The fact that 115,000 people have so far died this year in nursing homes from COVID-19, and many times have become infected has prompted many families to reconsider whether to place their elderly loved ones in such institutions. According to the Wall Street Journal, overall occupancy in US nursing homes is down 15%, or 195,000 residents, in the past year. The decline in nursing homes covered by Medicare is even steeper, as shown in the chart below.
The truth is that almost no one wants to live in a nursing home, especially now that 2 in 5 US deaths have occurred in such facilities, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. They are last resort institutions, for use when an older person becomes too sick to care for themselves and when they have no one else available to provide daily support. Nursing homes, skilled nursing facilities, and rehabilitation facilities serve an essential purpose in our society. Still, by and large, they have been neglected, causing the industry’s reputation to (rightfully) suffer.
Future signs of rising Covid Nursing Home Deaths to come
Keep in mind that the Aging in Place trend began before COVID-19. The pandemic just accelerated the trend as more people work from home, and more in-home care services are available through Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurance. Over time, however, and as the pandemic fades, we believe there will be a slow shift or an increase back to nursing homes and the long-term care industry (e.g., RCFEs – Residential Care for the Elderly.) Why? Because demographics will ultimately rule the day. There are just too many baby boomers coming into their years of old-age and not enough children to take care of them all. Within ten years, York Law predicts that there will be a “Silver Tsunami” of elderly who will be forced to seek refuge in nursing homes. Despite the current slump, the industry is not going away. Could this lead to an increase of Covid Nursing Home Deaths?
How to avoid Covid Nursing Home Deaths
Nursing home chain operators have a vested interest in cutting costs, providing minimum care standards, and investing the minimum in facilities and staff. During the past ten months, we saw the result – a wave of COVID-19 infections tore through the the facilities, which were understaffed, poorly maintained, and had inadequate infection control procedures.
We hope that the latest series of events will serve as a wake-up call to regulators. Theyneed to get serious about regulating, monitoring, and forcing compliance on every nursing home in the country. In the meantime, we encourage families to ask hard questions and review publicly available nursing home data before admitting a family member. Vote with your feet, and do not choose to admit someone to a facility unless its record of getting through the pandemic is spotless.
The nursing home industry is a $130 billion a year behemoth that will surely find a way to survive this latest downturn, most likely by getting into the Home Care business as well. Be careful who you trust with the care of your aging relatives. Do your homework, and don’t fall for slick marketing campaigns. Ask to see hard data and compare it to what’s available from the US Government Centers for Medicare and Medicaid. We hope that this impending data will not lead to and increase of Covid Nursing Home Deaths.
Attorney Wendy York of York Law Firm specializes in prosecuting elder abuse and wrongful death cases. If you have questions or concerns related to Covid Nursing Home Death risks, please contact attorney Wendy York, at York Law Firm.