Posted on April 5, 2019

elderly woman walking with cane holding stomach in pain Gray & WhiteClostridioides difficile (C. diff) infections are a public health concern in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately half a million C. diff infections occur in the United States each year, and approximately 15,000 people die from these infections.

Nursing Home Residents Are at Risk for C. Diff Infections

A person may be at greater risk of developing C. diff if the person:

  • Is 65 or older
  • Is receiving medical care or taking antibiotics
  • Is staying in a nursing home for an extended period
  • Has a weakened immune system or has previously had a C. diff infection

Many nursing home residents have several, or all, of these risk factors.

Nursing Home Negligence Can Cause C. Diff

Just because nursing home residents are at greater risk for contracting a C. diff infection, does not mean that C. diff is inevitable. In some cases, this uncomfortable and life-threatening condition is caused by or worsened by nursing home negligence.  For example, nursing home negligence can cause or worsen a C. diff infection if:

Residents remain on antibiotics longer than necessary.

Prescription antibiotics are often medically necessary. A nursing home resident may need an antibiotic to treat an infection, but while the antibiotics are treating that infection, the medication may increase the risk of a C. diff infection. Therefore, it is important for nursing home residents to only be given antibiotics when necessary and as prescribed.

Proper hygiene and cleaning practices are not followed. 

Clostridioides difficile is spread through fecal matter. The bacterium is present in the stools of infected patients and can live on surfaces for a long time. Therefore, when someone touches a surface with C. difficile bacteria and then touches their hand to their mouth or otherwise ingests the bacteria, that person may become sick. Nursing homes have a duty to use reasonable infectious disease prevention procedures and to clean regularly to prevent the spread of C. diff infections.

There is a delay in diagnosis.

C. diff symptoms include diarrhea, stomach pain, fever, loss of appetite, nausea, intestinal bleeding, and colon paralysis. If a nursing home resident develops these symptoms, nursing home staff should report the symptoms to a doctor so that a prompt diagnosis can be made and appropriate antibiotics can be started.

Staff fails to recognize that the infection is worsening.

C. diff can be a difficult disease to treat. The infection can worsen or lead to other complications such as dehydration and malnutrition. Nursing home staff should quickly contact a doctor if the infection is not improving as expected.

A nursing home resident may have a negligence case against the nursing home if the nursing home’s actions, or inaction, caused the C. diff infection or allowed it to worsen.

Contact a Nursing Home Negligence Lawyer for Help

Not every nursing home resident with C. diff has a legitimate lawsuit against the nursing home. An investigation will need to be done to determine whether the nursing home was negligent. This can be difficult for a nursing home resident to do independently or even with the help of her family.

There is significant documentation that will be necessary from the nursing home about things such as:

  • Nursing home policies and procedures
  • Nursing home staffing
  • Nursing home staff training
  • Infectious disease protocol and whether it was followed
  • Cleaning logs
  • Nursing home resident charts and medical records

The nursing home may be unwilling to hand over this information unless it is legally required to do so. Our nursing home abuse lawyers and staff nurse know what information to request and how to make the request in a legally compelling way. Additionally, we will consult with expert witnesses and evaluate all other relevant evidence.

Has Your Loved One Been Injured In A Nursing Home?

If you believe your loved one is being subjected to nursing home abuse you need to speak with an experienced Kentucky nursing home neglect attorney as soon as possible. Contact us online or call our office directly at 888.450.4456 to schedule a free consultation.

Mark K. Gray
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Louisville attorney serving the seriously injured in Kentucky