coronavirus pandemic

Elder Abuse Going Unreported Because of Coronavirus Pandemic

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Monday marks World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, and the coronavirus pandemic is adding another layer of challenges to spotting abuse in nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

NBC 6 anchor Sheli Muñiz spoke to Michael Brevda, an attorney at Senior Justice Law Firm, about what people need to be asking from their loved one's ALFs or nursing homes.

SHELI: How is the pandemic making it tougher to care for our older loved ones, perhaps in an assisted living facility or nursing homes?

BREVDA: What we find as elder abuse attorneys is that the kids, the adult children, are really the eyes and ears of the patient, because really a lot of these folks are nonverbal, they can't communicate any issues that they're having with the care. Because of Covid, because of the pandemic, the kids aren't allowed to enter the facility, so what we're seeing is a lot of these elder abuse and neglect-related injuries are flying under the radar simply because the kids cannot get into the facility.

SHELI: What are the red flags of elder neglect? How can you spot them?

BREVDA: So, as nursing home litigators, we see the same red flag injuries that really rear their ugly heads in our cases. So, first would be bed sores. These break down in the skin because the patient is literally left sitting or lying in bed for hours, or sometimes days at a time, without being moved. The second red flag would be unexplained broken bones like hip fractures, femur fractures, things like that. Then, the third one would be looking for rapid weight loss more than 10% of a person's body mass.

SHELI: How can we communicate our concerns to ALF or nursing homes, is it asking them to FaceTime with us?

BREVDA: The consistent theme in a facility, in an attempt to conceal the injury, is not allowing FaceTime or video conferencing. Instead, they’re only doing it by phone, and that’s just not good enough especially if the patient is nonverbal. So it is super, super important that you as a family member, squeaky wheel gets the grease, so you need to make sure you speak with the nursing staff and you need to make sure that you have daily or at least weekly (video calls) with the nursing staff, so you can physically lay eyes on your parent -- and don't just focus on the face -- ask them, "May I see my mom's legs? Can I inspect my dad's skin?"

If you suspect elder abuse and would like an outside opinion, you can contact the Department of Children and Families elder abuse hotline at 1-800-96-ABUSE.

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