Can a urinary tract infection be a sign of nursing home neglect?
Nursing Home Abuse

Can a nursing home be liable for a resident’s UTI?

Yes. UTIs in nursing homes are either avoidable or unavoidable. If the UTI was avoidable, then the nursing home may be sued for neglect. If the UTI was unavoidable, then there may not be a case.

In short, was there something that the facility could have reasonably done? If so, then the nursing home is liable.

If your loved one suffered from an avoidable UTI, then call and speak to one of our nursing home UTI lawyers today. Our consultations are always free.

A UTI is unavoidable if the nursing home:

(a) Assesses the resident’s risk for UTIs. This includes a review of medications, clinical diagnosis, and physical abilities.

(b) Creates a Care Plan based on the assessment. The care plan should include specific actions (called “interventions”), tailored to the resident, aimed to reduce infections.

(c) Update and Monitor the Care Plan. The care plan must be continually monitored to ensure that it is actually working.

A UTI is avoidable if the nursing home fails to take any of the three steps above. If so, then the nursing home may be liable for the UTI and any pain and suffering associated with it.

Preventing UTIs in nursing homes

Federal regulations require nursing homes implement interventions to reduce UTIs in residents. In fact, if the nursing home does not do so, the facility may be liable for the resulting infection. Required interventions may include:

  • Infection Control: The nursing home must employ standard infection control policies, including strict catheter drainage and replacement policies. Strict monitoring that such policies are used is also required.
  • Incontinent Care: Staff must respond quickly to bouts of incontinence. Residents cannot remain in soiled undergarments for long or the risk of infection increases.
  • Catheter Care: A long-term indwelling catheter can substantially increase the chance of a UTI. Proper maintenance, cleaning, and replacement is necessary to ensure proper hygiene.
  • Rounding: Nursing homes should check on residents at predetermined intervals based on a care plan. Routine check-ins help reduce bowel movement or urinary accidents, which in turn reduces the chances of infection.
  • Person-Centered Care Plan: Every resident is required to be assessed at admission. Based on the assessment, the nursing home develops a care plan that reflects the needs of that specific resident. Person-centered care targets UTI prevention.

There are many, many, more specific interventions to prevent infection in nursing home residents. If you suspect that your loved one developed an infection because of negligence, then please call for a free consultation with one of our Georgia nursing home UTI lawyers today.

Federal Regulations require nursing homes provide care that reduces the likelihood of urinary tract infections.

Federal Regulations require nursing homes provide care that reduces the likelihood of urinary tract infections.

Nursing homes negligence for urinary tract infections

Nursing homes are not just required to take measures to prevent UTIs, facilities must be observant of the signs and symptoms after infection has set in. Left  untreated, urosepsis can lead to serious organ damage and death. As such, nursing home staff should be trained to identify the warning signs.

Symptoms of UTIs include:

  • Fever
  • Increased burning pain on urination
  • Increased urgency to urinate
  • Pelvic pain or tenderness
  • Bloody, foul smelling, or dark urine
  • Declining functional status
  • Abnormal lab results
Nursing homes must follow federal regulations for UTI prevention, including infection control protocols.

Nursing homes must follow federal regulations for UTI prevention, including infection control protocols.

Generally, when a resident demonstrates at least three of the above symptoms, the nursing home should take steps to evaluate for a UTI. Confirmation of a UTI requires that the nursing home update the resident’s care plan for UTI interventions.

Catching a UTI early allows for proper treatment and lessens the pain, suffering, and discomfort. Further, it prevents the infection from spreading and causing organ failure or death.

What recovery is a jury allowed to award in a nursing home UTI case?

Money damages are the only recovery available in a UTI lawsuit. The judge or jury are not allowed to tell the nursing home how to operate, or force a change in policies. In other words, a jury will not be able to award anything other than money.

A nursing home UTI case is a personal injury case. There are several avenues of recovery:

  • Medical Bills: All medical bills related to treating the UTI (even if not paid by the resident).
  • Pain and Suffering: UTIs can be very painful. A jury is allowed to put a money value on the experience.
  • Wrongful Death: If the UTI is the direct cause of the resident’s death, then money damages may be awarded for wrongful death. Read more about wrongful death here.

What is a Urinary Tract Infection?

UTIs are bacterial infections that can cause serious complications in nursing home residents.

UTIs are bacterial infections that can cause serious complications in nursing home residents.

A urinary tract infection (UTI) is an infection in the urinary tract: which includes the bladder, kidneys, ureters, and urethra. Urinary tract infections may occur in response to bacteria, or, less commonly, fungi, and viruses. Most of the time, UTIs develop in the bladder or urethra (lower tract infection), but they can also occur in the ureters and kidneys (upper tract infection). Upper tract infections are generally more serious in nature.

UTIs often cause people to experience pelvic pain, a frequent need to urinate, pain when urinating, and dark or bloody urine. People suffering from a UTI may also experience pain in other areas such as the groin or lower abdomen, along with fever, fatigue, or cramping.

Do catheters increase the chance of UTIs?

Yes. Medical studies have demonstrated that urinary catheters are a major risk factor for urinary tract infections.

For this reason, nursing homes are required to avoid using catheters whenever possible. Unless a resident is already using an indwelling catheter at the time of his or her entrance to the facility, the nursing home should not use a catheter for that resident.

The only time a nursing home may catheterize a resident is if the resident’s clinical condition makes a catheter necessary. When a catheter is used, caregivers should use the catheter according to standard infection control practices, keep both the resident and catheter clean, and provide the resident with adequate hydration.

Federal regulations require the following special catheter care to prevent UTIs:

  • Implement standard infection control protocols.
  • Keeping the catheter clean and free of feces and other matter.
  • Maintain free urine flow through the catheter.
  • Assess the hydration and nutritional needs of the resident.

For more information regarding catheter-associated UTIs, please feel free to listen to Episode 87 of the Nursing Home Abuse Podcast, “Preventing Catheter-Related UTIs in Nursing Homes.

Urinary tract infection lawsuit for negligence

A urinary tract infection can be a sign of nursing home neglect. In many cases, nursing homes can prevent UTIs from developing in their residents by taking the right precautions, and even once a UTI has developed, acting quickly.

Because of their compromised immune systems, elderly people are more at risk for developing UTIs and other infections. Elderly people are also more likely to develop a urinary tract infection if they have diabetes, bowel incontinence, or kidney stones. Similarly, if they have recently had surgery in an area around the bladder, or if they have limited mobility, they stand a greater risk of infection. Accordingly, nursing homes should take extra care of residents who fit this description. Because these factors are widely known to increase the risk of infection, nursing homes have no excuse for neglecting residents in these situations.

Nursing homes can do many things to prevent residents from developing urinary tract infections. For one thing, they should make sanitation a top priority in their facility, and ensure that both residents and staff have ample opportunities to wash their hands. Caregivers need to help patients keep their genital areas clean and dry and change their underclothes at least once a day; otherwise the facility is guilty of neglect.

Nursing homes have a legal duty to use reasonable care to prevent UTIs from developing in their residents. UTIs are sometime unavoidable, which means that a nursing home may take all the right measures and still fail to protect a patient from infection. In many cases, though, UTIs can be prevented through reasonable care and attention.

Are multiple urinary tract infections a sign of nursing home neglect?

Yes. Multiple urinary tract infections may be a sign of nursing home neglect. Under federal nursing home guidelines, recurrent UTIs means at least two UTIs within six months for a non-catheterized resident.

When a facility observes recurrent UTIs in either a catheterized and non-catheterized resident, it must review the resident’s care plan. Are infection control protocols being followed? Is appropriate incontinent care being provided?

When nursing homes neglect to follow research-backed practices in using catheters and other medical equipment, residents often develop multiple urinary tract infections. If this happens, the nursing home may be responsible for any related medical expenses as well as pain and suffering.

There are many steps nursing homes can take to prevent residents from developing UTIs. For example, research shows that using an indwelling urinary catheter (a tube used for removing fluid from the body), significantly increases the risk of UTIs, and each day a resident uses a catheter further increases that risk. In fact, after 30 days of catheter use, the chance of multiple UTIs developing is almost guaranteed. In addition, the mortality rate is higher among nursing home residents who use a catheter for over 30 days.

To prevent residents from developing UTIs, nursing home staff should limit their use of catheters and follow research-backed methods in using them, like keeping a closed drainage system and washing hands frequently. Nursing home staff should be alert to any signs of a urinary tract infection, such as a sudden change in behavior, incontinence, and confusion. When a caregiver recognizes one or more of these common UTI symptoms, they should take action as soon as possible to treat the infection, prevent it from spreading, and keep it from recurring.

How long do you have to bring a UTI claim against the nursing home under the Georgia statute of limitations?

The statute of limitations (the amount of time that you have to sue) for UTI related neglect is two years from the incident. But be careful! There are circumstances that may shorten or lengthen that time.

Also, claims against nursing homes for UTIs may be considered “professional malpractice.” All professional malpractice claims in Georgia require a signed affidavit from an expert before the lawsuit can be filed. O.C.G.A. 9-11-9.1. As such, it is important not to delay.

Schenk Smith specializes in suing nursing homes for neglect, including UTIs and other injuries.

Schenk Smith specializes in suing nursing homes for neglect, including UTIs and other injuries.

Georgia nursing home urinary tract infection lawyers

If your loved one developed a urinary tract infection at a nursing home, you may be able to sue the nursing home for neglect. Since UTIs are so common in nursing homes and have such serious consequences for the elderly, facilities need to reasonably do everything in their power to prevent their residents from developing infections. If a nursing home neglects this responsibility, it may be liable for medical expenses and related pain and suffering.

Urinary tract infections are a growing problem in nursing homes across the country, and one of the leading causes of death for nursing home residents. Because of this, nursing homes should do everything they can to prevent their patients from developing infections. Sanitation and cleanliness are most effective in preventing UTIs, so nursing homes should have hand-washing and hand sanitizer stations throughout their facility. Caregivers should help residents who are bed-bound and/or incontinent by changing their underclothing often and helping them get to the bathroom as needed.

Studies show that patients who use urinary catheters have a higher rate of developing UTIs, so nursing homes should limit their use of urinary catheters in order to protect their residents from infection. Additionally, caregivers should make sure that their patients stay hydrated, as this prevents UTIs from developing.

Nursing homes have a legal duty to use reasonable care to prevent UTIs and other infections from developing in their patients. Caregivers can and should prevent infection by washing their hands often, limiting their use of catheters, and helping patients with incontinence, as well as those who need assistance in the bathroom. Furthermore, nursing homes should use reasonable care to promote sanitation and cleanliness in both residents and staff members.

If a nursing home fails to take these precautions, and a resident develops a UTI, then that facility may be liable for the consequences. This means that the nursing home may be responsible for medical bills, out-of-pocket expenses, and pain and suffering.

If your loved one developed a UTI at a nursing home or assisted living facility, and you are wondering if you have a claim, please feel free to call and speak to one of our experienced Georgia nursing home neglect lawyers today. If you would like more information about this topic, be sure to click on our other videos, or better yet, click the subscribe button to subscribe to our YouTube channel. Thank you.