Nurses, counselors and other social workers at nursing homes have been getting an awful lot of flack lately.
As we know from the tragic case of Dr. David Dao, people who are sick and injured can be a bit difficult to come by when it comes to getting care.
But it seems that nursing homes are getting a bit of the blame for the epidemic of violent deaths at the homes.
As the New York Times reported, “In some nursing homes, a doctor’s office or even a hospital can be considered the ‘cure center’ for patients who have been seriously injured or who have developed serious illnesses.”
The Times also reported that “as many as 40% of people who die in the United States are infected by some sort of infectious disease, according to a study released earlier this year.”
This, of course, doesn’t even take into account the number of people in nursing homes who are also infected by communicable diseases like influenza or pneumonia.
In fact, according the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than two-thirds of all deaths in nursing home facilities are the result of an infectious disease.
A whopping 73% of deaths at nursing home are caused by respiratory illness, according a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine in October.
In addition to nursing home deaths, the CDC found that more than half of all suicides in nursing facilities are connected to an infectious condition.
The problem with this data is that it’s based on data from the CDC’s National Comorbidity Survey Replication, which began in 2004.
But as we’ve reported previously, many nursing homes don’t keep up with the latest information, so the numbers don’t really reflect the actual incidence of infectious diseases at the facilities.
According to a recent study published by the Centers For Disease Control, “The percentage of the U.S. population aged ≥65 years with an infectious-disease diagnosis was highest in the states with the highest incidence of pneumonia, with an estimated 95% of the population aged ≤65 years living in states with a prevalence of pneumonia of >2% or higher.”
And of course there are many other factors at play when it come to the rising numbers of nursing home-related deaths.
The National Center for Comorbration and Health Statistics reported that deaths from communicable disease rose at a rate of 0.3% per year from 2005 to 2013, and the CDC has also noted that deaths at these facilities are up by at least 40% from 2001 to 2014.
What does all of this mean?
The CDC, in their report, has a number of suggestions for how to address the problem.
The CDC suggests that “Nursing homes need to make it easier to determine the source of the infection” and “care providers should be trained to identify infectious disease cases in patients with comorbid medical conditions.”
They also suggest that “social workers should use the Internet to educate the public about infectious disease and offer information on infectious disease management.
Nursing homes should ensure that infectious disease is not a major concern at their facilities and work closely with public health officials to improve the response to infections.”
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, in its report, “Nurses, Nurses and the Nursing Home Industry: Challenges, Opportunities and Opportunities for Reform,” has some suggestions to help with this.
They recommend that the “nursing home industry should be more responsive to the public health needs and that more resources be allocated to improving the safety and security of the facilities and residents.”
They further say that the industry should “support the expansion of a health information technology and surveillance system.”
The best thing that can be done is to make sure that nursing home residents are educated about infectious diseases, that staff are trained to diagnose infectious diseases and that nursing facility workers are well-trained to spot people with infectious diseases.
We’re in the midst of an epidemic, but the nurses are making it worse.
If you are a nurse or nursing home resident, let us know how you feel about the pandemic in the comments below.