UTIs May Lead to More Serious Injuries like Encephalopathy in Long-term Care Setting
When an older individual decides to move into a nursing home, they likely expect that they will receive the care that they are struggling to provide for themselves—and sometimes they do. Unfortunately, as nursing homes turn their attention to greater profit at the cost of the wellbeing of the residents who live in and rely on their facilities, care outcomes worsen. One of the most common areas that this can be seen in is the prevalence of UTIs, or urinary tract infections, in the older population.
UTIs, which may simply inconvenience younger folks (if they happen at all), can become a deadly issue for elders whose immune systems are no longer able to mount an adequate response. And in recent years, further research has evidenced that UTIs can be behind something even more sinister—encephalopathy, or brain damage.
It is because of this that so many of the cases our law firm handles involve nursing home acquired UTI lawsuits. If your family member developed a UTI which resulted in encephalopathy, call our caring and compassionate nursing home abuse attorneys today at 888-375-9998.
UTIs in a Nursing Home Setting
Within the context of a nursing home setting, urinary tract infections are most commonly caused by catheters, which a large number of residents will be using. Catheter use arises from a variety of conditions, from pain or mobility issues that keep a patient from using the bathroom easily on their own to injuries that keep a resident bed-bound. A catheter’s purpose is to drain the bladder, and in lieu of inserting a catheter each time a resident’s bladder is full, many people live with a catheter inserted at all times.
Consistent use of a catheter can pose issues with bacterial growth and sanitary health, which is why nursing homes must continuously be vigilant about replacing and disinfecting catheters. When a nursing home is abusive or negligent, catheter sanitization is one of the most common areas of concern, with numerous lawsuits against long-term care facilities across the United States reporting that some cases have gotten so severe that mold has been found on some patients’ catheters.
The Dangers of UTIs & Encephalopathy
Urinary tract infections are dangerous for the older population, who cannot fight off the infection as well as their younger friends and relatives. When a catheter has not been cleaned and bacteria are allowed to grow, they can cause infection within the urethra, or the duct connecting the bladder to the outside of the body. Left untreated (or unnoticed by understaffed facilities), the infection will spread to the bladder and eventually the kidneys, where it can cause severe consequences such as septicemia (blood poisoning) and kidney failure.
However, in the last few years, a surging body of evidence has emerged from researchers who have discovered a new consequence of UTIs: brain damage and disease. This previously largely unknown connection may make important strides in connecting nursing home abuse with UTIs and patient mortality from seemingly unrelated brain deterioration.
It is now confirmed that a large, untreated urinary tract infection can directly cause encephalopathy and other terminal brain illnesses.
The Brain’s Connection to UTIs: Encephalopathy
The scientific term for damage or disease that affects the brain is encephalopathy. This damage in the brain can cause a variety of symptoms, from general confusion and lack of mental clarity to more serious events such as seizures, tumors, and strokes. But how does a UTI in the bladder area contribute to brain damage when the systems are so far apart?
When a urinary tract infection is untreated, the bacteria involved in the infection continue to multiply and consume sugars and other materials within the body and the urine. As a result of this process, the bacteria produce a substance called urease. When this urease comes into contact with water—which is a guarantee, since upwards of 96% of urine is water—the urease undergoes a process called hydrolysis. Hydrolysis converts the urease into ammonium, and it is this ammonium that is the real culprit.
Ammonium can enter the body’s circulatory system by passing through the organs and into the blood. Since blood flows throughout the body, this is a quick way for ammonia to reach the brain. When ammonia reaches the brain, it begins to interfere with the integrity of brain cells by producing glutamine. Over time, as more and more brain cells experience interference and damage, the function of the brain breaks down, causing the symptoms of encephalopathy.
Is Encephalopathy from a Urinary Tract Infection Preventable?
The short answer is that yes, encephalopathy caused by UTIs is preventable. If a nursing home correctly attends to patients to regularly clean and disinfect their catheters, their risk of contracting a UTI decreases significantly. And without a UTI, the body is able to continue processing liquid waste and urea appropriately, without the risk of creating an overwhelming urease presence that converts into ammonia. Further, if a resident develops a UTI and gets treated before it gets bad, encephalopathy can be avoided.
For this reason, encephalopathy linked to ammonia from urinary tract infections can be prevented with good care. It is also important that loved ones and family members remain vigilant regarding the symptoms being shown by nursing home residents who currently have or have recently had a UTI; increasing research indicates that mental and brain issues that were previously thought to stand alone may in fact be related to urinary tract, bladder, and kidney infections.
What to Do If Your Loved One Develops UTIs or Encephalopathy
Urinary tract infections in nursing homes are common, but that does not mean that they are acceptable. They may be an indication of negligent care or direct abuse, and both the UTI and any related encephalopathy may result in the death of your loved one.
If you suspect that someone you love is not being cared for correctly at a nursing home, or if you believe that your loved one passed away as a result of a UTI or encephalopathy caused by such a infection, contact Senior Justice Law Firm today, toll free, at 888-375-9998.
Nursing home abuse is our primary practice area, and we care deeply about achieving justice for your family. All case consultations are free, so if you have questions on a potential case, live chat with our office now. We can help your family pick up the pieces after a tragic wrongful death due to UTI and encephalopathy.« Previous PostNext Post »