Nursing Home Justice Blog

What Causes UTIs in Nursing Homes?

Written By:

Attorney Mac Hester

Date Posted:

April 10, 2023

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) can happen to anyone. However, studies show that UTIs are the second most common infection among nursing home residents.

Poorly trained staff members, understaffed nursing homes, and other factors could allow these infections to go untreated, putting residents at risk for a more severe infection. Knowing the causes behind your UTI could clarify your situation and determine whether a nursing home was negligent. 

What is a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)?

A UTI occurs when bacteria from the skin or the rectum enter the urethra and infect the urinary tract. These infections commonly happen in the bladder; however, more severe infections could also impact the kidneys.

What Can Cause a UTI in Nursing Homes?

 Nursing home residents are at an increased risk for developing a UTI for several reasons.

Weakened Immune Systems

First, older adults in nursing homes often deal with other health issues and typically have weakened immune systems that make them more prone to infection.


Another reason for UTIs in nursing homes is the frequent use of indwelling urinary catheters. These devices assist residents when urinating; however, it significantly increases your chance of infection since it allows bacteria to enter the urethra.

The same study cited above also states that the chances of developing a UTI go up by 3% to 8% each day for residents with an indwelling urinary catheter.

E. coli

Finally, E. coli is a common cause of UTIs. This bacterium often travels from the anus to the urethra to infect the urinary tract. Neglected patients who have sat in their soiled clothing for days face an increased risk of E. coli bacteria entering the urethra.

What Are the Symptoms of a UTI?

If you or a loved one have a UTI, you might experience one or more of the following urinary tract infection symptoms:

  • Frequent urination
  • Bloody urine
  • Pain while urinating
  • Pressure or cramping in the groin

What Happens if a UTI Goes Untreated?

An untreated UTI in elderly individuals is not a rare situation in Nursing Homes. Staff members might neglect their patients so much that they fail to recognize the symptoms of a UTI, or poorly trained caregivers might not have the experience to treat a UTI properly.

Residents with cognitive impairments are especially at risk for UTIs. They might not understand or be able to communicate their symptoms to staff members, resulting in their infection going untreated.

Symptoms of a more severe infection include one or more of the following:

  • Side (kidney) pain
  • Fever or Chills
  • Nausea
  • Confusion or worsening mental status

In many cases, serious UTIs could lead to sepsis—the body’s life-threatening response to infection. This is a medical emergency that requires immediate attention.

How Should a Nursing Home Handle a UTI?

Staff members should be properly trained in handling UTI cases. Ideally, they should identify symptoms as soon as possible to prevent the infection from spreading further. After identifying the symptoms of a possible UTI, staff members should order lab tests to confirm their assessment.

Once a UTI is confirmed, staff members will move forward with treating the infection. UTI treatment represents 30% to 50% of antibiotic use in long-term care facilities, and it has proven to be one of the most effective ways to eradicate the infection. After about 48 hours, the antibiotics should clear up the UTI.

Nursing home staff should also ensure that residents with UTIs receive plenty of water to flush out the infection.

Do You or a Loved One Have a UTI? Call Nursing Home Justice

UTIs are common infections that, if left untreated, could cause serious harm to you or your loved one. Although a UTI may seem pretty simple to treat, overworked and understaffed nursing homes often fail to provide patients with the most basic care.

An experienced attorney at Nursing Home Justice will listen to your story and begin gathering evidence to strengthen your case. Contact us today at (303) 775-8128 to schedule your free consultation.

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