Applying the Lessons of the COVID-19 Pandemic to Improve Nursing Homes
When COVID-19 was first reported in the U.S. a year ago, few anticipated that we would soon be in the throes of a once-in-a-century pandemic. Tens of millions of Americans have contracted the virus, and over 500,000 have tragically lost their lives.
Nursing homes quickly became the epicenter of our global health crisis. The age and frailty of the people in our care made them primary targets for the virus, and lack of prioritization for critical resources at the outset resulted in tens of thousands losing their lives.
After a year of unprecedented challenges, few words can describe what the vaccines have meant to our residents and staff. They are truly the life-saving turning point we have anticipated for so long. We are thankful for the exemplary leadership of governors who recognized the necessity of putting long term care residents and staff at the front of the line.
Since December, new COVID cases in nursing homes have declined drastically. In fact, nursing homes nationwide are experiencing the lowest number of weekly cases since the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services began tracking data in May 2020. This means that many providers are now able to reopen their doors and finally reunite residents with their loved ones, who for too long have had to visit from a distance.
We have every reason to be hopeful, but we cannot yet close the book on this time in our nation’s history. There is still a crisis in front of us, and complacency risks erasing some of the progress we have made. We will continue to do everything we can to ensure every resident and staff member remain healthy and safe. In turn, we hope that our leaders and members of the public will do everything they can to keep community spread down during this time of transition.
It’s time to learn from the events of the past year and begin to rebuild. The pandemic is a watershed moment for nursing homes. Systemic issues that have existed within our sector for years have been magnified by COVID-19. Nursing home leaders, policymakers and stakeholders must work hand-in-hand to ensure that the tragedies we experienced never happen again – and that every older adult has access to the high-quality care they deserve.
We believe that reforms based on four core principles are needed to strengthen our sector.