Thoughts on COVID-19 and Long Term Care
Is an outbreak indicative of the level of care?
Long term care facilities are the perfect host for COVID-19. Residents are almost all over 65 years of age and all have health problems, many quite severe. The sickest are bathed, dressed, toileted and sometimes fed, by others - work that requires close proximity. Staff working in long-term care facilities are mostly young (its hard, physically demanding work) and may be asymptomatic. Plus, our government has had a shortage of personal protective equipment and most of that went to acute care settings, leaving long-term care personnel with little or no protection. The result is high mortality in long term care settings, with many staff also affected so staffing levels may be lower, making the situation even worse. Once the devil was in the building, it does not leave easily. I am glad government is finally realizing that there was a fire raging behind their backs but it is too late for so many.
Are the long-term care facilities to blame for this? COVID-19 is highly infectious. Entire families have been felled in one meal, so no amount of cleaning would have helped. Had long term care facilities had access to respirators, the result may have been a lower infection rate, but hospitals couldn't even get an adequate supply for staff treating COVID-19 patients. Some of the finest long-term care facilities were affected. They may have been even more at risk because they had more visitors until the governor banned them. Some poorly run facilities have escaped an outbreak just by luck.
An important thing to consider is transparency. I have to give a shout out to Rockynol, an excellent long-term care facility, for being transparent, voluntarily before the state required it. Find out if the facility was updating families when they were not required to do so. Where they sweeping it under the rug hoping no one would notice? If so, I would ask what else are they hiding?
We may see visitors being required to have their temperatures taken and use hand sanitizer before entering a long-term care facility forever. Things will change permanently. Don't let this once in a hundred year pandemic stop you from placing a relative in long-term care. Look more at their last inspection from the county health department, instead of the number of COVID-19 cases they had. Read about the types of violations they were sited for, if any. It is a much better indicator of the quality of care.