The Design Institute for Health (DIH) is tasked with redesigning our nursing homes amidst the pandemic and beyond. According to the Executive Director of the Institute, there are systemic problems in the senior health care system that is ultimately contributing to the spread of the coronavirus in assisted living facilities, nursing homes and long-term care facilities.
The organization conducted a study that identified several protocols that can be addressed but made special note of the bigger issue of systemic inequality in access to these facilities and the care received when inside these facilities.
Five areas of focus
The study cited these opportunities for improvement:
- Resident well-being
- Staff well-being
- Infection control
- Staff retention and incentives
- Expansion and evolution of staff roles
Ways of addressing these issues start with dismissing the top-down approach where the protocols are created by executives and then left to the staff to handle. The organization suggested using video training materials and written materials translated into other languages, so it is easier for staff to understand and retain.
Economics at the heart of the disparity
The DIH conducted the study in Austin. Researchers noted that there were areas of the metro area where the communities were well served and others that were not. The quality of the care and the quality of the experience also reflected this with more and better facilities in neighborhoods with a higher standard of living and fewer affordable facilities in lower-income areas.
“Assisted living and independent living facilities are primarily private pay, which means they generally have more revenue and more freedom in how they utilize that revenue, which translates really, frankly, to a higher quality of experience for both residents and staff,” said DIH Executive Director Stacey Chang. “By contrast, most nursing facilities serve poor patients who depend on Medicaid for funding. That reimbursement provides much less than private pay, meaning that these facilities have less to work with and less to offer. This discrepancy is an inequity directly tied to wealth.”
Advocating for loved ones
Money is necessary, but families can also advocate for their elderly loved ones. It is essential to hold all facilities accountable for the residents’ well-being, regardless of what they pay. Those with questions or concerns may want to talk to an attorney who handles elder abuse cases to determine how to protect these vulnerable loved ones better.