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Why are infections so prevalent in nursing homes?

The concept of nursing homes is to provide care when you cannot care for yourself, particularly once age has caused the body to become more frail. According to the U.S. National Institutes of Health, as people get older, they become more susceptible to infections, but there is an even higher risk for those who live in nursing homes.

You may wonder why this population has such a high rate when they are under constant health surveillance. Research indicates that urinary tract infections are the most prevalent type, primarily because bed-bound seniors often have urinary catheters. Most nurses are trained in the guidelines for effectively inserting, removing and maintaining these devices. However, aides may also be involved in tending to them, and these staff members are not as likely to understand what constitutes safe handling.

The main causes of resident death are respiratory infections and pneumonia. Significant contributors to these infections in nursing homes include aspiration from feeding tubes and the prevalence of oral bacteria due to poor dental hygiene. Nursing homes should have enough caregivers who are properly trained so that these sources of illness are not such a threat.

Above all, the best way to prevent infection in any health care setting is to use proper hand hygiene. You should never see a nurse or worker touch a resident without washing his or her hands first. While recurrent infections could simply be a side effect of aging, poor health or other resident-specific conditions, it could also be a sign of nursing home neglect, and may warrant close monitoring. This information is provided for your education, but it should not be interpreted as legal advice.

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