COVID-19 has shown just how precarious the situation in some long-term care facilities can be. During the first few months of the pandemic, many LTC providers were stuck trying to interpret mercurial public health guidelines while trying to maximize resident safety with little or no outside assistance.
While those stressful first days of COVID may have passed, the risks to LTC providers have not disappeared. You can only combat externalities that you’ve prepared for, so the key is to know where your exposures are. Here are three you may have overlooked:
1. COVID-related litigation
Litigation of all types and for any number of reasons is nothing new to LTC facility management, but the aftermath of COVID-19 has changed the landscape entirely. There’s no question that COVID tore through many LTC providers, but many have felt safe in the knowledge that they’re protected by liability shields — legislation enacted by over half of all states actively discouraging lawsuits.
These liability shields, as thorough as they may seem, are not impenetrable. Some state legislatures are looking at ways of rolling them back, while others are currently under consideration in the courts. The protection your facility has been offered thus far may not stick around forever, and you should be prepared if it falls through.
2. Weather-related disasters
LTC providers, just like any other properties, are at risk of environmental damage. These may differ depending on your location — flooding for some, wildfires or tornadoes for others — but the reality is the same everywhere: if your facility is not properly insured, it just takes one errant disaster to put your residents in danger and hurdle you towards insolvency.
Climate change is making extreme weather events more severe, which in turn is causing property insurance rates to continue to rise. While the high prices of the latter may be off-putting, do some research and look at other LTC providers in your area that have been impacted by weather-related disasters. This can help you understand exactly which risks your facility should protect itself against and just how much you stand to lose if you don’t take action now.
3. Pressure ulcers
Most LTC facility staff will be well aware of the importance of preventing falls, but these are far from the only care-related injuries that can represent a liability for your facility. Nearly 17,000 lawsuits are filed every year related to pressure-induced injuries, the most common of which are pressure ulcers or bed sores.
The presence of just a single pressure ulcer can increase a nurse’s workload by 50% and require up to $20,000 worth of additional care — two numbers that appeal neither to providers nor patients. Thankfully, there are cost-effective fixes that don’t skimp on patient wellbeing: some studies have shown that lubricating a patient’s skin with lanolin on a daily basis can have a significant impact, as can simply educating staff on the importance of avoiding pressure ulcers in the first place. As always, an ounce of prevention here is worth far more than a pound of cure.
LTC facility leaders should be able to maximize resident wellbeing without fear of being blindsided by lawsuits. By staying aware of where your exposures are, you can focus on creating the best possible environment for your residents while still taking steps to ensure legal compliance.
Jason Zuccari is Vice President of Development and External Relations at Hamilton Insurance Agency, where he maintains client relationships, prospects potential clients and leads Hamilton Insurance Agency’s marketing and branding efforts. Jason serves on the National Investment Centers (NIC) Future Leaders Council, has earned a Commercial Lines Coverage Specialist (CLCS) designation from the Hartford School of Insurance, and has shared his business expertise on Bloomberg, Forbes, Mashable, NBC and CNET.
The opinions expressed in McKnight’s Long-Term Care News guest submissions are the author’s and are not necessarily those of McKnight’s Long-Term Care News or its editors.