After researching nursing homes, my brother and I found what we felt would be the best facility for our 85-year-old mother.
Mom has mild dementia but is fairly healthy otherwise. Our main concern is that infection rates are at a high point now. What are the four most serious infections she could face?
Urinary tract infections
The infection most often reported is a urinary tract infection (UTI). Nursing home patients with catheters are at the greatest risk. However, those without catheters can experience UTI due to limited mobility and age-related changes in organ function.
Pneumonia, which is a lower respiratory tract infection, is a major cause of hospitalization in older people. Patients with feeding tubes have the highest risk of becoming infected. A chest x-ray is the best way to diagnose pneumonia, but many nursing homes do not have access to x-ray equipment.
Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, is an environment-related infection that can affect multiple internal organs. MRSA can survive for as many as six months on inanimate objects. Nursing home staff must minimize environmental contamination that poses a MRSA danger to patients.
Influenza, or flu, is a leading cause of nursing home deaths. However, it is the infection easiest to control through an annual flu shot for patients, staff and visitors.
At acute hospitals, tracking infections and following an action plan have helped to reduce infections over the last decade. The National Health Safety Network, a federal agency, now requires nursing homes to track and report information related to infections through a secure online program. This is a first step in the effort to control serious infections such as those that nursing home residents—including our mother—could face.