Early this year, the coronavirus — and the disease it causes, COVID-19 — spread across the globe, devastating entire countries in its wake. Massachusetts and New Hampshire have seen a higher number of coronavirus cases than other areas of the country, and it’s important to be vigilant now more than ever.
Here’s what you should know about COVID-19 and how it’s affecting nursing homes across the U.S. Learn what you can do if your loved one may have been a victim of nursing home neglect during the coronavirus pandemic.
What Is the Coronavirus?
The novel coronavirus started in Wuhan, China at the end of 2019 and subsequently spread to the entire globe in a period of just a few months. While human coronaviruses are common and can even cause the common cold, this particular virus is much more contagious and deadly than its predecessors, including SARS.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) report that the most common symptoms of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, include:
- Dry, nonproductive cough
- Shortness of breath
Less common symptoms may include:
- Chest pain or pressure
- Difficulty breathing
- Bluish-colored lips, face, or fingers
Many people are asymptomatic carriers of the coronavirus. Those who do go on to develop COVID-19 will largely recover. However, the CDC reports that the virus is much more dangerous for elderly individuals, smokers, or those with underlying medical conditions.
Why COVID-19 Is Such a Significant Concern for Nursing Homes
Unfortunately, nursing homes are breeding grounds for viruses and bacteria. Similar to hospitals, they hold a large number of ill and/or immunocompromised individuals in a relatively small space. These individuals share common areas, such as the cafeteria and recreational spaces, making the spread of illness from person to person quick and efficient.
Unlike hospitals, nursing homes tend to have lower sanitary standards. It’s not uncommon for patient rooms and common areas to go without being cleaned for an extended period of time. In many cases, patients themselves aren’t properly assisted with hygiene.
With their population of older adults with prominent health issues and frequent struggles with hygiene and sanitation, nursing homes are at a much higher risk of being affected by COVID-19.
How Should Nursing Homes Be Responding to the Coronavirus?
Nursing homes should be taking extra precautions to reduce the spread of the coronavirus among residents and employees. Generally, these guidelines include but are not limited to:
- Drastically reducing or limiting family visitation with residents
- Providing masks to all staff members and to patients who are exhibiting symptoms of illness
- Regularly monitoring patients and staff for symptoms of the coronavirus, including checking the temperature of all employees before their shift
- Quarantining ill patients to their rooms
- Limiting social activities
- Sanitizing shared surfaces frequently throughout the day
- Practicing good hand washing techniques
Nursing homes who do not take action to protect their patients and staff during the coronavirus pandemic may be held responsible for failure to meet their duty of care.
Does the Coronavirus Increase the Risk of Nursing Home Abuse?
Unfortunately, nursing homes are notoriously understaffed and overburdened. The patient-to-caregiver ratio is usually too high, and there are more patients than a single nurse can attend to in a shift. This often results in nursing home neglect and complications of neglect, including malnourishment, dehydration, and bedsores.
If a nursing home has a larger number of sick patients due to COVID-19, staff may be even more overwhelmed. If any employees are also sick and are not able to work, the patient-to-caregiver ratio rises. This may lead to an increase in nursing home abuse and neglect cases.
Was Your Loved One the Victim of Nursing Home Neglect?
If you believe your loved one was the victim of nursing home abuse or neglect during the coronavirus pandemic, compensation may be available.
At Mazow | McCullough, PC, we understand the challenges families of loved ones in nursing homes are facing now. We’re committed to providing you with comprehensive, quality legal representation. To schedule your no-cost case evaluation, contact us at (978) 744-8000.