In this episode of the Long-Term Care Section of the SOA Podcasts, CEO of The Helper Bees Char Hu, Ph.D., discusses the implications of the Coronavirus pandemic on long-term care (LTC). In the course of their conversation, they tackle staffing, safety protocols, digital transformation, and the future of both facility and home-based care.
COVID-19 has had a tremendous impact worldwide, and senior care facilities were not immune. Throughout the pandemic, care facilities have faced the struggle of protecting both their staff and their residents. A lack of available PPE, in particular, was a facility’s greatest struggle when the pandemic began.
Compounding the problem, facilities had their lowest occupancy rates ever due to staggering loss of life and difficulty admitting new patients. To keep current residents safe, facilities were required to quarantine new patients for two weeks to ensure they were virus-free. However, the disruptions to routine and additional staff associated with quarantine make it challenging to implement, especially with dementia patients.
The rollout of the vaccine creates new concerns as well. The relatively small number of people living in facilities doesn’t necessitate a traveling unit to come and vaccinate residents. As such, managers must find a way to get a large number of their patients to a vaccination campus off-site. However, the disruption in routine is a significant problem for dementia patients, making travel for vaccination arduous. A solution is necessary to ensure that all staff and residents are vaccinated and safe in long-term care communities.
TECHNOLOGY IN THE TIME OF COVID
Since the start of the pandemic, the growth and development of technology have developed considerably. Facilities, staff, and residents have become more comfortable with a sizeable technological presence in the long-term care process. Services like Zoom have opened new doors to virtual assistance in the LTC industry.
This advance in technology not only helps in long-distance communications but in many other areas. Activities such as virtual physical therapy and art classes are widely available now. Changes like these have significantly aided in monitoring and improving the mental and physical health of the elderly during the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite all the hurdles the LTC industry has faced, this shift in technology has allowed for huge patient activity monitoring and scalability transformations.
There may be many permanent changes in the post-pandemic world. This technological shift will allow for innovative and scalable innovations in the aging in place and long-term care industry. As a society, many more people are comfortable with safety equipment such as gloves and masks in their everyday lives. Pre-pandemic many had never worn a mask, but regular PPE use will no longer seem so scary.
This acceptance of personal safety gear helps us stay safer and healthier even as the pandemic comes to an end. While we are all ready for this outbreak to be over, there may be a silver lining. As we emerge from this pandemic, we are now allowing for a brighter and more innovative future.