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Nursing Homes and COVID-19

COVID-19, the Coronavirus, is a global pandemic that has rapidly spread across the world. These unprecedented times have caused hardship from coast to coast. While the virus has proven it can affect those of all ages, one group of citizens is particularly vulnerable to contracting COVID-19: nursing home residents. To date, thousands of nursing home residents across the country have actually passed away due to complications of COVID-19.

Senior citizens are known to face a higher risk of contracting the virus, based on research and information known about COVID-19. As such, nursing homes are particularly susceptible to COVID-19 outbreaks for several reasons. First, residents are likely to have one or more preexisting conditions, including high blood pressure, hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, chronic lung disease, or other immunocompromised conditions. Underlying health conditions are known to make someone more vulnerable to becoming infected with COVID-19, if exposed to it. Lots of people living in close proximity to one another can also lead to outbreaks once one resident or staff member has the virus.

If your loved one resides in a nursing home or long term care facility, you have the right to ask what enhanced measures they are taking to protect residents and keep them safe from this deadly virus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have instituted social distancing measures designed to keep people apart, which means nursing home administrators must take steps to follow these guidelines. The Department of Health and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) have enacted their own healthcare guidelines.

In light of COVID-19, nursing home administrators should already have plans and protocols in place to protect their residents. Steps some facilities have taken include:

  • Isolating patients who experience symptoms;
  • Regulating visitors;
  • Limiting access to the nursing home to only essential vendors, staff, and suppliers;
  • Enhanced cleaning measures;
  • Providing protective equipment to employees such as masks and gloves;
  • Staying up to date on guidelines from the CDC and Department of Health;
  • Following CDC social distancing recommendations;
  • Screening third party vendors and suppliers;
  • Maintaining a proper supply of effective cleaning supplies, gear, and protective equipment;
  • Disinfecting common areas and medical equipment after use;
  • Supplying sufficient amounts of alcohol-based hand sanitizer throughout the facility, including residents’ rooms; and
  • Communicating regularly with local health enforcement officials to obtain the latest information and best practices.

Government officials (national, state, and local) are investigating nursing home facilities across the country who have suffered outbreaks of COVID-19, looking into what caused the outbreak to occur and what could have been done differently to prevent this flare-up from happening. It has been discovered that some facilities are failing to follow CDC recommendations. Oftentimes, these facilities are not able to follow these guidelines due to insufficient staffing levels. Even in the best of times, nursing homes should be properly staffed in order to provide proper care to our loved ones. Facilities should employ compassionate staff members and a satisfactory number of employees, ranging from Registered Nurses (RN), Licensed Practical Nurses (LPN), Certified Nursing Assistants (CNA), nursing aides, patient care technicians, and support staff to make sure that our loved ones do not suffer neglect or abuse. Less staff can equate to less time spent cleaning and sanitizing the facility, monitoring patients and taking their temperatures, isolating residents who show COVID-19 symptoms, and monitoring if someone with Covid-19 symptoms enters the facility. This can easily lead to the loss of a loved one.

Further, if a nursing home is understaffed, those who are there working will be stretched thin. It will become nearly impossible to follow all CDC guidelines and devote full attention to the health of residents. Employees working long shifts may be unable to take breaks or get proper sleep at home, and fatigue tends to lead to mistakes, errors, and oversights. As a result the number of cases involving neglect and abuse could significantly increase.

With senior citizens most at risk of contracting COVID-19, nursing homes should take all steps within their control to safeguard the loves ones whom they are entrusted to care for and protect. If you are concerned a nursing home is not taking enough steps to protect your loved one, please call the nursing home neglect lawyers of Nahon, Saharovich & Trotz. Our team will be able to investigate your situation and assess whether the nursing home facility took proper precautions regarding your loved one’s care, in light of skilled nursing and CDC guidelines. For a free and confidential consultation with a lawyer today, please contact NST Law at 800-529-4004 or through our online contact form.