Daily Mouth Care to Prevent Pneumonia in Nursing Homes: A Systems-Level Approach

Every year, almost two million episodes of pneumonia are suffered by nursing home (NH) residents across the United States, resulting in more deaths than from any other infection. Further, NH residents acquire pneumonia at a rate 6-10 times higher than older adults in the community, indicating that characteristics of these individuals and/or the NH setting put them at increased pneumonia risk. Pneumonia is an inflammatory condition usually initiated by the introduction of bacteria into the lung, such as through aspiration. In aspiration, contents from the mouth, throat, or stomach that are colonized with pathogenic bacteria are inhaled into the lungs. Poor oral hygiene is therefore a critical risk factor for pneumonia because it increases the volume and infectious nature of secretions from the mouth and throat. The objective of this project is to determine whether and to what extent pneumonia incidence in NH residents can be reduced by training nursing assistants and supervisory nursing staff to provide a pragmatic, system-level, comprehensive mouth care program to all NH residents, including use of a dedicated oral care aide.

Principal Investigator: Sheryl Zimmerman, MSW, PhD
Funding Source: AHRQ
Project Period: 09/01/13-06/30/18