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Nursing Homes Are Feeling a Huge Impact from COVID-19

Few people, especially those within healthcare, are unaware that the COVID-19 pandemic has hit the nursing home and long-term care areas of the care continuum harder than anywhere else. The skilled nursing environment has, unfortunately, become a place where COVID-19 is easily transferred between patients, residents, family members, and staff, necessitating lockdowns, the prohibition of visitors, and elimination of resident gatherings. While some measures have been successful in preventing additional widespread infection and loss of life, there are inherent challenges for this care environment in the face of a pandemic. According to a recent media briefing about nursing facilities and the COVID-19 pandemic, Duke University eldercare experts emphasized that “Nursing homes will continue to be COVID-19 hotspots until state and federal officials can institute sweeping testing of asymptomatic patients and workers.”

This blog post is the first in our series based on the HealthStream article, 10 Considerations for COVID-19 and Long-Term Care, which examines specific considerations and recommendations to improve the prospects for people living in this long term care, offered by three Duke experts in the eldercare and public policy space.

The Scale of Covid-19’s Impact on Nursing Homes Is Staggering.

Nursing facilities are feeling an outsized effect from COVID-19, between residents, patients, family caregivers, and staff. According to Nathan Boucher, an assistant research professor in the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke, this area of care is seeing a “majority of the state level and even national level tallies for some of the deaths.” What’s astounding about this prevalence is that not all states are reporting on known causes of death, which would give us an even more complete picture of the numbers involved. Boucher cites pandemic statistics from May 14, 2020, when only 38 states were reporting 150,000 cases in long-term care facilities, which corresponded with over 30,000 deaths.

About the Experts

Nathan Boucher is an Assistant Research Professor in the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke. He studies patients’ and caregivers’ experiences and expectations of health care delivery during advanced illness and near the end of life.

Eleanor Schildwachter McConnell is an Associate Professor at the Duke University School of Nursing. She studies factors that influence functional decline in very frail older adults. Her research has been funded by the National Institute of Nursing Research and the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Donald Taylor is a Professor of Public Policy who researches aging and comparative health systems, including Medicare, long-term care, and health policy. Taylor also directs Duke’s Social Science Research Center.

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