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The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on most of our lives, and many of us are eager for it to end. One of the many blessings of the pandemic being over that hundreds of thousands of us are looking forward to is the ability to go and see loved ones.
The isolation brought about by social distancing policies has been particularly challenging for those of us with elderly family members. With higher risks for older people, it has felt irresponsible to visit lest you give them the disease, and it leads to negative health consequences or even their death. This is especially true for family members in nursing homes.
Nursing homes across the United States have made national news for their strict lockdown protocols that have prevented family members from visiting relatives for well over a year now. They have also been noted for their incredible, poorly contained outbreaks that have wreaked havoc on residents. This attention has led to legislation and new technologies that are designed to hold nursing homes accountable.
Neglect and poor treatment in nursing homes aren’t exactly new. Nearly everyone has heard at least one horror story of poor treatment of the elderly in a home, and some studies have indicated that nearly ⅓ of nursing homes have had negligent treatment issues. Because of this, many people feel as though a nursing home is really the last resort and are constantly on the lookout for signs of elder abuse when they visit their family members. Fortunately, this is not the norm.
The response to COVID-19 in many nursing homes has been dismal and because of that, many people are looking to their state and the Federal governments to make a difference. The response has been varied, though, with some states giving nursing homes immunity from liability due to COVID-19 deaths and others limiting protections and making it easier for families to sue. Many see these failures as an act of negligence on the part of the nursing home and feel that liability protection will just allow the problem to continue and not force significant and much-needed changes.
Given this, there are also recommendations for how nursing homes can change in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and ultimately better serve their patients. These changes include things such as:
- More registered nurses and healthcare personnel to help with and spend quality time with patients.
- Better collaboration with local hospitals.
- Reducing isolation while still improving infection control, perhaps through pods of residents who still socialize together.
- Improved oversight.
- More funding for facilities and care.
How Tech Can Help
Technology can also play a pretty large role in helping to bring greater accountability to nursing homes as well as improving the livelihoods of the residents. Something as simple as a cell phone or tablet, for instance, could allow residents more opportunities to interact with family members who may not be able to visit during the pandemic. This alone could go a long way to reduce feelings of isolation and protect mental health.
Things such as artificial intelligence can be used in nursing homes to identify patterns in health data and work on finding solutions. This type of technology can help healthcare providers in nursing homes identify when they may have a problem much sooner. Likewise, the tech can help hospitals and other outside healthcare providers determine if there is a trend in care quality or treatment in certain nursing homes.
The COVID-19 pandemic has made it especially difficult to connect with elder family members, particularly those who are currently living in nursing homes with restrictions on visitors. Numerous homes have had trouble containing outbreaks, which has led many to call for a removal of liability protection. Technologies have a means of helping ease the difficulty of the pandemic both by helping healthcare providers spot trends that could be problematic and by connecting families who cannot see each other in person.