2020 was a challenging year for most, but the pandemic really reshaped the future of nursing homes. In the United States, nursing home residents and staff make up 36% of coronavirus deaths. Considering the US has lost over half a million people to coronavirus, that’s hundreds of thousands of seniors and staff who will never be seen again, a loss affecting millions of friends and family members.
While the elderly and chronically ill were already vulnerable to coronavirus, policies pursued by nursing homes worsened the outcome for them. In many facilities, residents free of coronavirus were forced to share rooms with individuals who had tested positive. Antibiotic cocktails were prescribed to prevent a viral disease. Families were shocked to find that banning visits from loved ones was not enough to protect them; instead, nursing home staff served as a vector for disease transmission. Even as the vaccine grows in availability, there exist nursing home workers refusing to accept the coronavirus vaccine. And no matter how angry some Americans are at nursing homes for their handling of coronavirus, 20 states have already granted them legal immunity for their mishandling of COVID-19 outbreaks. As a result of all these problems, the reputation of nursing homes is worse than ever before.
Unfortunately, the troubles ahead for long term care stretch far beyond public relations. Falling occupancies in the pandemic combined with new costs have driven 90% of nursing home facilities into financial danger. 65% of nursing homes are operating in the red while an additional 25% have a margin of under 3%. If their situation is not addressed in the near term, a lot of facilities could be forced to close doors. This is a major problem because despite the unpopularity of nursing homes, 70% of American seniors are expected to need long term care at some point in their lives. As the US population ages, nursing homes will face higher demand than ever before. Closing now means there may not be a place to serve the needs of elderly Americans in the future.
Cleanliness in the Future of Nursing Homes
What do long term care facilities need to do going forward? Infection control will remain the key to quality care long after the pandemic has ended. Disinfecting their reputation starts with disinfecting the surfaces of their facilities. On Yelp, a quarter of nursing home reviews discuss cleanliness, making it the #3 most mentioned topic. Black and Latino families rank cleanliness highly when looking for a nursing home; cleaning will continue to be important as diverse generations age.
Some easy policies to implement include frequent and proper handwashing by staff, visitors, and residents. Providing the necessary products and incentives can prevent surfaces from getting infected to begin with. After that, consistent use of a one-step multi surface cleaner around the facility can reduce healthcare-related infections by as much as 85%. The protection of disinfectants stretch beyond coronavirus: MRSA carriers and sepsis can be reduced as well.
It’s time to move things forward. Make sure cleanliness is the future nursing homes: