Long-term Care and the Next Normal
It seems we’re back to identifying the times in which we live as BC and AD — life before COVID and life after the disease, for the COVID-19 pandemic has brought about “a fundamental schism” in the way we live. “In every area of our lives, we are wondering what the “next normal” will be in the post-COVID era. Long-term care is one such area of concern.
What is long-term care? The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration on Aging describes long-term care as the “services and supports necessary to meet health or personal care needs over an extended period of time.” This care can be provided in a facility, at home, and in the community.
- Nursing homes or skilled nursing facilities (SNF)
- Assisted living facilities (residential care homes or personal care homes)
- Hospices, for persons with terminal illnesses
- Care provided by family members
- Care delivered through agencies
- Wellness and care coordination and care as part of a Friends Life Care membership
- Adult day service centers (adult daycare centers)
- Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRC) also known as Life Plan Communities
Thanks to diet, medical science, and medical technology, Americans can live longer. The average life expectancy of someone born in America is 78.9 years: 81.4 for women and 76.3 for men. The Department of Health predicts that “someone turning age 65 today has almost a 70% chance of needing some type of long-term care services and supports in their remaining years…[while] one-third…may never need long-term care support.” Women may need care longer (3.7 years) than men (2.2 years).
Unfortunately, the pandemic has had a disproportionate effect on older adults living in long-term care facilities, namely, nursing homes and assisted living facilities. According to the Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity, less than 1 percent of the US population lives in nursing homes and assisted living facilities but 42 percent of US COVID-19 deaths have occurred in these facilities.
This anomaly is evident in other countries. In a study titled “Mortality associated with COVID-19 outbreaks in care homes: early international evidence,” published in May 2020 by the International Long Term Care Policy Network (ILTCPN), the authors found that in Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Israel and Norway, “the % of COVID-related deaths among care home residents ranges from 19% in Hungary to 62% in Canada.”
What made long-term care facilities especially vulnerable to COVID-19 deaths? Medical researchers and social scientists are still gathering data. But the CDC in its guidance to assisted living facilities advised that, “Given their congregate nature and resident population served (e.g., older adults often with underlying chronic medical conditions), nursing home populations are at high risk of being affected by respiratory pathogens like COVID-19 and other pathogens, including multidrug-resistant organisms (e.g., Carbapenemase-producing organisms, Candida auris ).” The ILTCPN study reports that as the virus progressed, as an option, home care facilities became unviable “as not enough staff is available due to sickness and self-isolation measures.”
There will be policy changes to address the weaknesses in assisted living made evident by COVID-19 and to improve the delivery of long-term care generally to a segment of the population that is growing. It would be wise, therefore, for adults to begin to think now about what they would need from long-term care in the next normal, the period after COVID.
The National Institute on Aging is correct when it says that “the best time to think about long-term care is before you need it.”
Where would you like to live as you age?
Remaining in your home is a viable option more now than ever.
Friends Life Care (FLC) is here to help persons remain in their homes as they age. They offer unique plans designed for people who want to age “in place”, that is, in their own home. The plan is practical and offers advantages that a traditional long-term care plan does not offer. If you enjoy being healthy, if you want to age healthily, if you want to maintain your independence and continue to live seamlessly, then a FLC membership can help you. The plan allows you to age intentionally, with grace and independence and in a healthy, safe environment—your home.
A member’s care plan comes with a sophisticated wellness and care coordination system that offers coordination based on your health needs. Your wellness and care coordinator builds a relationship with you as you age. As a member’s physical needs change, their care coordinator can remain by their side as an advocate and healthcare navigator.
It’s time to invest in you—your health—the smart way.
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