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Poor Hygiene in Nursing Homes

In nursing homes across the country, unsanitary conditions put residents at risk of serious illness. From soiled bedding and bathrooms to contaminated food and water, the potential for infection is high. Unfortunately, many nursing home residents cannot speak up for themselves when staff cut corners with cleanliness. 

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If you suspect that a family member was harmed due to poor hygiene in a nursing home, don’t wait to take action. Contact Levin & Perconti to schedule a free consultation with one of our skilled and compassionate nursing home abuse lawyers. We can help you understand your legal options and fight to ensure that your loved one gets the care and compensation they deserve. 

The Impact of Poor Hygiene on Nursing Home Residents

According to data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), about 1.3 million people live in approximately 15,600 nursing homes across the United States. Because of their advanced age, underlying health issues and weak immune systems, residents are especially vulnerable to deadly infections. As a result, nursing home facilities must take extra care to maintain clean and sanitary conditions.  

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic—which killed more than 200,000 nursing home residents and staff—infection control in nursing homes was a persistent problem. A 2020 U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) survey found that from 2013 through 2017, 82 percent of 13,299 surveyed nursing homes had received citations for one or more infection prevention and control deficiencies. 

Cited infection and prevention control deficiencies included: 

  • Irregularities in handwashing practices
  • Improperly cleaned or disinfected surfaces
  • Failure to properly isolate patients with contagious illnesses

Health Problems Associated with Poor Hygiene in Nursing Homes

Lapses in proper hygiene can have grave consequences for vulnerable residents. 

For example, suppose a caretaker helps a nursing home resident to the bathroom but doesn’t properly wash their hands afterward. They can quickly spread deadly bacteria or viruses to vulnerable nursing home residents. 

According to National Institutes of Health (NIH) data collected before the COVID-19 pandemic, U.S. nursing facility patients contract about 2 million infections annually. 

Common Infections in Nursing Homes

The NIH report documents the four most common infections in nursing homes: 

  • Pneumonia and lower respiratory tract infections are the leading cause of mortality in nursing home residents and a primary reason for resident transfer to a hospital. 
  • Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are the most common infection diagnosed in nursing homes. Residents who require catheters are especially susceptible to UTIs. 
  • Diarrheal diseases, primarily caused by viral and bacterial gastroenteritis, can cause dehydration and malnutrition—especially in residents who have difficulty eating or drinking. 
  • Skin and soft tissue infections, including cellulitis, scabies, pressure ulcers (bed sores) and diabetic wound infections, are often caused by poor hygiene or unclean living conditions. 

Signs of Poor Hygiene in Nursing Home Facilities

When you visit a nursing home resident, they should be clean and cared for. Staff members should, for example, bathe residents regularly and help them with grooming tasks like brushing their teeth and hair. 

The nursing home facility should also have a pleasant odor, and surfaces should be free of dirt and grime. If staff members disregard residents’ basic personal hygiene, it may signify nursing home neglect. 

Other warning signs of poor hygiene in nursing homes include:  

  • Unsanitary bathrooms with stained toilets, showers and floors
  • Visible dirt, grime or mold in resident rooms or common areas
  • Residents with bad breath or other signs of poor dental hygiene
  • Bedding that is soiled or stained
  • Bedsores or other skin infections
  • Fecal or urine odors  

Maintaining proper hygiene is essential for preventing infection in nursing home residents. Staff members must regularly clean and disinfect the facilities and ensure that residents are clean and well-groomed. 

What causes poor hygiene in nursing homes?

While many factors can contribute to poor hygiene in nursing facilities, understaffing is often the primary cause.  

According to a 2021 Human Rights Watch report, nursing homes are chronically understaffed. As a result, overworked employees may cut corners on tasks like bathing and grooming residents, cleaning facilities and doing laundry. 

Other common causes of nursing home neglect include: 

  • Poor training or supervision of nursing home staff 
  • Lack of written or implemented policies and procedures 
  • High staff turnover rates 

Poor hygiene and infection control practices may also occur if nursing home employees lack adequate supplies. For example, during the COVID-19 pandemic, many workers lacked personal protective equipment (PPE), putting them and residents at risk of infection. 

“Even before the pandemic, the U.S. government failed to ensure that nursing homes were adequately staffed and regulated.”

– Laura Mills, Researcher on older people’s rights at Human Rights Watch

Is poor hygiene a sign of nursing home abuse?

Although poor hygiene in nursing homes may be a sign of understaffing or lack of training, it can also be a form of elder abuse. For example, nursing home employees may intentionally neglect residents to punish or exert power over them. 

The prevalence of nursing home abuse is difficult to determine because many residents are frightened or physically unable to report it. However, a 2022 World Health Organization (WHO) study found that about one in six adults in nursing home facilities experienced abuse from staff. 

The WHO report also revealed that two out of three nursing home staff members admitted to committing at least one form of abuse against elderly residents in the past year. 

What are the most common forms of nursing home abuse?

The most common forms of nursing home abuse, according to the CDC, are: 

  • Emotional abuse, including yelling, name-calling and intimidating or threatening behavior 
  • Sexual abuse, or any non-consensual sexual contact by a nursing home employee, including rape or sexual assault 
  • Financial exploitation, such as stealing patients’ money or property, using their credit cards without permission or coercing them to sign financial documents 

 Nursing home neglect is the most common form of elder abuse in nursing homes and can involve failing to provide residents with basic personal hygiene needs or medical care. 

 As mentioned above, abused nursing home patients may have dementia or other medical conditions that prevent them from communicating what is happening. They may also be afraid to speak up because they depend on their abuser for care. 

 If you suspect that a loved one is being abused in a nursing home, telltale signs of elder abuse may include: 

  • Sudden changes in mood or behavior 
  • Unexplained bruises or injuries 
  • Weight loss
  • Unexplained financial transactions
  • Fear or anxiety around certain staff members
  • Unusual changes in sleeping or eating habits 

What To Do if You Suspect Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect

If you suspect that a family member is being abused or neglected in a nursing home, here are some steps you can take:  

Step 1: Call 911 If the Resident Is in Immediate Danger 

By contacting law enforcement, you can ensure that the resident is safe and get them the medical attention they may need. Be sure to obtain a police report because it can be helpful evidence if you decide to take legal action. 

Step 2: Report Abuse or Neglect to the Proper Authorities 

All nursing homes are required by federal law to have a process for receiving and investigating complaints of abuse or neglect. You can report the abuse to:  

Step 3: Speak With an Experienced Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer 

If your loved one has sustained an injury that you suspect is the result of nursing home abuse, contacting a lawyer specializing in this type of law can be beneficial. Nursing home abuse lawyers are familiar with the rules and regulations governing nursing homes and can help you hold the facility accountable. 

How the Nursing Home Abuse Lawyers at Levin & Perconti Can Help You

If your family member suffered an injury or died due to poor nursing home hygiene conditions, the experienced and compassionate lawyers at Levin & Perconti can help. Not only is our knowledge of federal and state nursing home laws unmatched, but we also have the financial resources to go after big corporations and spend every dollar necessary to successfully prosecute your case. We have helped Illinois residents combat nursing home abuse for over 30 years and consistently obtain great results for our clients. 

When you hire Levin & Perconti, our legal team will:  

  • Thoroughly investigate the circumstances of your loved one’s abuse or neglect 
  • Gather evidence to support your claim 
  • Speak with witnesses 
  • Analyze medical records
  • Consult with experts
  • Handle all communication with the nursing home and insurance companies
  • Prepare and file your lawsuit
  • Fight for the maximum compensation possible 

Get a Free Case Evaluation for Your Nursing Home Neglect Case

Nursing home abuse victims and family members deserve justice, and our attorneys are dedicated to defending the rights of older adults neglected by their caretakers. 

 When you contact Levin & Perconti for a free consultation, one of our experienced nursing home attorneys will evaluate your case so that you may make an educated choice about how to proceed. If we represent you, we will do so on a contingency fee basis, meaning you owe us nothing unless we recover compensation for your injuries. 

However, be aware that there are time limits for filing nursing home abuse and neglect lawsuits in Illinois. Please don’t wait to act! Contact us today at (312) 332-2872 or complete our online form to schedule your free case review with a legal team member. 

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