How A Maryland Nursing Home Can Put Your Loved One At Risk Of Infection

By Peter DePaolis

If you have a relative living in a nursing home, chances are he or she will be taken care of. However, there are facilities that experience infection disease outbreaks due to unsanitary conditions and other problems. Many of these outbreaks, in fact, are preventable. Nursing homes are legally obligated to take reasonable steps to keep their residents safe and healthy. When they fail to do so, you need to call  Koonz McKenney Johnson & DePaolis LLP.

About 1-3 million infections occur each year in nursing home facilities, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Up to 380,000 patients die every year from these infections. Some of the most common ones are pneumonia, urinary tract infections, diarrheal diseases, and staph infections.

Why Are Infections So Common in Nursing Homes?

Nursing homes can be the perfect breeding grounds for infectious outbreaks due to the following factors:

Residents are older, frailer, and often sicker. Compared with the general population, nursing home residents are older and suffer from more chronic, long-term illnesses. Their immune systems are typically compromised, making them more vulnerable to developing infections. In some cases, nursing home patients bring diseases with them that are then spread to other residents.

Residents share common resources. Nursing home residents tend to share recreational and living space, meals, and beverages with one another. Watching television, social events, and other activities usually take place in large groups. These conditions make it easy for an infectious breakout to happen. 

Not all residents respond well to vaccinations. Nursing home facilities often require flu and other vaccines. But these measures don’t always work. Some residents may not even be vaccinated due to neglect or oversight.

Visitors can bring in diseases. An outside visitor such as a family member can bring disease into the nursing home facility and spark an outbreak. The same is true for employees of the nursing home. While this is especially problematic during flu season, an infection from the outside can strike at any time.

A nursing home facility cannot absolutely prevent situations like these from arising. Not everyone has a strong immune system. And as we saw with the coronavirus pandemic, no one can help if an infectious outbreak is particularly widespread. However, these circumstances don’t necessarily absolve the nursing facility of all liability.

Maryland Nursing Homes Have an Obligation to Keep Residents Safe

In Maryland, nursing homes are obligated to take reasonable steps to keep their patients safe and healthy. That means, for example, adopting standard medical and sanitation practices to avoid outbreaks of infectious diseases. Some of those practices include:

  • Minimizing the use of catheters, since they can cause urinary tract infections
  • Regular and proper hand washing requirements for all staff
  • Requiring visitors to follow sanitation rules
  • Gloves, masks, and gowns for all staff
  • Frequently changing diapers and cleaning patients
  • Screening new patients before they can be admitted

These and other practices are essential to keeping nursing home residents safe. But rules like these are only as good as the facility enforcing them. Nursing homes should have plans in place to train their staff and make sure all hygiene practices are being observed. They should also adopt an infection control plan in the event one of their patients develops an illness.

Negligence happens when nursing homes fail, for some reason, to keep their residents healthy. In the case of infections, it could be because of failure to follow the above rules. Or it may be due to untrained and inexperienced staff, overworked staff, or not enough staff.

Call Koonz McKenney Johnson & DePaolis LLP Today

Every case is different and turns on its individual facts. If you or a relative became sick in a Maryland nursing home, talk to the team at Koonz McKenney Johnson & DePaolis LLP.

About the Author
Peter DePaolis joined the firm in 1980 and has since represented a large number of individuals involved in automobile collisions, truck accidents, bus crashes, defective products, and medical malpractice cases. A significant portion of Mr. DePaolis’ practice is devoted to working on behalf of people suffering from asbestosis, mesothelioma, and other asbestos-related cancers. He has led his firm’s fight against the asbestos industry and has recovered over $30 million in damages for asbestos victims and their families.