At this point, we’ve all had our lives change a little (or a lot!) when it comes to the coronavirus and its current threat to the United States. Let’s talk about our new normal, how we can help minimize the risk to America’s elderly, and what care facilities can and should be doing to protect their patients.
What is Coronavirus?
Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), is a respiratory illness. It was given its name late last year when an illness appeared caused by a novel (new) coronavirus. It was found in Wuhan, China, and has since spread.
It has been identified in nearly a million people in the world and there have been at least 150,000 confirmed cases here in the United States as of April 1. As you know by now, this count changes daily, and the numbers we’re reporting are already out of date.
The symptoms can be mild, but it can also lead to severe illness. It’s important to note that not all symptoms emerge immediately. They can appear 2-14 days after exposure and include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. (source)
The CDC believes that the virus that causes COVID-19 probably came from an animal source, but as we know, it is now spreading from person to person, certainly via droplet and potentially via aerosol transmission. Make sure you’re staying at least 6 feet away from people! The CDC also believes that the virus is spread mainly between people who are in close contact with one another. They also think that it may be possible that a person can contract COVID-19 if a surface has the virus on it, and if the person touches the surface, and then touches their mouth, nose, and even possibly their eyes. Practicing good hand washing is key.
In the United States, we’ve adopted social distancing measures to reduce strain on healthcare resources. Epidemiologists predict that the disease will peak, and then begin to decline, although hotspots and flares will still crop up. The University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation has an online data set projecting how those peaks will layout nationwide, as well as state by state.
Why is there a heightened risk to America’s elderly?
We’ve seen that the main symptoms with this respiratory illness are fever, cough, and shortness of breath. According to the CDC, 8 out of the 10 deaths that have occurred in the United States have been in adults 65 years and older. As the cases have grown over the past few weeks, it’s been documented that older people and people with underlying health conditions are about twice as likely to develop serious outcomes if they’ve contracted the Coronavirus. It is especially important that people who have health conditions such as heart disease, lung disease, and diabetes need to be careful to not get exposed to the virus.
This risk factor for the elderly living inpatient care facilities is due to both the threat of age, pre-existing conditions, and the fact that patients and residents are living in close proximity to each other.
What patient care facilities can do about it:
If the patient care facility chooses to, and think it’s the best fit for their community, they can stop or restrict visits for their patients while the situation is still potentially harmful to older adults. Encouraging social distancing plays a big part in the goal of reducing face-to-face contact.
Officials are recommending that health workers separate the people who are sick vs. the people who are healthy, and also stay home if they are sick. Washing hands frequently and not touching your face can also help avoid illness. As far as the individual health centers go, healthcare professionals should remain in close contact with their local health officials so they know how to take appropriate action should the symptoms of coronavirus begin to appear. If there is evidence of community-wide COVID-19 illness, facilities are recommended to screen staff at the entry of the facility for symptoms, respiratory signs, and fever. There should also be daily temperature checks for residents as well as screening all visitors.
Here are some other steps you can take:
The CDC is recommending that healthcare workers wear a gown, gloves, facemask, and goggles or a face shield. This is also known as using Standard Precautions, Contact Precautions, Airborne Precautions, and Eye protection.
Washing hands frequently with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water. Make sure you’re washing for at least 20 seconds.
Daily cleaning with an EPA-registered, hospital-grade disinfectant. This is to be used on commonly touched surfaces to decrease contamination.
If a person meets the CDC definition of a suspected case and there is not an airborne isolation room available immediately, they are recommending that facilities place the person in a single room with the door closed until they can have a consultation with their local health department.
Early detection is important. Being able to recognize potential outbreaks of all infectious illnesses in care facilities should be done through active monitoring and surveillance. There should already be a program in place that identifies cases, clusters, and outbreaks of disease.
Need more information?
If you’re looking to monitor the CDC COVID-19, you can check out their website by clicking here. You’ll find the latest information on coronavirus, how to prevent it, how to handle testing if you know someone who needs it, and recommendations for healthcare workers. To learn more about the testing guidelines when someone is suspected to have COVID-19, click here.
Stay safe, stay healthy, and know that we’re here for you anytime with up-to-date information and resources! KEY RESOURCES:
Skilled Wound Care is a mobile surgical practice committed to transforming the chronic wound care model in nursing facilities. Wound care experts make weekly bedside visits to patients in long-term care facilities, avoiding transfers to hospitals or clinics. Our expert physicians give patients the most up-to-date and effective wound treatments and educate facility staff on how to help patients continue to heal quickly and effectively between visits. This model of collaborative care allows SWC’s physicians to improve patients’ lives and health outcomes, to empower nursing staff, and to raise public awareness. Skilled Wound Care, along with its nurse and nursing home partners, is working every day to positively transform traditional nursing home wound care.