COVID-19 May Mean Increase in Nursing Home Abuse

April 15, 2020

Nursing home neglect, defined as the inadequate care of residents of a nursing home, has become a serious issue in recent years. It’s most likely been an issue for many years, but now we are becoming more aware and are watching for signs of abuse. Family visits to nursing homes can be a real deterrent to the neglect of their loved ones, which can result in harm from substandard care or a failure to perform caregiving duties.

Family members are much more vigilant about nursing home neglect and many have been taking a very active role in monitoring their loved one’s care and treatment. However, it’s likely that there will be an increase in nursing home abuse as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. That’s because social distancing orders have prevented families from being able to visit and check on their loved ones first-hand.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has ordered Florida residents to stay at home until April 30th. That means a month or more of no visiting loved ones in care facilities. It may be even longer before families are again allowed to personally see their loved ones in nursing facilities—and the most vulnerable are likely to suffer because of this.

Nursing Home Neglect Numbers

Research shows that roughly 1.6 million people in the U.S. live in approximately 17,000 licensed nursing homes, and another estimated 900,000 to 1 million live in an estimated 45,000 residential care facilities, such as personal care homes, adult living facilities, adult care homes, homes for the aged, and assisted living facilities. These 2.5 million vulnerable seniors are at much greater risk for abuse and neglect than older persons who live at home. And according to the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA), about 95% of nursing home residents have been neglected or have witnessed neglect.

A 2018 GAO report found that 26 of 48 state Medicaid agencies could not provide the number of serious incidents in assisted living — including physical, emotional, and sexual abuse. Further, the report found that three states don’t monitor unexpected or unexplained deaths, five states don’t monitor unauthorized use of restraints, and three states don’t record police or doctor referrals to adult protective services, the agencies that help abused and neglected older adults.

As you can see, the treatment and care of many seniors are already not monitored adequately, and the COVID-19 pandemic will make it even worse.

What is Nursing Home Neglect?

Nursing home neglect is a kind of elder abuse that is perpetrated against the elderly in nursing facilities. This neglect involves the substandard care of a resident or a breach of duty that results in harm to a resident. There are several types of nursing home neglect, including:

  • Medical neglect which is the failure of a nursing facility to properly attend to or prevent a resident’s medical issues. This often is seen as inadequate diabetic care, bedsores, infections, and increased mobility issues.
  • Basic needs neglect is the failure of a facility to provide a resident with sufficient food, water, or a clean and safe living environment.
  • Personal hygiene neglect is the failure of a nursing facility to adequately assist a resident in maintaining his or her hygiene, such as dental care, laundry, and bathing.
  • Social or emotional neglect can be the ignoring or abandonment of a resident, persistent unkind treatment, and other types of treatment that fails to provide the resident with adequate social and emotional care.

When the visitation restrictions are lifted in Florida, if a family member suspects harm or neglect on the part of the facility, they should speak with an attorney immediately.

The nursing home may be liable for negligence and damages. A facility may be negligent for failing to have policies in place to protect its residents and also may be held liable for the actions or inactions of its employees. The care facility can also be found liable for its negligent hiring and retention of employees, as well as its maintenance of the premises and equipment.

A family of a victim of nursing home neglect must prove negligence by showing:

  1. The facility had a duty to the resident victim;
  2. The facility breached that duty;
  3. The breach was the cause of the resident’s injury or harm; and
  4. There were damages from the breach.

A knowledgeable Florida nursing home neglect attorney can protect your loved one from further injury and make certain that the facility is penalized for its actions.

Takeaway

Florida law provides the minimum standards of care for nursing homes, and these facilities must provide a safe environment free from abuse, neglect, and exploitation. However, even if a nursing home has shown that it complied with the state’s minimum standards, it may still be liable for your resident loved one’s injuries.
The coronavirus has caused illness and death in many families across the country, and here in Florida, we at Florin, Gray, Bouzas & Owens, LLC certainly hope that this pandemic doesn’t cause nursing home neglect for a loved one in your family.

But if you discover possible nursing home neglect, contact our law firm and speak with an experienced attorney about your loved one’s situation.

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