Covid Vaccines and Long Term Care Planning
Although the Covid-19 outbreaks in nursing homes and VA facilities have been front page news, the impact of the pandemic on long term care planning hasn’t been widely discussed. This is understandable, as most Americans are grappling with the pandemic’s impact on their immediate needs such as their health, income, and childcare and schooling for their children and grandchildren.
Because long term care planning is an important part of every person’s retirement planning, I’d like to take some time to focus on it at this critical moment, when vaccines are finally here. Let’s reflect on what the pandemic has already done to the long term care landscape and what it may yet do in the months to come.
Here’s what has already happened to long term care planning as a result of Covid-19:
Some nursing homes have increased their daily rates dramatically (even going so far as to double in some places)! They cite the extra costs imposed by Covid-19, such as increased staffing and personal protective equipment (PPE). While it’s too soon to know if these cost increases will be temporary or permanent, there’s no doubt they are impacting many people already.
The preference for at-home care has increased as a result of the nursing home deaths due to Covid-19. Nationally, although nursing home residents account for only 6% of Covid-19 cases, they account for 40% of deaths attributed to the virus.
Covid-19 has made what was already a shortage of long term care workers worse. Even the most expensive facilities with better working conditions and benefit packages than most have reported difficulty with staffing.
It’s worthwhile to note: when there’s an employee shortage at a large facility, the system may strain, but services will still be provided at some level and can be redeployed if an emergency arises. That flexibility may not be available to people who rely on a single caregiver (or two) for round-the-clock care in their home.
What do I predict moving forward?
It can be difficult to make guesses regarding how a global pandemic will unfold, but now that approved vaccines are being rolled out, some things are becoming clearer. To a large extent the predictions below may be more profound if Americans believe that occasional pandemics may happen during their lifetime. That said, here are my thoughts on what we can expect:
The acceleration of the move to increased automation in caregiving. From housekeeping to medication management, I expect these functions will be made safer-from-human-transmitted illness as a result of increased automation. This also has the possibility of reducing care costs. The upside? Automation may facilitate more care at home (either at the patient’s home or their adult child’s). The downside? Less interaction with humans for the elderly…a population already vulnerable to isolation and depression.
The rebound of small-scale rest homes. These homes were once popular, housing 5-15 (or so) residents in a residential setting. In future large-scale health emergencies (such as another airborne-transmitted virus), a facility such as this would allow a small staff to cocoon with residents.
Families will rethink their retirement plans— and their long term care plans. A summer home far away from a winter home may become less attractive. In a pandemic, when air travel may be curtailed, logistics matter.
Family members will rethink where they choose to live. Proximity to loved ones matters when times are difficult, whether from a health point-of-view or a financial point-of-view. Supporting this rethinking will be a fact we’ve come to recognize during the pandemic: that many adult children can work from home— no matter where home is.
Caregivers and housekeepers who serve multiple households may fall out of favor. As exposure to many different households increases risks of obtaining highly communicable illnesses from a disease transmission point-of-view.
My goal, as always in my monthly articles, is to help provide some useful thoughts as you navigate LTC planning. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to discuss this or any aspect of long term care planning or long term care insurance. Baygroup Insurance can be contacted at http://www.baygroupinsurance.com/forms/contact-us or call us at 410-557-7907 for more information.