End of Covid Health Emergency: What it Means for Residents and Nursing Homes

It has been a long three years. The Covid pandemic changed virtually everything in our lives. Now the WHO has declared that Covid is no longer considered a global health emergency as of May 11.

In a statement, the WHO’s general director said, “Covid-19 is now an established and ongoing health issue which no longer constitutes a public health emergency of international concern.”

But that doesn’t mean Covid is over or that it didn’t leave long-lasting effects on the long-term care industry and its residents.

The Early Days of Covid

For those working in senior living, the threat of Covid coming into your building became overwhelmingly stressful and often heartbreaking.

Communities took extreme precautions to avoid outbreaks. Healthcare workers donned N95 face masks, shields, gowns and gloves, with a fine coating of disinfectant spray on top. Doors were locked and visitors were banned. Isolation protocols and social distancing measures were put in place for the safety of the residents.

Activities sometimes stopped for periods of time. Residents ate meals alone in their rooms or spaced out in dining rooms, preventing connection with others. And when they got sick, the community staff sat by residents’ sides while their family members watched outside through windows.

The overall culture of long-term care changed. For long-term care communities focused on person-centered care to improve residents’ quality of life, Covid set facilities back. In turn, it affected the residents the most.

Isolation and Depression Among Seniors

Experts say the isolation caused from social distancing and sequestering in small rooms had long-lasting effects even after the height of the pandemic.

Researchers argue that “isolating nursing home residents caused more deaths than it prevented.” Research from the Mercatus Center at George Mason University say that a lack of in-person contact with loved ones only lead to increased feelings of depression and loneliness.

A poll found that during Covid 28% of adults among ages 50 to 80 reported increased anxiety, with 20% saying they had increased sadness or depression.

This and similar studies like it suggest it’s important to consider the mental health effects caused by isolation when looking at ways to curb the spread of infectious diseases in the future.

Making Changes after Covid

While many seniors reported increased loneliness, anxiety and depression during Covid, there’s some good news.

A National Poll on Healthy Aging through the Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation found some seniors tried to improve their mental health after the Covid lockdowns.

Thirteen percent talked about mental health with their primary care provider, 29% reported making a lifestyle change and 5% started talking to a counselor.

The trend showed a whopping 89% older adults felt more comfortable talking about mental health than ever before.

The End of a Global Health Emergency

As of May 11, Covid will no longer be considered a worldwide health emergency. But that doesn’t mean Covid has disappeared.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) the coronavirus continues to evolve with new variants, and it’s still causing deaths. Vaccines, tests and drugs are important to help prevent the spread of Covid.

While we may see a loss of access to free testing, there aren’t any plans to impact access to vaccines and antiviral treatments. However we could see a change in cost for vaccines and it may come down to what insurance you have.

Research will continue into new Covid vaccines and treatments. But the CDC’s ability to collect and share data will likely change.

Changes to Skilled Nursing Care

Once the Public Health Emergency (PHE) ends, there will be changes to nursing home care. Certain waivers that were put in place by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) will go away, if they haven’t already.

“CMS used a combination of emergency authority waivers, regulations and sub regulatory guidance to ensure and expand access to care, and to give health care providers the flexibilities to keep people safe,” according to the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

To be eligible for a skilled nursing facility, patients will once again have to spend three consecutive days in a hospital. Those rules were waived by CMS during the pandemic.

With the PHE ending, the benefit period waiver will stop and beneficiaries will again be limited to 100 days maximum of skilled care per benefit period.

Pre-admission screening for nursing homes and discharge planning rules for hospitals are also going to change.

To learn more about other changes, visit CMS or HHS.

About Advena Living

At Advena Living, we provide care to those who need skilled nursing, long-term care, or assisted living. Our goal is to help our residents live their best lives.

Part of our guiding philosophy is that we honor choice. We believe that residents should always have a say in how they live their lives. We will work hard to accommodate what you want your schedule to be every day.

Advena Living has seven locations throughout Kansas in Bonner Springs, Cherryvale, Clay Center, Clearwater, Rose Hill, Topeka, and Wichita.

Our name “Advena” means newcomer. We welcome newcomers seeking a senior living environment where they may continue to enjoy a full life.