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Woman in pain from a UTI in a nursing home.

Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)

A urinary tract infection (commonly referred to as a UTI) is one of the most commonly diagnosed infections in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. A UTI occurs when bacteria enters and inflames any section of the urinary system, including the kidneys, ureter, bladder, or urethra. Because elderly residents typically have weakened immune systems, along with a host of underlying health conditions, they are more susceptible to such infections. That said, in many cases, facility acquired UTIs are preventable.


What Causes a UTI?


While there are different types of UTIs, all UTIs begin with bacteria entering and infecting the urinary tract system. In the nursing home and/or assisted living setting, these bacteria derive from a variety of sources:

  • Poor Hygiene: Many nursing home and/or assisted living facility residents face challenges related to limited mobility and cognitive disorders, making it difficult for them to maintain personal hygiene without regular assistance from facility staff. When this assistance is lacking, residents are left to suffer the consequences of poor hygiene, including UTIs. This is particularly true for residents who are incontinent and resigned to wearing adult diapers. When a facility is not regularly checking and changing a resident’s diapers, the facility is unnecessarily exposing the resident to an increased risk of infection. Under these circumstances, the infection typically derives from E. coli found in fecal matter entering the urethral opening. Other examples of poor hygiene that can lead to UTIs include a facility’s failure to regularly bathe and/or shower residents, properly bathe residents (who require bed baths), and assist with toileting (when required). 


  • Improper Use of a Catheter: Some nursing home and/or assisted living facility residents use urinary catheters when they are unable to urinate on their own or when they are incontinent of their bladder. Use of a urinary catheter, in and of itself, increases the risk of a UTI – and facilities know this! When a resident suffers a UTI while using a urinary catheter, the UTI is commonly referred to as a “Catheter-Associated Urinary Tract Infection” (CAUTI). Unfortunately, a CAUTI can lead to hospitalization, result in the spread of bacteria that are resistant to antibiotic treatment, and cause a life-threatening condition called sepsis. As such, nursing homes and assisted living facilities must use best practices related to catheter care, general hygiene, and resident monitoring when caring for residents who use catheters.


  • Dehydration: Dehydration is a leading risk factor for facility acquired UTIs. While dehydration, in and of itself, will not cause a UTI, dehydration will provide an environment for bacterial growth. A resident can become dehydrated if the facility is not properly monitoring fluid intake.


Do I have a Case?


Generally speaking, the mere occurrence of a UTI, in and of itself, is not enough to bring an action for abuse or neglect against a nursing home or assisted living facility. To hold a facility accountable, two preliminary questions must be addressed. First, was the facility negligent in their care and/or treatment? Second, did you or your loved one suffer consequences as a result of the facility’s negligent care and/or treatment? As for the first question, there must be evidence of negligence to establish that the facility failed to adhere to appropriate standards of care. As for the second question, there must be an adverse outcome. For instance, if, on the one hand, a UTI went unnoticed due to improper monitoring and the resident experienced complications, including sepsis or even death, then a lawsuit would likely be justified. If, on the other hand, a nursing home resident sustained a UTI that cleared up with a basic antibiotic treatment course, there would likely be no viable basis to bring a lawsuit. That said, each situation is unique and it's best to have the attorneys at FIDJ review your matter.


If your loved one suffered from a urinary tract infection (UTI) while in a nursing home or assisted living facility, contact the experienced attorneys at FIDJ, before it’s too late.


*The information contained herein is not medical advice and must not be construed as medical advice.


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