The COVID-19 pandemic has proven especially difficult on nursing homes and their residents; as many as 40 to 50 percent of all COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. have been of nursing home residents. The pandemic has exposed many weak spots and failings of nursing homes across the country. While these issues have allowed coronavirus outbreaks to spread throughout many nursing home facilities, even before the pandemic problems such as understaffing, lack of safety procedures, inadequate living environments, and the failure of regulatory oversight have contributed to the long-standing problems of nursing home abuse and neglect.

Experts are pushing for the COVID-19 pandemic to force nursing homes and the healthcare industry in general to improve their care of residents in key ways that many facilities were failing to prior to pandemic, including following regulations, offering alternative care options, having better living facilities, improving staff, and making nursing home care more financially feasible for families.

Better Enforcement of Regulations

Officials and healthcare experts have called for more strict enforcement of existing state and federal regulations governing nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Although regulations of nursing homes are considered pretty robust, enforcement of those regulations was more spotty. Government regulators may be spread too thin to adequately supervise the number of nursing homes under their jurisdiction, instead relying on complaints from residents and families to know when there’s a problem. And sometimes nursing homes find it cheaper to simply pay the fines for noncompliance rather than invest in the expense of resolving the problems. As part of this movement, this summer the federal government announced that it would increase oversight efforts on nursing homes’ infection control and would increase fines for violations.

Alternative Assisted Living Options

Many elderly Americans who require assisted living but want to remain at home do not have many alternatives besides moving into nursing homes; current law requires that Medicare/Medicaid dollars be used for nursing home services, preventing many Americans from accessing other stay-at-home options. States that want to provide funding for such services must go through the difficult process of obtaining a federal waiver. The pandemic has exposed the dangers of putting so many elderly people together inside nursing homes, which may spark a movement toward providing people with alternative assisted living options as they age.

Better Living Environments

The COVID-19 pandemic has also exposed the unhealthy and unhygienic conditions of many nursing homes, where residents are required to share facilities such as rooms, toilets, and showers, allowing easily-spread viruses such as the novel coronavirus to quickly cause outbreaks in nursing home facilities. The nursing home industry will need to undergo a long, expensive process toward improving the physical quality of their facilities, including ensuring that residents need not be kept in close proximity with one another to help avoid the spread of communicable diseases such as the seasonal flu.

Improving Staffing

Unfortunately, many nursing home workers have to deal with low pay and understaffing; this problem has been exacerbated by the pandemic as staffers choose not to return to work or stay home from work due to COVID-19 infections or exposure. Nursing home industry experts argue that facilities should have enough caregivers on hand so that each worker only has to care for a few residents at a time rather than dozens. Spreading workers too thin means that corners get cut in residents’ care. And low pay means that nursing home staffers are often forced to take on second jobs to make ends meet, increasing the risk that caregivers are tired and make mistakes while on the job at a nursing home; nursing home staffers should be entitled to a living wage. Finally, nursing homes should ensure that they are conducting thorough background checks to avoid hiring staffers with prior disciplinary issues or criminal backgrounds.

Creating More Financial Options

The cost to place a person in a nursing home is incredibly high, with Medicare paying thousands of dollars per resident per month. While long-term care insurance could be an alternative to relying on Medicare, such insurances are not always available and the terms of coverage frequently change. The nursing home industry should promote the adoption of a federal long-term insurance program that would allow Americans to build up financial resources to help fund their care as they age.

Contact a Rochelle Park Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer to Discuss Your Case Today

Seniors in nursing homes and other care facilities deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. Additionally, nursing home staff needs to ensure that patients are safe and secure at all times. If your loved one suffered an injury, or worse, due to nursing home negligence or abuse in New Jersey, you need to speak with a qualified attorney. The experienced nursing home neglect attorneys at The Epstein Law Firm, P.A. represent clients throughout New Jersey, including Hackensack, Teaneck, Fort Lee, and Fair Lawn. Call 201-231-7847 or fill out the online contact form to schedule a free consultation today. We have an office conveniently located at 340 West Passaic Street, Rochelle Park, NJ 07662.

The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.