During the pandemic, cases of neglect within long-term care facilities are on the rise. The Covid-19 pandemic has led to a surge in resident deaths within nursing homes. While 39% of coronavirus deaths are nursing home residents, the increase in patient deaths are not just due to the virus.
Staffing Shortages Lead to Neglect
Nursing homes have been overwhelmed by Covid-19. Staff members are faced with a relentless virus that requires increased diligence to prevent infections, in addition to existing duties. Prior to the pandemic, nursing homes faced a significant staffing shortage. The virus has placed further strain on understaffed facilities. Nurses are overworked, making it difficult to provide adequate care to all residents. The spread of the virus leads many nurses to quarantine due to illness, causing further stress on infected facilities. Nurses are also facing burnout as a result of long hours, leading to a lower quality of care for patients.
Patients Are Overlooked in the Surge of the Pandemic
With a drastic nurse to patient ratio, many residents go without typical care, including checking for bedsores, bathing assistance, monitoring health, checking for dietary restrictions, and fall-prevention strategies. Patient mental health is also at risk due to isolation from other residents and family members. As visitation is restricted during this time, a patient’s condition may worsen without family members detecting signs of neglect.
Non-Covid-19 Causes of Resident Deaths
Patients are at increased risk of death from neglect in facilities during the pandemic. Some causes of patient deaths are:
- Choking- Patients with dietary restrictions from choking hazards may be served insufficient meals. This can cause residents to choke, and subsequently, pass away.
- Falls- Patients left unattended for extended periods of time are at risk of a fall. When a patient is labeled a fall-risk, he or she requires assistance for daily tasks such as bathing and going to the bathroom. If left unattended for too long, a patient may try to do these things independently, resulting in a fall.
- Infections and Undetected Illnesses- Overworked nurses may fail to maintain proper patient hygiene. In addition, they may not detect the signs of severe illness or infection. Untreated illnesses can cause a patient to succumb to symptoms.
Liability shields for facilities may contribute to patient neglect. Nursing homes are given some protection during the pandemic, helping facilities circumvent proper patient care protocols under the guise of prioritizing Covid-19 prevention.