Why the pandemic hit nursing homes in the US hardest

Nursing home folks form a significant portion of the residents who live in the United States. However, it is worth noting that irrespective of their location, size, or government rating, nursing homes have been hit twice as hard by the coronavirus during the current pandemic. According to an article by the New York Times, 60% of nursing homes (where at least 25% of the residents belong to minority ethnic groups such as being Latino or African-American) reported having more than coronavirus patients.

How are nursing homes and older adults suffering during the pandemic?
Older people and senior citizens are magnitudes more vulnerable to infectious coronavirus compared to others around them. While individuals of all ages are at equally at risk of contracting the dangerous coronavirus itself, the effects of the disease are most adversely felt by senior citizens and older people. As human beings age, their immune system gets weaker until it is no longer as strong as it once was. This weakening of the immune system means that the body is poorly equipped to fight off infections and diseases, especially ones that the body is not familiar with.

It does not help that the coronavirus does not have a vaccine and the only cure is to wait indefinitely for patients to either recover or die. Additionally, older people will typically have a host of other health complications that they are suffering from, such as heart disease, obstructive pulmonary disease, cholesterol level issues, and trouble managing healthy body weight. Add the unforgiving coronavirus that does not have a vaccine to this mix, and the result can be fatal.

How are nursing homes part of the problem?

Nursing homes in the United States of America typically house anywhere around 200 - 300 people on average. It is worth noting that these nursing homes offer shared amenities and facilities such as access to a shared kitchen, public bathroom, and other indoor locations that are open to all general residents from the nursing homes. This infrastructure is dangerous, particularly in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic because it means that older people live and dwell close to others like themselves. Even if the coronavirus infects one person, it could potentially translate into disastrous outcomes for everyone in the nursing home.

What can be done?

Suggesting that senior citizens and older adults be dismissed from nursing homes is not a viable solution. However, the following basic precautions can be taken:

  • Maintaining social distance from each other.
  • Wearing protective gear such as gloves, face masks, and shoe covers to avoid spreading the virus.
  • Using disposable utensils.
  • Reporting potential symptoms as soon as they are felt.
  • Quarantining if someone from the outside is new to the nursing home.
  • Following standard healthy and safety protocols.

The real threat of coronavirus infection comes not from those who live at the nursing home, but rather those who work there or visit its residents. Nursing home employees have critical jobs and are considered first responders during the pandemic. Unfortunately, they can also be the source of the disease entering the nursing homes, because they have their own lives to attend to after work. Wearing personal protective equipment especially shoe covers, is the most helpful and effective precaution nursing home workers can take to ensure that the people they care for are protected.

Battling the coronavirus is not easy. However, until a reliable vaccine is available, our safest choice is to keep our loved ones protected as much as we possibly can.


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