and other health care facilities.
Viral gastroenteritis, also known as the stomach flu, is an infectious condition causing diarrhea, stomach cramps, and sometimes fever.
Other common gastrointestinal infections in nursing homes are norovirus, which causes inflammation of the stomach and intestines, and Clostridium difficile, which can cause severe diarrhea and more serious intestinal conditions.
These infections can be particularly harmful to older adults and people with weakened immune systems. They are usually spread from person-to-person and through contaminated food and water.
Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C are both viral infections that attack the liver. These infections are most commonly due to exposure to infected blood or other bodily fluids.
Nursing home residents could develop hepatitis from shared medical equipment, improper infection control in nursing homes, unsafe wound care, and shared personal items like razors and toothbrushes.
Influenza, also known as the flu, is a common infection that is usually harmless in the general population but can be serious and even deadly in vulnerable people.
Symptoms of influenza include:
- Body aches
- Runny nose
- Sore throat
Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA)
MRSA is a resistant staph infection common in nursing homes due to residents’ weakened immune systems and frequent antibiotic use. It can lead to severe complications like blood infections, pneumonia, and sepsis.
Pneumonia is a lung infection causing the air sacs (alveoli) to fill with fluid or pus. It can be caused by bacteria, viruses, or fungi. Severity depends on age, overall health, and the cause of the infection. It can be particularly dangerous for older adults.
Symptoms of pneumonia include:
- Body aches
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Wet cough
Sepsis is a life-threatening blood infection that occurs after another condition is left untreated and worsens, then spreads throughout the body.
Skin and Soft Tissue Infections
Skin and soft tissue infections occur when bacteria or other pathogens (organisms that can cause disease) affect the skin, muscle, or connective tissues.
These nursing home infections range from superficial conditions like cellulitis to serious conditions like necrotizing fasciitis (a flesh-eating disease). Symptoms include redness, swelling, heat, and tenderness.
Here are some common skin and soft tissue nursing home infections:
- Bedsores, also called pressure ulcers, result from prolonged pressure on an area of the body. They are often related to immobility and incontinence. Left untreated, bedsores can be dangerous and even fatal, particularly stage 4 bedsores.
- Cellulitis is a common bacterial skin infection that causes redness, swelling, pain, and warmth, often due to Staphylococcus or Streptococcus bacteria entering through a break in the skin.
- Scabies is an infestation of mites on the skin that can cause intense itching and rashes. The mites are often spread through linens and direct contact with someone who is infected.
Urinary Tract Infections
Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are the most common nursing home infections. This is because many residents use catheters that can breed infection if not managed properly.
Symptoms of UTIs include:
- Back pain
- Blood in urine
- Burning when urinating
- Frequent urination
- Inability to empty the bladder completely
Remember: Nursing home infections can be a red flag for neglect and a warning sign for other forms of abuse.
Download our FREE Nursing Home Abuse Handbook now to learn more.
Are Infections in Nursing Homes Dangerous?
Yes, nursing home infections can be dangerous, even deadly, but it depends on the type of infection and the quality of treatment the resident receives.
Nursing home infections can be especially dangerous when they spread quickly and result in outbreaks throughout the facility, affecting many residents at the same time.
Many nursing home infections can be prevented with proper care. To keep residents safe, poor hygiene in nursing homes should never happen.
Risk Factors for Nursing Home Infections
Infections are a risk in any hospital or residential setting. And the risks can be even higher in nursing homes where most residents are elderly and frail.
The best way to help protect your loved one is to know their risks for developing nursing home infections that could cause serious harm.
Here are some risk factors for nursing home infections:
- Nursing home staff who are inexperienced or untrained
- Poor hygiene practices among residents
- Presence of antibiotic-resistant organisms and illnesses
- Residents who are ill and have weakened immune systems
- Residents with physical and cognitive impairments
- Understaffed nursing homes
Preventing Infections in Nursing Homes
Nursing home infections can be difficult to treat, and they spread easily. Therefore, prevention is often the best approach for keeping nursing home infection rates down.
Some ways nursing home infections can be prevented are:
- Encouraging and helping with good hygiene among residents
- Limiting the use of indwelling catheters when possible
- Promoting safety and health protocols in nursing home facilities
- Providing timely treatment to all wounds and illnesses
- Requiring residents to be vaccinated against certain infections, such as the flu
- Training staff in infection control in nursing homes
Care facilities have a duty to protect residents from nursing home infections. If your loved one was harmed by a serious nursing home infection, you may have legal options.
Connect with us now to see how we may be able to help.
Treating Infections in Nursing Home Residents
Treatment for nursing home infections depends on the type of infection, as well as how severe it is.
Treatments for common nursing home infections include:
- Gastroenteritis is treated with medications, fluids, and electrolytes when dehydration becomes a risk.
- Influenza can be treated with antiviral drugs and bed rest. Residents of nursing homes may also be required to get the flu vaccine.
- Pneumonia is treated with antimicrobials that are either antiviral medications, antibacterial medications, or antifungal medications, depending on the type of pneumonia. With this illness, it is essential to also treat any complications.
- UTIs are treated with the use of antibiotics. Anyone with the condition is also encouraged to drink lots of water to help flush out any bacteria in the body.
- Soft tissue infections can be treated with antibiotics in minor cases, but severe cases may require surgery, and even amputation, to remove dead or infected tissue.
Nursing Home Infections and Neglect
While some nursing home infections are unavoidable, others may be the result of neglect by staff or administration.
You may have legal rights if your loved one suffered from a severe nursing home infection related to neglect. And you may be eligible to file a wrongful death lawsuit if they passed away from nursing home acquired infections.
Filing a nursing home lawsuit can provide financial compensation to help cover costs like medical treatment, funeral expenses, and pain and suffering.
Find Help for Nursing Home Infections Caused by Neglect
Nursing Home Abuse Justice is here to help victims of serious nursing home infections. We partner with a nationwide network of experienced nursing home law firms with a proven track record of success.
Our dedicated Patient Advocates are available 24/7 to listen to your story and help evaluate if you qualify to connect with a skilled nursing home infections attorney.
Take action now — connect with us for a free legal case review.
Nursing Home Infections FAQs
What is the most common infection in nursing homes?
The most common nursing home infections are urinary tract, respiratory, and skin infections.
Why is infection prevalent in long-term care facilities?
Infections can be common in long-term care and skilled nursing facilities because there are many people living in relatively small areas and sharing communal space.
The risk for infection worsens because those who live in nursing homes and assisted living facilities tend to have weakened immune systems and are more susceptible to infection.
Additionally, the lack of infection control in nursing homes can make the situation even worse.
Can you sue a nursing home for infection in a loved one?
Yes, you may be able to sue a nursing home if your loved one suffered from an infection that caused harm or death.
To file a nursing home abuse lawsuit, you must prove that your loved one’s infection resulted from the nursing home’s neglect or mistreatment.