It likely comes as no surprise to providers that during the first year of the pandemic, residents in centers with active COVID-19 cases experienced significant increases in mortality and functional decline compared with the pre-pandemic period. Not shocking, right? What is interesting are the findings related to weight loss and depressive symptoms during the pandemic. In a study published in JAMA, there were significant increases in weight loss and depressive symptoms even if the center had NO positive COVID cases.
If you recall, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government required skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) to close visitation and eliminate communal activities. This included family members and close relatives, visitors were only allowed for compassionate care visits and if a resident was actively dying. Communal activities were curtailed including bingo, congregate dining, spiritual services, and outside day trips. A real blow to quality of life, right? Although well intended, these policies have had unintended negative effects on our residents.
What do we do now? We need to think about what we are doing for our residents TODAY. Hindsight is 20/20 and our government, along with pretty much the entire country, responded to a real threat to our residents, right or wrong. Now we need to move out of the past and be sure that we are identifying and addressing these setbacks today. Look at your activity calendar. Do activities end at 4:00 pm every day? Do residents return from dinner and get put to bed at 7:00 pm? Now look at your incident log, how many incidents/falls/resident altercations, occur during the hours of 4:00 pm and 9:00 pm. If you are lucky, there is no pattern of increased incidents. If you see that more incidents are occurring during these hours, it might be time to review your current activity calendar. Talk to your resident council and ask them what activities they would like to see and WHEN they would like them. Remember, you can’t know what they would want unless you ask! Quality of life is so important, don’t do what YOU would want, do what THE RESIDENTS want! Stay well and stay informed!