As our loved ones grow older, we may find ourselves in charge of finding them long-term care for when they are unable to do so themselves.
The thought of making the wrong decision and putting them in a position of abuse is unthinkable.
But it happens more than we think.
Nearly 1 in 10 of the 52 million American’s over 65 suffer from elder abuse every year, according to some estimates.
And with the spread of the coronavirus, these types of care facilities are more locked down than ever, making it harder to contact our loved ones and check in on them.
With so much care for our loved ones going on behind closed doors, it is our hope that these facilities are taking the necessary precautions to help keep the virus from being another issue to contend with.
Research into how nursing homes are handling COVID-19 is starting to say otherwise.
What is Nursing Home Neglect and Abuse?
Nursing home abuse differs from neglect.
Nursing home abuse is when specific and intentional harm is caused to someone in an extended care facility by someone who is meant to be a caregiver.
Types of abuse can be financial, sexual, and physical.
Nursing home neglect on the other hand is a lack of meeting the resident’s needs. This may mean leaving residents alone, not cleaning their clothes often enough, forgetting to give food or water at appropriate times (or at all), etc.
Types of neglect may include emotional, hygiene, medical, and basic needs.
Your concerns about how the facility is handling coronavirus outbreaks and the spreading of the disease would fall under neglect.
Proper hygiene and precautions should be taking place to help ensure the safety of residents and to help stop the spread as much as possible.
How Many Nursing Homes are Affected by Coronavirus?
According to the New York Times, as of September 2020 7% of coronavirus cases are linked to nursing home staff and residents. The more shocking number is that 40% of all U.S. deaths from coronavirus are linked to these facilities as well.
That’s over 19,000 nursing home facilities nationwide that have been affected, with 77,000 residents and workers having died from COVID-19.
With such widespread infection and death rates, it begs the questions: how did this happen, and what are nursing homes doing to put a stop to it?
What are Nursing Homes Required to Do to Stop the Spread?
Residents of nursing homes are the highest risk category affected by COVID-19. This is because of their age as well as the common presence of underlying conditions.
For these reasons, the CDC has set out specific recommendations for these types of facilities to help combat the spread of the virus.
Some of these recommendations include:
- Appointing a staff member to be trained in infection prevention and control
- Reporting cases of staff and residents weekly to the National Healthcare Safety Network
- Educating staff and residents of current best practices and precautions
- Implementing control measures such as wearing of face masks by health care providers to help prevent the spread
- Making a plan for testing residents and personnel
- Actively taking temperatures and monitoring symptoms
- Providing necessary supplies for prevention
- Allowing separate facility space to care for residents with coronavirus
- Encouraging any visits to be virtual, or that visitors stay away if they are showing any symptoms
Other recommendations are listed on the CDC’s website, and more strict recommendations, such as forbidding all visitors, are also mentioned in more dire cases where nursing home facilities have already been hit hard with the virus.
These are all recommendations.
While a facility may not get into trouble for not following these rules, documentation of their negligence to follow these rules could be grounds for a lawsuit should COVID-19 cases arise.
Do I Have a Valid COVID-19 Nursing Home Case?
Nursing homes have a duty of care towards their residents, which means they may be seen as negligent if they aren’t taking the proper precautions and recommended actions to help prevent the spread of coronavirus through the facility.
This failure in the duty of care may result in a case being made that the nursing home is at fault for contracted cases of COVID-19.
That being said, in some states, such as Iowa, laws have been passed to protect businesses, nursing home facilities, medical facilities, and non-profits from people seeking damages for COVID-related incidents.
The exception to this law is in severe cases wherein the person who contracted the virus was hospitalized or died as a result.
In these severe cases, the situation may be reviewed to try to demonstrate that negligence on the part of the nursing home caused the death or hospitalization of the resident, and to evaluate whether the death or hospitalization could have been prevented had proper measures been implemented and followed by the nursing home and its staff.
A personal injury or wrongful death case may be valid in these case of negligence. Courts have largely been closed since the pandemic hit, and there are not many precedents that have been established.
It is important to speak with an attorney about the laws in your state and whether or not you may have a case.
What Can I Recover for a COVID-19 Nursing Home Neglect Case?
In the case of a wrongful death or severe hospitalization, you may be able entitled to recover medical expenses and other damages due to the negligent practices of the nursing home facility.
As with any case, there are too many factors involved to give a certain dollar figure amount on how much you can recover if your loved one contracts coronavirus in a nursing home.
The laws protecting businesses and medical facilities make these difficult cases to explore.
What to Do If You Suspect Abuse or Neglect
If you believe your loved one contracted coronavirus due to unsafe practices in a nursing home facility, call VanDerGinst Law.
We have over 30 years of experience in personal injury law. While the situation with coronavirus is new, we will use our experience to explore potential negligence in the facility.
Our knowledgeable team of attorneys can help guide you through this scary time.
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