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 continues 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.
It’s Never Been So Important for Nursing Facilities to Embrace Internet Connectivity
Nursing homes must move ahead in their efforts to encourage internet connectivity and use, as well as provide the necessary hardware to do so. Boucher shares a typical scenario where “If a facility is lucky, it has one iPad that goes around from patient to patient.” There are concerns for this model in terms of limited access to technology as well as infection control. However, for many facilities, Boucher adds, “That’s not adequate for possibly hundreds of residents who might want to be connecting virtually with their friends and family.” Care communities should enhance these efforts and take full advantage of technology to keep people connected. McConnell suggests expanding technology access and assets by “taking advantage of civil monetary penalty funds to support this type of effort,” and offers that “I have heard some of my colleagues in acute care talking about how an iPad is now just another piece of medical equipment.” She adds that if acute care can get tablets into the workflow and manage infection control, skilled nursing and assisted living can do the same.
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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