People who live in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities often cannot defend themselves against abuse from staff. They may not be able to alert somebody that they have been abused either. Often, vulnerable nursing home residents must rely on caring children or other relatives to notice signs of abuse and alert New Mexico’s Adult Protective Services Division, which investigates such complaints.
However, this system of abuse investigations depending on family member reports has broken down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. New Mexico’s governor suspended family visits to long-term care facilities back in March and only partially lifted the ban in August. Not surprisingly, the number of complaints to the Adult Protective Services Division dropped sharply during those five months.
Each month from January to March, the agency launched an average of 459 investigations into possible nursing home abuse or neglect. Then nursing home visits were banned. In April, the agency began just 294 allegations of abuse. In May, the number went up slightly to 332.
Officials doubt that there really were fewer abusive or negligent incidents at New Mexico’s nursing homes this spring. Instead, they believe the lack of family visits has taken away the major source of information that leads to complaints being filed. While those visits are suspended, the chances of things like unexplained injuries and suddenly fearful behavior from the resident getting reported became much smaller.
Families have done their best to keep in touch with their relatives in nursing homes with phone calls and video chats, but nothing can replace in-person visits for discovering suspicious signs of possible abuse. Now that visits are allowed again, at least in certain circumstances, we can expect the number of investigations to go back up.
While it may be up to you to notice signs that your loved one has been abused, you do not have to seek justice on your own. An attorney who represents victims of nursing home abuse will work to end the abuse and hold the facility’s ownership responsible.