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April 7, 2020

Patient Conditions Dire as Nursing Homes and Other Long Term Care Providers Struggle During COVID

old woman in wheel chair looking out window

The age of COVID is upon us, when we are told to shelter in our homes and minimize our contact with the outside. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has repeatedly warned that the elderly are the most vulnerable to the symptoms of the virus. So, you might expect nursing homes and hospices to be stepping up patient care to meet this new threat. But sadly, across the country instances are appearing where staff at long term care facilities and hospices have been woefully unprepared for effectively preventing the unnecessary loss of life due to the virus. 

Here, we’ll look at what the current situation is and what to do if you or a loved one has faced hospice care or nursing home abuse during this pandemic. 

At-Risk Patients Getting Risky Care

At last count, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), which performs inspections of nursing home facilities, reported at least 150 nursing facilities in more than half the states had at least one resident who has tested positive for COVID-19 while under their care. The CDC has warned that elderly patients are most at-risk for getting seriously ill or dying from COVID because they are most likely to have underlying health conditions like heart disease, lung disease, or immune systems that are compromised – 

The grim reality is that for the elderly COVID-19 is almost a perfect killing machine,” Mark Parkinson, President of AHCA, told CNN news. “In our facilities the average age is 84, and everyone has underlying medical conditions. So when you combine those factors together, we are dealing with perhaps the greatest challenge that we ever have had.”

Combine this with how nursing homes operate – you have staff members that are moving from patient to patient around everyone’s daily routines. Meals, medications, group activities, and other trips means that workers who often are not wearing protective equipment can be spreading the virus like wildfire among the most vulnerable population possible. 

The guidance received from the federal government has also been shown to be inadequate in the face of real-world conditions. In one instance, a severe gap in virus containment can be seen with the guidance to screen the health workers in elder care facilities. However, the screening involves little more than a temperature check and a symptoms questionnaire, allowing for those individuals who are not yet showing symptoms to slip by the screening and right into contact with those most vulnerable. Making matters worse, a lot of the therapists in these facilities visit multiple long term care facilities daily, making the spread that much more virulent. 

Less Government Inspections at Facilities Means Higher Risks

CMS has suspended routine inspections in an effort to focus more attention on the facilities that are being hit hardest by COVID. This means that lapses in patient care that might normally have been picked up during a routine inspection now may be easily missed by overworked medical staff. This unfortunately means the chances for mistakes to happen is all the greater. 

When that mistake means your family member is hurt, is neglected, or worse, is killed, our Florida nursing home abuse attorneys are ready to fight for the justice they deserve.

Facilities Are Lacking Manpower and Supplies

When dozens of nursing home populations start contracting Covid related symptoms, the staff at many facilities are being stretched to unrealistic extremes. Staff numbers are dwindled by the loss of symptomatic employees, those in self-quarantine, and those that are simply left at home with kids. But in an industry already plagued by shortages of experienced staff, those still left have neither the training nor the equipment to effectively prevent the spread. By the authority of the federal government, staff already stretched thin can be augmented by nurses aides who typically are not fully certified. 

Worse, the facilities are running short of all the things that are so hard to come by these days – masks, gloves, gowns, and test kits. This means you can have inexperienced healthcare workers, working in some of the most dangerous conditions our nation’s elderly citizens have faced in more than a hundred years, without even the proper supplies to do their jobs. 

States like New York have even moved to force nursing homes to take on patients recovering from COVID-19 to relieve hospital overcrowding. This could prove to have dire consequences as facilities are ill prepared to provide the level of care required in conjunction with taking care of their own existing patient population. 

Closing Facilities to Family and Other Visitors

For elderly patients, a daily routine can provide a measure of peace. However, in the midst of COVID, patients are losing access to communal meals, group activities, and family and volunteer visits. The result is having at-risk patients face long hours of isolation in their rooms, without the emotional support from loved ones. For hospice patients, this wait can spell tragedy for the family when they are prevented from all being present during their loved one’s final moments. 

The families of long term care patients may be those that suffer most as they go weeks without face to face interaction with their loved ones. There are spouses who have loved ones with dementia and Alzheimers that haven’t been able to see their loved ones in weeks. Worrying over their mental, emotional, and physical health.

States Setting Up ‘Infected-Only’ Nursing Home Facilities

In Connecticut, there has been a push towards moving all elderly patients that are infected out of their present nursing homes and congregating them together in facilities that are designated only for the infected. However, moving elderly patients, both uninfected and infected, can be really risky. Not only are they taken from their daily routine and the familiar staff and surroundings, but they will face new germs during the move that will force their immune systems to work all the harder. 

For many patients with underlying conditions, asking their immune system to take on this added burden may simply be too much. 

Not Even a Pandemic Will Keep Our Team from Helping You

Even with a virus that has completely changed global society, our philosophy remains the same – we are a client focused firm. Client focus means putting expert legal experience to use in seeking maximum compensation for our clients no matter the challenges faced. Our team stands ready to help when you need the guidance of an experienced nursing home abuse attorney during this crisis. Following CDC guidelines, we are available to meet with you virtually 24 hours a day, 7 days a week – just click on the chat session, send us an email, or call 855-848-6058.

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