How COVID-19 is Affecting Elder Abuse

Everyone is ready to put the last 12 months in the rearview mirror. The effects of the pandemic have been devastating in so many ways. Shockingly, America’s death toll has now matched and exceeded our losses in World War II. Many have lost their jobs and suffered disastrous economic loss. Businesses have failed and food insecurity has increased for countless families. Everyone’s mental and emotional fortitude has been challenged extraordinarily.

But perhaps no group has suffered more than our elderly population. No one will ever forget the early days of the pandemic when older adults were dying at an alarming rate. While society thereafter took steps to better protect the elderly from the novel coronavirus, it turns out that the elderly have suffered in other ways, as well. In this article, we will discuss how COVID-19 has affected elder abuse.

Elder Abuse Was Already Prevalent

Even without a pandemic to complicate things, elder abuse has long been a problem in the United States and across the world. The World Health Organization reports that approximately one out of six persons 60 or older who live in a community suffered some form of abuse within the prior 12 months.

The definition of “abuse” can vary, but includes both acts and failures to act (neglect). In one study, more than 60 percent of elder community workers surveyed admitted to having committed some form of abuse.

The Pandemic Linked to Increases in Elder Abuse

Unfortunately, things have only gotten worse during the COVID-19 pandemic. Residents in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities have become more isolated than ever. Many facilities were locked down, prohibiting visitors in an attempt to reduce transmission and spread of COVID-19. Though such safety measures are necessary, this has made it more difficult for friends and family members to check in and observe their loved ones who reside in such facilities.

Doctors Han and Mosqueda reported in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society that the pandemic has coincided with a “massive increase in reports of elder abuse.” The AP had an expert review and analyze data from 15,000 facilities. He identified thousands of non-COVID-related deaths that exceeded the normal fatality rates in nursing homes.

While some deaths are believed to have been related to despair caused by isolation, there are also reports of neglect leading to death and other harm to elderly people. Examples include starvation, dehydration, and failure to properly administer medication.

Legal Rights of Residents of Nursing Homes and Other Long-Term Care Facilities

Our elderly population is a precious part of society to which we owe much. When our parents and loved ones need assistance with daily living, it is common to find a place for them to live that can provide the assistance and the attention they need. Both the residents and their families rely on these institutions to treat residents with dignity and respect and to meet their medical, physical, and daily living needs.

This is especially true during a time such as the pandemic when family members are not allowed access. If the facility and its workers do not act reasonably, they can be held responsible for their actions under the law. A person who is harmed may seek damages to be made whole. If a person dies as a result of negligence, a wrongful death action may be pursued.

Call with Questions

If you or a loved one has suffered harm in a nursing home or other residential facility, you probably have questions. The experienced lawyers at Nelson MacNeil Rayfield will be happy to answer your questions in a free consultation and can assist you in navigating the complicated federal, state, and local laws and regulations that apply in these types of cases. We believe it is important to protect Oregon’s senior citizens from all types of abuse and neglect. The best way to accomplish that goal is by holding wrongdoers accountable under the law for their wrongful actions.


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