Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect
Poor Hygiene in Nursing Homes
We all know that having a good personal hygiene routine leads to a happier and healthier life. Brushing your teeth, washing your hands, and cleaning up your home are crucial to prevent harmful bacteria growth and disease. As we get older, maintaining good hygiene gets harder. That’s why many seniors go into nursing homes: so they can receive this special care that they can no longer provide for themselves. Unfortunately, nursing homes are often breeding grounds for bacteria and disease due to poor hygiene. Below, the San Antonio elder abuse attorneys at Janicek Law explain how poor hygiene can be dangerous for elderly people with compromised immune systems, and what you can do about it.
Janicek Law is a top-notch nursing home abuse and neglect law firm in San Antonio. If your elderly loved one is suffering at the hands of their nursing home staff, we can help you sue and obtain justice. Call us today at 210-366-4949 to schedule a free consultation.
What is Hygiene?
Let’s start with the basics. Hygiene is a set of practices that promote good health and cleanliness. People who practice poor hygiene have higher risks of infection and illness.
Types of Hygiene
There are four main types of hygiene:
- Personal Hygiene relates to the overall cleanliness of yourself, your clothes, your home, etc. People who practice poor personal hygiene may have dirty clothes, poor oral health, body odor, and frequent infections.
- Food Hygiene relates to the sanitary conditions around preparing food and eating food. Contaminated food can easily cause a person to become ill. Food may become contaminated from dirty utensils, surfaces, hands, and water. Additionally, food can become contaminated if it’s not stored properly in a refrigerator.
- Domestic Hygiene generally relates to the cleanliness of someone’s home as well as good ventilation and sanitary food preparation. This type of hygiene involves keeping a clean house or space by mopping floors, washing sheets, cleaning toilets and showers, washing dishes, etc. Adequate ventilation is a large part of domestic hygiene as well. If you don’t have good ventilation in a home, moisture and bacteria can build up and raise the risk of disease.
- Environmental Hygiene involves keeping the environment free of toxic waste in order to promote the health and wellbeing of everyone. This type of hygiene can include weekly trash pickups, outdoor disinfection practices, rodent and bug control, fumigation, and more.
Common Reasons Why People May Have Poor Hygiene
Most people believe that poor personal hygiene boils down solely to laziness. This is not always the case. People who live in poverty often don’t have the resources to keep themselves, their children, or their homes clean. Additionally, people with physical or mental health conditions may be unable to keep up with a good personal hygiene routine. Lastly, seniors can certainly struggle with poor personal hygiene due to mobility issues, falling risks, and memory problems.
Common Hygiene-Related Diseases
Poor personal hygiene causes more than just funky body odors. People of any age can suffer from a variety of illnesses and infections if they neglect a good personal hygiene routine. Listed below are the most common types of hygiene-related diseases that people can suffer from.
Poor hygiene in and of itself doesn’t cause lice, but poor hygiene can allow lice to keep spreading from person to person. Lice are tiny bugs that can be found in body hair (such as in head hair or pubic hair) and feed on scalp blood. Lice infestations are very common in daycares, homeless shelters, and nursing homes. Having access to clean clothes, clean sheets, and regular bathing is crucial for preventing the spread of lice.
Athlete’s foot is basically a contagious fungal infection that begins in between the toes. People who sweat a lot, have tight fitting shoes, and/or who have poor hygiene have a higher risk of developing athlete’s foot. People can easily contract athlete’s foot through community showers, public swimming pools, locker rooms, and dirty linens.
Ringworm is a skin infection caused by a fungus. If you get ringworm on your feet, this is considered athlete’s foot. Ringworm causes circular rashes on the skin and can spread through dirty hands, sheets, clothes, towels, etc.
Tooth decay is basically extensive damage to the tooth’s enamel. This can occur when oral bacteria creates acids that destroy teeth. Tooth decay is often a direct result of poor oral hygiene. Over time, tooth decay can lead to chronic mouth pain, bad breath, infection, and tooth loss.
Failing to wash hands frequently enough, especially before eating, can lead to a variety of gastrointestinal issues and illnesses including nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Poor food hygiene can lead to all of these issues as well. People with weakened immune systems, such as the elderly, have a higher risk of developing and dying from gastrointestinal illnesses. That’s because any type of infection can lead to sepsis, especially without quick medical treatment.
Methicillin resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is a type of skin infection that is resistant to many kinds of antibiotics. Many medical professionals call it the “Superbug” for this reason.
The MRSA bacteria naturally exists in many body parts such as the groin, nose, armpits, and buttocks. Additionally, the CDC claims that 2 out of every 100 people are carrying the MRSA bacteria. This doesn’t mean that 2 out of every 100 people have a MRSA infection though. It does mean that people with weakened immune systems, such as the elderly, can easily contract MRSA through a carrier, especially if poor hygiene is involved. Without good hygiene and prompt medical treatment, MRSA infections can cause seniors to suffer from blood infections, pneumonia, sepsis, and death.
Bedsores, or pressure ulcers, are another common issue in nursing homes, especially if nursing home abuse and neglect is present. Untreated bed sores can easily lead to a MRSA infection in an elderly person.
Hot tub rash is basically a skin infection caused by the bacteria pseudomonas aeruginosa. As suggested by the name, this rash frequently occurs after people bathe or swim in dirty pools, lakes, hot tubs, bath tubs, or showers.
Scabies is a contagious skin infestation caused by mites that burrow into the top layers of skin and lay eggs. This is another condition that isn’t necessarily caused by poor hygiene in and of itself, but can spread easily between people if they don’t practice good hygiene.
Why Does Poor Hygiene Happen in Nursing Homes?
The main cause of poor hygiene among nursing home residents is understaffing and weakened immune systems. Working in the healthcare industry is brutal in general, but caring for the elderly is often one of the toughest positions in the industry. Additionally, many healthcare workers are grossly overworked and underpaid. Because of these reasons, it’s hard to keep a large enough staff in nursing facilities.
Maintaining good personal hygiene and facility cleanliness is a huge job in the healthcare industry. Hygiene is crucial for overall health and wellness. When you have to constantly care for elderly people who are often physically and mentally disabled, and therefore unable to do anything for themselves, personal hygiene can certainly fall to the wayside. This issue is compounded if there are not enough caregivers on staff.
Elderly people have much weaker immune systems than people of a young age This is simply a byproduct of aging. This means that it’s far easier for elderly people to get sick and even die from poor hygiene.
Signs of Poor Hygiene in Nursing Homes
Visible signs of poor hygiene in nursing homes include:
- Dirty clothes, sheets, towels, toilets, sinks, and showers
- Teeth and hair that appear unbrushed and unwashed
- Dirt and grime stuck underneath nails
- Allowing elderly people to sit in diapers or pee pads for hours at a time
- Frequent infections, whether that be UTIs, skin infections, gastrointestinal infections, respiratory infections, etc.
- Food that doesn’t look, smell, or taste right
Other common signs of poor hygiene include nursing facilities, individual rooms, and residents that smell bad.
Is Poor Hygiene in Nursing Homes a Sign of Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect?
Yes, poor hygiene is certainly a sign of nursing home abuse and neglect. It’s no secret that maintaining good personal and environmental hygiene is difficult in nursing facilities, especially with not enough staff members. But this is merely an explanation, not an excuse. Good hygiene is crucial for overall health and wellness, especially for elderly patients with compromised immune systems. This means that nursing homes must prioritize the best personal and environmental hygiene as possible. Failing to do so can lead to chronic infections, illness, and even death among vulnerable residents.
Can You Sue a Nursing Home for Poor Hygiene?
Yes, you can sue a nursing home for poor hygiene, especially if it’s directly causing your elderly relative to suffer frequent infections and illnesses. Again, any type of infection or illness, no matter how minor, can create life-threatening complications and death in elderly patients.
How to Maintain Good Hygiene in Nursing Homes
The main reason why elderly people go to nursing homes in the first place is to receive basic care that they cannot provide for themselves. In many cases, loved ones cannot provide round-the-clock care either. So elderly people, or their loved ones, pay big bucks for a qualified nursing staff to maintain a good hygiene routine and overall good health. This means that nursing staff must:
- Receive adequate training about a good personal hygiene routine and general facility cleanliness
- Wash their hands and change gloves/gowns in between caring for patients
- Help seniors wash their bodies and brush their teeth every day
- Help seniors change into clean clothes
- Wipe down high touch surfaces
- Change diapers frequently
- Ensure that patient rooms and bathrooms are disinfected frequently
- Ensure that patients wear clean clothes and use clean sheets, towels, blankets, etc.
- Keep the kitchen and dishes clean
- Prepare and store food properly
- Disinfect all medical equipment
- Rotate immobile or bed bound patients frequently in order to prevent bedsores and MRSA infections