During the initial stages of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, nursing homes along the east and west coasts were some of the hardest hit facilities. Many residents died, leaving numerous unanswered questions.
What responsibilities do long-term care facilities have in a pandemic? Can coronavirus deaths in nursing homes be prevented? If a resident dies due to COVID-19, can the facility be held responsible?
Here’s what you should know and how to get legal help after losing a loved one in a nursing home.
Nursing Home Responsibilities During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Nursing homes and long-term care facilities are responsible for providing the same quality of care for their residents during the coronavirus as they are any other time. This includes:
- Providing residents with adequate nutrition and hydration. Patients can easily become dehydrated or malnourished in a nursing home, which makes them more susceptible to COVID-19 infection.
- Timely assistance with daily needs. Residents who require help with bathing, dressing, toileting, and eating should still be provided with assistance in a timely fashion.
- Routine housekeeping. Residents should have clean bedsheets, blankets, and bathrooms, and there should be no buildup of trash or dirty linens in rooms or hallways.
- Keeping adequate records of care. Patients should routinely have vital signs checked, medications given, etc. Daily records should be kept of each patient’s health, what medicines they took, and any other important notes.
Additional COVID-Specific Responsibilities Nursing Homes Have
Beyond taking appropriate care of elderly and unwell patients as per usual in a nursing facility, staff have certain COVID-specific responsibilities as well. These may include but are not limited to:
- Ensuring all staff and residents wear masks or other face coverings when appropriate.
- Making the COVID-19 vaccine easily available to staff and residents and encouraging them to get immunized.
- Ensuring that residents participate in social distancing by placing clear signage on floors and walls and taking steps to prevent residents from congregating together (this may include meals being served in a patient’s room instead of the dining hall and the cancellation of some or all group activities).
- Regular sanitization of all surfaces, beyond pre-COVID janitorial services; nursing home staff should also provide easy-to-access hand sanitizer to both residents and staff.
- Limiting or restricting visiting hours, as well as conducting coronavirus screenings for anyone coming into the building (e.g., a symptom questionnaire and a temperature check)
- Regularly testing staff members and patients for COVID and isolating positive cases, even when asymptomatic
Can You Bring Legal Action Against a Nursing Home for a Coronavirus Death?
Bringing forward a wrongful death claim against a nursing home after a loved one passes from COVID-19 can be challenging in the wake of so many others becoming ill and losing their lives to the virus. However, you may have a solid case if you can prove that the nursing home your loved one was in was egregiously negligent in their responsibilities and this directly led to your family member’s death.
Below are some potential examples of nursing home COVID-19 wrongful death:
- Allowing a COVID positive staff member to work who comes into direct contact with a resident, who then later dies of COVID-related complications.
- Failure to adequately train staff members on social distancing, PPE wearing, and transmission reduction, resulting in a staff member not wearing PPE transmitting COVID to a resident, who then passes away.
- Failure to segregate COVID positive patients from healthy residents, resulting in direct transmission and subsequent death.
- Staff shortages that result in the inadequate care and neglect of nursing home residents if the shortages and neglect can be directly linked to the death of one or more residents.
- Neglecting of the needs of less critical residents in order to care for COVID positive patients, allowing them to become critical and even die of non-COVID related, preventable issues like falls, dehydration, or bedsore
Essentially, if you suspect that the nursing home caring for your loved one caused or contributed to their COVID-19 death, and your loved one would not have otherwise been exposed to the coronavirus or died, you may be able to seek legal recourse.
That said, it requires the skill and expertise of a highly experienced nursing home abuse and personal injury lawyer to successfully sue a long-term care facility for a COVID death. Defendants have a plethora of potential rebuttals, including the uncontrollable nature of the virus and its effect on elderly patients with preexisting conditions.
A veteran wrongful death attorney can help you gather the evidence needed to show that the nursing home was, in fact, responsible and had they acted differently or adhered to industry standard protocols, your loved one would still be alive.
While compensation is no replacement for the loss of your loved one, it can help ease the burden of astronomical hospital bills related to COVID-19, funeral expenses, and other related costs.
Get Help from a Compassionate Nursing Home Abuse Attorney Today
At Mazow | McCullough, PC, we understand how difficult it is to put a loved one in a nursing home in the first place, let alone dealing with their passing in the facility. Many people mistakenly believe that nursing home deaths aren’t preventable and are simply to be expected.
In a way this is true, however, a significant number of deaths in long-term care facilities are premature and due to outright abuse or neglect, even when the coronavirus is involved.
If you suspect your loved one has been abused or neglected in a nursing home in Massachusetts or New Hampshire, we can help. Call our office today for a consultation to discover the next step at (978) 744-8000 or toll free at (855) 693-9084.