Will COVID-19 Improve Long Term Care?

While much of the world is reopening and life for those vaccinated has returned to a new normal, many nursing home residents are still living under lockdown after lockdown. A single COVID-19 case in a nursing home can trigger a two-week lockdown for all residents—longer if cases have spread—and a return to the isolation that has impacted so many of us throughout the course of last year. Even before the pandemic, there were questions around the quality of care delivered in long term care facilities, but throughout the pandemic the vulnerability of nursing home residents become ever more apparent.

When the pandemic hit, all of us were at risk of infection, but nursing home residents were in a uniquely hazardous position. This was partly because of the communal nature of long term care housing, but also because of how closely residents interact with a rotating cast of caregivers and staff, many of whom care for multiple residents in ways that can easily spread disease, like feeding them or brushing their teeth. Though nursing home residents and staff were among those who needed the most protection in the face of the disease, they were often last on the list of those to receive it. Across the US, there were widespread reports of understaffing and a lack of personal protective equipment in nursing homes, two areas of neglect that were later shown to be key drivers of the spread of COVID-19 in long term care facilities.

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Originally published on Forbes on June 21st, 2021

© William A. Haseltine, PhD. All Rights Reserved.