The healthcare sector was seriously affected by the coronavirus 2019 or COVID-19. With the increase of active cases of COVID, hospitals tremendously increased in occupancy rate. And one of the most vulnerable groups during the pandemic include senior citizens.
COVID-19 revealed many flaws in different ways especially in nursing homes, which will be discussed in detail below.
Nursing Home Injuries
Even before the strike of coronavirus, many seniors experience injuries in nursing homes. The most common injuries in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities include bedsores, bedrail injuries, falls, concussions, infections, broken bones, and spinal injuries. If you wish to know more about how common these injuries occur, you can find out more regarding the statistics here.
There are many instances when seniors become vulnerable to injuries. For example, elderly patients with Alzheimer’s disease may run at vehicle accident risk when accidentally leaving the ambulance. A vehicle accident attorney must be sought if your senior family member is a victim of reckless driving.
In addition to physical injuries, the COVID-19 also brought emotional injuries to many older people in long-term care facilities. Many of their family members express great concern for their loved ones in assisted living facilities.
Inadequate Clinical Services
According to a trusted source, about 40% of COVID-19 fatalities in the United States were seniors in long-term care facilities, including nursing homes. Nursing home populations have an increased risk of getting infected by the coronavirus, especially people aged 60 years old and above with underlying health conditions.
COVID-19 can spread fast in places where people live in a confined environment, and staff members move from one room to another. The statistical data reflects the inadequate clinical services offered by long-term care facilities like nursing homes.
To resolve inadequate clinical services, nursing homes should
- Employ more clinicians
- Invest in advanced medical equipment
- Invest in personal protective equipment (PPE)
- Continuous education of staff members (such as online short courses)
Behind Technological Innovation Due to Underfinancing
Because of chronic underfinancing, nursing homes may have problems keeping up with the latest health technological innovations such as installing a medical alert system. Nursing homes should invest in automated devices, sensors, and security system to keep seniors comfortable and safe within long-term care facilities. However, the lack of financing can restrict them from attaining this goal.
Staff shortage in nursing homes has always been an issue even before the pandemic, which even grew worse due to increased COVID cases. Here are the possible reasons why nursing homes have problems with staffing:
- Fear: COVID-19 has become a nightmare among nursing home staff and residents. Healthcare staff members also have worries about their own health and safety which also influence staffing.
- Tight Budget: Nursing homes may have a tight budget, affecting allocation to hire more employees.
- Career Shift: Because of people’s fear of COVID-19, some healthcare workers shift careers, such as starting an online business and home-based business.
Infection Control Prevention Flaws
Nursing homes had received citations in infection control across the country even before COVID-19 struck. In nursing homes, they badly needed more PPEs during the spike of cases last year.
And while many reported COVID cases among residents and workers in nursing homes, many haven’t had access to COVID-19 testing. That’s why the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released guidelines for infection control prevention which includes the following:
- Infection Control System: A system must be set in place to prevent, identify, report, investigate, and control infections and communicable diseases for residents, healthcare workers, volunteers, and visitors of long-term care facilities.
- Standard Operating Procedures: Written standards, procedures, and policies must be set in place in addition to a surveillance system designed to identify possible infection or infectious disease before transmission.
- Reporting: Reporting requirements must be set in place for possible incidents of infection or communicable disease.
- Isolation: Standard precautions and transmission-based precautions must be followed, including isolation, in which employees with infected skin lesions or communicable disease shouldn’t be in direct contact with senior residents or their food.
- Hand Hygiene: Hand hygiene procedure must be followed by all employees as accepted professional practice.
- IPCO Officer: Long term care facilities should’ve an Infection Prevention and Control Officer (IPCO), responsible for the infection control planning and implementation. An IPCO officer should’ve received specialized infection prevention and control training.
COVID has uncovered many nursing homes flaws, including senior injuries, inadequate clinical services, fragile staffing, and behind technological innovation due to underfinancing. Also, infection control measures lack long-term care facilities, which put many seniors at increased risk of COVID morbidity and mortality.
Nursing homes need more financial support from the government and the private sector. Healthcare workers must be trained and experienced to provide quality patient care better. Also, long-term care facilities should have surveillance systems, SOPs, and dedicated infection control officers to plan and implement infection control measures.