Many families across the United States are hesitating to seek the long term care services they need for their loved one if it means putting them in a facility. This makes sense considering that it was a long term care facility in King County, Washington, back in February that really brought the country’s awareness of the coronavirus to light. Add the fact that transmission spreads through close contact, and it is understandable that congregate living would be frowned upon.
However, in an article published on July 1, 2020, in the Concord Monitor, author David Brooks reconsidered how we look at the percentages of death that are being reported in long term care. Brooks was defending long term care facilities in New Hampshire by pointing out that while 80% of the 371 deaths attributed to Covid-19 in New Hampshire have occurred in long term care facilities, if we stop to consider that New Hampshire has 13,721 beds at facilities and 299 deaths have occurred in these facilities, that is 2.2% of the residents who live in long term care. We of course do not want any deaths attributed to Covid-19 in these facilities, but 2.2% is a much less frightening percentage than 80%. Brooks makes the point that while long term care facilities make up the majority of the deaths from Covid-19 in New Hampshire, taking into consideration the total number of people who live in long term care, the number who have died is low.
If we consider this perspective when viewing our neighboring states, New Hampshire is not so different:
There have been 145,942 deaths related to the Covid-19 in the US; 30,860 of those deaths have occurred in long term care. This means that 21% of Covid-19 deaths have occurred in long term care. However, when we consider that there are approximately 1.7 million long term care beds in the United States, we understand that the percentage of people in long term care facilities who have died of Covid-19 is 1.8%.
Let’s suppose that most people living in long term care are over the age of 75. As of July 11, 2020, there have been 77,061 deaths from Covid-19 in people over the age of 75. If we consider that there have been 30,860 deaths in long term care, we realize that 46,201 people over the age of 75 who have died from Covid-19 were not living in long term care. If we drop the age to 65, there have been 104,227 deaths of people over the age of 65; take that 30,860 out and you are left with 73,367 people, not living in long term care, who were over the age of 65 who have died of Covid-19.
There are seniors who need the services provided by long term care facilities, and families who are terrified to make the decision to place them there. Families need the reassurance that these statistics provide by showing the full picture in long term care. There is no denying that our senior population is the most vulnerable to a bad outcome if they contract Covid-19. However, this is true no matter where they live, whether at home or in long term care. Some questions families might want to consider are:
- Is my loved one better off quarantined at home, safe from Covid-19, but mentally and physically declining due to a lack of stimulation and loneliness?
- Is my loved one more vulnerable to Covid-19 because of the caregivers who come in to provide care?
- Is my loved one unsafe because they are still visiting public places to obtain the items they need?
- Would my loved one be better off living in a congregate setting that is vigilant about infection control protocols, where they will be provided with the care, comfort, and company they need?
These are questions that each family can only answer for themselves.