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Nursing Home Infections

A new study in the American Journal of Infection Control found that 15% of our nursing homes received poor marks for controlling infection.
Things are a little dirty. Okay. So what? The “so what?” answer makes you do a double take: infections kill 400,000 nursing home residents each year.

It is important to make clear that due diligence from the nursing home would not have changed the outcome for the vast majority of these people. Still. That is an incredible stat. The Internet provides so much great information but one of the great downsides is statistics are more meaningless than ever, even good statistics. If an unassailable study came out that said kids who have first names starting with the letter “S” scored 200 points higher on the SATs, people would start naming their kids Sarah and Steve for a few weeks and then everyone would forget about it.

The study concluded that this is a problem that causes real human suffering, finding a strong correlation between low staffing levels at these nursing homes and the receipt of an infection control deficiency citation. Trying to run a nursing home on the cheap, then, is correlated with a higher infection risk.

Of course, this statistic is one that nursing home lawyers representing nursing homes can pull out to defend infection lawsuits. “Sure the woman got an infection. But 400,000 nursing home residents die from infections every year.”

There is some truth to this argument. But it is also true that some portion – a portion that is just too high – of this 400,000 died as the result of nursing homes that did not properly focus on the need to keep their living facility clean.