The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the necessity of quality nursing home care for senior citizens. While 25% of US coronavirus deaths occurred in nursing homes, the quality of the institution caused results to vary dramatically. As of September 2020, 4-5 star nursing homes had 94% lower risk of infection than their 1 star peers. When the pandemic ends, those disparities will remain. As the population of America ages, nursing homes will house more people than ever in the coming years.
Despite ever-growing future demand, nursing homes remain unpopular among Americans of all ages. Only 19% of Americans think nursing homes make seniors better off. Seniors don’t move into nursing homes because they want to, but because they can no longer care for themselves and lack the resources to pursue other options. Average nursing home residents need 4 hours of personalized nursing care each day due to diseases like Alzheimer’s or arthritis. Care like that is hard to receive anywhere else.
Unfortunately, meeting senior’s medical needs currently comes at the cost of social isolation. Moving away from friends and routines causes depression in 40% of seniors, a statistic tied to worse health outcomes in a bitter feedback loop. Even before COVID-19, 55% said they didn’t see enough of their families, a sad reality that can generate a sense of abandonment.
Nursing homes need to adapt. They must seek out 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. Some innovations can even help seniors regain their independence and return home. Current tech includes Solo-Step, a rehabilitation harness that prevents fall-related injuries and lets users move about more freely, and Aiva voice assistant, which gives seniors an easier way to communicate with other residents, family members, and caregivers from a distance. Coming in the future are things like The Kidney Project, an artificial kidney that would remove the need for dialysis. These products give aging people a chance at a brighter future.