Coronavirus (COVID-19) has begun to sweep across the nation and the federal government has declared it a national emergency. Nursing home and assisted living facility residents are particularly vulnerable to suffering fatal pneumonia from COVID-19. Long term care facilities in California have instituted strict visitation policies and have also suspended all group activities and communal dining to reduce the spread of coronavirus. As a family member, you are likely concerned about your loved one’s health and safety during this difficult time. What do you need to know about elder abuse and the coronavirus?
Elder Abuse and the Coronavirus
There is already a shortage of caregivers and nurses in assisted living facilities. As caregivers and healthcare workers get sick, this shortage worsens. This may result in more elderly and dependent adults becoming victims of neglect during this already frightful time.
In addition, isolated residents may suffer from increasing depression, anxiety and fear. Before the global pandemic, the World Health Organization estimated that 15.7 percent of people over the age of 60 suffered some form of abuse. Will this increase during the COVID-19 outbreak?
What Can Family Members Do?
Currently, permissible visitation exceptions include “compassionate care” situations, such as hospice or “end of life” situations. If your loved one is not in this situation, it does make it more difficult to check on them. However, facilities should make accommodations for you to communicate with your loved one. Your options may include:
- Phone call. Call your loved one and talk to them on the phone. This will give you an opportunity to ask important questions and hear how he or she is doing. Ask about his or her day. Be sure to listen for signs of emotional stress or fearfulness. Is he or she avoiding questions or showing changes in temperament? These could be subtle signs of elder abuse.
- Video call. If your loved one is able, consider setting up a remote video call with them. This will enable you to talk to them face-to-face. Observe for signs of uncleanliness or physical abuse. Does he or she seem unbathed or unclean? Are his or her clothes clean or dirty?
- Communicate with caregivers. During this time, it is important to communicate well with caregivers through calls and emails. When talking with them, make sure you ask questions about any suspicious incidents or accidents. Be a strong advocate and do not be afraid to speak up if you have concerns.
- Report any suspicions immediately. If you believe that your loved one may be suffering from elder abuse or neglect during the COVID-19 outbreak, report this immediately. You can contact the elder abuse hotline through Adult Protective Services to report this abuse in California.
In addition, residents should be able to leave facilities for essential outings. However, some facilities may not let residents return, so you need to know the facility’s policy. Voluntary discharge is also okay, but that is a highly personal decision for you and your loved one to make.
Contact Our Elder Abuse Attorneys Today
If you believe that your loved one has been a victim of elder abuse or neglect, you need an experienced elder abuse attorney in Santa Clara County on your side. At Needham Kepner & Fish LLP, our law firm has considerable experience helping abused residents and families hold negligent parties accountable for nursing home abuse and neglect.