Have You Been Injured? We're Ready to Fight for You.

Examining the Increase in Nursing Home Neglect Reports

Published on Dec 15, 2020 at 8:09 am in Nursing Home Abuse.

senior citizen with crossed hands

While the COVID-19 pandemic has had its effects on everyone, those in nursing homes are one of the groups at the highest risk of infection. Close quarters, necessary medical interventions, and poor mitigation tactics make long-term care facilities breeding grounds for viruses—especially one with the infectious rate that the coronavirus has.

As a result of the virus, according to the Associated Press (AP), we’re seeing an increase in nursing home neglect reports. There are a number of reasons this could be happening, which we’ll examine below. First, let’s start by taking a look at what residents and their family members have experienced in and out of nursing homes since the start of the pandemic.

Horror Stories From Residents and Their Loved Ones

When COVID-19 spread through Donald Wallace’s nursing home, West Hill Heath and Rehab in Birmingham, the 75-year-old retired Alabama truck driver was able to avoid infection but still died. He was so malnourished and dehydrated that he dropped to 98 pounds. While his cause of death was not confirmed, septic shock suggested an untreated UTI, E. coli in his body suggested poor hygiene, and aspiration pneumonia indicated that Wallace had likely choked on his food.

This is not the only story of neglect resulting in the death of a nursing home resident. More than 90,000 long-term care residents have died during the pandemic, but it now seems tens of thousands more have also succumbed due to burnt-out workers who haven’t been able to provide them with the necessary care.

On New York’s Long Island, Carolyn Best, an 83-year-old resident at Gurwin Jewish Nursing Home, received proper care, enjoyed activities, and had a good relationship with the staff. When the lockdown began, Best appeared to her daughter on a scheduled FaceTime call with her eyes closed, flailing, repeating “no.” Hours later, a frantic doctor called the daughter back to inform her that COVID-19 was rampant in the facility and Best was likely infected. But Best never contracted the virus. Instead, she died from dehydration.

Analyzing Nursing Home Neglect Data

According to a nursing home expert who analyzed data from the country’s 15,000 care facilities for the AP, it seems that for every two COVID-19 victims in long-term care, another died prematurely of other causes. Those deaths could total more than 40,000 since March.

Stephen Kay, a professor at the Institute of Health and Aging at the University of California, San Francisco, believes the problem is systematic: “The healthcare system operates kind of on the edge, just on the margin, so that if there’s a crisis, we can’t cope. There are not enough people to look after the nursing home residents.”

When comparing mortality rates with facilities that were hit with COVID-19 versus those that were spared, the more the virus spread through a home, the greater the number of deaths recorded for other reasons. For example, in homes where at least three out of ten residents had the virus, the rate of death for reasons besides the virus was double what would be expected without a pandemic.

The Dangers of Understaffing

According to the nursing home trade group American Health Care Association, widespread COVID-19 outbreaks have not impacted staff members’ ability to care for residents. Dr. David Gifford, the group’s chief medical officer, noted the challenges the pandemic has created but believes that staffing levels have improved because of a drop in new admissions.

Mairead Painter, Connecticut’s long-term ombudsman, however, sees things differently. According to her, with dentists closed, poorly fitting dentures went unfixed, leading to malnutrition; and with podiatrists closed, toenails went untrimmed, posing painful conditions are residents with diabetes. With loved ones and family members losing access to homes, aides were tasks with working tough shifts for little pay: “I don’t think anyone really understood how much time friends and family, volunteers and other people spent in the nursing home and supplemented that hands-on care.”

Cheryl Hennen, Minnesota’s long-term care ombudsmen, noted dozens of complaints filed for bedsores, dehydration, weight loss, and other examples of neglect at a number of facilities. While some families are looking to take legal action against allegedly neglect facilities, laws around the country granting nursing homes broad immunity from laws during the pandemic are getting in the way.

If you’ve lost a loved one in their nursing home and believe neglect played a role in their passing, it’s important to understand your legal rights and options. You may be able to pursue a claim on their behalf to hold their facility accountable for what happened. The sooner you get in touch with a lawyer, the better. Schedule a case evaluation with Thomas Law Offices today.


Free Case Evaluation

At Thomas Law Offices, our personal injury attorneys recognize that our potential clients are likely going through some of the most difficult times of their lives. We don't want you to have to worry about paying out of pocket for legal advice when you're just starting to learn your legal rights and options. That's why we provide free case evaluations. We'll offer our expert advice about your potential case and walk you through how we can help you.

Call us or fill out the form below to tell us about your potential case and a personal injury lawyer will get back to you as quickly as possible.

Meet Our Founder

Tad Thomas - Trial Lawyer

Tad Thomas

Managing Partner

Tad Thomas has dedicated his practice to representing plaintiffs in various types of civil litigation, including personal injury, business litigation, class actions, and multi-district litigation.

After graduating with his law degree in 2000 from Salmon P. Chase College of Law at Northern Kentucky University, Mr. Thomas immediately opened his own private practice and began representing injury victims.

In 2011, Thomas Law Offices was established in Louisville, Kentucky. Over the past decade, Mr. Thomas has expanded his firm and now has offices in three additional locations: Cincinnati, Ohio, Columbia, Missouri, and Chicago, Illinois. He is also a frequent lecturer on topics like trial skills and ethics and technology.

Legal & Firm News

When Prior Authorization Leads to Harm Caused by Delayed Care

In March 2023, the American Medical Association (AMA) released the results of a survey conducted on the impact of health insurance prior authorization (PA) on patient care and outcomes. The survey results revealed shocking information about the extent to which health insurance companies control the type of medical care patients receive. At Thomas Law Offices, […]

Read More

How Do I Sue a Hospital for Medical Negligence?

Medical errors and other types of health care professional negligence have soared in recent years. Data recently published by the National Institutes for Health (NIH) shows that at least 251,000 patient deaths are estimated to be attributable to physician mistakes or other types of medical errors annually. Countless others fall ill or suffer injuries while […]

Read More

Ohio Car and Booster Seat Laws

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), traffic crashes are the leading cause of death and disability for children (aged 0-14) in the United States. But most of these deaths can be prevented. When we put our children in the car, we owe it to them to give them the safest experience possible. […]

Read More
Tad Thomas on The National Crime Victim Bar Association
National Civil Justice Institute - Trustee
Tad Thomas on Lawyer Minds
Tad Thomas on American Association for Justice
Southern Trial Lawyers Association
Illinois Trial Lawyers Association
Ohio Association for Justice
Kentucky Justice Association
Fellows of the Litigation Counsel of America
Martindale Hubbell Preeminent
2021 Public Justice Member
AAJ Masters of Trial Law: Champion