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Uncovering the true impact of COVID-19 on nursing home residents


As state and federal entities continue to ease restrictions, it would be hard to find one person not looking forward to the day when COVID-19 is in the proverbial rear-view mirror. The history will be well-documented with successes, failures, oversights, and mistakes, and, most tragically, the missteps that cost many lives, specifically in California nursing homes.

COVID-19 has exposed the fact that infection control in facilities whose purpose is to protect seems non-existent, with state inspectors seemingly not paying attention to vulnerable members of the state’s population.

Tragic and preventable outcomes

One “chapter” of the story should document the abject failure of California nursing homes to implement infection controls approaching anything considered effective. Combining that with state officials simply looking the other way in a tragic form of blissful ignorance is a recipe for disaster and potentially death.

Media reports uncovered a troubling lack of testing for many California nursing home residents, an effort to avoid bad publicity. The most baffling stories that did make the news involved nursing homes forced to accept infected people recovering from the coronavirus, exposing countless older people to the deadly illness.

Conversely, many residents were moved from facilities to emergency rooms under the “cover” of COVID, only to find out that they were actually transferred due to a lack of care that had nothing to do with a deadly virus. Many were suffering from malnutrition, dehydration, bedsores, and falls, resulting in injuries.

The tragic end result saw more than 12,000 nursing home deaths due to COVID-19, representing nearly a third of all the state’s fatalities.

Sadly, the problem is not new, nor was it started by a global pandemic. Since the establishment of federal and state regulations in 1965 that were meant to protect the vulnerable entering nursing homes, the opposite seems to be true. Decades of so-called “help” resulted in an acceleration of unacceptable conditions, not to mention acts of neglect and abuse.

Turning a blind eye are state regulators in California and nationwide who fail to hold these facilities accountable. Their misdeeds continue, as do their ever-increasing revenues.