published a story about how the fear of catching the disease has caused many patients to have gone weeks without a shower or having their teeth brushed, while residents with dementia have suffered from lack of human contact. This often leads to depression, loss of weight, mobility and speech. Sharon Wallace, a senior whose multiple sclerosis caused her to go into a nursing home, told the NYT, “I feel like my health is going downhill.” This has made Aging In Place a more popular option as Assisted Living Facilities become hotbeds for disease. “Nursing homes are really little hospitals, yet they’re not staffed like it. If you asked an I.C.U. nurse to take care of 15 people, she’d laugh at you, but that’s essentially what we have,” Chris Laxton, the executive director of AMDA, the Society for Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine said.
The San Francisco Chronicle recently wrote a sad story about Shirley Drexler who died two months into the coronavirus pandemic, “not from COVID-19. She died of despair.” According to the article, she was called the “queen of Rhoda Goldman Plaza,” an assisted living facility in the Western Addition. She joined in almost every activity, flitting from table to table during long lunch hours. However, on March 17, Drexler and every other resident were abruptly shut in their rooms. She stopped eating and didn’t want to get out of bed. “It was like she lost the will to keep going,” Adrienne Fair, assistant executive director of the facility, told the San Francisco chronicle. At Family inHome Caregiving, we find this story all too familiar. When family members decide to institutionalize a senior, they often lose hope and quickly pass away. Without the familiar faces of friends and family and their normal routine, they often lose the will to live. At Family inHome Caregiving, we focus on giving our senior clients plenty of exercise, nutritious meals and plenty of social interaction. We strive to allow seniors to remain in their own homes and independent for as long as possible and are seeing many families pull their loved ones out of local facilities to be brought back home so they don’t catch COVID-19.
Almost all nursing homes in Monterey County have reported coronavirus outbreaks, and this may signal a paradigm shift where more people decide to live out their final years at home. The U.S. currently has the largest number of nursing home residents in the world and accounts for the largest number of COVID-19 deaths in the U.S., a total of 115K. Occupancy in nursing homes is down by 15%, due both to deaths and a decrease in admissions.
COVID-19 has made aging at home in vogue. The Wall Street Journal recently wrote an article on how coronavirus is changing the way Americans face retirement by “accelerating developments already under way,” physician Bill Thomas said to the reporter. “It’s going to make people rethink retirement altogether,” Laura Carstensen, director of Stanford University’s Center on Longevity said. Most people will age at home, and remain independent, she said. I believe that her view is true. With roughly 40% of COVID-19 being staff and residents of nursing homes, nobody wants to go into a facility these days. We have been getting a number of calls from fearful children who want to get their parents out of assisted living and back home, where they can reduce the risk of coronavirus exposure. Although COVID-19 will eventually be wiped out, there will clearly be more devastating diseases in the future which makes these facilities dangerous.