It is unknown how many of our vulnerable elderly fall victim to neglect or abuse each year since such actions are easily hidden from view and underreported. In fact, according to the National Center for Elder Abuse (NCEA), 84 percent of abusive situations involving older adults go unreported or unrecognized.
Coronavirus Panic in Nursing Homes
Coronavirus (COVID-19) is having a devastating effect on millions of people across the globe.
In Ohio, bars and restaurants have shut down. Movie theaters and bowling alleys lie empty. Hundreds have self-quarantined and there seems to be no clear end in sight.
Amongst those most affected, though, are the 1.5 million people living in nursing homes throughout the United States.
Nursing Homes in Ohio
According to U.S. News and World Report, there are 961 nursing homes in Ohio.
As nursing homes typically house dozens of residents above the age of 60, they are amongst the most at-risk for contracting many diseases and infections. In this case, although the novel coronavirus can infect anyone, it’s older adults who are more likely to suffer serious consequences from the disease.
On top of the increased risk factors based on age, over 75% of nursing homes in the U.S. have been cited for failing to properly monitor and control infections in the last three years, according to USA Today.
Although many nursing homes are trained on what to do should a serious infection or pandemic occur, those operation activities are not always closely followed.
If infection control is failing at more than half of all nursing homes in the country, that can lead to serious problems amidst a pandemic like the novel coronavirus. Charlene Harrington, a professor of nursing at the University of California, states that “Failed infection control means nursing homes can spread the new coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, far beyond their walls”. She also stresses the fact that what happens in nursing homes can affect more people than we realize, stating “Poor care in one nursing home becomes an epicenter for the entire community.”
Coronavirus Risks for Older Adults
As adults age, the immune system weakens causing heightened risk factors for many diseases and infections, including the novel coronavirus.
Infectious disease experts define “older adults” as anyone age 60 and up and provides specific warnings to those in that age group.
Individuals over the age of 80 need to exercise even more caution, according to a report published in JAMA, a medical journal. In the report, researchers examined more than 72,000 coronavirus patients in China and found that the fatality rate was over 15% for those over the age of 80, an increase of 13% for the rest of the population.
Older adults have been encouraged to self-isolate and eliminate any non-essential travel and activities that could put them at further risk for contracting the virus.
Coronavirus in Nursing Homes FAQ’s
If you have a friend or loved one in a nursing home, it can be confusing and stressful to know how to react to the coronavirus pandemic.
Some Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s) are:
What do I do if I’m worried about my loved one and the precautions their nursing home is taking for the coronavirus?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does provide training for nursing homes and long-term care facilities on how to best operate during a pandemic. However, if you’re concerned about the specific protocols a nursing home is taking for your loved one, don’t hesitate to contact the staff or nursing manager of their specific residence. They should be able to give you a detailed plan on how they’re preventing the contraction and/or possible spread of the virus.
Are nursing homes screening staff members for the coronavirus? What about visitors?
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued guidelines designed to keep America’s nursing home residents safe amidst the coronavirus outbreak.
The newest measures, as of March 13, 2020, include:
- Restricting all visitors, effective immediately, with exceptions for compassionate care, such as end-of-life situations;
- Restricting all volunteers and nonessential health care personnel and other personnel (i.e. barbers);
- Canceling all group activities and communal dining; and
- Implementing active screening of residents and health care personnel for fever and respiratory symptoms.