Nursing homes and assisted living facilities cannot neglect their resident’s safety or health. Facilities are paid exorbitant fees to protect and care for the most vulnerable among us: our elders. Some segments of the assisted living industry have a known history of hidden neglect, unsanitary conditions, inadequate medical care, or even elder abuse. That is why the industry has become so highly regulated.
During the spread of coronavirus, health and safety precautions at nursing homes and assisted living facilities are even more urgent. Nursing homes and assisted living facilities have a responsibility under both state and federal laws to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. There are minimum standards of care that are expected when you run a facility with high risks. If a facility is reckless, or otherwise neglects taking basic health and safety precautions, they be may be held responsible if seniors or residents become seriously ill or die on their watch.
The failure to have an adequate plan to prevent or treat an infection or a virus, including coronavirus, is a form of elder abuse and neglect.
Residents and their families need to know that nursing home and assisted living facilities are doing what they are supposed to do to protect our most vulnerable citizens. Facilities must follow the laws, including the state, federal, and Medicare guidelines.
If you believe a loved one has suffered from nursing or assisted living neglect, contact Sweetser Law Office for a free case evaluation. If your loved one has contracted the coronavirus due to substandard safety precautions, and as a result suffers a severe health setback or death, contact Sweetser Law Office for a free case evaluation. The sooner we can start investigating, the better.
What precautions is nursing home or assisted living facility supposed to be taking during COVID-19? At a minimum:
- The facility must have a dedicated specialist on staff who specializes in infection prevention.
- Staff must use “hand hygiene” and regularly disinfecting the facility. Frequent cleaning and disinfecting of surfaces and objects is a must when it comes to controlling the spread of a virus like coronavirus (COVID-19). Failure to take reasonable measures to disinfect all tables, chairs, beds, and surfaces could constitute nursing home neglect.
- The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended that all healthcare workers in nursing homes and assisted living facilities wear masks to prevent the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). If a nursing home has failed to provide masks to all aides, nurses, and healthcare workers, then negligence may have occurred.
- Workers and volunteers must be screened for COVID-19 symptoms when they start each shift.
- Visitors should be screened about potential symptoms, checked for fever with thermometers, and all information should be carefully documented in the visitor’s log.
- Visitors must be instructed to follow precautionary measures. These include, but are not limited to, wearing personal protective equipment (such as facemasks) and social distancing.
- Visits with a resident must take place in the resident's room or a specially designated, “clean” room unless it is an end-of-life situation.
What happens if a nursing home or long-term care facility has a COVID-19 outbreak? At a minimum:
- An infection control protocol must be implemented for workers across all programs, services, and settings including implementation of stricter sanitation requirement,
- The facility should rely upon their surveillance cameras to ensure appropriate infection prevention procedures are being adhered to by all departments and individuals working with the facility.
- The facility must take measures to reduce the risk of medical devices or procedures leading to transmission of COVID-19.
- If a senior resident experiences any type of respiratory illness or distress, or tests positive for COVID-19, they must be isolated from the rest of the residents. That means the staff will distance as much as practicable to prevent the spread of COVID-19 away from others. Isolation and quarantine are among the best ways to stop the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). If a resident showed symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) and was not isolated from other at-risk residents, then negligence may have occurred.
Why Protections Matter: Elderly People Are the Most Vulnerable During COVID-19
The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) statistical data is alarming:
- Out of all coronavirus cases to date, over 80% of death involved elderly individual who 60 years or older.
- The vast majority of people who have died from coronavirus, over 75%, had some form of underlying condition such as diabetes, lung disease and other respiratory illnesses, heart disease and cardiovascular diseases, or cancer.
- Fatality rates for people between 60 and 70 years of age is roughly 8%.
- Fatality rates for individuals over 80 years of age is shockingly high: almost 15%.
In no event should an elderly senior experiencing respiratory symptoms at a nursing home or assisted living facility be confined to an isolated room with no medical care or treatment, left to die slowly and alone, as some reports have shown.
The impact of coronavirus has been far-reaching, impacting the operating conditions of businesses everywhere. For our seniors who are spending their life-savings on proper assisted care, now more than ever, our health and safety laws cannot be overlooked or unenforced. Habitual violators can be held responsible for the suffering caused by their neglect.