Nursing homes have a responsibility to protect and care for your loved one. However, many facilities have failed to provide this care, due to an improper response to the COVID-19 pandemic. As of July 2020, approximately 126,402 nursing home residents have contracted the coronavirus nationwide, resulting in 35,517 deaths. These statistics tell a shocking story of how unprepared many nursing home facilities were at the start of the pandemic.
However, we now have a better understanding of how COVID-19 spreads, and there is more information about COVID-19 safety protocols than ever before. With this greater understanding, nursing homes have no excuse for allowing COVID-19 to spread throughout their facilities. Any nursing home that fails to implement proper COVID-19 protocols must face consequences for their negligent actions.
How Should Nursing Homes Protect Residents?
Given how quickly COVID-19 can spread in nursing homes, these facilities must follow specific procedures to keep their residents safe. Both the staff and the facility managers have a responsibility to implement infection control procedures and enforce them throughout the nursing home.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has provided protocols that nursing homes across the country need to follow, to protect their residents.
The CDC recommends that nursing home managers:
- Train all staff members about infection control procedures and clearly communicate new COVID-19 guidelines
- Develop an action plan to implement if a resident or staff member tests positive for COVID-19
- Create a system to quickly identify any resident or staff member presenting with COVID-19 symptoms
- Follow all COVID-19 reporting procedures
These protocols can help nursing homes react appropriately in the event of a COVID-19 outbreak. However, creating policy around COVID-19 is not enough to prevent the spread of this virus in a nursing home.
The CDC also recommends that nursing home staff take immediate action to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
All nursing home staff members should follow protocols, such as:
- Screen residents daily for COVID-19 and take residents’ temperatures every 12 hours
- Perform self-screenings daily and stay home from work if any symptoms are present
- Provide COVID-19 testing to every resident and staff member at regular intervals
- Limit or ban visitors to the nursing facility
- Modify daily activities to reduce resident’s exposure to one another
- Increase the frequency of facility cleaning
- Wear personal protective equipment (PPE) when working with residents
- Require residents to wear a mask anytime they are outside their room or in the presence of other residents
Failing to implement COVID-19 protocols in a nursing home demonstrates serious negligence. No matter whether an individual staff member or the facility as a whole breaks protocol, this decision puts your loved one at risk of contracting COVID-19, threatening their well-being and even their life.
Why Do Nursing Homes Fail to Follow Protocols?
In most cases, nursing homes do not break COVID-19 protocols with malicious intent. Unfortunately, improper protocol is often the result of problems within the long-term care facility.
According to AARP, some of the most common reasons nursing homes may be unable to follow COVID-19 protocol include:
- Lack of access to PPE
- COVID-19 testing shortages
- Frequent physical contact with residents who need additional assistance
- Sharing rooms in overcrowded facilities
- Staffing shortages
- Staff members transferring the virus from other facilities where they work
Some of these problems are the result of systemic failures in managing COVID-19, which the nursing home is not directly responsible for. However, the facility has a duty to keep your loved one safe and reduce their risk of exposure as much as possible. If a nursing home has not made significant changes to their facility to cope with COVID-19, they may be liable if your loved one gets sick.
Risk Factors for COVID-19 in Nursing Homes
Although contracting COVID-19 is dangerous for anyone, the risk of this virus significantly increases in nursing homes. Approximately 8 out of 10 COVID-19 deaths occur in people age 65 or older. This shocking statistic shows the increased danger that older adults face, but it does not explain why COVID-19 becomes even more deadly as you age.
One of the primary reasons for this high mortality rate is the fact that the immune system deteriorates as you age. Aging bodies can no longer sustain a strong immune response, which allows even minor illnesses, like a cold or the flu, to take a significant toll on your health. However, COVID-19 is not a minor illness, killing people of all ages and levels of health This means that older adults are at an increased risk of serious illness from COVID-19, and they have a much lower likelihood of recovery.
Nursing homes are at a particularly high risk of a COVID-19 outbreak because this virus spreads quickly through the air, especially in indoor spaces with minimal air circulation. This makes nursing homes a perfect breeding ground for the virus: an indoor space, with elderly residents, and a limited ability to practice social distancing.
Another reason COVID-19 is so dangerous for older adults is the fact that many elderly people have underlying conditions that make the virus even more difficult to treat.
Some of the health concerns that increase the risk of severe illness from COVID-19 include:
- Kidney disease
- Heart disease and cardiomyopathies
- Liver disease
- Neurological degeneration, such as dementia
Many nursing home residents are living in these facilities because they are struggling with these health concerns, and they need additional support and care. Under normal circumstances, assisted living facilities are essential for helping older adults receive the care they need. However, during the time of COVID-19, they are a breeding ground for this deadly virus.
Contact a Nursing Home Negligence Attorney
If your loved one contracted COVID-19 in a nursing home because of improper protocols, this facility may be liable for your loved one’s illness or death. The New York COVID-19 attorneys at Finz & Finz P.C. are prepared to help you fight back against this injustice and help you seek compensation. Contact Finz & Finz P.C. at 855-TOP-FIRM right now to set up a free consultation on your case.