Nursing home residents can be at high risk of infectious diseases

Older people are typically more likely to develop some common infections than younger ones. Their immune systems are often compromised. Moreover, these infections can become serious because seniors may write off symptoms as just more of the aches and pains they're used to. People with dementia may not be able to adequately communicate that they aren't feeling well.

However, it's essential for caregivers -- like those working in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities -- to recognize the symptoms of common infections. They also need to work to prevent seniors from acquiring infections in the first place.

The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) says that infectious diseases are behind a third of fatalities among people over 65. Pneumonia and influenza together are the sixth most common cause of fatalities in this country. Ninety percent of those are seniors.

Annual flu vaccinations are typically recommended for those over 65. There's also a pneumococcal vaccine that can help prevent some types of pneumonia. This is often recommended for people who live in long-term care facilities where they're in living in close quarters with others.

Gastrointestinal infections are less likely to be fatal. However, they can cause a number of unpleasant and painful symptoms. Sometimes these infections are caused by antibiotics that a person may be taking for other health issues.

Skin infections become more common as people age because the skin is less able to fight off disease and to heal. Common skin infections in older people include viral infections like shingles and foot infections caused by fungus or bacteria.

People of all ages develop urinary tract infections (UTIs). However, they're the bacterial infection that older people are most likely to suffer from. They are often caused by catheters and diabetes.

If you have a loved one in a nursing home or other long-term care facility, you should be able to trust that the staff there can recognize the symptoms of these and other infections. Prompt, proper treatment is essential. They should also take all reasonable precautions to help prevent the spread of infectious diseases among their residents.

If you believe the negligence or actions of those entrusted to care for your loved one caused their illness or worsened it, it's important to take action to prevent further harm to them and others. If you are considering legal action, consult an experienced attorney to discuss the situation.

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