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Upsurge in nursing home neglect reported due to the pandemic

Nursing home neglect

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the coronavirus has ravaged nursing homes across the United States. Nearly 40 percent of COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. have occurred in nursing homes, according to an AARP report. But there's another epidemic that is putting our elders in danger and one that isn't getting nearly as much attention as it should. That's nursing home neglect, which comes in many forms.

The Associated Press sheds light on the poor treatment of nursing home elders. One nursing home resident — a 75-year-old retired Alabama truck driver — survived when the coronavirus swept through the nursing home where he resided. He later died due to malnourishment, dehydration, and septic shock, however.

The resident's son told the Associated Press that his father "couldn't even hold his head up straight because he had gotten so weak."

Nursing home advocates claim that aside from the nearly 100,000 resident deaths linked to COVID-19, tens of thousands more have died due to neglect. Understaffed facilities and overworked staff are believed to be the cause.

Another resident in a nursing home in New York's Long Island never contracted the coronavirus, but died from dehydration.

“My mom went from being unbelievably cared for to dead in three weeks,” said the resident's daughter. “They were in over their head more than anyone could imagine.”

15% more nursing home residents are dying in facilities

Stephen Kaye is a professor at the Institute on Health and Aging at the University of California, San Francisco. He recently conducted an analysis of data from 15,000 nursing home facilities across the U.S. He found that for every two COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes, there was one that was linked to other causes. Kaye speculates that the total number of nursing home deaths linked to neglect since March of 2020 could be more than 40,000. That's about 15 percent more than the number of deaths that typically occur at nursing homes each month.

“The healthcare system operates kind of on the edge, just on the margin, so that if there’s a crisis, we can’t cope,” said Kaye. “There are not enough people to look after the nursing home residents.”

Through his research, Kaye also found that:

  • Nursing homes with the highest rates of COVID-19 infections had the greatest number of deaths linked to other causes.
  • Nursing homes where at least 3 in 10 residents were infected with the coronavirus had double the rate of deaths for other reasons than what would be expected without a pandemic.
  • Staff members spent most of their time and effort attending to residents who were stricken with the coronavirus while neglecting those who weren't.
  • Nearly 1 in 4 nursing homes have reported staff shortages in 20 states where the coronavirus has surged.

The numbers don't lie

Some industry groups, such as the American Health Care Association, have attempted to dispute Kaye's analysis, but the numbers and stories don't lie. To make matters worse, families of nursing home residents have been prohibited from visiting their loved ones.

“What the pandemic did was uncover what was really going on in these facilities. It was bad before, but it got exponentially worse because you had the squeeze of the pandemic,” said the daughter of a resident who died from Lewy body dementia. “If we weren’t in a pandemic, I would have been in there … This wouldn’t have happened.”

Types of nursing home neglect to look out for

Until this pandemic is over, we may face challenges when communicating with our loved ones. It's important that you take any opportunity to communicate with your loved one and look for potential signs of neglect. The most common forms of neglect we see at Braswell Murphy & Grubb include:

  • Failure to provide food, water and other basic needs to residents.
  • Poor hygiene and failure to change residents' clothing or help residents bathe.
  • Medical neglect, such as failure to provide appropriate medical care, providing improper medication dosages or mixing up medications.
  • Poor supervision of nursing home residents.
  • Failure to keep residents safe from physical or sexual assault.
  • Ignoring residents who need emotional support due to depression and anxiety.

Demand legal action today

No matter what challenges a nursing home facility is facing, the management still has an obligation to ensure that residents are properly cared for and protected. This is what we expect when placing a loved one in a facility. In far too many cases, elders are harmed because nursing homes fail to hire adequate and trustworthy staff. If your loved one was harmed as a result, it's important that you demand legal action.

As we previously discussed, nursing home neglect can be reported to the management of a facility. If you don't get anywhere with management, you can file a complaint with your state ombudsman's office:

You should then consult with an experienced nursing home neglect attorney who can conduct a full investigation into the facility and its staff. To learn more about your legal options, schedule a free and confidential consultation with the attorneys at Braswell Murphy & Grubb. We're committed to serving clients in Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia. Contact us online or call us today.

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