COVID and Nursing Homes: The Latest Info on Negligence and Neglect
May 6, 2021 in Elder Abuse
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused tremendous disruption and life-changing events in society. Nursing homes, in particular, have been hit hard from the start and are still facing challenges. With nearly all facilities limiting the access of residents’ families and friends, you may suspect that your elderly or dependent adult loved one’s nursing home is or has been neglecting them during this dangerous time. As numbers continue to rise with more than 30 million reported coronavirus cases in the U.S., the safety of nursing homes is a point of concern for many.
COVID-19’s Impact and Nursing Homes’ Legal Immunity
In the ordinary course of injury litigation, if you were able to provide significant evidence that your loved one contracted the coronavirus and died as a result of skilled nurse or assisted living negligence, you could pursue a lawsuit and obtain a favorable settlement or verdict.
However, federal law complicates the matter with respect to injuries and death by COVID-19 when the wrongdoer is a healthcare provider or nursing home. The Secretary of Health and Human Services issued a declaration under the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness (PREP) Act to grant individuals and entities “liability immunity for activities related to medical countermeasures against COVID-19.”
The PREP Act creates additional major roadblocks toward getting fair financial recovery in situations where wrongdoing by a healthcare provider or a nursing home resulted in contracting COVID-19 or the negligent treatment of COVID-19.
If the PREP Act applies to your case, you will need to prove that the wrongful acts toward your loved by the healthcare professionals in the nursing home were willful in order to sustain a lawsuit. Without being able to show willful conduct at an early stage, you would be precluded from prosecuting a lawsuit. Your alternative avenue for compensation would be the procedures outlined in the Countermeasures Injury Compensation Program (CICP). With CICP, your prospects for fair compensation will be much lower than in the courts.
But hope for justice is not lost! The PREP Act does not apply where the wrongdoing by the nursing home was not related to COVID-19 countermeasures. Nursing homes cannot evade accountability for neglect altogether simply because of the difficulties posted by the pandemic.
Signs of Neglect in Nursing Homes
Neglect is defined as the failure to meet the basic care needs of an elder or dependent adult who cannot provide care for themselves. On an intuitive level, it is a form of abuse.
Common signs of nursing home neglect include:
- Your loved one’s hygiene is subpar. Take notice of their teeth and any discoloration of their tongue, or if they are not well-kept in general. Thrush, a fungal infection, can develop from improper oral hygiene.
- Your elderly loved one appears to be losing weight because they are not given the proper nourishment for their body.
- Your dependent loved ones are noticeably thirsty and not adequately hydrated.
- Your loved one is often bed-bound or spends the majority of their time in a wheelchair. This might suggest that no one in the facility takes them for a walk or to common areas. Being bedridden for too long can also cause bedsores on the skin. Bedsores are common when someone is left in the same position for extended periods of time. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, bedsores can start forming after only 2-3 hours of the skin not receiving enough of a blood supply.
- Your loved one’s mental state seems compromised. If you notice that their behavior is abnormal, this could be a result of being overly medicated, possibly being given the wrong medications, or experiencing an untreated infection. Untreated infections can lead to a serious complication called sepsis.
Belgum, Fry & Van Allen and COVID-19 Nursing Home Neglect Cases
The coronavirus and nursing home neglect cases are difficult to prove. Courtrooms may also operate differently with procedures and protocols during the pandemic. Belgum, Fry & Van Allen will, however, take cases of COVID-19 nursing home neglect or wrongful death if there is substantial evidence to support a claim. If a family has suspicions that a loved one is experiencing neglect from a nursing home unrelated to the coronavirus, we can assist with that as well.
If you are worried that your loved one contracted COVID-19 due to a nursing home’s neglect, contact our office. Under unique circumstances like this, it is best to seek legal advice from an attorney who specializes in nursing home abuse so that you can understand the options and complicated potential outcomes discussed in this article. A nursing home abuse attorney in Orange County and the surrounding areas can advise you on your legal rights under your circumstances. Start with a free case evaluation.