Deaths rise in nursing homes precipitously

As I write this in spring of 2020, we are seeing deaths and diagnoses of coronavirus climb. This may be the worst health disaster since the plague in the middle ages. It is yet another reason to stay out of a nursing home. A Seattle area skilled care facility was the epicenter for Washington state, which was one of the three hardest-hit states in the country early in the disease. The CDC found that a staff member in that nursing home worked two different days with symptoms, which then promptly spread to 82 residents. While the death toll continues, the first facility infected had 160 people sickened and 35 who died of COVID-19 as of February 2020. Two of the same hands-on staff there also worked at two different facilities, spreading the virus among staff and residents quickly. Nursing home caregivers often work more than one job in order to support themselves and their families. The CDC investigation also found seven people at the facility who were infected but showed no symptoms at the time. Cited from Seattle Times March 26, 2020.

According to the April 15, 2020 New York Times, “Virus deaths at U.S. nursing homes top 3,800, with 45 at one site in Virginia.” The Times included in its count nursing homes, assisted living facilities, memory care institutions, retirement communities, and long-term rehabilitation facilities. While these are all defined and regulated somewhat differently, the deaths and illnesses present one of the negative factors of congregate living of older people close together.  Perhaps these people would have lived longer lives at a higher quality of life in a different setting. Now, by April 18, 3 days later, the total is 6,900. “Over all, about a fifth of death from the virus in the United States have been tied to nursing homes or other long-term care facilities, The Times review of cases shows.” Today, April 23, 2020, deaths climb to over 10,000.

These deaths demonstrate one of the many reasons to take steps early in your maturity to avoid spending the last year of your life in a nursing home. Now, I’d best get back to writing that book!

Published by jeannettefranks

Jeannette Franks, PhD, is a passionate gerontologist and for over 20 years has taught ethics, grief and loss, and courses on geriatrics and gerontology for the University of Washington. Franks' most recent book is, To Move or To Stay Put: A Guide for Your Last Decades. Look for it now on the University Bookstore website It is also available at Eagle Harbor Books on Bainbridge. Franks previously published a definitive guide to independent and assisted living titled Washington Retirement Options, and often speaks on retirement options, disability issues, end-of-life issues and is an advocate for accessibility. She has a goal of making Bainbridge an elder-friendly community and is available to groups and families to discuss these issues. She served for nine years on the Kitsap County Advisory Council on Aging and Long-term Care. She also has the privilege of working in a small way for the past 15 years with the Suquamish tribal elders.

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