Seniors who live in nursing homes may be at a higher risk of contracting the coronavirus. Nursing home residents are often in close contact which allows for easier viral spread. Nursing home staff members and residents must follow strict health guidelines to prevent the spread of this deadly disease.
Why are Nursing Home Residents at a Higher Risk of Coronavirus?
Nursing home residents are at higher risk of the coronavirus for several reasons.
These reasons include:
- Age: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that older adults are more likely to develop the virus. 80% of people who have died from the coronavirus in the U.S. were 65 years or older.
- Close contact: Nursing homes have become epicenters for coronavirus outbreaks as residents and staff typically live in close proximity. This allows the virus to spread rapidly through facilities.
- Underlying health conditions: Nursing home residents also typically have underlying health conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes, or COPD. These conditions can increase the risk of serious coronavirus complications.
Contracting the coronavirus can lead nursing home residents to develop other dangerous conditions, such as severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), pneumonia, or even organ failure.
Nursing home residents and their families need to know all of the facts about the coronavirus in order to stay safe.
Following CDC guidelines — social distancing, washing hands regularly, and using tissues for coughs and sneezes — can significantly reduce the chances of contracting the coronavirus.
Nursing Homes Are Hotspots for Coronavirus Outbreaks
Nursing homes are hotspots for coronavirus outbreaks since eldery residents live in close quarters. This makes it easy for the virus to spread.
The facility banned visitors and family members of residents held signs outside of windows to communicate with loved ones.
As of mid-April 2020, over 2,300 nursing homes throughout the U.S. have reported at least one coronavirus case. Many nursing homes have been locked down or closed altogether.
This has made it very hard for residents and their families to adjust to the new conditions.
Residents often have limited control over their own mobility, which makes it harder to maintain social distancing guidelines without help from nurses and other medical staff.
Total Number of Coronavirus Nursing Home Deaths Could Be Higher
Many experts believe that the total number of coronavirus deaths could actually be much larger than currently believed.
However, some states still refuse to release their full numbers and other states won’t count those who died without being tested.
There are also reports of states not counting those who died outside of a hospital or medical facility.
These undercounting issues are serious since public health officials and politicians make decisions based on this data.
If the number of cases and deaths are being undercounted, vulnerable populations such as those living at nursing homes may be at even greater risk if guidelines are eased too soon.
Coronavirus and Risk of Nursing Home Abuse
New studies indicate that domestic violence and child abuse cases soared after stay-at-home orders went into effect.
While there haven’t been any links to increased nursing home abuse due to the coronavirus, residents still could be at risk.
- Nursing home staff members are under more stress than ever before
- Nursing home residents are even more isolated from their families
These factors at nursing homes already increase the risk of abuse, meaning that residents could suffer at a time when they are most vulnerable.
But even failing to follow proper health care guidelines can put residents at risk of the coronavirus. Some nursing homes have already paid the price for neglecting their residents.
For example, the Washington state facility where 40 residents died was fined over $600,000 for not reporting the virus soon enough and providing inadequate care to the seniors.
How to Protect Nursing Home Residents from Coronavirus
During these uncertain times, family members and friends need to keep a close watch on vulnerable nursing home residents.
Family members and friends can protect those living in nursing homes by:
- Checking in as much as possible (preferably through the internet or by phone)
- Following CDC guidelines for social distancing and washing hands
- Keeping an eye out for signs of nursing home abuse or neglect
Health officials expect that the coronavirus will change public behavior until a successful treatment or vaccine is developed.
Since seniors in nursing homes are especially at risk, make sure the facility your loved one lives in follows all necessary health guidelines so residents stay safe.