We are sure every provider is sick and tired of hearing about how many residents have died of COVID-19 in a nursing home or assisted living community. The problem is that the classification may be all wrong. 

Unfortunately, there may be a financial reason for such classifications, as in more reimbursement, or more governmental aid. And for those who can profit from making this pandemic seem worse than it is (yes, they do exist), piling up the number of COVID deaths helps to make their case. It has certainly helped the mainstream media and their advertising dollars. 

But here is the problem, at least as it relates to the deaths in assisted living, memory care and nursing homes. What the statistics don’t differentiate is those residents who died “of” COVID from those who died “with” it. 

Let us explain. Most people who are long-term residents in nursing homes, or assisted living and memory care communities, have multiple health issues, commonly referred to as co-morbidities. It is a word often used in the senior care industry, but particularly during this pandemic.  

In its most simple definition, a comorbidity is the presence of one or more “additional” health conditions, usually co-occurring with a primary condition. And we are not talking about minor health problems, but major ones, usually chronic and often cardiac or respiratory related, as well as diabetes. To be un-politically correct, these residents today have several health problems, any one of which could result in their death at some point.  

In addition, the average length of stay for these residents is relatively short, even in the best of times, especially compared with independent living communities or CCRCs, not to mention active adult communities with their much younger average age. They have moved into nursing homes or AL/MC communities in a frailer condition than 20 and even 10 years ago. In many cases, they are going to die in six or 12 months even without a pandemic. 

So, when a 90-year resident in a memory care wing (true story), on hospice, with maybe three weeks to live gets infected with the coronavirus and dies in two weeks, she is listed as having died “of” COVID. But that is not true. She died “with” COVID. She actually could have died from any of her comorbidities, if not just old age, but that is not how it is recorded. She becomes a statistic as one of the 170,000 and growing deaths from COVID.  

The entire senior care industry has to get this message out and the only way to do so is to track what really is happening inside your buildings. The overall number of deaths “by” COVID will go down, and the industry can make a better case to the consumer for what is really happening to seniors under their care. We would love to receive your statistics, on or off the record.