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Report: 40% of Medicare recipients in nursing homes had or likely had COVID

Close up of senior woman's hands holding walking stick and wearing face protective mask in nursing home during covid19 pandemic.

A bombshell investigation found that deaths among Medicare patients shot up by 32% nationwide during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Conducted by the Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services, the report found that low-income nursing home patients covered by Medicare and Medicaid were much more likely to have gotten COVID-19. The infection rate for this group was around 56%—about 26% died.

The report also found that Asian American patients had the highest increase in death rates with 27% dying in 2020 compared to 17% the previous year. Increases in deaths occurred among almost all populations but were most pronounced in the Asian, Latino, and Black communities. For white people, the death rate grew from 18% to 24%.

Georgia hit hard by the pandemic

Researchers say that the new data will help with understanding the true toll of COVID-19.

It is believed that many people who died from the disease were not counted for a variety of reasons, including a lack of available testing at the start of the pandemic. Investigating the differences in deaths from 2019 to 2020, researchers say, will highlight COVID-19's impact.

Georgia was among the 10 states hardest hit by the pandemic. By the end of June, more than 25% of Medicare beneficiaries in nursing homes had or likely had COVID-19.

Now, the state has one of the lowest percentages in the United States of nursing home staff and residents who have received a COVID-19 vaccination, as just 72% of Georgia residents have been vaccinated. Only three other states have fewer nursing home people vaccinated (Florida, Arizona, and Nevada). Meanwhile, only 44% of Georgia nursing home staff have been fully vaccinated.

Analysts say all of these conclusions must be considered carefully because there is still disagreement over Georgia's reported COVID-19 numbers. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) reported about 3,000 COVID-19 cases among Georgia nursing homes, but the state documented more than 5,000 such infections. It's not clear why there is a discrepancy.

COVID-19 amplified existing problems in Georgia nursing homes

The way COVID-19 was allowed to rip through the nation's nursing homes is just one example of what happens when these facilities don't take the proper steps to keep their residents safe and healthy. Even before the pandemic, nursing home abuse and neglect was a widespread problem in Georgia and across the United States.

Among the forms of elder abuse and neglect at nursing homes are:

  • Medical neglect, that is, failure to monitor residents' medical conditions or appropriately treat conditions
  • Medication errors
  • Poor nutrition or diet, which can lead to malnutrition or dehydration
  • Lack of bathing, changing, or turning in bed regularly, which can lead to bedsores and infections, such as sepsis
  • Unsanitary and unsafe premises
  • Negligent security
  • Physical abuse like hitting, slapping, or beating residents
  • Mental and emotional abuse such as belittling, insulting, or isolating
  • Use of unnecessary force or restraints
  • Financial exploitation such as fraud, double-billing, and outright theft
  • Sexual abuse and assault

Nursing home residents have legal rights

Nursing home facilities have a duty to provide safe, sanitary care to patients. The so-called Nursing Home Resident Bill of Rights is a compilation of state and federal regulations that assert a resident's rights to:

  • Respectful treatment
  • Participate in activities
  • Be free from discriminations
  • Be free from neglect and abuse
  • Freedom from unnecessary restraints
  • Make complaints without fear of retaliation
  • Get proper medical care
  • Notify your representative when you have an accident, deteriorating health, life-threatening conditions, medical complications, significant changes in treatment needs, discharges, and transfers
  • Receive up-to-date information about services and fees
  • Manage your own money
  • Privacy
  • Spend time with visitors
  • Receive social services
  • Leave the nursing home

When you suspect abuse or neglect at a nursing home, take action

If your loved one was mistreated, abused, or neglected at a nursing home or assisted living facility, it's critical that you know your legal rights and options.

Nursing homes are highly regulated facilities that must meet high standards of care to maintain licenses and receive federal money. When they're responsible for the abuse or neglect of our most vulnerable group of people, Attorney George S. Johnson fights to hold them accountable.

Our law firm takes pride in making nursing facilities answer for their negligence by helping Georgia families pursue the justice and financial compensation they deserve.

See how an experienced Atlanta nursing home abuse and neglect lawyer can help with your case by contacting us today at our office in Decatur, Georgia. We're ready to listen to your story and help you figure out the best path forward.

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