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Staph infections in nursing homes are cause for concern

A healthy person can usually recover fairly easily from a staph infection or from MRSA, which is a strain of the Staphylococcus aureus bacteria.

However, the staph bacteria can compromise the weaker immune system of an elderly nursing home patient, which can lead to serious health issues.

What it is

Staphylococcus aureus, or “staph” as it is often called, is a type of bacteria that may live on the surface of the skin of healthy people. It is usually harmless unless it enters the skin through a cut or scratch. This can lead to an infection, which might appear as a pimple or boil. A doctor could drain the site and that would end the infection. In nursing homes, a staph infection is usually MRSA, which is short for Methicillin-resistant S. aureus.

How it spreads

MRSA can spread when the skin of one nursing home patient touches clothes, sheets or dressings that touched the skin of another patient infected with the bacteria. Not only can MRSA enter the body through a scratch or sore, it can also enter through a catheter or some other type of medical device. If it progresses beyond the pimple or boil stage, it can invade tissues and enter the bloodstream or the urinary tract. The result could be bacterial pneumonia or even kidney failure.

How to treat it

Draining an abscess on the skin will defeat the threat of infection, but if the patient is dealing with a staph or MRSA infection that has gone deeper, a physician will likely prescribe intravenous antibiotics. In the most serious cases, there must be a course of IV antibiotics for up to six weeks.

Other steps to take

If a nursing home resident suffers a severe staph or MRSA infection that leads to further health complications or death, loved ones will want to know how this could have happened. If the family suspects negligence on the part of nursing home staff or misdiagnosis by a physician, they may wish to consider what legal options are available.

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