Elizabeth asked a good question today: “Why is Pop getting all these infections?”
Background: you’ll recall that Pop had a UTI and MRSA just before Thanksgiving including a three-day hospitalization; more recently, he had a lengthy cold and now he’s fighting C. diff.
I’m not a doctor, but I’ve come to understand that there are at least two major factors to consider. First, Pop’s body is aging and his immune system is becoming less able to fight off infections.
Infection is all around us every day. MRSA, for example, lives on our skin (as discussed previously in Medical update – 111909 and in A Moron’s Guide to MRSA). The only reason you and I don’t get it is because our immune systems are young and strong enough to fight off infections.
Pop is approaching 83 years of age. For some people, 83 is still a vibrant, healthy age. For others, 83 is old. Pop’s body fits the latter category. Along with age, his immune system is weakened.
Anyone of any age who is fighting infection has a weakened immune system. Also, anyone who is taking antibiotics to treat an infection has a weakened immune system. If you’re younger and healthier, that may not be a big deal. If you’re elderly, it probably is.
The second major factor is “community.” Infection can be spread by direct contact or exchange of bodily fluids, even microscopic. Infection can also be spread just by being in a place where germs live. This is called community-based infection.
Hospitals – and medical facilities of all kinds – exist to treat illness and injury. They are a good and necessary part of life. But medical facilities are inherently full of sick people and, as such, are hotbeds for infection. This has been statistically proven more times than I can count.
Mom and Pop live in a place with 230 beds occupied by people who are aging and sick to one degree or another. It’s little different from their former residence. Both places render care to people who can’t or shouldn’t do it for themselves. Illness is part of life. A nursing home like Piedmont Place magnifies that truth by 230. The Catch-22 is that sick people are less able to defend themselves against new illnesses.
The solution is to have M&P in a completely private environment where qualified nursing care can be brought in. We could do that, but the financial model for it is not sustainable over the long term.
I guess it just comes down to a risk/benefit analysis. The risks have been discussed above. The benefits are a staff deep and knowledgeable and caring. No facility can be perfect, but Piedmont Place tries awfully darn hard.
Mom and Pop will each die, someday. It won’t be because of neglect or inadequate care. It will be because they are old. Old people die.