Impact of COVID-19 on Nursing Home Abuse

The novel coronavirus revealed a number of systemic inequities in American society, perhaps none more glaring or inexcusable than the mistreatment many elderly citizens deal with inside nursing homes and assisted living facilities. On top of tens of thousands of potentially preventable deaths from the virus itself, the most resounding and long-lasting impact of COVID-19 may just be what it has shown us all about how endemic nursing home abuse is all across the country.

Abuse in nursing homes can take the form of intentional physical, emotional, financial, or even sexual mistreatment, or it can simply manifest as neglect caused by inattentive or, more commonly, deplorably overworked staff members. Whatever the circumstances are that lead to this kind of outcome, the people who suffer from it—as well as their family members and loved ones—deserve justice, most often through civil litigation and ensuing financial recovery.

A Dramatic Increase in Resident Mortality

Out of the more than 600,000 Americans who lost their lives as a direct result of a COVID-19 infection, a significant portion of them were living in nursing homes or assisted living facilities at the time they contracted their illness. Sadly, this was to some degree inevitable, as many residents of these facilities already suffer from health conditions that make them more vulnerable to this kind of disease, and their close living quarters can facilitate rapid viral spread unless protective measures are taken.

Even with that being said, though, the degree to which COVID-19 impacted nursing home residents suggests grossly insufficient efforts from facility administrators and owners to protect the people who depended on them for care. A recent report by the federal Office of Inspector General found that nearly 1,000 more Medicare beneficiaries died each day in April 2020 compared to the rate in April 2019, and that the overall yearly mortality rate in nursing homes increased from 17 percent to 22 percent between 2019 and 2020.

How the Coronavirus Pandemic Facilitated Abuse and Neglect

To make matters worse, elder abuse was a veritable epidemic in America long before it became clear in March 2020 that COVID-19 would fundamentally alter the fabric of our society. According to estimates by the National Council on Aging, up to five million people suffer from elder abuse every year—and unfortunately, the vast majority of those millions never report their mistreatment or have anyone else report it for them, often because they are unwilling or unable to blow the whistle on what they are going through.

The practical difficulties that came with the coronavirus pandemic only increased the rate of abuse and neglect in these facilities. On top of catastrophic shortages of qualified staff members and necessary supplies during the pandemic, nursing homes also prohibited all visitation by family members of residents, a reasonable measure to limit the spread of the virus that also had the effect of cutting off mistreated residents from the people who could have helped them escape their appalling conditions.

Addressing Nursing Home Abuse After COVID-19

Even as vaccination rates rise and the world slowly returns to something approaching normality, nursing home neglect and abuse will remain a serious problem in communities all over the United States. If you suspect a loved one is not receiving proper care and support from staff members and administrators of the facility they live in, a compassionate nursing home abuse lawyer could help you take appropriate legal action. Call today for an initial consultation.