Families around the U.S. who have loved ones in nursing homes may be feeling incredibly afraid right now, as the covid-19 pandemic continues.
Families are struggling to find out information regarding infections in their loved one’s facilities, and there are concerns that some actions between taken by state governments and nursing home administrators could even be encouraging the spread of covid-19.
There are likely to be many not only public health issues that arise when it comes to nursing homes and covid-19 but also potential legal issues.
For example, it’s possible this pandemic could lead to personal injury lawsuits. According to Ryan Zavodnick, a personal injury lawyer in Philadelphia, PA, if someone you love dies because of another person’s carelessness or negligence, you could have a claim for damages.
Nursing Homes Are Ground Zero
While we’re finding out more about how long covid-19 has been circulating in the U.S., and it was likely longer than we realized, a nursing home in Washington state was one of the first situations that brought the virus to the mainstream attention of many Americans.
The Life Care Center in Kirkland was described as the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in America starting in February.
Since mid-February, 37 people connected to the center have died.
The center said they didn’t know what to look for at the time, which is why the virus spread there.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) did an evaluation on March 1 and found there were not enough infection control protocols in place, and staff members that were working in multiple facilities might have led to more spread between those facilities.
The Life Care Center of Kirkland was also fined by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services at the beginning of April for 45 days of what was described as inadequate care.
Nursing Home Infection Rates in Other States
The Life Care Center was only the tip of the iceberg as far as being a tragic situation.
In Louisiana, for example, more than 30% of the coronavirus deaths in the state are among nursing home residents, and in New Hampshire, people living in long-term care facilities make up almost 80% of all the cases.
More than 50% of deaths in New Jersey are from residents in long-term care facilities, and recently Governor Phil Murphy said he’d spoken with the National Guard about the potential to use non-medical members to help nursing homes.
New York Governor Cuomo is facing scrutiny for his policy, which required state nursing homes to take coronavirus-infected residents back in once they were released from the hospital.
Why Are Nursing Homes Ground Zero?
Several factors make nursing homes susceptible to disease and infection outbreaks, even when there isn’t a global pandemic.
Nursing home residents, in addition to typically being elderly, are more likely to have chronic and serious illnesses.
Residents live close together, and caregivers work with a lot of patients and then leave the facility and carry on with their life outside of work.
Many nursing home staff aren’t high-paid workers, and they may not have sick leave, so they’ll report to work even with symptoms of illnesses.
What Should You Do If Your Loved One Is in a Care Facility?
Families who have loved ones in nursing homes and long-term care facilities around the world have been worried and wondering what they should do.
Nursing homes are now instructed to be much more rigorous about safety protocols than when the Life Care outbreak first happened.
For example, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has instructed facilities since mid-March to stop allowing visitors and anyone non-essential.
Some families are taking their loved ones out of these facilities and quarantining them in their homes, but this isn’t without risk.
If you want to do that, you need to be sure that you can provide a safe level of social distancing.
If you have young children or people coming in and out of your home, for example, that may not be feasible.
You also have to think about not only the social distancing aspect of having your loved one in your home but also whether or not you can realistically care for their other needs, such as medication management.
Finally, if you are concerned, speak with the nursing home about what infection control measures they’re following and what their plan is to alert families if there is an outbreak. They should be able to offer you very specific information about what they’re doing and how they’re handling the situation.