COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities may be the worst tragedy that is resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. But is it nursing home abuse or neglect when your loved one is killed by COVID-19 in a nursing home?
What if it could have been prevented? At what point is a nursing home responsible for a deadly viral infection? Is it an “act of God” or a preventable tragedy caused by nursing home negligence?
Below, we’ll discuss when you can sue a nursing home for abuse or negligence, whether it is a COVID-19 related death or one of the more common types of abuse that occurs in nursing homes.
If you have questions about whether your loved one’s injuries were caused by nursing home negligence or if you suspect your loved one is being abused or neglected, contact the Myrtle Beach nursing home abuse attorneys at Axelrod and Associates now for a free consultation.
Can I Sue if My Loved One was Killed by COVID-19 in a Nursing Home?
People contract viruses and die from them every day, and it is an unfortunate fact that nursing homes and other residential care facilities are ground zero for COVID-19 as well as other infectious diseases.
If your loved one was killed by COVID-19 in a nursing home, that alone does not mean that the nursing home is liable for the death. But, if the nursing home’s action or inaction was a breach of the facility’s duty to care for your loved one – negligence, then you may be able to hold them responsible and help to prevent future deaths at the hands of the same caregivers.
Nursing home managers and caregivers have a duty of care to keep your loved one safe, and this extends to taking reasonable precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 within their facilities.
A lawsuit filed in California last week illustrates when a nursing home’s action or inaction in response to the viral outbreak may be considered negligence that justifies a lawsuit:
The wife and children of a 77-year-old man who died after contracting the coronavirus have accused his nursing home of preventing staff from wearing masks and gloves during the pandemic, downplaying the threat of the virus and withholding information about exposure to COVID-19 inside the Glendale facility.
In a lawsuit filed Thursday in Los Angeles County Superior Court, the family of Ricardo Saldana said neither Glenhaven Healthcare nor its owners took any “precautions to identify or isolate employees or residents infected with or exposed to the virus,” one of many lapses that they allege led to his death. At least four other residents have died there, according to health officials.
California, like many other states and the federal government, has been considering legislation that would give immunity to nursing homes and other businesses for COVID-19 related negligence.
Should the government give immunity to a facility whose only purpose is to protect your mother, father, grandmother, or grandfather at the most vulnerable time in their life, if that facility’s conduct was so egregious that it resulted in your loved one’s death?
What if, in the midst of a pandemic that the nursing home knows is killing older people, the facility:
- Prevents staff from wearing masks or gloves – even when they brought their own;
- Downplays the threat posed by the virus;
- Withholds information about COVID-19 exposures in their facility;
- Takes no precautions to identify and isolate staff or residents infected with the virus;
- Knowingly allows an employee who is sick with COVID-19 to continue working and orders her not to wear a mask; and
- Forces your loved one to share a room with another resident who is sick with COVID-19?
Despite numerous infection control problems cited by federal regulators over the past several years, the facility above says that it’s employees are “heroes [who] put our patients first every day,” even as nursing homes lobby the governor for an order immunizing their facilities from lawsuits based on their negligence.
Other Types of Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect
Although we hope and trust that most nursing homes have followed protocols to prevent the spread of COVID-19 whenever possible, the truth is that nursing home abuse and neglect is still a widespread problem that must be addressed when uncovered, including:
- Physical abuse – unexplained injuries like bruises, cuts, burns, or fractures could be a sign of physical abuse;
- Emotional abuse – although it is more difficult to identify and prove, emotional abuse by staff members can cause severe psychological damage to your loved one;
- Sexual abuse – as difficult as it is to imagine, sexual abuse does happen in nursing homes and must be addressed immediately to ensure the abuser does not continue to hurt your loved one and other residents;
- Neglect – neglect of your loved one can result in falls, bedsores, dehydration, weight loss, and other conditions that may be life-threatening;
- Theft and fraud – missing checks, credit cards, jewelry or other items, or unexplained changes to your loved one’s will could be signs of financial exploitation by a caregiver.
What should you do if you suspect nursing home abuse or neglect?
In most cases, you should first raise your concerns with the nursing home staff or management – misunderstandings happen, and the problem may be cleared up with a phone call or face-to-face visit.
If you are not satisfied with the response that you get, or if the abuse is obvious and egregious, contact our office immediately for a free consultation and allow us to continue the investigation on your behalf when appropriate.
If your loved one has been injured or even killed due to nursing home abuse or neglect, call a Myrtle Beach nursing home abuse attorney on the Axelrod team at 843-353-3449 or complete our contact form for a free initial consultation.