The COVID-19 pandemic has affected all of us in New Jersey, one of the early epicenters of the outbreak in the United States. Tragically, the disease has been particularly deadly to our most vulnerable populations, including those who live in nursing homes.

As a result, nursing homes are not currently allowing relatives or friends to visit residents, except in limited circumstances. This policy may help slow the spread of COVID-19 in long-term care facilities, but it may also be exposing residents to another danger: unnoticed abuse and neglect from staff.

Nursing home residents generally are too frail to defend themselves from being handled too roughly or outright attacked, or demand that they get adequate care. They may also be suffering from dementia and unable to ask loved ones for help. Many times, nursing home abuse is not discovered until a concerned relative notices signs of abuse and takes action. Abusive staff members know which residents get regular visits, and could be more likely to treat those residents with dignity and respect.

Lockdown makes detecting abuse more difficult

But now that children and spouses are largely unable to visit, that crucial layer of protection is gone. Instead of in-person visits, some facilities offer regular video chats between residents and relatives. As the child of a nursing home resident, this is your chance not only to stay in touch with your parent, but also to get a good look at them so you can check for signs of neglect or abuse. These signs include bedsores and unexplained injuries. If your parent’s facility is not allowing video conferencing or insists on phone calls only, that could be a sign that it is trying to conceal signs of abuse on your parent’s body.

Your job to protect your loved one from abuse has gotten more complicated because of the pandemic, but it is still possible. If you suspect abuse or neglect from care facility staff and management will not do anything about it, you need to talk to a personal injury attorney who practices nursing home abuse law.