It’s common knowledge that nursing homes bore the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite accounting for less than 1% of the population, nursing home residents suffered 20% of the nation’s COVID-19 related deaths. Over 2,000 nursing home workers also died. The immense stress of fighting disease in an ever-changing landscape has driven hundreds of thousands away from caregiving; since 2020, nursing homes have lost 15% of their workforce.
Yet infection control isn’t a new problem in nursing homes. Diseases like the flu and gastroenteritis have killed thousands of nursing home residents every year pre-pandemic. Infection control was the most commonly cited deficiency on state surveys. Yet due to the high transmissibility and relatively high lethality of COVID-19, the problem received a national spotlight as it tore through nursing homes. Communicating and implementing new policies was a challenge during the pandemic, as was securing the proper equipment. It was a high stress environment in which failure could be deadly.
America’s population is aging. More elderly people need long term care than ever seen before, yet nursing homes are closing before they can serve this need. Nursing homes need new tools, new people, and new training if they are to succeed.