According to statistics, more than one-third of national COVID-19 deaths have occurred in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities. This includes skilled nursing facilities, assisted living facilities, and memory-care homes. Some experts say that it's the density of these facilities that encouraged the spread of the virus, while others point out that it's the high-risk age group most likely housed that's the reason for so many tragic deaths.
It’s probably both, notes award-winning journalist John Hirschauer in an opinion piece for National Review. But while some call for an outright abolishment for group home settings in favor of community-based care, he argued that people like severely demented adults "are often a danger to themselves or others and require the more structured environment for a state hospital or memory-care facility."
Hirschauer said that the pandemic has forced us to re-evaluate our long-term care facilities to avoid a repeat of the tragedy.
Dr. Charles C. Camosy, who teaches bioethics and moral theology at Fordham University, wrote in The New York Times that the "nursing home horror" revealed by the pandemic should be a wakeup call to address what he calls our "throwaway culture" and ensure that nursing homes in the future are better staffed and monitored. He said he heard from dozens of nursing home workers who said they had inadequate personal protective equipment and little training to deal with the COVID-19 crisis. He heard from staff members who were forced to quit because of inadequate testing. COVID-19 patients were often discharged from hospitals and returned to their long-term care facilities.
"We need to listen to people like this and act on what they are saying," he told the Times. "The pandemic doesn't have many silver linings, but as the number of nursing home deaths piles up, the news media is being forced to cover a world many of us would prefer to ignore."
Hirschauer wrote that perhaps one solution to the problem would be to establish a "cottage plan" model of congregate care, popular in the early 20th century, that would isolate infected patients in a separate housing facility or unit, in a campus-like setting, rather than housing everyone in a "drab and clinical central facility."
"A return to something like this would help ward off future outbreaks by making it easier to isolate affected residents, while also helping to make long-term institutional care more humane and home-like for those who require it."
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