COVID-19 and Nursing Home Abuse and Negligence

Many people are rightfully concerned about their loved ones in nursing homes, especially due to this global health emergency. Nursing homes placed a ban on visitation rights, leaving family members and close friends unable to check on their loved ones, even though it is vital now, more than ever, that families stay in close communication with those who are in long-term care facilities. Families want to ensure their loved ones are receiving the best care possible.

Many nursing homes and state authorities were not initially required to report up-to-date information on test results or COVID-related deaths. This posed a huge problem for families of nursing home residents, since they were not given full transparency on how facilities hoped to ensure the safety and well-being of residing seniors.

Despite the critical importance of up-to-date information, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) admitted to having a lack of data for the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths in nursing homes. Fortunately, due to the public pressure that unfolded as a result, the state of Maryland now offers a list of nursing home locations that have tested positive for COVID-19.

As of May 7, the number of confirmed staff cases has hit 1,895, while the number of confirmed resident deaths has reached 793. The Maryland state website updates the lists of known number of cases and deaths for both staff and residents weekly.

Preparing for COVID-19 in Assisted Living Facilities

Nursing homes are at high risk of being affected by the coronavirus disease. It’s important that you watch out for any of these potential signs or symptoms of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

COVID-19 Symptoms

Typical symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sore throat
  • Fatigue/Malaise
  • Diarrhea or vomiting
  • Dizziness

COVID-19 Testing

Facilities should develop a protocol to collect specimens in collaboration with public health. The state of Maryland is requiring all nursing homes to test their staff members and residents to isolate those who have the virus. Isolating those who have been infected is key to preventing the spread of this virus and is made possible through lots of testing.

Nursing homes with residents suspected of being infected with COVID-19 should contact their local health department.

Recommendations for Infection Control and COVID-19 Prevention

As most of us are aware, the CDC reports that older adults carry higher risks related to the coronavirus, which is why it’s important that facilities encourage residents to become familiar with and adapt to changes and recommendations made by the Maryland Department of Health (MDH).

A few ways to help slow the spread of the coronavirus, MDH recommends:

  • Facilities should actively screen and ban visitation by those who meet the following criteria:
    • Signs or symptoms of a respiratory infection
    • Contact with someone with a confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis in the last 14 days
    • International travel in the last 14 days
    • Residing in a community where COVID-19 is quickly spreading
  • Facility staff should be screened similarly
    • Health care providers (HCP) who have signs of a respiratory infection should stay at home
      • Should a staff member develop signs while on-the-job:
        • Stop work, put on a facemask, and self-isolate
        • Contact and follow health department recommendations
    • All individuals entering the facility should be required to wash hands upon entry
    • Processes should be set in place to allow remote communication between residents and others
    • Staff should frequently disinfect equipment and workspaces and limit sharing equipment between residents

Stay Connected to Loved Ones in Nursing Homes

Staying in constant communication is key to fighting the lack of transparency or supervision in nursing homes during this time.

Call your loved ones more frequently or video call them when possible. Ask the management team at the nursing home if they can help schedule video calls with your loved one. Make sure you have privacy during the calls so that any negative experiences can be discussed privately.

On a phone or video call, be on the lookout for signs of abuse or neglect. Watch out for changes in behavior, bruising, broken bones, unexplained physical discomfort, weight loss, or signs of depression. A good facility will attend to their patients with care and try their best to help them feel better. If you notice a consistent pattern of sadness or an increase in wounds or injury, it could be a sign that your loved one isn’t receiving adequate treatment. 

There is a lot of uncertainty and stress when it comes to isolation, so send a hand-written card or a video recording of you and your family, so they have something to read or watch when they feel lonely. 

Report Suspicions of Abuse or Neglect

Take action if you suspect your loved one, or any elder in a nursing home, is experiencing abuse or neglect. It’s best to report to an outside agency, so they can come and objectively investigate your allegations. If you’re in Baltimore county, call (410) 887-4200. The state of Maryland uses an Ombudsman system to handle reports. You can also check out a list of contacts for other counties in the state of Maryland on their site.

After reporting the suspected abuse, you need to contact an experienced nursing home abuse attorney to protect the rights of your loved one. The attorneys at Murphy Falcon & Murphy are experienced in representing nursing home residents and we are dedicated to protecting those who have fallen victim to abuse or neglect. Call our office today!