Nursing homes fill a major need in many modern families. They provide day-to-day support for older adults who can no longer live an entirely independent life. Those living in nursing homes can (theoretically) rely on others for basic care, including preparing their meals and maintaining clean facilities. They can even receive support with daily tasks like dressing themselves and bathing to reduce their likelihood of injury.
When families choose to move someone into a nursing home, the goal is usually to help ensure their safety and overall quality of life despite their increasing support needs. Unfortunately, many nursing homes try to keep staffing levels as low as possible, which can reduce the standard of living for the residents who reside there. As a result, chronic challenges related to hygiene and patient care are part of the reason why infestations and infections often move through understaffed nursing homes quite quickly.
Researchers acknowledge that anytime there is a large number of people sharing a relatively small space, the possibility of infections caused by viruses, bacteria or even fungi can spread very quickly. Pests that attack the human body may also proliferate in such spaces. For example, scabies, which are tiny insects that lay their eggs under the skin, can rapidly pass from patient to patient in a nursing home. So can lice and bed bugs. On their own, these infestations can make people uncomfortable. If left untreated, they can put someone’s health at risk. They can also cause secondary infections that could have major medical consequences.
Unfortunately, there is no surefire means of completely eliminating pathogens or pests from a facility like a nursing home. They will always find ways to enter such facilities. Still, staff members can potentially limit their spread with the right practices. Monitoring each patient carefully for signs of illness and discomfort is crucial to accurately identifying the issue as quickly as possible. Engaging in proper sanitation practices can also make a major difference. Having enough staff on hand to ensure the cleanliness of the residents and the spaces will be important as well.
When family members of an individual who has been sickened at a nursing home believe that the situation reflects a poor standard of care, it may be possible to hold the facility accountable for their medical expenses and other related losses. Understanding the issues that arise at nursing homes may empower family members to speak up on behalf of a vulnerable loved one.