With attention on nursing homes following the Covid-19 outbreak, we cannot forget the 1 million residents of assisted living communities. They need the same kind of attention as nursing home residents. Unless ALFs increase training, staffing, and infection prevention and control, we will see fatal outbreaks in assisted living facilities. Like nursing homes, assisted living communities have many older adults living in close proximity. Staff members typically move from resident to resident to provide assistance. The majority of residents experience physical or cognitive impairment, which can make it challenging for them to follow infection control measures such as hand-washing and social distancing.
Assisted living, also referred to as residential care, is part of a continuum of long-term care services. Assisted living communities provide a combination of housing, personal care services, and health care designed for individuals who need some assistance with daily activities. There are nearly 29,000 assisted living communities across the U.S. caring for more than 800,000 residents. Most residents are age 85 or older, and many have one or more chronic illnesses — the very people who are at high risk for developing serious complications of Covid-19. Although states regulate these residential centers, the degree of regulatory stringency and requirements around staffing and infection control are minimally safe and might not be equipped with medical or protective equipment like face masks, hoods, and full body suits.
Although some states and individual assisted living communities have made strides to improve infection prevention and control, without a national effort supported by federal and state initiatives we risk serious outbreaks for vulnerable older adults.