Over the past several months, Rourke & Blumenthal have seen an increase in calls regarding alleged cases of nursing home neglect. Our anecdotal experience appears to be part of a larger trend that has taken place during the COVID-19 pandemic. The are many potential reasons for the uptick, but the increased isolation of nursing home residents is almost certainly a key factor. Family members and friends have long served to supplement and monitor the care received by nursing home residents. The additional care provided by friends and family takes on many forms, including monitoring of nutrition, hygiene, and wound care. Regular visits by friends and family also help to ensure accountability on the part of caretakers and their presence acts as a deterrent to neglect and abuse.
Nursing home residents account for a disproportionate share of COVID-19 related deaths, and States and facilities have reasonably adopted safety precautions in an effort to save lives. However, an unintended consequence of these policies has been fewer in-person visits from friends and family, which has contributed to increased isolation of nursing home residents. Family members and friends of nursing home residents have in many cases been unable to perform their pre-pandemic role as patient advocates and supplemental caretakers.
To make matters worse, States have enacted COVID-19 immunity laws that may shield nursing homes from accountability in spite of clear evidence of neglect. A recent story on National Public Radio noted that nursing homes may use expansive COVID-19 immunity laws to avoid accountability in neglect cases that have nothing to do with COVID-19 safety protocol. Civil law has long served to protect nursing home residents by holding nursing homes and caretakers accountable in cases of neglect and abuse. Expansive COVID-19 immunity laws undermine the ability of nursing home residents to seek justice through civil litigation, leading to a lack of accountability on the part of nursing homes and more cases of neglect and abuse.
If you or a loved one has faced abuse or neglect as a nursing home resident, please contact the attorneys at Rourke & Blumenthal for a free consultation.