Across the country the COVID-19 death toll continues to rise, exposing a crisis in our nation’s nursing homes and assisted living communities. It is estimated that a third of all U.S. COVID-19 deaths can be attributed to these care communities which are facing great challenges including the inability to access necessary testing and resources, inaccurate or unavailable reporting, and more.
We now know how disruptive, widespread, and deadly the impact of this pandemic is on long-term care residents and staff. Our nation must prioritize support for these communities just as we do hospitals and acute care settings. That's why the Alzheimer’s Association and AIM have sounded the alarm and released important guidance on policy solutions to address the dramatic and evolving issues impacting nursing homes and assisted living communities during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The guidance provides policy solutions to:
- enhance testing in long-term care community settings
- implement necessary reporting
- develop protocols to respond to a rise in cases
- ensure all facilities have the equipment they need (i.e. PPE)
Though a deep concern for all individuals living in these care communities and their caregivers, the COVID-19 pandemic presents additional challenges for those with dementia. While dementia likely does not increase risk for COVID-19, dementia-related behaviors, increased age and common health conditions that often accompany dementia do appear to increase risk. With nearly half of all nursing home residents living with Alzheimer’s or other dementias, and 42% of residential and assisted living residents having dementia, policymakers and care facilities must act urgently.
These have been hard times for all Americans, and we know the impact on those living with dementia and their caregivers has led to significant hardships and many deaths. Implementing these policy recommendations will better protect all those living in nursing and assisted living communities, more quickly reunite them with family members, and safeguard the professionals dedicated to caring for them every day.