Coffin, mortality rate

Thirty percent of long-term care-related deaths from COVID-19 in the United States have occurred in assisted living communities and other care homes, whereas 70% have taken place in nursing homes, according to the findings of a newly released international study.

The International Long Term Care Policy Network’s “Mortality associated with COVID-19 in care homes: international evidence” contains data from 21 countries, showing that an average of 46% of all COVID-19 deaths were residents of non-acute residential and nursing facilities that house individuals with long-term needs. 

In the United States, 82,105 COVID-19 deaths were linked to long-term care facilities, accounting for 41% of all coronavirus deaths. The report uses data from the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the Kaiser Family Foundation and The Atlantic’s COVID Tracking Project for assisted living communities, adult care centers, nursing facilities, intermediate care facilities and other long-term care facilities.

“In addition to its direct impact on the lives of care residents and their families, mortality associated with COVID-19 is likely to have important consequences on the care sectors’ economy for years to come,” the report reads, adding that public perception of the risk associated with long-term care facilities likely will lead to reduced demand. 

The authors also noted that the “excess mortality” caused by COVID-19 will take several years to be “absorbed” by new move-ins. Around the world, many governments likely will introduce regulatory changes to prevent the spread of infectious diseases in these facilities, they added.

“Such changes are likely to increase the costs of providing institutional care, and as a result, push prices up and reduce further demand or impose additional financial burdens on public coffers at a particularly difficult fiscal time,” the authors wrote. 

The report comes on the heels of a “Situation Report on COVID-19 and Aging Services” from LeadingAge, which “captures the toll of the pandemic to date, including loss of life, social isolation and financial strain.”

According to the LeadingAge report, more than 7.8 million Americans have contracted COVID-19, and more than 80% of all COVID-19 deaths are among people aged 65 or more years. In October alone, more than 156,000 coronavirus deaths were in older adults.

“Americans are under increasing threat from a perfect storm of surging rates of COVID-19, the start of flu season, and the failure of federal leaders to take needed action,” LeadingAge President and CEO Katie Smith Sloan said. “Congress and the administration have the power to prevent more devastating losses if they act now with a package of coronavirus relief focused on older Americans.”

A new surge of COVID-19 on top of new flu cases could trigger additional shortage of personal protective equipment, testing supplies and trained staff, according to the LeadingAge report, which amplifies the senior living and care industry’s call for ongoing access to rapid-results testing, PPE, staffing, infection control supplies, a trained workforce and financial relief.

“We’ve known that older adults have been at increased risk since the start of the pandemic; their needs will rise as temperatures drop and flu season approaches,” Sloan said. “How will we ensure that older Americans and their care providers are not left out in the cold?”