Immunizations: An Important Line of Defense in Nursing Homes

Immunizations: An Important Line of Defense in Nursing Homes

Nursing homes and skilled care facilities have a duty to provide their patients with safe, cost-effective care. While there are many methods by which these facilities can protect their patients, including nursing home insurance coverage, immunizations represent one of the best preventative health plans in the world. By protecting patients from vaccine-preventable diseases, nursing homes can help to reduce the risk associated with the spread of disease in their senior patient populations.

Reasons for Adult Immunizations

Around the world, transmittable diseases take a fearsome toll on populations. Seniors are especially at-risk, owing to several factors like age or overall health. It is clear that seniors in nursing home populations can benefit from a comprehensive immunization program; older adults need these protective vaccines for many reasons, including:

  • Patients may not have received immunizations as children.
  • New vaccines are being developed regularly, offering protection that was unavailable in years past.
  • The immunity acquired through childhood vaccination can fade over time, potentially increasing one’s susceptibility to become infected with a vaccine-preventable disease.
  • Patients who are chronically ill or may be immunocompromised are at a greater risk of acquiring a disease and the complications associated with that disease.
  • Immunizations enhance so-called “herd immunity”, breaking the chain of infection even in those who may not have received protective vaccines of their own.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has created a best-practices list for healthcare providers, including nursing home facilities, in protecting senior citizens from vaccine-preventable diseases. Under their guidelines, the WHO mandates that all people aged 65 or over must be vaccinated against:

  • Flu (annual vaccine)
  • Pneumonia
  • Diptheria
  • Tetanus
  • Pertussis
  • Herpes zoster

Status of Senior Vaccination Programs in the United States

In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends adult vaccine programs in healthcare facilities. In fact, many states require both patients and caregivers to be currently vaccinated against certain diseases, specifically in what are termed “long-term care facilities”. The CDC has targeted influenza as a disease of concern – it is highly-preventable through immunization, yet spreads easily among those who have not been vaccinated. Elderly patients can succumb to influenza; this loss of life can be mitigated by adhering to state-mandated vaccination laws and healthcare organization guidelines.

Failure to provide influenza vaccinations in nursing home facilities may even impact decisions about where to seek long-term care. In a study conducted by the University of Michigan in conjunction with AARP, nearly ¾ of survey respondents indicated that all staff in nursing homes should be required to receive flu vaccines. 60% of respondents also believe that patients should receive the same vaccines. In many healthcare facilities – particularly hospitals — flu vaccines are simply part of doing business. The nursing home industry, unfortunately, lags behind in this critical risk management strategy.

Nursing Home Insurance Coverage

Nursing homes face a myriad of risks as they deliver care to their patients. Nursing home insurance is designed to protect these facilities from losses associated with claims. As a component of risk management, this insurance coverage is critical in preserving a facility’s assets, which can ensure continued care for the elderly patients who rely on the facilities and their caregivers. Nursing home insurance coverage may include both professional and general liability, coverage against property damage and equipment losses, and protection against claims of violations of residents’ rights. Insurance agents can help nursing home facilities develop robust risk management plans, incorporating both insurance coverage and industry practices like immunizations programs. Together, these risk-mitigating steps can protect the health and welfare of our senior populations in long-term care facilities.

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 317.575.4440.