Grazian and Volpe has written multiple articles on this website regarding the dangers of nursing home neglect and abuse. We have repeatedly stressed the need for the family and friends of the nursing home patient to be vigilant for the signs of neglect and abuse and to familiarize themselves with the patient’s care plan to help assure compliance.
However, a recent article in the New York Times raises a new nursing home danger, one which would seem common sense in a healthcare environment. It should be a given that persons in any area of the healthcare field would practice the simple act of handwashing or using an alcohol-based anti-microbial before and after any direct contact with a resident. Before helping someone with tooth-brushing, bathing, eating or using the toilet. Before and after handling a catheter or taking a blood sample or changing a dressing. Not only are these common sense habits; they’re prescribed by guidelines from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, part of the process by which the nation’s nursing homes are inspected.
In an era when fierce infections like MRSA and Clostridium difficile are endemic in nursing homes and hospitals, handwashing should be a well-followed compulsory habit. The elderly in nursing homes are frail and particularly vulnerable to infection and infections picked up in a health care setting represent their single greatest cause of sickness and death, and the reason underlying a quarter of all hospitalizations from long-term care facilities.
Given those statistics, it is shocking that the number of nursing homes cited for deficiencies in “hand hygiene” has been rising at a dramatic rate in the last few years. One reason cited by the University of Pittsburgh gerontologist Nicholas Castle, a veteran nursing home researcher, was the growing emphasis on infection control, meaning that inspectors are paying more attention to this trend and enforcement of hand-hygiene guidelines.
Unfortunately, the real rate of unwashed hands may actually be higher than data shows, as it can be assumed nursing home staffers are careful to comply with Medicare guidelines in the presence of inspectors.
Another instance of the need for family and friends to monitor the care and habits of the nursing home staff and to be ever vigilant for signs of nursing home abuse and neglect. We have written a good deal on this website regarding these signs-please do refer to these articles when you suspect abuse or neglect, and remember any consultation call is free. Friends and family should be sure to wash their hands when entering and exiting any nursing home facilities, and before and after helping a resident in any capacity.