By Steve Moran
Recently the Wall Street Journal published an article titled “Coronavirus Pandemic Led to Surge in Alzheimer’s Deaths” that should be read by every single person working in senior living.
According to the article, “Roughly 100,000 people died from Alzheimer’s and dementia from February through May in the U.S.” This is a fatality rate that is 18% higher than average in recent years or about 15,000 people. While it is impossible to specifically attribute that increase to COVID-19, it is not an unreasonable inference.
These are additional deaths that are not included in the COVID-19 data.
The current thinking is that COVID-19 has brought about radical changes in the established routines most people with dementia need to function at an optimal level. When these routines are broken bad things happen: falls, less sleep, worse nutrition, dehydration, and perhaps an acceleration of cognitive decline.
What We Don’t Know
What the article does not address is how many of those deaths were in senior living, including nursing homes, and how many happened at home.
There is More
It is not just dementia. There have been 8,000 excess deaths from hypertension, 5,000 from diabetes, 3,700 from stroke, and 2,900 from coronary artery disease. That is an additional 19,000 deaths many of which I suspect were not senior living folks.
Senior Living Is the Right Place
These numbers suggest that staying home in the time of a pandemic may, in fact, be more dangerous than living in a senior living community. First, what gets missed is that there are more senior living communities that had no deaths and no infections from COVID-19. In addition, many of those communities that did have infections quickly and effectively contained them, protecting residents and staff.
I mostly see positive hopeful posts about senior living on social media and really anything coming out of the industry. I get it, no one wants to be the purveyor of doom and gloom. But if we are honest, we are in perilous times right now. Business as usual just won’t work. If you were a senior living prospect today, you would be having second thoughts. HOPE IS NOT A STRATEGY, or at least not a good strategy. We need to be thinking about how we are the solution and not the problem.
Data like this gives us something to work with.