Is Home Care or Assisted Living Safer During Covid-19?

December 4, 2020 by Katie Davis

Care Homes in COVID times

The COVID-19 pandemic complicates the search for high-quality home care or assisted living care options for your loved one. Given the tragic news stories about deaths and infection rates in assisted living and skilled nursing facilities, you may be considering bringing your loved one home from their senior care community. Or maybe you or a loved one made the decision to move to an assisted living community and now, you’re not sure if that’s a good decision.

Worry not! We wrote this blog to help you answer some of these very important questions. We hope it will be helpful to you as you consider the best next steps for yourself or a loved one. First, let’s revisit what we know about how Covid-19 affects and infects older adults.

COVID-19 In Older Adults

The risk of death from COVID-19 is far higher in the elderly than in younger Americans. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adults older than 65 represent nearly 80% of deaths involving COVID-19. In addition, older adults are more likely to require hospitalization if they get COVID-19. This graph, pulled directly from the CDC, shows hospitalization rates by age group in the United States.

COVID-19 Risk of Death in age groups

In short, older adults in general are at much higher risk of serious illness or death should they contract COVID-19. In addition, the CDC also identifies certain underlying medical conditions that can put older adults at higher risk. You can read more about those conditions on the CDC’s website here.

COVID-19 in Assisted Living Communities

COVID-19 is a novel virus which means scientists are still learning more about how it spreads and impacts adults of all ages. But, the CDC has this to say about COVID-19 spread in nursing homes and long-term care facilities:

“The communal nature of nursing homes and long-term care facilities, and the population served (generally older adults often with underlying medical conditions), put those living in nursing homes at increased risk of infection and severe illness from COVID-19.”

Nearly 40% of all COVID-19 deaths in the United States to date are attributed to nursing homes. And many of the strict visitor restrictions put in place to keep seniors safe may result in significant mental and physical decline as illustrated recently by NBC news.

But before we jump to conclusions, it’s important to remember that long-term care facilities are all unique. Most of the stories you read in the paper are from the most severely impacted communities. The overwhelming majority of long-term care facilities in the United States have done an excellent job providing necessary and needed service to older adults throughout the country who otherwise could not live at home safely.

Is Home Care Safer?

In contrast, senior home care is, of course, delivered in a person’s home and thus avoids the dangers of communal living. But, if your selected home care agency isn’t performing regular testing and checks on staff, wearing proper PPE, or otherwise following standard infection control principles, they won’t be a safe choice for your loved one.

So is assisted living safer than home care? Or is home care safer than assisted living? Ultimately, this depends on what’s best for your loved one and what options are available to you locally.

There is no perfect choice, but any good home care agency or assisted living community should be able to speak to and demonstrate the precautions they take. If you’re considering a senior community, make sure you cover visitor restrictions and what will happen in the event of infection so you can make the best possible decision for your loved one.

If you do decide that home is the best place for your loved one, feel free to contact us. As part of our monthly fee, we help families select and oversee at-home care providers or navigate transitions to communities if needed.