A nursing home’s most important responsibility is to protect residents’ health. That includes meeting their basic needs and assisting with activities of daily living (ADL) to reduce the risk of health problems in the first place. It also includes promptly diagnosing and treating medical issues when they do occur.
Nursing home neglect often causes UTI
Unfortunately, far too many nursing homes fail to meet those responsibilities, and serious and even fatal complications can occur as a result. One potentially life-threatening medical condition that can occur due to nursing home neglect is a urinary tract infection (UTI).
Risk factors for UTI among nursing home residents
Urinary tract infections can happen to anyone, but they are particularly common among elderly people in general and nursing home residents in particular. There are several key UTI risk factors that affect nursing home residents, including:
- Weakened immune systems: Nursing home residents are typically in frail health to begin with and have weakened immune systems, making them more vulnerable to all types of infections. Some residents are on medications that further weaken the body’s ability to fight infection.
- Dehydration: Residents who have difficulty swallowing or remembering to drink water may become dehydrated. Dehydration increases the risk of urinary tract infections because a dehydrated person does not urinate as often, giving bacteria more time to grow in the urinary tract without being flushed out.
- Poor hygiene: Most people in nursing homes require assistance with washing, changing clothes, and other personal hygiene. Poor hygiene can introduce bacteria from the resident’s feces into the urinary tract.
- Catheter use: While catheters are medically necessary for many nursing home residents, they also increase the risk of a UTI. Any time a foreign object is inserted into the urethra, there is the possibility bacteria will be introduced as well. Further, a catheter creates room for bacteria to grow between the outside of the catheter and the walls of the urethra.
- Immobility: Nursing home residents who have limited mobility may go for long periods of time without using the bathroom. Delaying going to the bathroom can allow UTIs to grow and fester.
- Diabetes: Diabetic residents with high blood sugar also have elevated levels of sugar in their urine. This creates the conditions for bacteria to multiply very quickly.
While nursing homes cannot eliminate all of these risk factors, they have a responsibility to manage them to protect each resident’s health. Failure to do so is a potentially lethal form of nursing home neglect.
How nursing home neglect causes urinary tract infections
Nearly every UTI risk factor can be prevented or managed if nursing homes do their jobs. Nursing home neglect can contribute to urinary tract infections in several ways, including:
- Failing to assist with personal hygiene, or using improper washing techniques on residents.
- Improper catheterization, including failing to sterilize catheters or leaving catheters inside residents for longer than necessary.
- Failing to ensure that residents drink enough water to prevent dehydration.
- Failing to properly manage a resident’s diabetes, leading to elevated blood sugar.
- Failing to take residents to the bathroom promptly when needed.
In addition, when UTIs do occur, nursing homes need to promptly diagnose and treat them, including informing both the resident’s doctor and the resident’s family immediately. Even in elderly and immunocompromised people, UTIs are typically treatable when caught early. However, if the nursing home lets a UTI go untreated for long, it can develop into life-threatening complications, including sepsis and septic shock.
As with so many types of nursing home neglect, understaffing is often the key factor in UTI cases. Preventing urinary tract infections requires sufficient staff to assist residents with changing and toileting, monitor them while eating and drinking, and provide medical care promptly. Poorly trained and supervised staff can also increase the risk of a UTI by failing to follow best practices when assisting residents with activities of daily living.
Our nursing home neglect attorneys stand up for families
If your loved one became ill or died due to UTI complications in a nursing home, you have rights under Illinois law. Nursing facilities need to be held accountable when they fail to protect residents’ health. Pursuing accountability through the civil justice system can not only provide compensation for your loss, but also make a difference for other families and help to prevent future occurrences of neglect.
Give us a call or contact us online to speak with an experienced Chicago nursing home neglect attorney at Ferrell Young, LLC. Our conversation is confidential and there is no obligation to hire us, just answers about your legal rights and options.