Nursing homes and similar long-term care facilities have faced outsized effects due to the coronavirus pandemic. Widespread infections in many of these facilities have led to hundreds of thousands of deaths of both residents and staff members. As a result, high levels of stress among caregivers have led to significant challenges within these facilities. As a risk management strategy, combatting staff stress is just as important as nursing home insurance. In this guide, we will explore tips for overcoming the tensions and stress left in the wake of COVID-19 in nursing.
COVID-19 in Nursing Homes: A Grim Picture
Individuals in nursing homes are at a higher risk of developing complications from SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for the respiratory disease COVID-19. The advanced ages of elderly residents in nursing homes may have additional health conditions that put them in the at-risk category. Their caregivers are also at higher risk of developing severe infections from the coronavirus.
In a regularly-updated database compiled by the New York Times, nursing homes have borne the brunt of COVID deaths in the United States. It is estimated that as many as one-third of all U.S. coronavirus deaths are linked to nursing homes, with 163,000 deaths of residents and staff members as of mid-February 2021. In all, nearly 1.3 million infections in nursing home populations have been reported.
Combatting Stress and Tensions in Nursing Home Populations
COVID-19 has upended our everyday lives. In nursing homes, residents and staff alike have faced extreme challenges and tragedies, contributing to increasing levels of stress. Burnout among caregivers was already notoriously high before the pandemic struck; today, burnout is a very real risk that threatens to bring operations to a halt. While nursing home insurance serves to provide coverage against a broad range of operational and liability risks, addressing high stress levels can help to reduce the inefficiency and hazards associated with staff burnout. Ten stress-fighting tips have been shown to improve outlooks and to keep both residents and staff safer even as the pandemic continues its hold on the world. The tips are:
- Finding inspiration – caregivers pursued their career paths for a reason. In the wake of COVID-19, recognizing why that career path was chosen can help to inspire and to change mindsets about the critical role these professionals play in nursing home residents’ lives.
- Exercise and wellness programs — a time-honored solution to beating stress is to engage in exercise and wellness activities. From yoga to mindfulness training, Pilates, or time spent in the gym, activity helps the body overcome the negative effects of stress. These programs are being adopted across the country for residents and staff members in nursing homes.
- Building teams – team building exercises can reinforce the personal connections between caregivers and their support staffs. Engaging in activities like social events, team meetings, group workshops, and friendly competitions can reinvigorate burned-out staff members, allowing them to overcome the tension that has settled in during the pandemic.
- Focusing on proper nutrition — nutrition is an important part of healthy lives. If your nursing home facility works with a dietician, having them develop nutrition guidance for staff members can greatly reduce stress levels, especially when combined with other wellness programs and activities.
- Improving sleep hygiene – sleep is a critical aspect of stress-reduction. Encourage staff members to set sleep schedules and to stick to them. Improved rest can reengage the body and mind, allowing caregivers to be more efficient in their daily activities.
- Setting limits on news consumption – today’s 24-hour news cycles can quickly overwhelm us with negative information. By setting limits on news consumption, we can help to break the cycle. Try to keep news-watching to strict limits, such as an hour a day before work or after the day is over.
- Talking to others— sometimes, caregivers just need the ability to share their concerns with others. Here, nursing home managers can take an active role by establishing communication channels. When staff feel as if their voices are being heard, this can create a positive mindset that overcomes even the worst work-related stress.
- Establishing breaks –breaks away from work allow us to recharge. While vacations have been made more difficult by stay-at-home orders, staff members can still benefit from “staycations” outside the workplace. Frequent rest breaks during the day can also help fight stress.
- Engaging positively with others – negativity can upend even the strongest mindset. To combat stress, surround yourself with positive people and situations. Look for the silver linings in your everyday activities, including your role in keeping residents safe and healthy.
- Speaking out – staff members have keen insights when it comes to potentially dangerous practices and situations. Setting up a reporting system to identify and mitigate hazards is an important risk management tool. Risk mitigation supplements the protections of nursing home insurance and can help reduce both claims frequency and severity.
As vaccination efforts spread throughout the United States, a more positive outlook is in store for the residents and staff of nursing homes. As we overcome COVID-19 challenges, the nursing home sector will emerge more robust and more able to meet any future challenge with compassion, care, and flexibility.
About Caitlin Morgan
Caitlin Morgan specializes in insuring assisted living facilities and nursing homes and can assist you in providing insurance and risk management services for this niche market. Give us a call to learn more about our programs at (877) 226-1027.