The spread of infections with the new coronavirus has reached the nursing care field.
Infections were confirmed at facilities in Nagoya, as well as Itami, Hyogo Prefecture, and Ichikawa, Chiba Prefecture.
Some nursing care facilities, including day care centers, easily become venues for spreading the infection because many elderly people come and go to receive same-day care services, such as help with meals and bathing. Elderly people are at high risk of becoming seriously ill once they are infected with the virus.
Strict hygiene control at facilities is essential to protect the lives of the elderly. In addition to checking the temperature of patients and staff members and ventilating rooms, careful attention should be paid to prevent crowding during rehabilitation training and recreation.
As more than 60 people were confirmed infected with the virus in Nagoya among patients at such facilities and the people they had contact with, the city government requested in early March that facilities in the city suspend operations for two weeks. This may be an urgent measure to stop the spread of infections.
But the closure of these facilities is a matter of life and death for the elderly people who cannot take care of themselves. Some may have fewer opportunities to exercise and others may have their daily rhythm changed, which raise fears that they will fall ill. If they cannot access the services, the burden on their families will increase.
Even after the request to suspend operations, some facilities in Nagoya continued services, limiting them to those whose need was high. Other facilities had staff members visit patients’ homes and check their condition by telephone.
These moves were apparently necessary measures taking into account the circumstances of patients and their families. What is important for care managers and other workers assisting the elderly in their communities is to keep contact with several nursing care facilities and secure alternative services for elderly people as far as possible.
In cases such as when a large-scale infection occurs at nursing facilities in the future, it is expected that facilities in the area could close for a long time. If the operators are driven to winding up the facilities due to deteriorated business conditions caused by the closure, nursing care services will no longer be carried on in the community.
Nursing care facilities are also allowed to use the system of employment adjustment subsidies, which would be provided for companies that retain employees. It is important to support the facilities by letting them know about this system.
If the facilities close, some employed people may not be able to come to work because they need to take care of their family. Companies are required to take flexible measures, such as taking days off for nursing care and adopting telecommuting.
A mass infection has been discovered at a welfare facility for disabled persons in Chiba Prefecture as the facility’s residents and staff were infected with the virus. Infections tend to rapidly spread at residential treatment facilities.
Some special nursing homes for the elderly have taken measures such as restricting visits. Each facility should take precautions once again to prevent virus intrusions from external sources.
— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on March 30, 2020