The COVID-19 pandemic has been a testing time for all of us in New York. If you have a parent or other elderly relative living in a nursing home, it’s been particularly concerning.
Nursing homes have been hard hit by the pandemic as the virus has taken a particularly heavy toll on the elderly, the frail, and the infirm.
In one nursing home in New Jersey, reports emerged of 70 residents perishing.
Not being able to visit relatives to comfort them has been a hard pill to swallow for families across New York and getting information from facilities has often been challenging.
How do you know if your parent is safe in a nursing home?
What do you need to know about the nursing home in the absence of being able to visit your loved one and see for yourself?
What extra measures should be taken for the health and safety of your relative – over and above the standard level of care you should expect from the home?
Here we look at what to be on the lookout for during COVID-19 – and what you should do if you need to file a complaint against a nursing home.
Necessary medical supplies
The CDC released a COVID-19 preparedness checklist for nursing homes and other long-term care settings. This includes having adequate supplies and resources.
Does the nursing home have all the necessary medical supplies for residents during the outbreak?
With staff commuting between home and their place of work each day, the potential to introduce the virus to elderly residents has also been high.
Is the nursing home taking adequate precautions to address this risk?
For example, are there enough protective face masks, disposable gloves, eye goggles, and gowns in the nursing home? Are staff using them to prevent passing on an infection to residents?
Are they taking adequate measures to avoid germs spreading when coughing? Are they regularly disinfecting their hands with an appropriate sanitizer?
Many of the facilities have security cameras to monitor common areas and exits. While there is no law mandating their use, this is increasingly seen as a standard security measure. If available, this footage may be used by the authorities to check staff procedures and adherence to standards.
Another aspect of the nursing home approach to infection control is sanitation. Has your nursing home been using disinfectants on the EPA list for use against SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19)?
If the necessary medical supplies are not available and being used by staff, this could be seen as negligent conduct by the nursing home.
Physical distancing measures
It is also reasonable to expect that staff and residents in nursing homes are practicing physical distancing measures as much as possible during the pandemic.
If any residents are known to have symptoms like those associated with COVID-19, are they isolated from other residents in a private room with its own bathroom? Is there adequate quarantine measures to ensure that an infected person does not pass the virus onto others? Are mealtimes in dining rooms staggered with multiple seating times to allow better distancing among residents?
Are employees ordered not to turn up for work if they develop any symptoms of the disease? Are they tested for COVID-19 as per public health guidelines? Do they regularly have their temperature taken and are they screened for respiratory symptoms at the start of each work shift, as advised by the CDC?
Being understaffed during the crisis is not a valid excuse for a lack of measures being taken to protect residents from infection.
You may have a justifiable claim against the nursing home if inappropriate distancing measures may have led to sickness or loss of a loved one.
If you have remained in contact with an elderly loved one via video and telephone calls during the lockdown, you probably have a good idea of the measures that staff have been taking. Facilities are generally more likely to exercise a high level of care if they know that people are watching.
Filing a complaint
We’ve all heard the stories of families devastated by the news of an elderly loved one passing away only days after being assured that they were “fine”.
It’s been challenging during this time to be able to hold nursing homes to account because of the difficulties in accessing reliable information.
As more information comes to light, it is likely that more families who have not had their complaints to nursing homes dealt with satisfactorily will want to make a claim.
During the COVID-19 crisis, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, which is the federal agency that oversees nursing homes, released state agencies from having to investigate complaints as they were overrun.
The best way to make a claim is through a lawyer, who can help you get a written record of the complaint and perhaps file a claim for damages if it is warranted.
Do you need to file a complaint about a nursing home?
Many families who have experienced avoidable pain and suffering or personal tragedies due to the negligent actions of nursing homes during COVID-19 are considering suing the facilities.
It’s important to discuss the facts of your case with one of our experienced nursing home lawyers at Sinel & Olesen, PLLC. We will assess the strength of your case and be able to advise on your next steps.
Please contact us for an initial consultation.