The coronavirus pandemic is testing the American healthcare system. Social service providers face new challenges as they struggle to provide care for children, abuse victims and the elderly. Many home health care workers fear that elder abuse could be on the rise.

Considered high-risk for infection, practicing social distancing is very important for senior citizens. If a healthcare worker has encountered someone with symptoms, visiting their clients could be lethal. How can the home healthcare industry provide during this pandemic?

A lack of available options

Some nurses are doing what they can for as long as they can. Nurse Raeann LeBlanc visited a 60-year-old couple last week but could not address their medical needs. The couple was nearly without food and Raeann had to go shopping for them instead. Elizabeth Wilson, a 63-year-old local nurse, had to cancel all her home visits when her husband began showing COVID-19 symptoms. Not only is her employer unable to find a suitable replacement, but Elizabeth must go without a paycheck. Her job is part-time and she is unable to file for unemployment.

Home care workers are among the lowest paid healthcare workers in the industry. Many work for less than a living wage and do not even have health insurance themselves.

Care in a quarantine

Many healthcare professionals cite a lack of funding for necessary equipment like masks, disinfecting wipes and gloves. Many of their clients are unable to even use the bathroom on their own, so personal contact is essential. Making meals and taking the proper medicine at the right time can also be challenging for the elderly. As the pandemic progresses, many medical professionals fear officials will ignore these marginalized populations. Healthcare workers fear many of their clients will suffer, and some at the hands of a quarantined abuser.

A solution in the courts

States like New York consider human services workers exempt from movement restrictions but provide no additional funding. Without the proper equipment and support, home healthcare workers risk exposing themselves and their clients daily. Families of loved ones suffering collateral damage from the outbreak, or even elder abuse, may have to turn to the courts for restitution. Many victims of elder abuse find success with the help and advice from a lawyer experienced in elder care matters. At least, these cases could change the legal landscape of the healthcare industry forever.