What is a Urinary Tract Infection?
A urinary tract infection (UTI) is an infection in the urinary tract: which includes the bladder, kidneys, ureters, and urethra. Urinary tract infections may occur in response to bacteria, or, less commonly, fungi, and viruses. Most of the time, UTIs develop in the bladder or urethra (lower tract infection), but they can also occur in the ureters and kidneys (upper tract infection). Upper tract infections are generally more serious in nature.
UTIs often cause people to experience pelvic pain, a frequent need to urinate, pain when urinating, and dark or bloody urine. People suffering from a UTI may also experience pain in other areas such as the groin or lower abdomen, along with fever, fatigue, or cramping.
How is a Urinary Tract Infection caused by nursing home neglect or abuse?
When nursing homes fail to use proper sanitation and provide an adequate level of care for residents, nursing home residents often develop urinary tract infections as a result. Infection spreads more easily when caregivers are lax about washing their hands and cleaning nursing home surfaces thoroughly.
Many nursing home residents require a high amount of care, especially those who are sedentary. UTIs often develop in nursing home residents who are incontinent and who need assistance changing their clothes and getting up to use the restroom. By neglecting the needs of these residents – failing to change their underclothes often, failing to help them with restroom use, and failing to keep residents hydrated – caregivers may indirectly contribute to residents developing UTIs.
What should a nursing home do to prevent Urinary Tract Infections?
Medical studies have demonstrated that urinary catheters are a major risk factor for urinary tract infections. For this reason, nursing homes are required to avoid using catheters whenever possible. In fact, unless a resident is already using an indwelling catheter at the time of his or her entrance to the facility, the nursing home should not use a catheter for that resident. The only time a nursing home may catheterize a resident is if the resident’s clinical condition makes a catheter necessary. When a catheter is used, caregivers should use the catheter according to standard infection control practices, keep both the resident and catheter clean, and provide the resident with adequate hydration.
Caregivers should pay special attention to residents who suffer from urinary incontinence, as these residents are more at risk for developing UTIs.
Can the nursing home be held responsible for a Urinary Tract Infection?
A nursing home has a legal duty of care towards its residents, which includes caring for their physical and medical needs. Furthermore, nursing home federal regulations for Georgia require nursing homes to avoid using catheters whenever possible, maintain a clean and sanitary facility, and treat residents with urinary incontinence to minimize the risk of infection. Because of these regulations, a nursing home can be held responsible for a urinary tract infection – if the nursing home could have prevented the infection through reasonable care. If the nursing home is found at fault in a case of UTI, then Georgia law requires that facility to compensate the resident for medical costs, pain, and suffering related to the infection.