A study conducted by the Columbia University School of Nursing that investigated infection rates in nursing homes in the United States over a five-year period (2006 to 2010) found increased rates of infections involving urinary tract infections (UTIs), septicemia, viral hepatitis, wound infections, multiple drug-resistant organisms (MDROs), and pneumonia. The rate of infection for viral hepatitis increased the most. The most common infections in nursing homes are UTIs and pneumonia.
Infections acquired by nursing home residents are a leading cause of residents’ death and complications. Effective infection control in nursing homes may hold the key to extending lives and improving the quality of life of nursing home residents. Establishing and implementing simple infection prevention and control protocols in nursing home environments, such as consistently enforced, frequent, and effective hand washing by nursing home care staff, has been shown to reduce the spread of infections among nursing home residents.
Efforts are underway (and must be aggressively maintained and extended) to reduce the unnecessary use of catheters in nursing home residents, including more frequent toileting of nursing home residents and more frequent changes of adult diapers for residents using them – the use of catheters is known to increase the risk of developing UTIs.
It is estimated that between 1.6 million and 3.8 million nursing home residents in the United States die from infections annually.
The study evaluated the data that nursing homes in the United States are required to provide on a quarterly basis to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in what are known as Minimum Data Set (MDS) assessments. MDS is a standardized, primary screening and assessment tool of health status that forms the foundation of the comprehensive assessment for all residents in a Medicare and/or Medicaid-certified long-term care facility. The MDS contains items that measure physical, psychological and psychosocial functioning. The items in the MDS give a multidimensional view of the patient’s functional capacities and helps staff to identify health problems. The MDS contains information regarding MDRO, UTI, tuberculosis, pneumonia, septicemia, viral hepatitis, and wound infection.
The study examined MDS data from 24 quarters for over 14,000 nursing homes in the United States (the MDS was revised and a new version was implemented in 2010). The study found increases in infection rates for viral hepatitis (69.7%), septicemia (25.2%), pneumonia (24.1%), MDRO (15.7%), and wound infections (4.6%), based on data from the older version of MDS. The rate of infection for UTI decreased by 4.2%.
Nursing homes are a hot-bed for the spread of infections among residents. Many residents are immobile or may have limited mobility. Many are deconditioned and have limited ability to fight off infections. They live in close-contact with nursing home staff and other residents that adds to the spread of infections. Overworked caregivers and insufficient staff for the number of nursing home residents they care for, and the level of care that residents may require, can contribute significantly to the spread of infections (caregivers may take shortcuts in complying with established infection prevention/control protocols or they may be inadequately trained in infection control methods).
If you or a loved one suffered harm during a nursing home stay in the United States, you should promptly seek the advice of a local nursing home claim attorney in your state who may investigate your nursing home claim for you and represent you in a nursing home negligence, nursing home neglect, nursing home abuse, or nursing home injury claim, if appropriate.
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