Post-COVID, View of Nursing Homes Erodes
COVID has moved from a central place in our lives to a risk that, while still important to heed, has moved out of the foreground.
One thing we will not forget, however, is COVID’s toll on nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, where the virus has killed more than 200,000 older Americans and staff. The tragedy also played out in nursing homes in Canada, where the deaths received high-profile coverage in the news media, just as they did in this country.
A survey of Canadians at the end of 2020, while COVID was still raging, indicates that the pandemic caused major changes in their thinking about old age. The reaction of a majority of people in their 50s and 60s to what they saw happening was to say they intend to avoid ever spending time in a nursing home, according to a summary of the survey by Canadian researchers.
It’s not hard to understand why so many deaths left such a lasting impression. What may be more surprising is the potentially big shift in what Canadians now believe should be done to address the situation.
More than two out of three Canadians surveyed said government could increase taxes to fund more government support for someone to come into retirees’ homes and help them with daily activities such as cooking, shopping, showering, and dressing.
But home care is an expensive proposition: the cost of one month in a nursing facility in Canada would buy only about two hours of home care per day. However, about one in four individuals said they would also take more responsibility themselves for preventing a nursing home stay by saving money to pay for their future home care.
The researchers point out that since the Canadian and U.S. experiences with COVID were very similar, public opinion here is likely to be very similar too.
Given that, they said, “policies aimed at making home care more affordable might better meet the preferences of older Americans in the wake of the pandemic.”
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True in Canada and equally true in the U.S. Nursing homes are under-funded and under-staffed and remain generally feared and hated by most seniors. We treat our frail elders with neglect and act surprised at the occasional headline-grabbing bad event such as waves of deaths. A radical restructuring of how we care for our aged fellow citizens is needed. Models are available, largely in Europe, of how to care for disabled elders in a better way.
“But home care is an expensive proposition: the cost of one month in a nursing facility in Canada would buy only about two hours of home care per day.” That is counterintuitive. Could this be comparing out-of-pocket home care with subsidized nursing home care?
In the United States, in home care is less expensive than nursing homes. Maybe a shift in Medicaid monies from nursing homes to in home care would accelerate the shift.
Nursing Homes are understaffed and overworked employees are not the most compassionate. No one wants to end up in one, especially the privately owned ones that operate for a profit. These cut corners and the residents can be getting not only bad care, but bad nutrition. It is a very scary challenge to be aging now. Hopefully more elderly can stay in their homes in the future. As a former nurse, I feel we live in a society where we isolate and forget about our elderly citizens way too much.