Infections can be dangerous to anyone, but they are particularly deadly for nursing home residents who have weakened immune systems. Infections in Watertown nursing homes are associated with high rates of morbidity and mortality, frequent hospitalizations, pain, a rapid decline in cognitive and physical functioning, and often death.
As such, nursing homes are required to have heightened awareness for preventing, diagnosing, and treating infections. Infection in the nursing home setting is usually an avoidable consequence of untrained nurse aide staff or overworked nursing staff. If your loved one suffers an infection in an assisted care facility due to a staff member’s negligence, reach out to our diligent nursing home abuse attorneys.
Two of the most common sites for infections in a nursing home setting are urinary tract infections (in both men and women) and pneumonia.
Urinary tract infections can arise at any time but are often associated with dehydration, inadequate toileting schedules, immobility, or urinary and/or bowel incontinence. UTIs in nursing homes often occur due to basic needs neglect; when nursing home staff fail to help residents with their basic hygiene, the risk of infection increases dramatically.
Pneumonia is associated with aspirating food or fluids due to an inappropriate diet or the failure to properly supervise meal times. Again, this is typically a result of neglect on the part of the nursing home.
Other sites for infection include the salivary gland(s) and pressure sores. Salivary gland infections are common with dehydration or poor oral hygiene.
Pressure sores are considered a “never event”—that is, they should never occur in a properly functioning facility. They form due to failure to properly relieve pressure on a resident’s skin by either frequently turning a resident in bed, appropriately ambulating a resident, or utilizing some other pressure-relieving devices such as specialized mattresses or boots. These sores are open wounds that are then vulnerable to infection, which can lead to sepsis or severe bone infection (osteomyelitis).
Often, infections are overlooked because the geriatric population does not present with typical signs and symptoms of an infection.
For example, one of the key warning signs of an infection is fever (elevated body temperature). Since elderly people often have a lower than typical baseline temperature, a body temperature that would be in the normal range in a younger person could be indicative of a fever in a nursing home resident.
The nursing home population typically has some level of dementia that compromises the ability to communicate symptoms clearly. As such, the presence or absence of a pain complaint is not a reliable indicator of the presence or absence of an infection.
Nursing staff should be able to identify alternative signs of pain, such as:
Infection should be suspected in Watertown nursing home residents who exhibit new or increasing confusion or delirium (defined as an acute change from baseline dementia), new or increasing incontinence, deteriorating mobility, decreased food intake, decreased fluid intake, and changes in behavior (lethargy, somnolence, agitation or aggression).
While identifying signs of infection in a Watertown nursing home resident can be difficult, the nursing home staff should be trained to recognize those signs. Furthermore, the nursing home is required to make sure a resident receives complete and appropriate assessments by a licensed registered nurse whenever these changes in condition occur, and the nurse must notify the attending physician and family for direction or further testing, including blood testing or x-rays.
If caught early enough, infections in Watertown nursing homes can be treated effectively while the resident remains in the nursing home setting, avoiding a disorienting trip to the emergency department or admission to a hospital. Appropriate antibiotics with supportive measures, including fluids and oxygen, may be all that is necessary to treat an infection.
Many times though, an infection is not caught until it is too late, causing unnecessary pain and suffering or even the loss of life. When that happens, your loved one’s legal rights need to be protected. To discuss your case with an experienced lawyer, please contact D’Amico & Pettinicchi, LLC today.