Nursing home infections 'often missed'
INFECTIONS in nursing home residents are often missed or treated with the wrong drugs, a group of specialists are warning.
No definite figures are available on infections in Irish nursing homes, but international studies indicate that between 5-16pc of elderly residents can suffer at one time, according to Beaumont Hospital microbiologist Prof Hilary Humphreys.
Around 21,000 people are currently in long-term care in Ireland but little attention has been given to the significant problem of infection -- including so-called superbugs like MRSA and C Difficile -- in nursing homes.
A paper setting out some of the infection control measures to be taken in nursing homes was launched by the Royal College of Physicians policy group on healthcare-associated infection yesterday.
Prof Humphreys, chair of the group, said infection in the elderly can be difficult to recognise and GPs may have to prescribe antibiotics on a "best guess" basis because they don't have access to laboratory results giving them guidance on what are the appropriate drugs.
There is an onus on hospital laboratories asked to analyse an infection to get the results back more quickly to the GPs, he added.
Chest infections and urinary tract infections are among the most common and this group are at risk because they can have chronic skin ulcers, pressure sores and medical devices such as feeding tubes.
Dr Ciaran Donegan, a geriatrician in Beaumont Hospital, said when they see elderly patients in the hospital they can have already been on several courses of antibiotics.
Both doctors pointed to the difficulties of managing infection in a nursing home setting which is also the home of the resident.