The toll the coronavirus takes on the frail and elderly is most pronounced in nursing homes and assisted living facilities, where 42% of all U.S. COVID-19 deaths have occurred, according to a new analysis by the Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity of state-by-state COVID-19 fatality reports.
To help protect residents of long-term care facilities, federal health agencies, academic researchers and geriatric physicians called for “treat in place” instead of hospitalizing these patients. The reasoning is that hospital admission put them at greater risk for bed sores, dehydration, infections, exhaustion and delirium. But what nursing homes that took on treating their residents in place didn’t consider is that in order to properly care for a highly infectious patient in their facility, staff would not only have to care for residents’ usual needs, but also be trained in and practice treatment and procedures that do not further the spread of the virus.
As a result, COVID-19 continues to tear through nursing homes and assisted living facilities, to date killing more than 30,000 residents. Even staff have fallen ill and died.
“These places are not designed for a pandemic,” John Rowe, a professor of health policy and aging at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health and former CEO of Aetna told the Washington Post.
Lock-downs of long-term care facilities came too late. Testing of patients was needlessly delayed. Inadequate tracking in the U.S. allowed exposed staff in facilities. Even worse, some employees reported feeling pressure to report to work despite not feeling well, according to the Washington Post.
The problem with “treat in place” for nursing homes has exposed deep inadequacies within the nursing home system, which relies on low-level aides to care for patients. Aides, “so underpaid and undertrained. So much stress,” Rowe said. The burden shouldn’t fall on them or the residents, he added. “If I had good enough nursing staff, I could take care of nearly everyone in a nursing home.”
Beasley Allen lawyer Alyssa Baskam, represents individuals injured or families of those who have died as a result of nursing home or other long-term care facility abuse or neglect. 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, she 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.
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.