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In Nursing Homes, An Infection Can Be a Sign of Neglect

Senior woman lying in hospital bed with MRSA infection.

In nursing homes that neglect resident hygiene and urgent medical care, a seemingly minor infection in one resident can swiftly escalate into a severe health threat to the individual and the entire facility's elderly population. Nursing home residents are particularly susceptible to infections due to factors such as advanced age, weakened immune systems, underlying health conditions, and close living quarters facilitating the spread of pathogens. Further complicating matters, residents with impaired mobility, incontinence, and cognitive decline are more vulnerable to infections.

The relationship between nursing home resident infections and nursing home neglect is deeply intertwined. Adequate hygiene, routine medical assessments, and prompt treatment are essential in preventing the spread of severe infections throughout an individual's body and the facility's population. Therefore, urinary tract infections, infected bedsores, and post-operative infections can be major signs of nursing home neglect that should never be ignored by staff or loved ones.

What are common nursing home infections?

Under federal and Alabama state law, older adults in nursing homes have legal rights to receive proper medical care, dignified treatment, freedom from abuse or neglect, and the ability to make decisions about their care and living arrangements. Given this, prompt identification and management of infections is mandatory. The most common infections nursing homes face include:

  • Influenza. Left untreated, the flu can lead to secondary bacterial infections, such as pneumonia, exacerbation of chronic medical conditions, and respiratory failure.
  • Surgical site infections. Neglecting proper sterilization of medical equipment or using outdated or contaminated supplies can lead to infections related to medical procedures, such as urinary catheter-related infections or surgical site infections. Neglected surgical site infections can spread, causing further tissue damage and complications that may require additional surgeries or interventions.
  • Infected bedsores. When nursing home patients remain in the same position for too long, they often develop bedsores, also known as pressure ulcers or decubitus ulcers, which can become infected.
  • Urinary Tract Infections. Older women and men, especially those who use a catheter to urinate, sometimes develop UTIs in nursing homes when preventative measures are not followed and proper care is not provided. Insufficient care, poor hygiene, and unsanitary conditions can all contribute to the development of serious urinary tract infections in the elderly.

Untreated infections can cause significant discomfort, pain, and suffering for nursing home residents, diminishing their quality of life and exacerbating existing health conditions. Even worse: Without proper care, infections can escalate, leading to more severe symptoms, complications, or death.

For nursing home residents, an infection can quickly lead to sepsis

Nursing home residents may have difficulty communicating their symptoms or may not receive timely medical attention, leading to delayed diagnosis and treatment of infections. Delayed treatment can allow infections to progress to more severe stages, increasing the risk of complications and death:

  • Endocarditis. Neglected infections, such as UTIs or dental infections, can lead to endocarditis, an infection of the heart's inner lining or valves. If left untreated, it can lead to heart failure, stroke, systemic infection, sepsis, and death.
  • Organ failure. When infections become systemic, meaning they spread beyond the initial site of infection, they can affect multiple organs throughout the body, such as kidneys, liver, lungs, and heart.
  • Cellulitis. Without appropriate treatment, cellulitis can spread rapidly, leading to tissue damage, abscess formation, systemic infection, and, in severe cases, sepsis or necrotizing fasciitis, a rapidly progressive bacterial infection that can be life-threatening.
  • Toxic Shock Syndrome. Untreated bacterial infections, particularly those associated with wounds or medical devices, can lead to toxic shock syndrome, a rare but serious condition characterized by a sudden onset of fever, rash, low blood pressure, and multiorgan failure.
  • Sepsis. Neglected infections can lead to sepsis, a life-threatening condition where the body's response to infection causes widespread inflammation, organ dysfunction, and, in severe cases, death. Elderly individuals are particularly vulnerable to sepsis due to weakened immune systems.
  • Death. Infections can lead to death in nursing home residents through various pathways, including sepsis, organ failure, complications, underlying health conditions, and delays in diagnosis and treatment.

Contact a nursing home neglect attorney for help

Neglecting to contain and treat infections can lead to outbreaks within the nursing home, endangering not only the neglected resident but also other vulnerable individuals in the facility. If a loved one has developed an infection in a nursing home, you may be able to file a claim for financial compensation on their behalf.

At Shuttlesworth Law Firm, P.C., in Birmingham, Alabama, our nursing home neglect attorney can be your ally in uncovering the truth and demanding accountability. Our law firm can gather evidence, help you navigate the legal process, and advocate for your loved one's rights.

Don't wait – reaching out to a lawyer could make all the difference in ensuring your loved one receives the care and respect they deserve. We are located in Birmingham and serve clients throughout Alabama. Contact us today for a free case evaluation.

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