Certain groups of our population are more vulnerable to coronavirus (COVID-19) than others. Elderly adults and individuals with chronic health issues, along with those who have compromised immune systems, are particularly at risk of severe and fatal side effects. Because nursing home facilities care for people in all of these categories, the residents stand a greater chance of becoming seriously ill or dying if they become infected.
It is estimated that there are at least 1.3 million nursing home residents in 15,483 care centers in this country. There is no question that COVID-19 could take the lives of many residents if it finds its way into each of these facilities.
Underlying Health Problems Exist
Due to aging and the sedentary nature of growing old, it is not unusual for many nursing home residents to have ongoing respiratory issues. Because coronavirus causes respiratory complications, one can see why these care centers must work diligently to keep the pandemic from invading their grounds.
A figure from 2017 shows that 16 percent of nursing facility residents needed respiratory treatment. This includes the use of ventilators, respirators, inhalation therapy, and a variety of other treatments. The high number of respiratory patients with already-weakened health has some nursing homes sitting on pins and needles during the current outbreak.
Many nursing facility residents battle depression and anxiety on a regular basis. With the added worry, fear, and social isolation from COVID-19 news and regulations, these problems are exacerbated. Visits from family have been proven to positively affect folks in long-term care, benefiting cognitive function, and behavioral health. Therefore, the complete halting of family and outside visits to nursing homes risks will have negative impacts on residents’ moods and mental health.
Nursing Homes Understaffed
The problem of understaffing at nursing homes has long been known, which is why many residents’ family members usually spend a lot of time at the facilities feeding their elderly loved ones, watching out for bedsores, and walking the resident in the hallway. Barred from entering now, families on the outside know that their loved ones could be left lying in bed for hours on end, possibly even bordering on dehydration or starvation with no one except an understaffed workforce inside. In some cases, existing workers have gotten ill themselves or are now quarantined or have quit because of the increased dangers of COVID-19.
Additionally, there seems to be a shortage of protective equipment for nursing homes due to supplies of the gear going to hospitals first. ArchCare runs five elderly care facilities and has workers wearing beauticians’ gowns and rain ponchos. According to Scott LaRue, the CEO/President of ArchCare, the five facilities had reported 150 cases of COVID-19 and multiple deaths.
Having fewer staff members automatically means there are more residents per remaining worker now. This creates a condition ripe for neglect and errors. For one thing, the overworked staff members who are trying their best to provide the best care possible are forced to rush their duties in between residents, leaving less and less time for fully scrubbing hands before helping the next resident. The virus only needs a small window of opportunity where lax cleaning routines are practiced to travel from one wing or room to another.
Susan Dooha of the Center for Independence of the Disabled in New York, shares her concern about understaffed facilities by saying, “People are not getting medication when it’s needed, are waiting a long time for diaper changes or other hands-on care.” Executive Director Dooha continues, “This was a problem before, but the current pandemic throws it into high relief.”
Hospitals have been scrambling to try to make room for individuals who have COVID-19. On March 26, New York’s health department ordered nursing home facilities to take back hospitalized residents now medically stable, even if they have COVID-19.
While for-profit companies have been buying up nonprofit elderly care centers, staffing at nursing home facilities has continued to decline. There are no minimum requirements for staff numbers in New York. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, a federal agency, found around 75 percent of nursing homes in New York City rating at “below average” or even “much below average” where staffing is concerned. This information comes from an analysis in 2019 by City Limits, a nonprofit. Low staff numbers lead to more citations given because of infections in long-term care facilities. Per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 380,000 residents die from infections each year.
Infection Control Deficiencies
Shockingly, around 40 percent of nursing homes in 2017 had a deficiency in the infection control area. In numerical order, this deficiency ranks first, with food sanitation coming next at 36 percent, followed by accident environment at 34 percent. In six states, over half of their nursing home centers have at least one deficiency where infection control is concerned. In considering how important infection control procedures are for stopping the current virus, these nursing homes with existing deficiency problems stand to be at a higher risk for COVID-19 to spread.
Do Occupancy Rates Contribute?
Early on, U.S. nursing home residents were in the group most affected by COVID-19, with a large number of deaths. The mental and physical health of residents, along with high occupancy rates in care facilities, seem to make this group more vulnerable. In 2017, approximately four out of every five beds in nursing homes were filled.
Georgia COVID-19 Cases
As of April 2, there were 58 nursing homes in Georgia with COVID-19 patients, per the Department of Public Health. Two of these facilities are dealing with such widespread infection that their ability to function properly is severely affected. 35 residents in PruittHealth-Palmyra have tested positive, and seven residents have died in less than a month. Dawson Health and Rehabilitation in Terrell County reports 16 positive results for COVID-19, and six of these residents have died.
Here is a list of Georgia nursing homes with confirmed cases as of April 3rd:
- Arbor Terrace At Cascade in Atlanta in Fulton County
- Benton House in Woodstock in Cherokee County
- Benton House of Grayson in Grayson in Gwinnett County
- Berman Commons in Dunwoody in DeKalb County
- Budd Terrace, Wesley Woods in Atlanta in DeKalb County
- Cambridge Care in Snellville in Gwinnett County
- Canterfield of Kennesaw in Kennesaw in Cobb County
- Cottage Landing in Carrollton in Carroll County
- Dawson Health and Rehab in Dawson in Terrell County
- Delmar Gardens of Smyrna in Smyrna in Cobb County
- Discovery Village of Sugarloaf in Suwannee in Gwinnett County
- Douglasville Nursing and Rehab in Douglasville in Douglas County
- Fellowship Home in Valdosta in Brooks County
- Gardens of Fayetteville in Fayetteville in Fayette County
- Glancy Rehab-Northside Gwinnett in Duluth in Gwinnett County
- Greenwood Place in Marietta in Cobb County
- Heartis Fayetteville in Fayetteville in Fayette County
- King’s Bridge Retirement Center in Atlanta in DeKalb County
- LaGrange Nursing & Rehab in LaGrange in Troup
- Legacy Ridge At Neese Road in Woodstock in Cherokee County
- Lenbrook in Atlanta in Fulton County
- Mann House Assisted Living in Cumming in Forsyth County
- ManorCare Rehab Center in Decatur in DeKalb County
- Maple Ridge in Cartersville in Bartow County
- Marietta Life Center in Marietta in Cobb County
- Miller County Nursing Home in Colquitt in Wayne
- Oaks at Towne Lake in Woodstock in Cherokee County
- Orchard at Brookhaven in Brookhaven in DeKalb County
- Park Springs in Stone Mountain in DeKalb County
- Parkside Acute and Rehab in Snellville in Gwinnett County
- Pelham Parkway in Pelham in Mitchell County
- Pine Knoll in Carrollton in Carroll County
- Powder Springs Transitional Care and Rehab in Powder Springs in Cobb County
- Pruitt Health Crestwood in Valdosta in Lowndes County
- Pruitt Health Eastside in Macon in Bibb County
- Pruitt Health Grandview in Athens in Clarke County
- Pruitt Health of Brookhaven in Atlanta in DeKalb County
- Pruitt Health Palmyra in Albany in Dougherty County
- Retreat at Canton in Canton in Cherokee County
- Riverdale in Riverdale in Clayton County
- Rome Health & Rehab in Rome in Floyd County
- Rosemont at Stone Mountain in Stone Mountain in DeKalb County
- Sadie Mays Health & Rehab in Atlanta in Fulton County
- Sandy Springs Health & Rehab in Sandy Springs in DeKalb County
- Signature Healthcare in Marietta in Cobb County
- Townsend Park in Cartersville in Bartow County
- Zebulon Park Health and Rehab in Macon in Bibb County
Negligence in Facilities Causing Spread
While a number of elderly care facilities and their diligent workers continue to protect the residents from this virus, other nursing homes that are not taking proper steps for prevention of the disease’s spread can be legally held liable for the damages and the death that follows. If one infected staff member fails to wear necessary protective gear and ultimately exposes a resident to COVID-19, the resident may have just cause for a negligence lawsuit.
Contact our nursing home lawyers at The Eichholz Law Firm to learn more about filing a lawsuit against negligent nursing home facilities.
- Brad Schrade and Carrie Teegardin. “ Coronavirus cases now reported at 58 Georgia senior care facilities”, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, https://www.ajc.com/news/state–regional-govt–politics/coronavirus-cases-now-reported-georgia-senior-care-facilities/BRPt7AIobRRAYKvw3SF6aJ/. Accessed April 14, 2020.
- Courtney Bryant. “List of long-term care in Georgia with coronavirus outbreaks increases”, FOX 5 Atlanta, https://www.fox5atlanta.com/news/list-of-long-term-care-in-georgia-with-coronavirus-outbreaks-increases. Accessed April 14, 2020.
- Priya Chidambaram. “Data Note: How might Coronavirus Affect Residents in Nursing Facilities?”, Kaiser Family Foundation, https://www.kff.org/medicaid/issue-brief/data-note-how-might-coronavirus-affect-residents-in-nursing-facilities/. Accessed April 14, 2020.