Nursing home abuse is a serious issue, and it has greatly increased during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. There are many reasons for the rise in elder abuse, and it is important to understand the causes and to know the signs.
Nursing home abuse is a violation of individual rights in a long-term care facility and can involve a variety of willful or negligent acts. By definition, nursing home abuse refers to situations in which residents of these facilities suffer physical, emotional, or psychological harm because of the actions of their caregivers.
Liability for this type of abuse can be widespread. Individual caregivers can be held liable for their actions, but the facility itself may face additional legal responsibility. Any nursing home or long-term care facility may be held liable for abuse or neglect that takes place.
Negligence in screening employees, inadequate employee supervision, and improper facility maintenance commonly lead to cases of nursing home abuse. Elder abuse can be categorized as the following:
- Physical Abuse: Causing or creating the possibility of physical harm by hitting, pushing, or through other direct and violent physical contacts.
- Mental Abuse: This often refers to verbal abuse, but it can also include withholding mail or doing things to otherwise cause emotional distress.
- Neglect: Neglecting to care for patients’ needs, which potentially causes preventable harm. This includes failure to treat bedsores and failure to perform regular health and safety checks.
- Sexual Abuse: Engaging in any form of sexual contact with a resident.
- Exploitation: Manipulation of residents for money or favors.
How has the COVID-19 Pandemic Impacted Nursing Homes?
The COVID-19 pandemic has greatly impacted many people in the United States and around the world. Nursing homes have experienced their own set of challenges during this difficult time. Issues specifically related to nursing homes and long-term care facilities include:
- Working with an at-risk population
- New and evolving health care challenges
- Changes to facility operations due to COVID-19 precautions
- Maintaining sufficient supplies during a growing pandemic
- Maintaining adequate staffing
Why has Nursing Home Abuse Increased During the Pandemic?
COVID-19 has made life more challenging for nursing home residents. An increase in the number of abuse claims stems from multiple factors. Many of abuse claims in long-term care facilities deal with issues of neglect. This is because residents or patients who have special medical needs can suffer significantly if their caretakers fail to provide treatment and daily care. This also applies to situations in which proper procedures are not followed to prevent avoidable illnesses and injuries.
When care providers do not follow guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), they are neglecting the health of their patients. Neglecting any safety procedure intended to prevent or slow the spread of the virus is a serious problem and potential liability issue for nursing home staff.
How COVID-19 Procedures can Increase Abuse and Neglect
Some of the biggest factors leading to an increase in abuse claims in adult-care facilities are directly related to procedural changes due to COVID-19. These factors include:
- Lack of supervision
- Lack of staff during shortages
- Less family contact and involvement
- Emotional stress of both employees and residents
- Difficulty in investigating claims due to restrictions and the lockdown
- Employee burnout and fatigue
Health Care Worker Burnout
Employee fatigue has become a problem in hospitals, long-term care facilities, and on the front lines because essential staff have been working longer hours with fewer days off. Excessively long shifts and lack of sufficient rest can lead to medical errors or sub-par care. While it is important to understand that employees who are overworked are more likely to make mistakes, it is not a justification for abuse and neglect.
What Should I Do if I Suspect Nursing Home Abuse?
Any form of abuse must be taken seriously. When abuse or neglect is suspected, it is important to address the issue quickly. Each state will typically have a number to call to report elder abuse. It can also be very helpful to bring any issues to the attention of the facility administration. Some people may feel that these options do not do enough to ensure corrective action. In this sort of case, a lawyer can help. Since acting fast is essential, contacting a lawyer at the first signs of abuse is wise.
Bear Nursing Home Abuse Lawyers at Rhoades & Morrow Help Seniors in Elder Abuse Cases
The COVID-19 has impacted many nursing home facilities, leading to an increase in abuse and neglect. If you suspect nursing home abuse or neglect, it is important to contact a lawyer right away. Our Bear nursing home abuse lawyers at Rhoades & Morrow help neglected nursing home residents find justice and compensation. Call us at (302) 427-9500 or contact us online for a free consultation. Located in Wilmington, Bear, and Milford, Delaware, we serve clients throughout Middletown, Dover, Milford, Hillsborough, Lewes, Rehoboth, Elsmere, and Seaford.