COLUMBUS — The Alzheimer’s Association is calling for greater attention to the needs of nursing home and assisted living facility staff and residents as deaths related to COVID-19 climb in those settings.
The Association has created a set of public policy recommendations to address the burgeoning needs of nursing homes and assisted living facilities in the areas of COVID-19 testing, reporting and surge activation.
According to some estimates, more than 27,000 residents and workers nationwide have died from the coronavirus at nursing homes and other long-term care communities. In Ohio, as of May 19, COVID-19 deaths in long-term care facilities represented 60% of Ohio’s coronavirus deaths, according to reporting by the Columbus Dispatch.
“The Alzheimer’s Association acknowledges the strain and difficulties associated with taking care of individuals with Alzheimer’s and dementia in the midst of COVID-19. Our recommendations stand out as solutions that will protect patients and assist long-term care facilities with keeping their workers safe,” Director of State Public Police for the Alzheimer’s Association Trey Addison said.
In Ohio, about 30% of the 220,000 individuals age 65 and older living with Alzheimer’s disease live in long-term care facilities. Residents with dementia are particularly susceptible to the coronavirus due to their age, increased likelihood of coexisting chronic conditions, and the community nature of these settings.
Addison said the Association has been working collaboratively with the Ohio Department of Aging and while a number of positive steps have been implemented, to better address the issues, the Association recommends:
• Implement daily testing for all new individuals who come onsite, and retest for returning individuals who enter the facility, in accordance with local guidance.
• Protect the privacy of individuals throughout the reporting process.
• Require nursing homes and assisted living communities to implement a care coordination protocol that ensures a smooth transition between care settings if a resident must be moved to another care setting.
• Designate state Long-Term Care Ombudsman and state and federal CMS Surveyors as “essential,” ensure they have priority access to personal protective equipment and authorize them to visit long-term care communities.
• Require dissemination of essential dementia care standards to aid provisional staff in the delivery of person-centered dementia care.
• Require the use of personal information forms for each resident to allow all staff to quickly identify essential information about the person to help maintain a stable and comforting environment.
• Require nursing homes and assisted living communities to address social isolation and ensure people with dementia are able to communicate with designated family/friends.
“Our recommendations are directly correlated with what we are hearing throughout Ohio, from families with a loved one in a long-term care and assisted living facility. We are targeting the entire life-cycle from testing to support. If we can be proactive in testing and reporting, the level of cases will hopefully be highly isolated, and dealt with rapidly,” Addison said.