What Duty of Care Do Nursing Homes Owe Residents Amid the Ongoing Pandemic?

Posted on behalf of Jeff Pitman on December 8, 2020 in Nursing Homes and Elder Rights
Updated on February 24, 2022

elderly man looking out windowMany states across the country have granted immunity from civil lawsuits to nursing homes and their staff. However, that does not mean those entrusting their loved ones to one of these facilities should have to accept substandard care.

PKSD talks about the duty of care that nursing homes owe residents – even amid the pandemic.

If you are concerned that your family member is suffering from gross negligence or willful misconduct, learn about your potential options for taking legal action. We provide complimentary initial case reviews, so there is no risk or obligation for getting answers to your legal questions and finding out if you may have a case.

What is Meant by Duty of Care?

Duty of care, generally speaking, is the legal requirement that defines the responsibility of one or more individuals or organizations to avoid certain behaviors and take reasonable measures to prevent harm to others. On the road, this could mean following safe driving laws. However, in a nursing home, where elderly residents rely on receiving a certain level of care that they can no longer provide for themselves, that duty is more involved.

In addition to complying with all federal and state patient rights, a nursing home must also adhere to the terms of the contractual agreement you signed. This agreement defines the duty of care you should expect for your loved one. Nursing homes, long-term care and other types of assisted living facilities contractually have a duty to maintain the physical, psychological and emotional well-being of a resident including, but not limited to:

  • Providing a clean and safe living environment
  • Bathing, dressing and other personal hygiene assistance
  • Administering medications and providing other health-related care
  • Treating residents with dignity and respect

How Has COVID-19 Impacted Resident Care?

When COVID-19 hit, most nursing homes were ill-prepared and struggled to contain the infection. Historically, many of these facilities already had issues consistently providing a level of care that meets acceptable standards. While some protocols were in place prior to the outbreak and many facilities took further steps to implement the more stringent guidelines provided by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a number of key issues have continued to impact long-term care amid the pandemic:

  • Lack of access to personal protective equipment (PPE) – or enough of it – to sufficiently protect staff and residents – as of November 13, 2020, the AARP reported that this is still an issue.
  • Caregivers working at multiple locations who unknowingly helped to spread the disease from one facility to another
  • Insufficient number of staff to provide the increased level of care required amid the pandemic

Many nursing homes continue to have difficulties providing even an adequate level of care, and some are beyond bad. In addition to the thousands of deaths of residents from COVID-19, there has also been an increased number of “excess deaths” due to neglect. Additionally, residents who had some form of mental disease, such as dementia or Alzheimer’s, have quickly gone downhill since facilities went into lockdown mode.

Are Duty of Care Breaches Protected Under the Federal Immunity Laws?

Generally speaking, the federal Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness (PREP Act) and Wisconsin’s Act 185 were not created to provide immunity in cases where there was an outright failure to act – or for acts of reckless endangerment, gross negligence or willful misconduct.

Some examples of reckless endangerment, gross negligence and willful misconduct include:

  • Malnutrition
  • Dehydration
  • Falls
  • Medication errors – or none given
  • Bedsores
  • Unexplained cuts and bruises
  • Unclean living areas
  • Filthy clothing or bed sheets

We encourage family members to stay in touch with their loved ones utilizing many options provided by modern technology, such as Zoom or Facetime. When you are unable to video conference with your loved one, it can still be helpful for them to hear your voice through a simple phone call. In addition to helping to remind them that you are there for them and have not forgotten them, it can help you to listen and watch for signs of neglect.

When an Attorney May Be Able to Provide Legal Help

If you suspect that your family member in a nursing home may be suffering from gross negligence, learn more about how we may be able to help.

At PKSD Law, we have extensive experience handling nursing home neglect and abuse cases throughout Wisconsin, and we are prepared to fight for maximum compensation for the injuries and other losses suffered by your loved one. We are dedicated to protecting the elderly and holding negligent parties accountable for their actions.

Contact our firm anytime, day or night, to schedule your complimentary case review. We accept these cases on contingency, so there is zero risk to you. After meeting with one of our knowledgeable Wisconsin nursing home abuse lawyers, you are not obligated to hire our firm. However, if we take your case, there is nothing to pay up front. We only collect payment for our services when your case concludes, and only if we obtain compensation through a settlement or jury awarded verdict.

Call our firm for experienced legal help you can trust. 877-877-2228

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