Untreated Infections in Nursing Homes

Untreated Infections in Nursing Homes

Infections are disturbingly common in nursing homes. A review of infection rates in nursing homes revealed that the approximately 1.5 million people who live in nursing homes in the U.S. suffer over 2 million infections a year. These jaw-dropping numbers are just the beginning. In fact, infections have been linked with high rates of related illness, hospitalization, and death.

Caught early, many infections can be effectively treated, but too many infections in nursing home residents are not detected until they have progressed to a more serious condition. A prime example is pneumonia and lower respiratory infections, which are the leading cause of mortality in nursing home residents. Because these infections may display atypical symptoms, they are often overlooked or disregarded. For instance, many older adults do not develop a fever and are less likely to complain of discomfort or chest pain. However, given the proclivity for a respiratory infection to develop into pneumonia in the elderly, nursing home staff must monitor residents closely, run the appropriate diagnostic testing, and provide the proper treatment to prevent the infection from progressing.

Additional infections that are common in nursing homes are urinary tract infections (UTI), which are the leading cause of hospitalization, diarrheal diseases, such as C-diff which carry the added risk of severe dehydration, and skin and soft tissue infections that are especially prevalent in the non-mobile. As these infections are common in nursing homes, staff must be regularly assessing residents for signs of these infections. Early diagnosis and treatment are imperative. If not caught early or left untreated, infections are extremely dangerous and can lead to sepsis and death. If a resident’s health is deteriorating or she is not responding to treatment, the nursing home must immediately transfer the resident to a hospital for further care and treatment.

Now knowing the prevalence and risks of nursing home infections, what can you do? Family members should be alert to any behavioral or physical changes in their loved one as well as any unusual physical symptoms or signs. In addition to alerting staff, following up on diagnosis and treatment is important. If you have a loved one in a nursing home who has significantly suffered as a result of an undiagnosed or untreated infection, talk to us about any options you may have.

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