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Michael J. Doyle, Attorney At Law Michael J. Doyle, Attorney At Law
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Is COVID-19 Causing an Increase in Nursing Home Abuse?

When we think of nursing home abuse, we often picture news reports with grainy videos of workers slapping or screaming at patients. While that kind of abuse is a reality, it is far less common than it once was. A more sinister form of abuse is neglect. Neglect doesn’t look like someone being beaten; it looks like someone withering away to nothing.

Nursing homes have been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. Across the nation, news reports and debates have broken out over how we are caring for our elders during this time. And while there hasn’t appeared to be a rise in reports of direct abuse, what is happening instead is a widespread problem of nursing home patient neglect.

Nursing Home Neglect

One of the worst byproducts of this pandemic has been a rise in nursing home neglect. It doesn’t take a long Google search to find tragic, personal tales of family members left alone to die. So many people have lost loved ones during the pandemic. Their family members didn’t die from COVID-19. They died because no one was caring for their needs.

Experts have estimated that tens of thousands of nursing home patients have died during the pandemic. These numbers do not include patients who tested positive for the virus. Some estimates have concluded that since March of 2020, one in three nursing home deaths were not COVID-related. Other figures have claimed that non-COVID deaths have gone up 15% nationwide.

There is a direct, easily trackable correlation to deaths and nursing homes that were hit by the virus. Facilities with outbreaks had higher numbers of non-COVID deaths than those that escaped the virus.

It’s easy to draw a straight line from staffing issues to neglected patients. At the best of times, nursing homes have a reputation for being short-staffed. Once the pandemic hit, the attention of all these workers was placed directly on patients who contracted the virus. Staff simply didn’t have the resources to attend to everyone, and patients suffered as a result.

No one was prepared for the toll that COVID-19 would take, least of all nursing homes. The virus hit everyone. Patients had it; staff had it; doctors had it. An already lean staff got cut down to less than a skeleton crew. Nurses called in sick, and whoever was left put all their energy into the patients already suffering from COVID-19.

Simple, easy-to-fix issues were neglected. There have been reports of patients dying of dehydration because no one was there to make sure they were drinking water. Other stories have revealed that dentists who were dealing with their own virus problem weren’t available. Simple denture fixes were left undone, causing infections, injuries, inability to eat, etc. The horror stories go on and on.

As well-intentioned as lockdowns have been, they’ve had a disastrous effect on nursing homes. Family members couldn’t visit to check on their loved ones, and problems of neglect were discovered too late. Unable to regularly check in on their people, visitors couldn’t see how quickly their friends and family members were deteriorating.

Patients were suffering from more than just physical neglect. Recent studies into the science of loneliness have determined its effects on health. Some reports compare it to smoking in terms of bodily detriment. We have long known that regular interactions are good for the elderly, especially those with early signs of dementia. Even when patients’ basic physical needs were met, they were often left alone most of the time, exacerbating mental degeneration. Within weeks, vibrant, sharp patients were reduced to shells of their former selves.

Inability to control the spread of the virus itself can be seen as a form of neglect. There are some aspects of the spread that are unavoidable, but there have also been nursing homes that didn’t take proper precautions. They packed infected patients together with healthy ones, or they didn’t use personal protection equipment as they should have.

Seeking Damages

When someone you love is the victim of neglect, you can take action. If you are their guardian or conservator, you can sue on their behalf. When neglect claims the life of a close relative, you may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit. You can seek justice when someone’s poor behavior has brought harm.

If an elderly person you love has been hurt or killed due to neglect, please give us a call. We are passionate about seeking justice for the elderly. Regardless of any outside circumstances, nursing homes need to be brought to task for letting patients die unattended. Free consultations are available. Just call (505) 219-2176 or contact us online.