It’s Not Just COVID Deaths – Neglect & Abuse Are on the Rise in Our Nursing Homes

Elder abuse continues to be a serious problem in the United States. Thousands of elderly individuals are abused or neglected each day. Many cases of elder abuse and neglect are unreported because the victims are scared or unable to report the abuse. 

Many families worry about nursing home abuse and neglect when choosing a long-term care facility for their loved one. The thought that their loved one could be abused or neglected is terrifying. However, there is no alternative other than a nursing home to provide the round-the-clock care their loved ones need.

In 2020, COVID-19 has made it more difficult for family members to ensure that their loved ones receive the care and attention they need while living in a nursing home or long-term care facility. 

COVID-19 and Nursing Home Abuse

Because of the coronavirus outbreaks in nursing homes that caused thousands of deaths of residents, many nursing homes enacted strict isolation policies to protect their residents from exposure to COVID-19. Family members could not visit their loved ones in nursing homes. 

Florida released restrictions for visitation to nursing homes and other long-term care facilities by order of Gov. DeSantis on September 1, 2020. However, nursing homes must meet specific requirements to allow visitors into the center. If the nursing home does not meet the requirements, family members cannot visit their loved ones.

Unfortunately, one of the risk factors for nursing home abuse and neglect is a lack of contact with family members. Frequent visits by family members reduce the risk of abuse or neglect. Family members can look for signs of elder abuse or neglect during each visit. 

Because of COVID-19, family members may be limited to telephone calls with their loved ones. Telephone calls do not guarantee that a resident will tell their family members about abuse. A staff member could monitor the telephone call so that the resident is afraid to speak about the abuse.

Many residents are unable to talk on the telephone because of cognitive issues or physical conditions. In those cases, family members can only rely on reports from the facility about their loved one’s condition and wellbeing.

Another risk factor for neglect and abuse that increased with COVID-19 is the lack of adequate staff to care for nursing home residents. Many nursing home employees contracted COVID-19 or they were required to quarantine because a family member was ill.

When there are not enough staff members to care for residents, some residents can be neglected. Abuse may go undetected when there is a lack of supervision of nursing home staff members. 

What Can Family Members Do Now?

If you can visit your loved one in a nursing home, do so with caution. Follow all guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in nursing homes and long-term care facilities. If you or a member of your household has signs of COVID-19, do not go to the nursing home.

As best as you can, keep a check on your loved one. Visit when you can and call your loved one each day, if possible. Ask the nursing home about video calls with residents. 

When you can visit with your loved one, look for the signs of elder neglect and abuse. Neglect can take many forms, including failing to ensure that patients have the necessary medical care and personal hygiene care. Failing to ensure that patients have proper nutrition, hydration, and social interaction are also considered neglect.

Elder abuse can take many forms, including physical, verbal, emotional, sexual, and financial abuse. The signs of abuse may include bedsores, broken bones, lacerations, bruises, withdrawal, fear, anxiety, and depression. Because some of these signs could be associated with medical conditions, aging, and medication side effects, the nursing home may try to convince family members that the condition is “normal” or “expected.”

If you suspect your family member is being abused or neglected, you can call the Florida Abuse Hotline at 1-800-96-ABUSE (1-800-962-2873). You can also contact the Florida Department of Children and Families and the Agency for Health Care Administration. If you suspect your loved one is in danger of immediate harm, call 911 to report elder abuse or neglect. 

Suing a Nursing Home for Abuse and Neglect

In addition to reporting abuse or neglect to government agencies, your loved one may have a civil claim against the nursing home and other parties. There may be one or more causes of action against the nursing home, including negligence and violations of the residents’ Bill of Rights.

If you are unsure what to do next, you might want to talk with a nursing home abuse lawyer. A lawyer can explain your loved one’s legal rights and the options for holding the nursing home accountable for damages caused by abuse and neglect. Seeking justice for your loved one might prevent another resident from suffering abuse and neglect.