It is common for residents in nursing homes to contract one or more infections. Some of the more common types are influenza (the flu), scabies, and MRSA. Failure of the staff at a nursing home to promptly diagnose and treat these infections may be considered neglect or negligence, which can cause long-term injury or even death.
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Nursing Home-Acquired Infections
It is very common for individuals in nursing homes to be more and more exposed to infectious diseases. Nursing homes tend to be an ideal environment for disease to spread. This is due to how close nursing home residents live to one another, the fact that most of their activities during the day are done in groups, and many of the staff at nursing homes are not educated to the same extent as similar staff in hospitals. Residents with underlying conditions also increase the risk of injury from hospital-acquired infections.
There are several common categories of nursing home-acquired infections, such as:
- Respiratory Diseases
- Urinary Tract Infections
- Skin & Soft Tissue Injuries
- Gastrointestinal or stomach and digestive tract infections
- Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)
- Foodborne diseases such as:
- E. coli
There are some diseases that are more dangerous than others, and those are listed below.
Influenza in RI Nursing Homes – Flu Risks for RI Nursing Home Residents
Flu is a very dangerous infection for the population of nursing homes. For most influenza strains, 90% of those who die each year from the flu are over age 65. At a typical nursing home, 60% of the residents will contract flu each season, and an average of 55% of those who contract the flu in a nursing home die from it. Even though they show a reduced immune response, the yearly influenza vaccine still works for the elderly. It is highly recommended that all seniors – especially nursing home residents – receive their flu shot every year.
Scabies in Nursing Homes
Scabies is an allergic reaction caused by exposure to the skin mites Sarcoptes scabiei. It is related to the animal disease called Mange. It is usually a result of direct skin-to-skin contact and causes inflamed red and itchy patches of skin. In a nursing home environment where there may be many individuals with suppressed or weakened immune systems, there is a chance that the much more severe form known as Crusted Scabies can develop. This is a much more serious infection. Normal scabies infections usually involve 10-15 scabies mites, while crusted scabies may involve as many as 1,000,000 mites.
Some of the contributing factors to the spread of Scabies in nursing homes are:
- Large numbers of at-risk patients
- Close contact between individuals
- The difficulty of diagnosing scabies
- The failure to promptly treat scabies
MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphlococcus aureus) in Nursing Homes
MRSA is one of several kinds of bacteria – related to the staph infection – that has become resistant to several different kinds of antibiotics. MRSA infections often show up in hospitals, but are also common in nursing homes, with certain nursing homes having as many as 40% of their patients infected.
Some risk factors that can contribute to MRSA infections are:
- Increased Age
- Underlying Chronic Disease
- Decreased Mobility
- Mental or Cognitive Impairment
- Intravenous or other feeding tubes
- Open wounds
- Recent antibiotic use
- Recent hospital stay
MRSA infections may show no symptoms, but can also lead to:
- Blood infections (often deadly)
- Endocarditis (inflammation of the lining of the heart)
- Skin & soft tissue infections, including boils and lesions
- Bone & joint infections
Infection Control in RI Nursing Homes
Hospitals have long had strict procedures for controlling and preventing infections. Nursing homes often lack the same staff devoted to infection control, and other staff typically does not have the same level of education of most hospital staff. Nursing homes also lack the specialized tools used to diagnose infections. There are certain suggested guidelines the Nursing Homes should follow to help prevent infection:
- Regularly Monitoring Patients for Signs of Infection.
- Regular immunizations for flu, hepatitis B, and other chronic diseases.
- In cases where there is no other option, separation of infected patients from other patients in the nursing home.
For more information on infections acquired in nursing homes, click here.