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 NIC Snapshot Survey Sees Varying Impact of COVID-19 on Senior Living Residents

A survey of providers from all four sectors of the senior living space – skilled nursing facilities (SNFs), assisted living communities, independent living, and memory care – gives a “where are we now” look at how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting the sector versus the standard “cumulative” review of the pandemic, according to Brian Jurutka, president and chief executive officer (CEO) of the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care (NIC). 

“A lot of the public data out there is cumulative data, which is important to tell one aspect of the story,” he tells Provider. But, what NIC is attempting to do with its new survey (with regular updates) is to tell the story of how COVID-19 has penetrated senior living on one specific day (May 31) “because that really helps the public, operators, and investors understand the impact of all of the actions to address COVID to date.”

What the survey found is that testing for coronavirus is most prevalent in nursing centers and assisted living facilities, with confirmed positive tests highest at SNFs. For example, “residents of independent living facilities, who typically have greater mobility and fewer health care challenges, have the lowest percent of confirmed positive at 0.2 percent,” the survey said.

NIC said its analysis is also the first to compare current residents’ status across independent living, assisted living, memory care, and nursing care properties.

What the numbers portray is that the average percent of residents in independent living on May 31 showed 9.8 percent have been tested, with 0.2 percent recording a positive test result, and 0.1 percent suspected positive.

For assisted living, 21.9 percent were tested, 1.2 percent confirmed positive, and 0.3 percent suspected positive. For memory care, 17.6 percent were tested, 3.7 percent confirmed positive, and 0.6 percent suspected positive. And, for SNFs, 34.2 percent were tested, 4.3 percent confirmed positive, and 2.4 percent suspected positive.

Jurutka says he agrees with industry advocates at the American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL) on the need for more testing of residents and staff and more availability of personal protective equipment (PPE) for workers to battle the continued spread of the virus, but adds that it is still important to note that progress has been made since March. 

“This goes with the idea of understanding the impact right now. If you had a dozen cases in April and had zero right now, that is current and it is important to get this incremental point of view from data,” he says.

The NIC survey includes responses from 105 providers among the four senior living segments, with SNFs making up 29 of that number. Jurutka acknowledges the response rate is something NIC hopes to improve on when it releases fresh data in a month.

NIC’s report comes on the heels of data collected recently via a survey by NCAL of its members, which showed more than half of assisted living communities possess less than a two-week supply of specific PPE.

NCAL said while more than 70 percent of these assisted living communities have asked for help from state and local health agencies, many are still forced to reuse PPE or rely on homemade supplies. 

Previous to the release of the NCAL survey, Mark Parkinson, president and CEO of AHCA/NCAL, speaking after a congressional hearing on COVID-19, said nursing facilities and assisted living communities have been on the frontlines of the fight against the virus and need assistance.

“Our greatest challenge remains lack of widespread testing, adequate PPE, and staffing support. We appreciate the renewed focus in prioritizing testing and PPE for nursing homes and assisted living communities, but more must be done,” he said.

To read the NIC survey in full, go to www.nic.org​
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