Nursing Home Infections
As a nursing home infections lawyer, I represent nursing home residents who have suffered from infections, bleeding, or illness due to abuse or negligence, as well as the families who have lost a loved one due to one of these matters. From our Cleveland, Ohio office, I represent clients throughout Ohio, including Akron, Canton, Columbus, and the surrounding communities.
Why has there been an increase in the number of nursing home residents who suffer from infections? After all, nursing homes aren’t hospitals filled with sick people.
The fact is that 1.6 million to 3.8 million nursing home infections — such as pneumonia, urinary tract infections, and Clostridium difficile, aka C. diff — occur each year in long-term care facilities.1 And the U.S. Centers for Disease Control has cited statistics that nearly 380,000 Americans die of infections each year.
Risk Factors for Nursing Home Infections
It’s the communal nature of nursing homes that accounts for the easy transmission of infections. Residents eat together in the dining room and join in social activities such as bingo or movies in a common room. What’s more, elderly residents are particularly at risk for infections. Aging causes diminished immune response and cognitive deficits that make it difficult to consistently use basic sanitary routines such as hand washing. Difficulty producing an effective cough to clear secretions and the use of urinary catheters, indwelling venous catheters, and feeding tubes all increase the risk of acquiring an infection in a nursing home. Once residents contract infections, the nursing home is most likely to transfer patients to a hospital for treatment.
Duty of Nursing Homes
What can residents and families expect from nursing homes, knowing the fatal risk that infections pose to your loved ones? Regulations require all nursing homes to have an infectious control program designed to “provide a safe, sanitary and comfortable environment and to help prevent the development and transmission of disease and infection” (see 42 CFR § 483.65).
At a minimum, every nursing home should have policies and procedures to identify risk factors for infection and interventions to reduce those risks. Many facilities designate a committee and often an individual nurse to track the incidence of infections in the facility.
How We Help
When a resident sustains a serious infection, it’s important to try to understand how the resident came to be infected. With some types of infections, it may be possible to track the course of an infection. In all cases, it should be possible to understand the policies and procedures that the nursing home may have in place to prevent or reduce infections.
The types of nursing home negligence cases I see most often involve the caregivers’ failure to properly recognize the early signs and symptoms of infections and advise the resident’s physician to begin treatment.
If you suspect that an infection was not timely recognized in your loved one, give us a call to discuss.
I highly recommend Nancy. Nancy is one of the most talented and caring trial lawyers I know. She not only knows the law, her background as a former nurse allows her to grasp complex medical issues most attorneys would miss. Nancy is a leader in the legal community and is active in teaching fellow trial lawyers how to best represent their clients. She is also a teacher/staff member at the prestigious Trial Lawyers College.
If you or a loved one need help with a serious injury or wrongful death case, you will be in terrific hands with Nancy.
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 Smith, Bennett, Bradley, Drinka. SHEA/APIC Guideline: Infection prevention and control in long-term care facilities. Am J. Infect. Control 2008;36: 504-35