Will COVID-19 Lead to Increased Substandard Care in Nursing Homes?

Posted on behalf of Jeff Pitman on July 10, 2020 in Nursing Homes and Elder Rights
Updated on April 24, 2024

elderly male patient video-conferencingMany family members in Wisconsin and around the country may wonder if the COVID-19 lockdown of nursing homes will impact their ability to stay informed about a loved one’s care. While outside visitors are unable to enter the facility, how will they know if their loved one becomes sick with the coronavirus or suffers abuse or neglect at the hands of a caregiver?

PKSD Law discusses some of these valid concerns, including how the immunity laws may impact your ability to pursue justice for an injured family member. If you have reasons to suspect negligent or abusive behavior at your loved one’s nursing home, we may be able to help. You can contact our firm 24/7 to arrange for a free, no-obligation consultation to discuss your circumstances and potential legal options.

How Are Wisconsin Nursing Homes Handling COVID-19?

In an ongoing attempt to reduce the number of new coronavirus cases in nursing homes, Wisconsin’s Department of Health Services recommends that facilities in the state continue to follow the revised guidelines from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and Centers for Disease Control (CDC). These recommendations include visitation restrictions, quarantining those who are already exposed or infected with the virus, daily screening of health care workers, and more. Additionally, the CDC announced that nursing homes are required to notify residents and their families of any positive COVID-19 cases in their facility.

While some nursing homes are doing better than others at controlling the spread of the virus, Wisconsin’s Department of Health Services (DHS) reported that, as of July 2020, the state’s long-term care facilities make up approximately 42 percent of Wisconsin’s coronavirus-related deaths.

Why More Neglect Or Abuse May Go Unnoticed During the Pandemic

As long as Wisconsin nursing homes and long-term care facilities are in lockdown mode and visitation is restricted, it is more difficult for families to check on the well-being of their loved ones. Phone calls may help, but not being able to see a loved one can make it easier for facilities and caregivers to get away with various types of abuse and neglect, including:

  • Physical or sexual abuse
  • Emotional abuse
  • Neglect
  • Medicaid or other forms of financial fraud

Many facilities understand the concerns families have about their loved ones and may offer to help implement regular, alternative forms of communication, such as video conferencing. However, if the staff seem unwilling to set this up, find out why. The situation may only be temporary, such as if there is a connectivity problem. If this is the case, ask when they expect to resolve the issue. If staff repeatedly postpones or refuses to coordinate anything other than a phone call, it could mean they are trying to conceal something more, such as bruises from a recent fall, bedsores, or a lack of hygiene.

If you are only able to speak by phone, you may still be able to get a sense about whether your family member seems to be acting out-of-the-ordinary during your phone conversations. For example, if your loved one sounds unusual during your phone conversation or uncomfortable answer your questions, you may have a valid reason for concern and should investigate the situation further.

How Are Immunity Laws Impacting Your Ability to Protect Your Loved One?

Many states, including Wisconsin, have implemented immunity laws to protect frontline workers who are putting themselves in danger every day to care for those infected or exposed to the virus. Unfortunately, these laws may also make it harder to pursue justice for a family member who is injured due to neglect or physical abuse at the hands of a caregiver.

Under Wisconsin’s immunity laws, nursing homes cannot be sued for COVID-19 injuries from March 12, 2020 through 60 days following the termination date of the state of emergency. However, it is important to understand that frontline workers, including nursing home staff, are not protected if the injuries were due to “reckless or intentional misconduct” of caregivers.

Learn Whether an Experienced Attorney May Be Able to Help

If your family member is in a nursing home and you suspect there has been neglect or abuse, we are prepared to help. After contacting Wisconsin’s elder abuse hotline, we recommend that you contact a qualified attorney.

At PKSD Law, our Wisconsin nursing home abuse lawyers have extensive experience handling nursing home abuse and neglect injury cases. We offer a free and confidential initial consultation to gain a fuller understanding of your situation and learn whether you may have grounds for a case. If we represent you, there are no upfront fees as we do not get paid unless we achieve a recovery on your behalf.

Experienced legal help for nursing home neglect or abuse: 414-333-3333

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