The Covid-19 pandemic experienced across the planet is having a negative impact on elderly and disabled residents of Nursing Homes around the United States. To date, three states have forced nursing homes to accept Covid-19 patients from hospitals, fortunately, North Carolina has not been one of those states to make this mandatory and potentially irresponsible step. However, that does not mean that substandard nursing home care is not contributing to the problems for the state. One particular company owning and operating 19 elderly care facilities within the state has announced a total of 19 deaths caused directly by the virus. But the real issue with nursing homes is not exactly how many residents are contracting Covid, as it is how lax many are with respect to maintaining high health and cleanliness standards. Violations of reasonable duty of care are numerous, as are lawsuits stemming from that lack of attention to facility upkeep and sanitation maintenance. In many cases, nursing home staff lack the expertise and working knowledge of the protocols needed during the extraordinary situation that we find ourselves in, since the Covid-19 outbreak. Facility owners maintain their aggressive approach to cutting costs and then hire aggressive legal representatives to claim they are above the minimum standards required in their state. If you have an elderly relative who is a resident of a nursing home or elderly care facility, you should be paying special attention to their care during this difficult time. If you see any signs of negligence on behalf of the care facility, be it staff-related, management-related, or both, then you need to intervene and take action.
If it becomes obvious that a lack of sufficient care, service, or conditions provided by the facility is endangering the health of your loved one, then it may be prudent to consult with an experienced elder abuse lawyer as soon as is possible, to go over the issues and decide upon a course of action.
Proving Negligence in a Nursing Home
One of the first problems elder abuse attorneys have with nursing home abuse cases is actually proving what is happening in stealth. This is assuredly a problem with Covid-19 because visitation is commonly limited to family and friends, and they are often the only witnesses able to report any abuse. Some cases can be proven through medication records or testimony from the victims, but there are still restrictions that can assuredly work to the benefit of the treatment facility. And management understands this stipulation well, often abusing not only the patient but abusing the authority to restrict visitors with an unreasonable visitation policy. This can mean a significant amount of money to the company, and they still get to continue providing substandard treatment while maximizing their profits. Claims of “care before corporate” are often not only misleading, but they are outright false marketing claims in many instances. Nursing home abuse and negligence are much more common than most North Carolina residents realize, and failure to visit by family and friends with those who are interned can encourage that mistreatment opportunity. An experienced elder abuse lawyer can inspect the entire facility for legal compliance with respect to health and safety standards along with questioning any witnesses regarding what they have actually seen. Input from family and friends can be a solid advantage for an attorney, and nursing home facilities know it. Merely visiting as regularly as possible can help, and keeping a record when visitation is denied can actually be used as corroborating testimonial evidence in certain cases.
Nursing Homes – Wrongful Death and Covid-19
There has been a strong media focus on Covid-19 deaths occurring in nursing homes and elderly care facilities. For certain, the scandal of sending covid-19 infected patients into nursing homes has captured the spotlight, but even in these egregious instances of managerial neglect, facility management still has the audacity to claim that the deaths are unavoidable. It is the legal responsibility of the facility workers and management team to establish a protocol that keeps infected residents away from non-infected residents. Yet it seems that where beds are available, nursing home operators will go to any lengths to fill them, even if that means placing the entire facility at risk. Given that most residents are in the care facility because they have underlying health conditions, it is simply barbaric to allow new residents, known to be infected with Covid-19, into the facility.
What can you do if you believe that a nursing home is being improperly operated with respect to having safe and sensible Covid-19 protocols in place? Clearly, it’s in the best interests of all residents in the facility to bring a dangerous situation into the public eye. An experienced legal representative can help you go about this in the best possible way, and help you take action against any culpable operators, and hopefully, before any wrongful death situation might arise.
It is worth restating that patients who have not been properly quarantined can easily infect other seemingly healthy patients as well as those with known health problems, and especially those with heart and lung issues. These are typically elderly patients, and government health officials have been clear that this is the most vulnerable demographic when it comes to death as a result of contracting the highly communicable Covid-19 virus. Wrongful death claims fall into their own category in North Carolina and include a specific statute of limitations with respect to an acceptable filing period. Elder abuse lawyers know these parameters and will move quickly following any wrongful death Covid-19 case.
Evidence in Covid-19 Contraction Cases
Gathering evidence in a Covid-19 related case at a nursing home can include more than personal testimony evidence. One example of documentation is the testing records for both the staff and the patients within the facility, another being a written and enforced protocol issued by management to staff on how this unique situation should be handled, along with documented evidence of sufficient staff training and instruction. Nursing homes that are not following strict testing protocol and have not issued and suitably enforced strict working protocols and procedures to facility staff could be found negligent with respect to a reasonable duty of care toward its residents.
While Covid-19 is presenting significant challenges for society on the whole and specific individuals, in particular, all parties are still on a learning curve as we go forward dealing with the disease. However, this does not mean that nursing home facilities should not maintain a safe environment and operate with a reasonable duty of care to patients and workers alike. Working with an experienced elder abuse lawyer can make a significant difference in how care facility management responds to your complaint – it could save lives. Always retain an attorney with a solid track record of success for their clients and their families, and particularly one with Covid-19 case experience. Unique cases require a unique understanding of the law.