The elderly are among those at greater risk for developing serious complications from the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), with 8% of COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. among adults age 65 years and older, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). There have been at least 25,600 deaths from COVID-19 in nursing home facilities across the country, according to a New York Times article published May 9, 2020. That count includes both residents and staff.
The federal government hasn’t released specific numbers. The true number of COVID-19 infections and deaths among the 1 million individuals currently residing in American nursing homes is likely much higher, experts say.
Outbreaks have occurred in nursing homes across the country, causing health officials to call for immediate measures at senior living communities and nursing homes to address the risk of virus spread. The CDC recommends that long-term care facilities and nursing homes restrict all visitors and non-essential health care personnel except for certain compassionate care or end-of-life situations, cancel communal dining and all group activities, establish appropriate social distancing among residents as well as staff, and ensure that there is frequent cleaning of high-touch surfaces and shared resident-care equipment with hospital-grade disinfectants.
Beasley Allen lawyer Alyssa Baskam, who represents individuals injured or families of those who have died as a result of nursing home abuse or neglect, recognizes the challenges these new measures present for families with loved ones in long-term care facilities.
“One thing families can do is encourage their loved ones to be patient and follow social distancing measures put into place in their facility,” Baskam said. “This can be especially difficult for residents with dementia who may not understand that these new measures are intended to protect them.”
For family members concerned that their loved ones are not receiving good care, or worried that their love one’s facility is not following covid-19 guidelines, Baskam encourages speaking with the facility’s director of nursing or administrator about your concerns. For remaining concerns, Baskam recommends calling the Long-Term Care Ombudsman or the State Department of Health Long-Term Care Ombudsman for your state. Friends and family can also contact their legislators and local organizations to push for more testing and protective equipment for their loved one’s facility.
Not being able to visit can be difficult for both the families and their loved ones. Some people have gotten creative, gathering outside a resident’s window so they can see each other. But this isn’t always feasible. For those who don’t have this opportunity, Baskam suggests families check in with their loved ones by sending letters or books, and by calling them or holding video chats if possible.
“I understand how it feels not to be able to visit a loved one living in a care facility. The best thing we can do as their family members is to communicate with them often, help keep their spirits lifted, and make sure our concerns are heard so our loved ones get the care that they need.”
If you or your loved one need help navigating these new nursing home distancing measures, or if you have concerns about the treatment and care your loved one is receiving in a facility, our nursing home lawyers are here to help guide you.