COLUMBUS -- The Alzheimer’s Association on Thursday called for greater attention to the needs of nursing home and assisted living facility staff and residents as deaths related to COVID-19 climb in those settings.
The association has created a set of public policy recommendations to address the burgeoning needs of nursing homes and assisted living facilities in the areas of COVID- 19 testing, reporting and surge activation.
According to some estimates, more than 27,000 residents and workers nationwide have died from the coronavirus at nursing homes and other long-term care communities.
In Ohio, as of Thursday, COVID-19 deaths in long-term care facilities represented 70 percent of Ohio’s coronavirus deaths, according to media reports, the association said.
"The Alzheimer’s Association acknowledges the strain and difficulties associated with taking care of individuals with Alzheimer’s and dementia in the midst of COVID-19. Our recommendations stand out as solutions that will protect patients and assist long-term care facilities with keeping their workers safe," said Trey Addison, director of state public policy for the Alzheimer’s Association.
In Ohio, about 30 percent of the 220,000 individuals age 65 and older living with Alzheimer’s disease live in long-term care facilities. Residents with dementia are particularly susceptible to the coronavirus due to their age, increased likelihood of coexisting chronic conditions, and the community nature of these settings, the association said.
Addison said the association has been working collaboratively with the Ohio Department of Aging. While a number of positive steps have been implemented, to better address the issues, the association recommends:
• Implement daily testing for all new individuals who come onsite, and retesting for returning individuals who enter the facility, in accordance with local guidance.
• Protect the privacy of individuals throughout the reporting process.
• Require nursing homes and assisted living communities to implement a care coordination protocol that ensures a smooth transition between care settings if a resident must be moved to another care setting.
• Designate state Long-Term Care Ombudsman and state and federal CMS Surveyors as “essential,” ensure they have priority access to personal protective equipment and authorize them to visit long-term care communities.
• Require dissemination of essential dementia care standards to aid provisional staff in the delivery of person-centered dementia care.
• Require the use of personal information forms for each resident to allow all staff to quickly identify essential information about the person to help maintain a stable and comforting environment.
• Require nursing homes and assisted living communities to address social isolation and ensure people with dementia are able to communicate with designated family/friends.
“Our recommendations are directly correlated with what we are hearing throughout Ohio, from families with a loved one living in a long-term care and assisted living facility. We are targeting the entire life-cycle from testing to support. If we can be proactive in testing and reporting, the level of cases will hopefully be highly isolated, and dealt with rapidly,” Addison said.
In March, the Alzheimer’s Association released guidance to help ensure the delivery of high-quality care for people living with Alzheimer’s and all dementia in long-term care and community-based settings during the current COVID-19 crisis.
Released in collaboration with 36 long-term care and community-based care providers and affiliated associations, the document identifies important care considerations and incorporates evidence-based strategies from the Alzheimer’s Association Dementia Care Recommendations to assist staff in long-term and community-based care settings during emergency situations. The document is aimed at focusing non-clinical staff needed during a crisis on the most important considerations in caring for persons with dementia.