Nursing Home Negligence
All over the country, seniors in assisted living and care homes have been isolated for months. When the coronavirus pandemic began, many care facilities responded to the risk by prohibiting visitors, cleaning thoroughly, and asking staff to be extra careful so as not to bring the disease into the homes.
Most of the cases of COVID-19 in the United States as of the end of July have been in younger adults. But the majority of the hospitalizations and deaths have been in older adults, particularly those over 65 years old. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that eight of ten deaths are people older than 65. The disease seems to be much more severe in older adults and those with underlying health conditions, so the care facilities are taking extra care.
But what happens if they’re not? Or what happens if, while the seniors are locked in with only staff and other residents to see them, they experience negligence or abuse?
What is nursing home negligence?
The main job of care home staff is to provide for your loved one’s needs. That includes food, living assistance, basic medical care, and more, depending on the level of care provided in the home. If your loved one is noticeably short on care in a particular area, that can constitute negligence.
Some common signs of negligence include the following:
Malnourishment or dehydration: If the elder has lost significant weight or complains of fatigue, or hunger.
Hygiene: If an elder has signs of waste on their clothes, appears unwashed, or has a particularly strong smell, it could be a sign that they are not being cared for properly or washed enough.
Bedsores: Elders who cannot move themselves have to be turned frequently to avoid pressure sores or ulcers, which can become infected. These are frequently found on the back, buttocks, heels, shoulder blades, and back of the head.
Bruises: Bruises may be signs of use of force against an elder, particularly on arms, wrists, sides or shoulders.
Mood: Changes in mood, including anxiety, depression, withdrawal, or fear may indicate that the elder has had a negative experience and could be afraid to speak about it.
There are other types of abuse as well, including financial abuse, emotional abuse, or sexual abuse. Elder abuse is a crime and can be prosecuted. Right now, it’s hard to visit elders in many communities, as care homes may still prohibit visitation. However, most can set up video calls or phone calls or coordinate mail, and it’s possible to still observe the resident’s health without seeing them in person.
With the coronavirus situation constantly developing and changing, it’s hard to say what legal remedies will be available against a care home if an elder contracts or dies of COVID-19. Some states are trying to make it harder to sue nursing homes over the disease. Kansas had legislation in process to do so this summer.
Nursing homes have long had issues with disease outbreaks. The new coronavirus is particularly contagious and can be spread when the person is still asymptomatic, which makes it difficult to screen for. But because visitation is still shut down in many care homes, if outbreaks of the disease occur, it’s most likely coming from staff.
Most hospitalizations have been among people over 65. The care home staff has the obligation to ensure that your loved one receives the medical care they need, and if they are showing signs of coronavirus, they should be tested and monitored by medical professionals immediately.
What can be done about nursing home negligence?
Many nursing homes are operated by private companies or nonprofits. These companies may be held liable for what happens to elders within their care, even if the abuse is perpetrated by another resident. An attorney can advise you about what kind of legal action is best suited to your situation.
While there may be criminal charges filed if the abuse is heinous enough, that would be the responsibility of law enforcement agencies. If you believe your loved one has been assaulted or is being assaulted, you may want to involve the police, who can investigate. You may also want to move your loved one to another facility for their safety.
The suit against a company or owner of a care home would be a civil lawsuit. A civil lawsuit does not necessarily have to involve a criminal act. Rather, abuse and neglect generally form the basis of a negligence lawsuit. An attorney can help you identify what is the best type of litigation suited to the facts of your case and help you move forward to receive the best judgment for your situation.