Even though nursing home residents account for under 1% of the US population, they accounted for 20% of the country’s COVID-19 deaths. The pandemic put a spotlight on an under-discussed issue: infection control in nursing homes. Before COVID-19 ever came to America, 380,000 residents died in nursing homes every year due to an infection. Common infections include UTIs, influenza, and gastroenteritis.
Nurses are the key to infection control in assisted living facilities. On top of all their other duties, nurses are expected to clean and sanitize shared facilities for the residents. Yet nurses also have extremely stressful and exhausting jobs. Their high stress levels and increased workloads lead them to occasionally skip simple health practices like washing hands. Design flaws like only placing hand sanitizer inside a resident’s room also contribute to the problem.
For many nurses, the stress and low pay are so acute that they feel compelled to leave the profession. 15% of the total nursing home workforce has vanished since January 2020, piling extra stress and duties onto those that remain. Without financial relief, 25% of nursing homes in the country may close within the next 2 or 3 years. Fighting infection means fighting facility closure.