As the Boomer generation ages and the demand for senior care services increases, the COVID-19 pandemic has made the hard decision to place a loved one in a nursing home or assisted living facility even more difficult.
As elderly residents have been inordinately affected by the virus, more and more families of facility residents no longer trust that their family members are being adequately protected.
This distrust has already hurt the senior care industry and continues to present staggering liability exposure.
What creates this liability exposure? A negative resident outcome combined with a family’s dissatisfaction and distrust. In fact, the degree of family frustration is often a greater trigger for a liability claim or a hotline call to the Department of Public Health than the severity of the resident’s negative outcome.
Family frustration can grow from many reasons, but it’s often driven by:
- Overzealous promises on the facility’s part, leading to high expectations from families that ultimately are not met.
- A lack of communication with facility staff and leadership. This can be especially exacerbated if the resident is a long-distance relative, and family members feel they can’t check in on their elderly in person.
- Chronic concerns or complaints by family members or residents that have been ignored or inconsistently addressed by facility leadership.
If there is a negative outcome for the resident, such as contracting COVID-19, abuse allegations or a slip resulting in serious injury, the consequences begin to escalate.
Families may choose to pursue legal action when:
- They believe that a facility could have potentially prevented an injury or illness.
- They believe that a facility recognized that there's a potential for injury or illness and did nothing to address it.
- They don’t believe the facility’s version of events.
In order to minimize the possibility of liability exposure, it’s important that facilities employ risk management best practices, including,
- Hiring qualified staff and providing comprehensive, ongoing training
- Establishing realistic expectations for resident families.
- Discuss the potential risk factors for residents with their families.
- Encourage families to be actively involved in their family member’s wellbeing.
- Establish open and honest lines of communication between staff, leadership, residents and their families.
- Promptly address and investigate any avoidable illness or injury.
- Prioritize thorough documentation in case any complaints turn into legal action.
As these suggestions may require a facility to overhaul their current system, many senior care centers may feel overwhelmed about where to start. Even in the best of times, it may feel too difficult to implement that much change – let alone during a global pandemic.
Our Senior Care Risk Management team can help. Our experts possess a wealth of resources and field knowledge to partner with clients as they navigate these challenging times together. Whether through a member-owned Risk Retention Group, a multi-site organization or stand-alone facility, IPMG delivers the best fit for our senior care clients.