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Study: Nursing homes greatly underreported COVID-19 cases

Advocates for the elderly say nursing home abuse and neglect have become a nightmare due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The nonprofit Foundation Aiding the Elderly (FATE) says nursing homes have been Ground Zero for the crisis and that frantic family members have contacted the organization since the pandemic began.

Inaccurate reporting leads to misleading conclusions

The federal National Healthcare Safety Network reports that one nursing home resident in 10 died from COVID since the beginning of 2020. However, a recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) suggests that 68,000 COVID cases and 16,000 deaths went unreported.

The study looked at more than 15,000 nursing homes and found that 40% of COVID deaths and 44% of virus cases were not reported in the initial months of the pandemic, leading to erroneous conclusions over the extent of coronavirus outbreaks in skilled nursing facilities.

Lockdowns and quarantines lead to a lack of oversight

In addition to the misleading statistics over COVID’s impact on residents, FATE founder Carole Herman says lockdowns and visitor restrictions created more risks for seniors. No one from the outside, including state inspectors, could monitor nursing home patients or staff for several months.

Herman says calls to her California-based organization tripled since the pandemic began as people reported nursing home abuse to a family member, received information on patients’ rights or helped them deal with the complex long-term care system.

In addition to reduced or no inspections, the pandemic affected every aspect of eldercare as family members weren’t allowed to visit for months while staffing levels were significantly lower in most facilities. Those factors lead Herman and many others to believe more troubling news is ahead.


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