COVID-19 is spreading like wildfire through nursing homes and creating a dangerous, potentially fatal situation for elderly residents and those with underlying health conditions such as diabetes, cancer, heart disease, etc. Those who acquire the virus are being left in a state of limbo between hospitals and the healthcare they need, and nursing home facilities that don’t have the training or equipment to care for them.
Hospitals Accept Only Critical Patients
In order to ensure that the most critical patients receive care, many nursing home facilities are being advised to provide palliative care and treatment to elderly residents. Ostensibly, this is being done to prevent overwhelming the hospital system. However, the reality is that many of these neglected patients turn critical with little to no warning, at which point their prognosis becomes significantly worse.
Nursing Homes Won’t Accept Patients Released from Hospitals
On the other side, elderly residents who are released from hospital care are being turned away by nursing home facilities fearful that the individual will spread the virus throughout their facility. Even though the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services relaxed rules regarding which patients can receive nursing home care, many facilities are becoming increasingly reluctant to accept these non-critically ill patients after their discharge from hospital care.
The Risks are Real and Residents are Paying the Price
While data is still coming in, current records show that nursing home facilities afflicted by coronavirus outbreaks suffer 30-50% case fatality rates. This is one reason why the American Health Care Association has issued guidelines for nursing homes that state these facilities can accept patients who are COVID-19 negative, and that any patients exhibiting potential symptoms should be tested prior to admission.
When nursing home facilities refuse to accept an individual based on their COVID-19 status, these individuals are being forced to depend on hospital care. Many are forced to rely on the at-home care conducted by friends and family who are often ill-trained, and ill-prepared to protect themselves from acquiring the virus or to provide the care required to help their loved one recover.
For now, it’s clear that nursing home facilities and hospitals are putting nursing home resident health and safety at risk by attempting to shift the buck for their care to one another. Until that stops, elderly residents and those with underlying conditions are being left in limbo between the lifesaving care they need and death.