Testing Delays Keep Seniors in Hospital

Elderly adults are among the most vulnerable groups of people at risk for becoming seriously ill from COVID-19 infection and because the virus is highly contagious, nursing homes must employ strict policies for any resident returning from the hospital.  With long wait times for test results, a growing number of older adults are stuck waiting in hospital for the “all clear” to go back to their care facility and are taking up precious space and resources.  Compounding the problem for hospitals are elderly nursing home residents who are being sent to the hospital for minor flu-like symptoms.

According to a recent Los Angeles Times report, nursing homes must be firm about admitting returning residents to prevent exposing others to life-threatening illnesses.  With a shortage of tests and long wait times, a growing number of elderly adults are forced to remain in quarantine in hospital, alone and frightened, taking up precious beds and nursing care. 

Nursing homes are increasingly trying to manage health care needs in house; only sending residents to a hospital if absolutely necessary to limit exposure.  Experts advise that hospitals should be reserved for people having trouble breathing or other serious health conditions.  If someone is having trouble breathing, the emergency room or local health authorities should be called first for instructions. 

Loved ones can stay in close contact by phone or video chat with elderly family members in care facilities and some are able to visit through a window.  Most nursing homes have barred non-essential visitors with the exception of residents nearing the end of life. But families can ask about the facility’s infection plan and stay informed on any changes to their policies.

Although many families may wonder if moving an older adult from long-term care to home might be the best plan to protect the elderly, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not recommend such moves.  Moving an elderly adult from a nursing home is considered risky and families may not be able to meet the high levels of care needs or control germs as effectively.

For more information about guidelines for long term care facilities during the coronavirus outbreak, follow this link to the CDC website or visit the Government of Canada’s public health page for more information and an online self-assessment test.