Pneumonia is a serious lung infection that can be deadly, especially for elderly people. There are many causes of pneumonia, but like many other communicable diseases and infections, the condition is proliferate in nursing homes. When contracted in a nursing home, pneumonia is called Nursing Home-Acquired Pneumonia, or NHAP.
Here’s what to know about this condition, how nursing home neglect plays a role, and how working with a nursing home abuse attorney can help you advocate for your elderly loved one.
Nursing Home-Acquired Pneumonia (NHAP): Overview
Nursing home-acquired pneumonia (NHAP) is a type of lower respiratory tract infection caused by viruses, bacteria, or fungi that occurs in people who live in nursing homes. NHAP can be serious and is a leading cause of death in nursing home residents.
Bacteria are the most common cause of NHAP and include streptococcus pneumoniae, staphylococcus aureus, and haemophilus influenzae. Viruses can also cause pneumonia, including respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), influenza virus, and adenovirus.
Fungi are a less common cause of NHAP, but they can still occur. The fungi that most often lead to this condition include aspergillus spp and candida albicans (yeast infection).
Viruses, bacteria, and fungi that cause pneumonia are usually spread by inhaling respiratory droplets, such as saliva, mucus, or blood, from an infected person, but they can also be spread by touching surfaces or items that the droplets have touched. Once the bacteria enter the lungs, they can multiply and cause an infection.
The symptoms of NHAP depend on the cause. Bacterial pneumonia often starts suddenly and worsens quickly. Viral pneumonia often occurs after a patient has been sick with a cold or the flu, and symptoms of fungal pneumonia tend to set in slowly over time. All forms of pneumonia can cause fever, cough, chest pain, shortness of breath, and fatigue.
Tests & Diagnosis
Patients suspected of having Nursing Home-Acquired Pneumonia will undergo a variety of tests to confirm the diagnosis. This assessment typically includes a verbal questionnaire about the patient’s symptoms and medical history and a physical exam.
Other tests that may be ordered include but are not limited to chest x-rays or CT imaging that can show changes in the lungs that are characteristic of pneumonia, sputum cultures to check for bacterial growth, and tests to rule out other conditions.
Complications of NHAP can include bacterial meningitis, which is a serious and potentially fatal inflammation of the membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord, localized infections inside the lungs, and septic shock, which occurs when an infection reaches the bloodstream and results in widespread organ failure.
Treatment for NHAP depends on the cause. Bacterial pneumonia is treated with antibiotics while viral pneumonia is treated with antiviral medications. Antifungal medicines are used to treat pneumonia caused by a fungal infection.
Many people with NHAP often need to be hospitalized so they can receive intravenous fluids and oxygen therapy while being closely monitored by nursing staff that can quickly intervene in the event of an emergency.
Nursing Home-Acquired Pneumonia (NHAP): Risk Factors
The elderly are at a higher risk for Nursing Home-Acquired Pneumonia due to their age. The body’s immunity lessens with age, making it more difficult to fight off infections. Additionally, elderly patients often have underlying health conditions that put them at additional risk for illnesses like chronic lung disease or heart failure.
Residents with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease may forget to cover their mouths when they cough or sneeze, making it easier for others to catch whatever respiratory illness they have. They may also be less likely to cooperate with measures like hand-washing or wearing a face mask, which can further increase the spread of infection.
They may also be less able to communicate their symptoms to staff, which can delay diagnosis and treatment. In nursing homes with a high patient-to-staff ratio, these patients may not get the assistance with bathing or hand washing that they need to avoid contracting pneumonia or other serious infections.
Functional impairment is another common condition among nursing home residents that can increase the risk of NHAP. Residents who are unable to walk or move around on their own are often confined to bed, which gives bacteria an opportunity to grow and spread more easily. In addition, residents with impaired mobility may have difficulty clearing their lungs of secretions, which can lead to pneumonia.
When Is the Nursing Home At Fault?
Many factors can contribute to whether or not a nursing home is at fault for a case of NHAP. In some cases, the nursing home may be found negligent if they did not take adequate precautions to prevent the spread of infection, such as failing to properly clean and disinfect surfaces or failing to isolate residents who are sick.
In other cases, the nursing home may be held liable if they were aware of a resident’s increased risk for developing pneumonia but failed to take steps to protect them, such as providing them with the proper medications or vaccinations.
How to Professional Legal Help For Your Loved One
If your loved one has developed NHAP while residing in a nursing home, the facility may be held responsible for negligence if they failed to provide adequate care that led to the development of NHAP. A nursing home abuse attorney can help you investigate the circumstances surrounding your loved one’s illness and determine whether the nursing home is at fault.
Contact Mazow | McCullough, PC today for more information or to schedule a consultation by calling (978) 744-8000 or toll free at (855) 693-9084.