PA Dementia Patients Disproportionately Impacted by COVID:
Pennsylvania nursing home residents suffering from dementia were among the most severely impacted during the coronavirus pandemic, says an article on nbcphiladelphia.com. The combination of insufficiently staffed and inadequately trained workers and a lack of measures to ensure homes met minimal requirements left many dementia patients especially unprotected during the most crucial days of the crisis.
While the havoc wrought by the virus upon long-term care facilities is common knowledge, its impact on those residents suffering from dementia is less well-known. According to nbcphiladelphia.com, even though PA homes with designated dementia units total less than a third of all Pennsylvania long-term care facilities, these homes account for 70% of all such facilities that had five or more deaths from COVID. In southwestern PA alone, 17 of 34 long-term care homes with dementia wards suffered five or more deaths from COVID.
The article also referenced a February study reviewing over 60 million medical records from across the nation that showed that people with dementia were found to be twice as likely as those without the impairment to be infected with COVID-19 and almost four times as likely to die from it.
While whether or not dementia patients are more physically susceptible to COVID (e.g. if the condition’s damage to the blood-brain barrier facilitates the virus’s entry into the brain) is a question that has yet to be answered, it is agreed these patients’ memory impairment puts them at a disadvantage in terms of protecting themselves from the virus. Among the basic and necessary preventative measures that prove difficult for those suffering from dementia includes:
- Remembering to wear a mask
- Staying cognizant of proper social distancing
- Maintaining hand hygiene
- Practicing cough etiquette
These issues were compounded in personal care homes by the lack of state infection control regulations, the dearth of medically trained staff, and the low—and rarely state-monitored— minimal requirement of just two hours of care per day per dementia patient.
Increasing staffing has long been a challenge in U.S. nursing homes, and as the number of Pennsylvanians living with dementia continues to grow, the staffing problem will only become more dire. Since 2015 the number of dementia units in PA homes has grown by 22 percent. Even in the past year the need for greater dementia care has exploded, which NBC Philadelphia attributes to the isolation experienced by many nursing home residents during the shutdown.
With PA dementia patients disproportionately impacted by COVID, recommendations to make regulation changes regarding training and other aspects of PA long-term care were suggested by the state’s Alzheimer’s Association last summer. Jen Ebersole, the association’s director of state government affairs, said she feared that, unless changes are made, problems will only worsen.
Making Your Loved One’s Safety a Priority
Determining the quality and safety of the Philadelphia/PA or NJ nursing home where your loved one lives is essential. Meeting health and safety standards and to ensuring the physical, mental, and psycho/social well-being of their residents is a requirement to which Pennsylvania and New Jersey nursing homes must adhere. Should you have concerns about the quality of care in a Pennsylvania or New Jersey nursing home, or if you suspect neglect, abuse, or fraud has occurred at the Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, or New Jersey nursing home where your loved one lives, please contact nursing home abuse attorney Brian P. Murphy to discover your legal rights and options.