Antibiotic overuse and superbugs in nursing homes

With daily access to health care providers, nursing home residents should be able to count on a better outlook than they would have at home. However, this fact alone does not guarantee safety. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, around 70 percent of the 4.1 million nursing home residents in the United States are prescribed antibiotics every year, but as many as 75 percent of these courses are not administered correctly.

When a person is given an unnecessary antibiotic, or the appropriate antibiotic is given in the wrong dosage or for longer than it should be, it contributes to the emergence of infections that do not react to treatment. These “superbugs” are preventable, experts say, but many facilities do not have protocol in place to keep them from developing. Training and education about infection and antibiotics are essential for all staff, and for visitors, families and residents, as well. Information is key when it comes to tracking antibiotic use in the facility, and complications that arise should also be documented and shared with providers and nurses. points out that a lack of adequate infection diagnostic criteria also contributes to the problem. Particularly in the case of urinary tract and respiratory infection tests, the results often reveal high levels of bacteria, but this factor alone does not always indicate the need for antibiotics. Many residents do develop infections that require medication, though, and experts warn that underprescribing antibiotics could be just as serious, which highlights the need for strict protocol to determine correct treatment.

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