Antibiotics and superbugs, is there a connection? Most definitely. Antibiotics have been depended on for fighting bacteria for nearly 100 years. And research has shown that our dependence may have gotten out of control. Overuse and misuse of antibiotics has caused antibiotics to lose effectiveness with certain bacteria. And this has led to superbugs, or bacteria that is resistant to multiple antibiotics.

A 2014 WebMD article reports that about 2 million people get sick from a superbug every year. Nearly 23,000 die from a superbug. What causes such blatant resistance to antibiotics? The CDC reports that antibiotic misuse, such as taking them when you don’t need them or not finishing all of your medicine, is the number one reason that antibiotics lose effectiveness.

The National Institute of Health reports that “Unfortunately, many antibiotics prescribed to people and to animals are unnecessary. And the overuse and misuse of antibiotics helps to create drug-resistant bacteria.”

This phenomenon of antibiotics and superbugs can strike anywhere, including hospitals. The CDC estimates that 648,000 people in the U.S. develop infections during a hospital stay, and about 75,000 die with them. (Consumer Reports, July 2015.)

“What the public should know is that the more antibiotics you’ve taken, the higher your superbug risk,” says Eric Biondi, MD, who runs a program to decrease unnecessary antibiotic use. (WebMD, April 2015.) “The more encounters you have with the hospital setting, the higher your superbug risk.”

What’s being done in hospitals regarding antibiotics and superbugs? There is a greater focus on using antibiotics correctly, a more stringent effort at cleanliness, and patients are becoming more informed. Hospitals are implementing antibiotic stewardship programs to make sure antibiotics are prescribed appropriately. Also hospitals are beefing up hygiene practices in terms of equipment, handwashing, and all surfaces. Bacteria, including superbugs, can live on surfaces for days if not cleaned properly. And lastly, patients are becoming more informed and asking questions about their prescribed antibiotics. Is the drug necessary? What type of drug is it? How long should I take it? And what are the side effects?

Elderly adults may be more at risk for infection if their immune system is already weak due to other ailments. Caregivers and family members should advocate for their loved one to ensure antibiotics are prescribed and used appropriately. Antibiotics and superbugs go hand in hand and all precaution should be taken to fend it off.

Please contact Assisted Living Services at (203) 634-8668 for more information about care for your CT senior loved one.