OKLAHOMA CITY – As Oklahoma’s COVID-19 cases continue to rise due to community spread, the long-term care community is urging all Oklahomans to remember the unique impact the virus has on nursing home residents and other seniors. As has been widely reported, nursing homes have been hard hit by COVID and at least 310 long-term care (LTC) facility residents have lost their lives to the virus. Less widely understood, however, is that nursing home residents remain in a state of quarantine or in strictly limited visitation in much of the state where cases continue to rise.
“Many nursing home residents are essentially living in pseudo-isolation,” said Care Providers Oklahoma President and CEO Steven Buck. “They can’t have their loved ones visit because COVID-19 is still spreading in the community and those visitors are a likely point-of-entry for the virus. Additionally, many of the social options within the facilities themselves are limited or unavailable. We need to see a significant reduction in community spread before life can return to something resembling normal for our residents. That means we need everyone to do their part to contain this virus, by wearing a mask, practicing safe social distancing, and washing their hands frequently.”
Studies widely report that the single most important factor for COVID-19 appearing within a nursing home is location, not metrics related to quality or staffing. A study conducted by Dr. David Grabowski of Harvard Medical School concludes, “COVID‐19 cases in nursing homes are related to facility location and size and not traditional quality metrics such as star rating and prior infection control citations.”
In Oklahoma, a large number of COVID-19 infections (almost 25 percent) were at one time occurring in LTC settings. That has fallen to just 5.7 percent, meaning the vast majority of infections are now occurring due to community spread.
Buck said he worries that some in the public and some policymakers are forgetting that COVID-19 represents a major, existential crisis for the long-term care profession, which has been saddled with major expenses as staff scramble to protect residents from the virus. According to a recent survey released by the American Health Care Association (AHCA) and the National Center for Assisted Living (NCAL), 55 percent of nursing homes national are operating at a loss and 72 percent say they won’t be able to sustain operations for another year at the current pace.
“The public is talking about how to safely reopen schools and offices and restaurants, and we are now hearing less about nursing homes and their residents,” said Buck. “We can’t allow ourselves to forget these elderly Oklahomans just because they are out of sight. This is a life and death situation for the people we serve. It’s also a major assault on quality of life for men and women who see every day as precious. We want to remind the public that what they do outside of our facilities impacts the people inside of them, and what our younger people do has a profound impact on the elderly.”
Buck said nursing homes that had significant COVID outbreaks are still desperately seeking adequate financial assistance from the state and federal government.
Nursing Homes: Don't Forget LTC Residents During Pandemic FeaturedWritten by David Deaton