Smaller Nursing Homes Fared Better in Pandemic

After nearly a year of devastating losses from the novel coronavirus, especially among elderly adults in long-term care facilities, new research has some positive news about smaller nursing homes that have been better able to limit COVID-19 infections and deaths.  As families wrestle with finding safe, reliable and compassionate care for their parents and other loved ones, nontraditional care facilities like Green House homes, are an option to consider. 

According to a recent study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Directors Association, small 10-12 bed care homes for seniors have caught the attention of researchers with their ability to limit the spread of COVID-19.  The home-like setting of small nursing facilities is not only more comforting to residents, but they shine as a promising model for future elder care as the number of seniors continues to swell. 

Researchers in the Green House study compared rates of coronavirus infection, admission/readmissions, and COVID-19 mortality with rates in other nursing homes between January 20, 2020, and July 31, 2020.   Smaller nursing homes had a reduced risk for the spread of infections due to their limited beds, as well as fewer staff and visitors who might put residents at risk.  Consistent staff, private rooms and bathrooms as well as a smaller overall space also helped account for the reduced risk for the spread of infection, resulting in fewer hospital stays, less healthcare spending and fewer deaths. 

As more alternatives to the traditional large-scale nursing homes emerge, research has found that elderly adults, especially those with dementia, thrive in a more home-like familiar setting.  When there is less risk for the spread of illness, staff turnover is reduced, helping to provide more consistent, reliable care for elderly residents.  

Now that the United States has rolled out the coronavirus vaccine to its most vulnerable populations starting in late December, new cases and deaths in nursing homes have fallen steeply, according to the New York Times.   New cases dropped by more than 80 percent by early February and deaths inside facilities have decreased by more than 65 percent.  

Although the news for seniors in care is vastly improving as officials get a handle on the spread of COVID-19 in long-term care facilities, disease experts are already planning for the next global pandemic.  Planning for the needs of the older population with future risks of disease, impacts of global warming and new ways to deliver healthcare is in motion as governments and seniors agencies work to prepare for life after a pandemic.