COVID-19 and Assisted Living

Angie Szumlinski
July 27, 2020

We have all been inundated with COVID-19 and the impact it has had on our country and worldwide. However, one area that has been overlooked to some degree has been the assisted living world. In a recent article published in Medscape Nurses, they discussed why more information and guidelines haven’t been available to this sector of senior living when you consider:

  • Over 800,000 Americans live in ALFs nationwide
  • 52% or 85 years and older; 30% are between the ages of 75 and 84 years
  • This age group has increased susceptibility to the complications of COVID-19 including respiratory failure and death
  • The communities where these seniors live (more than 28,000 nationwide) employ over 450,000 individuals
  • Direct care workers provide most of the paid hands-on care and support to ALF residents

Direct care workers are essential to care for older adults and ensure overall well-being, especially during public health crises. Staff recruitment and retention during the pandemic has been difficult and will remain a challenge and with the increase in positive cases there is a direct impact on staff capacity.

As of April 8, 2020, at least 29 states reported COVID-19 cases in ALFs. We have learned that outbreaks in ALFs and other congregate living settings are a foreseeable consequence of COVID-19 even if recommended guidelines are followed. Most ALFs do not have the capacity or resources to implement full CDC guidance issued for medical facilities when there is a recognized pandemic. Recognizing the risk of asymptomatic shedding, PPE should be available to all staff when caring for all residents in a community with a known case of COVID-19. Why? Mainly because staff may “pass” mandatory symptom and temperature screening procedures and still be infected, shedding enough virus to infect residents and other staff.

The Defense Production Act is intended to increase the supply of ventilators and PPE; however there are current and potential shortages of equipment and supplies across senior living settings. The goal would be to increase production and distribution of:

  • PPE – this includes masks, face shields, gowns, and gloves
  • Testing kits and related laboratory supplies – supplies for reliable diagnostic and serologic testing
  • Supplies for symptom management and end-of-life care

Yes, we are facing unprecedented times. There are no “right” answers to many of the challenges we are dealing with on a daily basis. It is vitally important that each of us as providers continue to challenge the system, request assistance and share expertise. Reach out to a neighbor, talk to your health department and healthcare associations. Do not believe you are equipped to handle this pandemic alone, it takes a village in good times and a country in hard times. HealthCap continues to be here for you, just ask! Stay safe, stay well and stay tuned!

Read the full article on Medscape here!

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