Seniors in Nursing Homes and Covid-19

By now, you are aware of what the normal symptoms of Covid-19 look like: a persistent cough, shortness of breath, and a fever.

However, you may not know that if you have parents or relatives who are seniors, their symptoms of infection may differ from the typical. These differences affect how they contract and are affected by the virus, particularly if they reside reside in nursing homes or assisted-living facilities.

Unusual Covid-19 Symptoms

Evidence is still be anecdotal at this point but doctors have noticed that many seniors may reveal none of the typical symptoms of the infection. Instead, this population can show different characteristics such us:

  • Fatigue or loss of appetite
  • Confusion or loss of coordination
  • Diarrhea or vomiting
  • Dizziness or constantly falling down
  • Greater than average sleep
  • Apathy or lack of speaking
  • Behaving out of character for two or more days

It is not unusual for seniors to show symptoms that differ from everyone else, not just for Covid-19, but also for a range of medical conditions. This has to do with how an aging body responds to changes in health.

  • The immune system does not respond as effectively. For example, the body changes the way it regulates temperature.
  • Any current signs of infection often disappear under chronic illnesses such as diabetes or previous medical conditions such as a stroke.

Whatever symptoms they show, seniors may fare worse with Covid-19 in nursing homes because their routines have changed. They stop typical activities and get weaker by avoiding such exertions as walking to and from the dining hall. The staff may not realize the changes until it is too late.

Seniors in Nursing Homes

Seniors (65 and over) in nursing homes have the highest risk of being affected by Covid-19 because of their close quarters and existing medical conditions.

  • As of April 23, nursing homes in California have reported 3,141 cases of Covid-19, representing 8.4% of the total 37,369 cases in the state.
  • Deaths among nursing home residents have reached 486, or over a third of the 1,469 fatalities.

Recent outbreaks in nursing homes have reinforced the different ways that resident seniors manifest the virus. They may show the unusual symptoms described previously or may not show any symptoms at all. Not recognizing these atypical or asymptomatic infections often contributes to the transmission of the virus in these settings.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends the following guidelines for nursing homes:

  • Prevent both recognized and unrecognized Covid-19 from entering their facilities.
  • Check the current supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) and increase it, if necessary.
  • Identify infections as early as possible to prevent spreading the disease.
  • Immediately recognize and manage severe illness.

Nursing homes will differ on how they implement CDC recommendations.

What You Can Do

Future blogs will cover what you can do as an individual to protect the people that you care about in a residential facility. In the meantime, if your loved ones contract Covid-19, or God forbid, die from the virus at a nursing home or assisted-living residence, that facility may be liable. Please contact one of our attorneys immediately, so that we can help you.

 

Disclaimer: The medical content of this blog is provided for information only and is not intended as medical advice or substitute for the advice of a physician.

REFERENCES

https://www.cnn.com/2020/04/23/health/seniors-elderly-coronavirus-symptoms-wellness-partner/index.html

https://www.bgs.org.uk/blog/atypical-covid-19-presentations-in-older-people-%E2%80%93-the-need-for-continued-vigilance

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/long-term-care.html

https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CID/DCDC/Pages/COVID-19/SNFsCOVID_19.aspx

https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CID/DCDC/Pages/Immunization/ncov2019.aspx#COVID-19%20by%20the%20Numbers

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