When senior citizens were confirmed to bear the brunt of COVID-19 casualties, increased attention fell upon their age group and living conditions. More specifically, seniors living in nursing homes face great risk from the disease. As of September 2020, 25% of US coronavirus deaths occurred in nursing homes; however, 4-5 star nursing homes had 94% lower risk than their 1 star peers. Quality differences matter, and they aren’t going away as the nursing home industry expands. The more Americans age, the more demand for nursing homes will grow.
Despite changes in demand, nursing homes are disliked by Americans. Only 19% think they make seniors better off. Seniors don’t move into nursing homes because they want to. Rather, it’s because they can no longer care for themselves and lack the resources to pursue other alternatives. The average nursing home resident needs 4 hours of personalized nursing care every day. Care that intensive is hard to come by elsewhere.
Unfortunately, meeting senior’s medical needs currently comes at the cost of social isolation. Even before COVID-19, 55% said they didn’t see enough of their families, a sad reality generating a sense of loss and abandonment. Nursing homes need to adapt. They have to find ways to either increase social outcomes for residents or give seniors the tools they need to live independently.
Advances in medical technology are improving the quality of nursing home care all around. Some innovations can even help seniors regain independence and return home. Current tech includes Solo-Step, a rehabilitation harness that prevents fall-related injuries and allows users to move freely. Coming in the future are inventions like The Kidney Project, an artificial kidney that would remove the need for dialysis. These products give aging people a chance for a brighter future.