The overuse of antibiotics over the past decades has forced the healthcare industry to learn a hard lesson that the most vulnerable among us will ultimately pay for. Now we see the rise of super-bugs – antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria that are hard to get rid of. This is something that experts on infectious diseases have been warning everyone about for years, but no one listened.
Our folly is understandable. For seventy years, advances in medicine had given us miracles like penicillin and Cipro. If there was a new bug, we squashed it. If that bug got stronger, we’d squash it harder. Now we have reached the point where some of these bugs can’t be squashed.
The old way of thinking was that if someone got a UTI or some other sort of infection, it was a simple fix to pump the patient full of antibiotics. This was easier and more convenient for caregivers at the time, and it fit the narrative that was fed to us about the cure being easy enough that prevention wasn’t important. People were often prescribed antibiotics they didn’t need to either alleviate a patient’s or family’s fears, or as an unnecessary preventative. It was a mindset that has come back to haunt us.
We haven’t quite reached the super-bug Armageddon, yet, but we can see it on the horizon. The days of being able to nuke infections out of existence are fading like a sunset in a Hollywood Western. Everyone with half a mind now knows that the only way to stay ahead of the germs is to fight them with preventative measures.
This new reality underscores the long overlooked importance of preventative measures and infection control. The antibiotics we all used to rely on are fast becoming useless in the face of drug resistant bacteria. This means that a simple UTI that could have been cured with a couple of shots has become a deadly threat for millions of elderly Americans in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. To put it bluntly, for many vulnerable people in long term care, it’s either infection control or death.
Failures in infection control result in both human suffering and a greater cost of care. This can result in billions of Medicare dollars spent on something that could have been avoided by taking some extra precautions. While scoring high on quality measures is important, the people in the business of long term care are here because they have compassion in their hearts for the most vulnerable in our society. Still, it takes money and resources to provide the level of care these people deserve, and preventative measures like infection control is a great way to not only provide quality care and comfort, but to also conserve resources so we can provide even more.