Assisted Living and Covid-19: The Next Kirkland Might not be a Nursing Home

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COVID-19 (Disease) -- United States -- Health care, Long-term care of the sick -- Oregon -- Portland, Older people -- Services for -- Oregon, Aging population


With the national spotlight turned on nursing homes following the Covid-19 outbreak at the Life Care Center in Kirkland, Wash., that led to the deaths of 35 residents, the nearly 1 million residents of assisted living communities are getting lost in the shadows. They need the same kind of attention as nursing home residents.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention aim to beef up infection prevention and control in nursing homes. Unless similar efforts are made in assisted living communities, we will almost certainly see Kirkland-type outbreaks in them.

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 assistance with normal daily activities but who want to be as independent as possible. 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.

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