Legal Guide

The High Risk of Abuse and Negligence to the Elderly During the Pandemic

Nursing homes have always been a source of concern, as families want to know their loved ones are safe in a facility.  It's common to use a nearby facility so one can make frequent visits. However, COVID-19 changed all that. Nursing homes and other facilities were closed to the public for fear of community spread.

The Rights of Nursing Home Patients

Nursing home residents have certain rights under the law. These rights include being treated with dignity and respect. Further, they should not be abused or neglected. The pandemic caused many patients to live in unsafe circumstances. Indeed, the elderly were among the first groups to suffer when the pandemic hit.

All healthcare facilities, including nursing homes, are required to have PPE in stock. Many nursing homes were short on PPE which allowed the virus to spread quickly. A 2020 study showed 20 percent of facilities had less than a week's supply of PPE. The public now realizes that many COVID deaths could have been prevented. Consult with a lawyer if your loved one is a victim of Covid-19's impact on nursing homes.

Many Forms of Abuse

Nursing home workers don't get paid a lot. Consequently, staff members couldn't afford to stay home if they felt sick. The very people who were supposed to be helping were making patients sick. On the other hand, important visitors, like ombudsmen, were kept out. No one was checking to see if residents were safe. In addition, many states passed laws shielding long-term care facilities from liability. Critics blasted the laws out of concern for patients.

North Carolinian Palestine Howze died in a nursing home in 2020. Howze developed a bedsore in 2018, and the wound later became infected. The facility would not allow the patient to go to the emergency room due to COVID-19. However, she couldn't receive specialized treatment at the nursing home. Imagine, a patient who suffered for two years and her family couldn't do anything. Howze's heirs are trying to beat the immunity law and file a lawsuit.

Many experts are concerned about the effect of isolation on patients. Dr. Carmel Dyer, a leading expert on aging, says isolation causes mental and physical decline. The stress of isolation leads to anxiety and other mental issues. Dementia patients were noticeably more lethargic during the pandemic. An investigation of Connecticut nursing homes found severe cases of bedsores and unnecessary weight loss.

Most nursing homes agree they were understaffed during the pandemic. Consequently, nursing aides had twice the number of patients to work with. The aides admit they only had a few minutes to feed patients so they could get to everyone. Many tasks were falling through the cracks.

The Worst Abuse

Perhaps, the worst abuse occurred when patients were forced to move. The government paid facilities more to care for COVID-19 patients. As a result, they moved patients to other facilities. Facilities were paid $800 per day for COVID patients compared to $200 for others. Federal law says patients must be given a 30-day notice before an involuntary transfer. In addition, patients have the right to appeal. These laws were waived so facilities could host COVID-19 patients.

One can only imagine what other types of abuse patients sustained. Most patients do not report abuse, but the family finds out about it. However, there was no way for family members to monitor the care provided during the Pandemic.  

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