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COVID-19 Racing Through Nursing Homes: What Families Can Do

Share on PinterestExperts say nursing facilities aren’t really set up to deal with a pandemic such as COVID-19. Getty Images

  • Experts say nursing facilities aren’t well equipped to handle a pandemic such as COVID-19.
  • They recommend that family members with loved ones in a nursing home communicate with as many employees there as possible.
  • They also recommend having regular FaceTime sessions with loved ones as well as bringing them reading material.

All data and statistics are based on publicly available data at the time of publication. Some information may be out of date. Visit our coronavirus hub and follow our live updates page for the most recent information on the COVID-19 outbreak.

The United States is experiencing another surge of COVID-19 deaths among nursing home residents.

A report released in mid-August by the American Health Care Association and the National Center for Assisted Living revealed that there were 9,715 people in nursing homes who died from COVID-19 during the week of July 26.

That was an increase from the 8,667 who died the previous week and the 5,538 who died the week of June 28, the lowest number since the pandemic began.

It was also slightly more than the 9,421 reported deaths the week of May 31.

In a press release, the two organizations stated that the recent increase was an “alarming spike” driven by the summer spread of COVID-19 among the general population.

More than 45,000 people who were living in nursing homes have now died from COVID-19 in the United States since the pandemic began.

More than 177,000 cases of COVID-19 involving nursing home residents have been confirmed nationwide.

In early June, a study by geriatricians at two Boston medical facilities reported that long-term care facilities are a “major driver” of COVID-19 deaths in the United States.

The researchers reported that these facilities accounted for 63 percent of all COVID-19 fatalities in Massachusetts.

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They added that nursing homes also accounted for 81 percent of COVID-19 deaths in both Minnesota and Rhode Island at the time as well as 71 percent in Connecticut and 70 percent in New Hampshire.

In another 22 states, long-term care facilities accounted for more than half of all COVID-19 fatalities.

As these deaths continue to rise, medical professionals in these facilities are struggling to take care of a population who is most easily victimized by the pandemic.

“When you look at the mortality rate from COVID-19, according to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), about 85 percent of the deaths have been in people 65 years or older,” Emma, a nursing home physical therapist on the East Coast, told Healthline in April. “So there is an obvious trend.”

“You have the most at-risk population for COVID-19 mortality and symptoms in the hospital and in the nursing homes because these are where there is the highest senior population and highest population of people with multiple illnesses or diagnoses,” said Emma, who asked that her last name not be used in this story. “You are going to potentially see more fatalities in these facilities, and I think a majority of these fatalities are because of the frailty many patients already had, which then placed them at higher risk for mortality, and not necessarily poor preparation or care.”

The situation in nursing homes is so dire, the CDC announced in mid-April that it’s tracking cases in nursing homes and long-term care facilities.

Facilities are now required to report cases directly to the CDC as well as to other patients and their families.

“Our country, unlike others, is segregated by age,” Steven M. Levin, a Chicago attorney specializing in nursing home advocacy, told Healthline in April. “Only 13 percent of older people live with extended family members, Instead, they live in their own communities. Now we’re seeing that, once an infection hits, it can quickly turn into a catastrophe.”

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An analysis by the New York Times reported in May that there were at least 8,500 nursing homes and other long-care facilities in the United States with reported COVID-19 cases.

That included the Life Care Center in Kirkland, Washington, where 43 people died early in the pandemic.

That facility was fined $611,000 for its response.

That isn’t necessarily the right way to address the problem, according to Josh Luke, PhD, who teaches at the University of Southern California’s Sol Price School of Public Policy and was an administrator at Carriage House Nursing…

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