What is the COVID-19 Pandemic Changing about the Future of Long-Term Care

April 1, 2021
April 1, 2021

Current events have focused our attention like never before on the long-term care industry and on the mostly older adult population who make it their home. According to the Claude Pepper Center, an aging-focused institute at Florida State University, “The COVID-19 pandemic has created enormous pressure on the entire health care system, but possibly the most tragic impact has been on the long-term care system for both younger and older people in residential care programs” (Claude Pepper Center, N.D.). Nursing homes are feeling the full force of this impact; 85% of their residents make up the demographic most vulnerable to this disease—people aged 80 years and older. By mid-June the United States had already reached a grave milestone, where “the fatality count in nursing homes has topped 50,000, about 43% of the 116,700 deaths tracked in the country” (Soucheray, 2020). This has occurred even though nursing home residents represent less than 1% of the United States population. A June 2020 analysis in the Wall Street Journal found that “cases in nursing homes stand at 250,000, a likely undercount as not all states have reported nursing home cases uniformly” (Soucheray, 2020). Clearly this threat is focused on older adults as a result of the environments in which they are spending their final years. What does it mean for the future of the long-term care industry, which is an undeniably necessary part of the care continuum?

COVID-19 May Accelerate Changes Already Happening in Long-Term Care

According to an article posted by WHYY, the NPR affiliate in Philadelphia, “As the baby boomer generation ages, hospital systems, government agencies and insurers have been shifting long-term care away from costly institutions and toward the home for at least a decade. Many experts predict that the risks posed by COVID-19 may accelerate that process, whether the system is ready for it or not” (Feldman & Benshoff, 2020). The same article emphasizes the importance for nursing home operations and finances of “patients discharged from the hospital to recover after operations like joint replacements, or short-term illness like COVID-19, that come with higher reimbursement rates.” The reporters offer that “Many nursing homes subsidize the care of their long-term patients through those short-term patients, who stay for just a few weeks.” One way the long-term care industry may hope to deal with the growing needs of our rapidly aging population is to shift more aging care to the home, so that valuable, higher-dollar rehabilitative services needs can continue to be met.

The article also includes:

  • COVID-19 Is Pushing More Patients to Make Home Care Decisions
  • An Industry Beset by Challenges but Favored by Demographic Trends


Claude Pepper Center, “COVID-19’s Impact on Long-Term Care,” Website, Retrieved at https://claudepeppercenter.fsu.edu/coronavirus-covid-19-and-you/covid-19s-impact-on-long-term-care/.
Feldman, N., and Benshoff, L., “‘Nursing homes as we know them are over’: COVID-19 fuels push to home-based care,” WHYY, June 12, 2020, Retrieved at https://whyy.org/articles/nursing-homes-as-we-know-them-are-over-covid-19-fuels-push-to-home-based-care/.
Soucheray, S., “Nursing homes might account for 40% of US COVID-19 deaths,” Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP), June 16, 2020, Retrieved at https://www.cidrap.umn.edu/news-perspective/2020/06/nursing-homes-might-account-40-us-covid-19-deaths.


This blog post excerpts a HealthStream article, Envisioning the Future of Long-Term Care During the COVID-19 Pandemic.” Download the full article here.

HealthStream Solutions for the Long-Term Care Workforce

There is a long list of challenges facing skilled and long-term care (LTC) providers. Turnover rates, for example, for clinical care in nursing homes range from 55 to 75 percent, with rates among Certified Nurse Assistants (CNAs) approaching 100 percent in some areas. With consistent wage pressures, shifting compliance regulations, and rising acuity levels among resident populations, the skilled nursing and LTC workforce is feeling more pressure than ever before. HealthStream works with skilled nursing and LTC facilities to address these challenges, from keeping pace with regulatory requirements to engaging and developing competent staff who can satisfy the demands of increased patient complexity. By partnering with HealthStream, organizations are equipped to seamlessly manage the pressures of surveyor visits, while remaining focused on high-quality patient and resident care.