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Long-term Healthcare Facilities and Coronavirus

Long-term Healthcare Facilities and Coronavirus

It’s never easy when you have to find a long-term housing solution for an ill loved one, but it is especially difficult during times of a pandemic. Covid has upended all of our lives for an uncertain amount of time.

Recently, the government of New York has come under fire for a directive requiring long-term elder care facilities to take on non-critical coronavirus patients. New York was one of several states to issue such a directive. The intent of the directive was to alleviate the strain on overtaxed hospitals.

While the intent seems reasonable at first glance, it came at the cost of increased exposure for an already vulnerable population. Elder care facilities by nature house a large number of chronically ill people in close proximity. Chronic illness increases an individual’s likelihood of contracting coronavirus.

Between March 25 and May 10, over 4,500 patients recovering from coronavirus were introduced into this population. At the same time, the state’s coronavirus death toll in these facilities exceeded 5,800—the highest in the United States. It is unclear whether the directive contributed to this total. But, given the forces at play in elder care facilities right now, it certainly added to the stress on these facilities.

Unclear directions about isolation measures for residents and staff exposed to the virus helped create these stresses. In addition, many areas prioritized hospitals’ needs for PPE over those of care facilities. Large orders of PPE diverted supplies from care facilities and created supply chain ripples that led to weeks-long waiting periods for equipment. Testing problems plagued care facilities, too.

Staffing issues have also been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic. In facilities with high staffing losses or many staff members who had to be quarantined, there were simply too few caregivers. A lack of care compounded the problems associated with the virus.

It was into this complicated backdrop that these 4,500 patients came. While the New York directive was in effect, state officials declared that facilities did not have a right to object. Since the order has been rescinded, they have changed direction, claiming that overtaxed facilities could have turned away patients. The governor has defended his actions as being in line with guidance from the White House. No matter the reason—or the justification—this short-sighted plan created an unnecessary strain on facilities and unnecessary exposure for vulnerable elderly adults.

Family and caregivers face this and a number of other challenges as they attempt to keep elderly loved ones safe right now. It is hard to know what to do, and it can be tricky to find a reliable source of information. Coronavirus: Protecting Yourself and Your Loved One by Laura Town and Karen Hoffman is a starting point for finding the answers you need.


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