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Are Nursing Homes Prepared for the Coronavirus?

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Abuse and neglect is prominent in many assisted care facilities across the US -- experts are worried COVID-19 could lead to even more cases.

As coronavirus case numbers continue to climb in the United States, the elderly and the immunocompromised remain the most at-risk populations. And, with one of the country’s largest outbreaks tied to a nursing home in Washington state, some experts are concerned that assisted living facilities aren’t adequately prepared to protect their patients.

Elizabeth Todd is a North Carolina attorney with extensive experience in nursing home and assisted living cases. As COVID-19 continues to spread, she’s worried:

“What are the facilities doing to ensure that they have sufficient numbers of staff members to take care of really sick people in their nursing home? I'm curious to know what they've done to ensure that they have adequate amounts of not only infection control measures, hand sanitizer, but other equipment that they might need.”

Many facilities do already have protocols in place, as well as COVID-19 guidelines to follow from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services. But as more supplies become needed and healthy caretakers dwindle, Todd is concerned that resources are going to be even more scarce.

 

The problem, she says, is that many of these centers don’t have enough resources as is -- and that’s typically what leads to cases of abuse and neglect in assisted care facilities:

“I would say 99% of all injuries in a nursing home can be related back to a lack of staffing, a lack of just not having enough people in the facility.”

So, how can people make sure their loved ones are safe from all types of harm? Todd says asking the facility detailed questions about its protocols and prevention efforts is key. But, with new Medicare guidelines advising these facilities to restrict visitor access, those questions will probably need to be asked over the phone.