How to Minimize Infections in a Nursing Home
Written by Jeff Meyer on June 18, 2015
Infections can range from mild to lethal, and they can even happen to people who are in the best of health. From a small boil to full-on sepsis, infections can be anything from a minor nuisance to severe and deadly. Anyone can get an infection on virtually any part of their body, and nursing home residents are particularly vulnerable to infection.
Infections Congregate Wherever People Do
Wherever people go, infections follow. Sometimes, a viral infection can invade the lungs or sinuses, leading to massive misery. In other instances, a small scrape may be exposed to bacteria and become infected with staph or E. coli. Infections can be spread by various means, including contact with contaminated surfaces and contaminated people. Thus, infections can happen to anyone, anywhere—but especially where large numbers of people congregate, such as in an assisted living facility. Sadly, sometimes infections are the result of nursing home abuse or neglect.
Basic hygiene practices can reduce infections in nursing homes and elsewhere
Proper hygiene is the most important preventative step a person can take against contracting an infection. By washing hands with appropriate frequency and after doing “dirty jobs,” and by keeping living space clean and sanitary, infections can often be prevented. Washing hands after using the restroom and before and after handling food is always well-advised.
Overprescription of Antibiotic Medication May Play a Role
Research conducted by Dr. Martin Blaser has shown that overutilization of antibiotics—both in medication form and in the form of hand sanitizers and antibiotic soaps and dish detergents—has resulted in what he termed “fueling our modern plagues” (Blaser, 2014). Although it may seem counterintuitive that antibiotics, which kill bacteria, could contribute to infection rather than beat it back, the fact is that overuse of antibiotics leads bacteria to become resistant, making them harder to kill and thus, leading to even more stubborn, more deadly infections. Some doctors prescribe antibiotics for viral infections, which is not only useless (viruses are not affected by bacteria-killing drugs), it may actually be harmful in the long run by contributing to bacterial drug resistance. One study published in Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology found that educating medical staff about the dangers of antibiotic overuse resulted in fewer inappropriate prescriptions over time (Kelley, et al, 2014).
Elderly People and Their Caregivers Must Remain Vigilant Against Infection
Elderly people living in nursing homes can be especially susceptible to contracting an infection, as they are in constant contact with a variety of people. If you have a loved one living in an assisted living facility, keep a careful eye out for signs of infection. Senior and disabled people with respiratory infections can easily develop complications and have a major decline of health in a short period of time. Similarly, elderly and infirm people with minor wounds must be closely watched for signs of infection to prevent a major infection like MRSA, which can lead to necrosis of the skin cells and even death if left untreated. In some cases, infections may happen due to nursing home abuse and neglect.
What to Do If You Suspect a Loved One’s Infection Came about Due to Neglect
If you think your loved one’s infection was the result of nursing home abuse, be an outspoken advocate. Get proper treatment for your loved one immediately at a reputable health care facility and report the suspected abuse to authorities, or call an elder abuse reporting hotline. Speak with a social worker who is knowledgeable in elder abuse and senior services for help finding resources for your abused friend or family member.