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Wilmington 302-427-9500 Bear 302-834-8484 Milford 302-422-6705 Lewes 302-550-0155

Is Nursing Home Neglect Rising During the Pandemic?

nursing home

Nursing home care is relied upon by many families when loved ones require special care due to age, senility, illness, and weakness. There are some troubling signs that excessive deaths have been occurring during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic that are unrelated to COVID-19 infection.

The United States has around 15,000 nursing home facilities that provide housing, food, and care for their residents. Illness and mortality rates in these facilities are tracked and analyzed for trends. A recent study by the Associated Press (AP) estimated that for every two COVID-19 victims in long-term care, one resident died prematurely of other causes. These non-COVID-19 premature deaths were far above typical fatality rates. The total excess deaths that were not caused by COVID-19 could be as high as 40,000 or more since March 2020; this represents an approximate increase of 15 percent.

Like other health care systems, nursing homes are run with minimum staff capacity limits. Some experts believe there is not enough staff to care for residents in these facilities. In facilities where at least three in 10 residents suffered from COVID-19, the rate of death for other reasons was double the expected amount. The data seemingly indicates that the combination of the demands of care for COVID-19 patients, staffing limitations, and staff illnesses were likely responsible for the increase in fatalities.

Many health care settings, including nursing homes and assisted care living facilities, provide care with minimal staff that are often overworked and fatigued.  Many of the care providers lack formal education in established methods for providing optimum care to meet residents’ needs. The pandemic may have brought these issues to the forefront. These factors together may be causing the level of care provided in these facilities to be declining below acceptable levels in many of these facilities.

What are the Signs of Nursing Home Neglect?

Malnutrition, misdiagnosis of a medical treatment, and development of bedsores are signs of nursing home abuse and neglect. These problems may go unnoticed by loved ones or caregivers until the situation is quite advanced. This leaves little time for effective intervention.

It is important to tell the appropriate authorities about signs of poor treatment. Formal complaints made to the facility, health care advocates, a state regulatory agency, a local health department, and the police are important. Loved ones as well as staff can file complaints that can address any of a number of concerns, including:

  • Neglect
  • Abuse and maltreatment
  • Minimal staffing
  • Unsanitary conditions
  • Dietary inadequacies

Certified and licensed health care providers are required by law to notify regulatory agencies when signs of neglect, abuse, or exploitation of patients is witnessed. This includes any situation that appears to pose a threat to a resident.  Specific examples of reportable events include:

  • Patients missing from the facility.
  • Overmedication or undermedication.
  • Robbed of property or having funds misappropriated.
  • Diagnosed improperly, late, or not at all.
  • Unknown injuries.

These situations can result in danger, injuries, and even wrongful death. Investigations in response to complaints can uncover problems. Often, an unannounced visit is scheduled and an investigation is performed, including:

  • Observing the condition of the facility and individual patients that have been identified as potentially being neglected or abused.
  • Reviewing records of care provided.
  • Interviews with staff, complainant, other residents, and the patient’s family.

Legal Action and Possible Outcomes

Sometimes, a family will be unable to detect negligence or cannot obtain proper care for a loved one. In these instances, families are able to seek and recover compensatory damages through litigation. Compensatory damages include economic and non-economic damages to cover past and future medical bills, medical care, and other losses due to injuries. Non-economic damages for pain and suffering or disability resulting from negligence or maltreatment may also be recovered.

Sometimes, the facility is guilty of more than negligence, such as extreme recklessness. In this case, a family may also be able to pursue punitive damages against a facility. A court will award punitive damages as a way to penalize and hopefully incent the facility to increase its vigilance to avoid such conditions from arising in the future.

In either settlement negotiations or court ordered verdicts, the amount of the award is decided based on a number of different factors. A nursing home lawsuit examines the conduct of the facility and the impact it had on the individual. Factors that may influence the amount of an award include:

  • Age and quality of life of the individual prior to the negligence and abuse.
  • Extent of the physical injuries.
  • Costs of medical care related to the injuries.
  • Insurance coverage for the facility.
  • Jurisdictional history of handling similar cases.

A case may also be bought against a facility for wrongful death if neglect or abuse caused a patient to die.

Milford Nursing Home Negligence Lawyers at Rhoades & Morrow Protect Senior Citizens Against Abuse

We understand that the issue of nursing home care is sensitive, and we treat every case with utmost respect. Our Milford nursing home negligence lawyers at Rhoades & Morrow represent abused nursing home residents, and we are here to help. Call us at 302-422-6705 or contact us online for a free consultation. Located in Wilmington, Bear, and Milford, Delaware, we serve clients throughout Middletown, Dover, Hillsborough, Lewes, Rehoboth, Elsmere, and Seaford.

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