Anyone with a loved one in a nursing home has good reason to be concerned about them at any time. Reports of abuse and neglect go unnoticed and uncorrected, and relatives frequently have to fight to get help for their loved ones.The pandemic saw lockdowns of nursing homes to prevent the spread of COVID-19 among the most susceptible population. But the lockdowns have had another effect that wasn’t considered—the potential for increased malpractice in nursing homes around Kansas City and around the US.
How It Started
As COVID-19 began to spread, the primary concern was to prevent the spread of the virus as much as possible. Locking down nursing homes and other care facilitiesElderly patients who may already have conditions like hypertension and diabetes couldn’t survive an outbreak. Doctors, nurses, and other employees had to be cautious to avoid contracting the virus. The ones that did had to stay home to avoid passing the infection.Understaffing at these care facilities has long been problematic. Unfortunately, the unintended consequence of nursing home lockdowns was that loved ones could not regularly visit and check up on residents. Many relatives were reduced to phone calls to nursing staff and occasionally pictures or FaceTime interactions. Some relatives could visit with their loved ones only by viewing them through the room window from the outside.Prolonged isolation along with increased staffing shortages and needed supplies that became unavailable led to an inability of staff to adequately care for all residents. Visiting relatives frequently provided support to the staff by caring for their loved ones individually. Without the visits from relatives, many patients were completely reliant on the remaining staff members for all of their needs.
In an article by Human Rights Watch, the organization found multiple examples of nursing home residents who were neglected during the pandemic because of the lack of staff and visitors. Because relatives were no longer allowed to visit the residents, the caretakers no longer had their assistance with eating, hygiene, activity, support, and communicating with staff. The already over-worked staff had to step in and handle the care that relatives provided.Conditions such as:
- Pressure sores
- Lack of cleanliness and hygiene including
- Unkempt hair and fingernails
- Lack of oral hygiene
- “Diaper rash”
- Dirty clothing
- Bruises from falls
- Severe weight loss (from inadequate nutrition)
- Anxiety and depression
- Emotional decline
- Development of dementia and hallucinations
- Loss of independent movement
- Walking (with or without a walker)
- Sitting up in a chair
- Using a wheelchair
Indicate that a patient has not been given adequate care. Many patients will try to walk around on their own if no one is around to assist them, leading to falls.Social isolation also increased psychological issues and progressive dementia. Video calls don’t replace in-person visits from family and friends, leading to a marked increase in mental illness.
Increased Use Of Chemical Restraints
Because of the incredible difficulty of caring for patients, doctors in nursing homes increasingly turned to psychotropic drugs to control residents’ behavior. This group of drugs includes:
- Anti-anxiety medications
The practice is called “chemical restraint,” because the drugs are usually administered in doses that render an elderly resident docile, which is the intended result, especially if the patient has dementia. Over-medication of elderly patients is not a new practice. The use of psychotropic drugs in dementia patients doubles their risk of death.Human Rights Watch found in 2018 that chemical restraint is fairly common within nursing homes. The homes administer these drugs without obtaining informed consent from the relatives of residents.
Increases In Mortality
When nursing homes put more emphasis on patients with COVID-19, other patients were neglected or subjected to malpractice. Many of these patients were ignored to the point of mortality. More than 90,000 nursing home patients have died since the inception of lockdowns.Residents who were spared the infection and illness of COVID-19 became more vulnerable to malpractice and neglect. When a staff member tested positive or became ill, the homes became short-handed, leaving patients without help even longer.
A Voice For Kansas City’s Most Vulnerable
When elderly nursing home residents can’t or won’t speak up for themselves, they need you to be their voice. Reporting neglect, abuse, or other problems with a nursing home and taking aggressive action is the best way to put a stop to it, especially if the resident can’t speak for him or herself.The Popham Law Firm protects our most vulnerable when they’re unable to. If your loved one has been neglected or harmed in a nursing home, call us at (816) 221-2288 or 1-844-243-2288, or use our online contact form to make an appointment.