Brian Wallace, Founder & President, NowSourcing
As the COVID-19 pandemic rages on, senior citizens have borne the brunt of casualties. This is especially true of those living in nursing homes, though the extent varies. As of September 2020, 25% of US coronavirus deaths occurred in nursing homes; however, 4-5 star nursing homes had 94% lower risk than their 1 star peers. When the current pandemic ends, those disparities will remain. As the Baby Boomer generation of America continues to age, nursing homes will house more people than ever in upcoming years.
Despite the upward trajectory of demand, nursing homes continue to be unpopular among Americans. Only 19% think nursing homes make seniors better off. Seniors don’t move into nursing homes because they want to, but rather because they can no longer care for themselves and lack the resources to pursue other alternatives. The average nursing home resident needs 4 hours of personalized nursing care every day due to diseases like Alzheimer’s or arthritis. Care that intensive is hard to achieve elsewhere.
Unfortunately, meeting senior’s medical needs currently comes at the cost of social isolation. Moving away from friends, familiar places, and well-established routines causes depression in 40% of seniors. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, 55% of residents said they didn’t see enough of their families, a sad reality that generates a sense of loss and abandonment in nursing home populations. These social woes don’t just leave emotional wounds; they worsen individuals’ physical health as well. Loneliness has been linked to a 400% increase in mortality, 68% increase in hospitalization, and 50% increased chance of developing dementia. 18% of all suicide deaths come from senior citizens, a greater proportion than any other age group. For senior citizens to make it through so much life only to end it in a state of misery is a tragedy that both can and should be avoided.
Nursing homes need to adapt. They have to find ways to either increase social outcomes for residents or give seniors the tools they need to live independently. Thankfully, advances in medical technology are improving the quality of nursing home care across the board. Current tech includes Aiva voice assistant, which gives seniors an easier way to communicate with other residents, family members, and caregivers from a distance. Nothing beats in person contact, but helping seniors stay in touch with the people they left behind in their move to a nursing home is one way to improve emotional and mental health. These devices are available now, and the longer they’re on the market, the more chances they’ll have to proliferate.
Future technology that’s in development right now includes Neuro Rehab VR, which uses virtual reality to help individuals recover from stroke and brain injuries. Neuro Rehab will incorporate physical therapy programs customizable to each patient’s need and operate with a video game-like interface to motivate faster recovery. New inventions can give aging people a chance at a brighter future despite the current health crisis.
About the Author: Brian Wallace is the Founder and President of NowSourcing, an industry leading infographic design agency in Louisville, KY and Cincinnati, OH which works with companies ranging from startups to Fortune 500s. Brian runs #LinkedInLocal events, hosts the Next Action Podcast, and has been named a Google Small Business Adviser for 2016-present. Follow Brian Wallace on Linked