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Study Shows that C. Difficile Infections Are Ten Times More Prevalent in Los Angeles Nursing Homes that Are Understaffed and Unable to Uphold Safe Infection Control Policies

Clostridium difficile, abbreviated as C. difficile, is just one of the many infections that are common in nursing homes. Caused by inflammation of the colon, some symptoms include diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, fever, and cramping. Because residents of skilled nursing facilities live in such close quarters, infections are able to spread rapidly. Therefore, it is crucial that the nursing home staff take extensive measures to prevent the spread of infection. An article, titled “High Prevalence of Clostridium difficile Colonization among Nursing Home Residents in Hesse, Germany” and published in the January 2012 issue of Plosone Journal studies the outbreak of C. difficile infections in skilled nursing facilities.

After observing and analyzing various nursing homes for the presence of C. difficile the survey moved to study the general population. In comparison, the result of the study revealed that the prevalence of C. difficile was ten times higher in skilled nursing facilities than in the general population. This statistic was consistent with similar studies of C. difficile in the United States and the United Kingdom. This shows that although the study was conducted in Germany, the dangerous spread of infectious diseases in nursing homes is an issue that occurs internationally, including within our own local Los Angeles skilled nursing facilities.

The study cited antibiotic use as a common factor among nursing home residents that increased the prevalence of C. difficile. Certain antibiotics are known to kill the bacteria in the intestines that regulate C. difficile bacteria and ultimately prevent C. difficile infections from occurring. Because the use of antibiotics in skilled nursing facilities to treat various infections is so common, elder adults become more susceptible to contracting C. difficile.

Incontinence is another condition that increases the risk of the rampant spread of C. difficile in nursing homes. Patients who suffer from fecal incontinence must be monitored frequently and changed immediately, especially those also infected by C. difficile bacteria. According to the study, even up to several weeks after the disappearance of infection symptoms, 15 to 20 percent of patients are still at risk of a recurring infection and therefore still able to infect other residents. Because mere contact with the bacteria is enough to cause an outbreak of the infection among other residents of the facility, hand hygiene of nurses is an extremely important prevention technique. The facility, especially bathroom surfaces and other shared common areas, must be kept sanitized, in accordance with state and federal health codes.

Furthermore, the study alleged that although C. difficile was ten times more prevalent in skilled nursing facilities than in the general population, an entire 27 percent of the nursing homes studied failed to instigate specific infection control and management guidelines. Often, this is because the preventative measures and techniques outlined above are difficult and nearly impossible to execute effectively when the nursing home facility is understaffed.

However, it is the responsibility of the skilled nursing facility to not only employ an adequate amount of staff to sufficiently care for its residents, but also to ensure that this staff is qualified and able to recognize and accurately diagnose infections early on, and to instigate infection control measures when necessary. Failure on behalf of the nursing home to fulfill this duty is an egregious act of neglect and elder abuse that violates your loved one’s rights as a patient.

If your loved one has suffered from infections as a result of inadequate care and nursing home neglect, please contact us today for a free consultation.