It is important to recognize the hard work of nurses in the fight against COVID-19, but in nursing homes, problems continue to be discovered.

Unfortunately, we saw a spike of more than 1,500 deaths of nursing home patients from early to mid- April according to recent reports. As is being recognized, the nursing home population is vulnerable to the pandemic due to their age, or already compromised health. However, it should not go unnoticed that the problems some nursing homes are now experiencing are due in part to long-standing inadequacies in those facilities prior to the spread of COVID-19.

Some nursing homes are for-profit, and that status coupled with the homes being owned by individuals or groups of individuals who are not medical personnel, has been cause for these homes to prioritize profits over adequate staffing, training, and the following of established infection control policies. This has inevitably led to the homes heading into this pandemic already ill-functioning and unprepared.

As a result, we have received multiple contacts from families advising of the failure of nursing homes to accurately report conditions inside the homes, as well as their failure to return phone calls or respond to communications entirely. In fact, some families cannot reach their loved ones inside the homes at all.

You should continue to reach out to your loved ones, but know there are other places to which you can turn to provide help at this time. You can contact the NJ State Long Term Care Ombudsman at 877.582.6995, the NJ State Department of Health at 609.292.7834, and/or the NJ State Attorney General’s Office if a nursing home has failed to respond to you, you cannot reach your loved one, or for any other concern you may have. You can also contact the nursing home practice group at Stark & Stark with any questions as we continue to support nursing home patients and their families in these troubled times.