The United States just passed another grim milestone in the coronavirus pandemic – 500,000 deaths attributable to COVID-19, a number that includes 90,000 vulnerable, older residents in the nation’s long-term care facilities. However, an Associated Press report tells us that a tandem wave of death separate from the virus has quietly claimed tens of thousands more because overburdened nursing home workers have not been able to give our seniors the care and attention they need.
According to the AP report, nursing home watchdogs are being overwhelmed with reports of residents of long-term care facilities being kept in soiled diapers for so long that their skin peeled off, left with bedsores that cut to the bone and allowed to starve or become dehydrated. In addition to that are numerous deaths whose causes are not clear, but which doctors believe were caused from the desperation of being cut off from loved ones. In such cases, the cause of death was listed as “failure to thrive.” In facilities that were in bad shape before the pandemic, the problems and inadequacies were simply amplified and magnified by COVID-19.
Researchers at the Institute of Aging and Health at UC San Francisco analyzed data from 15,000 facilities for AP finding that for every two victims of the coronavirus in nursing homes, there was one other person who died prematurely of other causes. Those “excess deaths” could total more than 40,000 since the pandemic began, researchers say.
And then, there are those tragic cases of neglect. In Birmingham, Alabama, one 75-year-old patient who was lucky to avoid contracting the virus, was so neglected that he dropped to 98 pounds. His son said it seemed as if he had been in a concentration camp. He was suffering from an untreated urinary infection, septic shock and E. coli from his own feces. His son says his father was abandoned.
Why Staff Fatigue Affects Residents
Nursing home staff fatigue plays a crucial role in nursing home resident safety. Staff members at understaffed nursing homes are more likely to become fatigued. Overworked and underpaid nursing staff members are more likely to abuse or neglect nursing home residents – whether such actions are intentional or unintentional. Here are some of the most common effects of understaffing and nursing home staff fatigue:
Less mobility or no mobility: It is a fact that a majority of nursing home residents don’t have the ability or have very limited ability to move around on their own. A vast majority of these vulnerable seniors rely on nursing home staff members to move around including to go to the bathroom or for diaper changes. When a nursing home does not have sufficient staff, residents become immobile. Their muscles could waste away or worse, they suffer severe bedsores and infections.
Residents’ needs neglected: Understaffed nursing homes may have challenges even providing very basic services like giving residents food, water and necessary medications on a routine schedule. This could lead to nutritional deficiencies, malnutrition, dehydration and other serious health complications.
Abuse: When staff members are tired, annoyed and bitter about the way they are overworked and underpaid, they often turn that anger on the people for whom they are supposed to care. In such cases, staff members may turn verbally or physically abusive. Examples of such abuse may be beating, shoving, kicking or punching, or subjecting residents to mockery or ridicule.
What to Do If You Suspect Nursing Home Neglect or Abuse
If you believe that your family member is a victim of neglect or abuse in a Rhode Island nursing home, it is important that you take prompt action. If you suspect that your loved one is in imminent danger, call 911 or local law enforcement. If you believe that your loved one is a victim of exploitation or mistreatment, which does not warrant emergency action, contact your county or state health department to report it.
It is also important to retain the services of an experienced Rhode Island nursing home attorney who has specific experience handling elder abuse cases. A knowledgeable attorney can help ensure that your case is properly and thoroughly investigated and that the relevant evidence is preserved.
A Rhode Island Nursing Home Lawyer can also help you and your family pursue justice and fair compensation for any related damages and losses. This type of abuse or neglect is unacceptable under any circumstance. Reporting these types of incidents is vital to protecting your loved one and others from such harmful behavior.
If you or a loved one were injured due to the negligence of a nursing home in Rhode Island, call our office at 1-800-992-6878, or fill out an online contact form for a free (no obligation) case evaluation.