Nursing home abuse and neglect is a major underreported problem that has only gotten worse since the initial hit of the pandemic. With strict social distancing rules added in place to protect older adults in long-term facilities from loved ones who may carry the virus, this has also made them more vulnerable to abuse and neglect by staff. Normally, the victims themselves will not report issues either due to their own physical or mental impairment preventing them from doing so, or simply out of fear. Most reports come from loved ones looking out for their older adult family members, but with the current restrictions in place, it is difficult for families to know if there are issues of neglect or abuse.
What Qualifies as Abuse or Neglect in a Long-Term Care Facility?
Vulnerable adults under long-term care, whether in a nursing home or treated at home by an individual licensed through the Department of Social and Health Services, have the right to be seen and cared for in a safe environment that protects their wellbeing as well as their property and belongings. Along with physical abuse and neglect, there are many issues that fall under this problem area, including the following:
• Bed sores
• Improper restraints
• Over medication or medication errors
• Failure to bathe patients
• Stealing money or property
• Malnutrition and dehydration
• Failure to provide clean and sanitary living conditions
• Undue influence concerning property and/or wills
How Can Families Check on Their Loved Ones Amid the Pandemic?
While there may still be visiting restrictions at most nursing homes and long-term care facilities, there are several ways families can ensure their loved one is being taken care of and is free from abuse and neglect. The National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care has provided resources and creative ways for families to connect with their loved ones on this fact sheet: https://theconsumervoice.org/uploads/files/general/covid-19-consumer-fact-sheet.pdf
Here are some ways from the above fact sheet for families to ensure nursing homes are providing a safe environment for residents, especially during the spread of COVID-19:
• Ask what steps the facility is taking to keep residents safe and request to see how the facility performed on its self-assessment
• Ask how you can get updates on your loved one and who is the best point of contact
• Request a schedule for times you can connect with your loved one via phone, video conferencing, “window visiting” if available, or other methods
• Ask the facility if they can start a family resource group where families can communicate and support one another, ask questions, or bring up concerns
Visit their full website with the following link: https://theconsumervoice.org
If you suspect your loved one is facing abuse or neglect in their long-term care facility, reach out to one of our experienced personal injury attorneys, who can help with your case.