April 27, 2020

Across the US, Home Health Providers Work to Slow the Spread of COVID-19 Among the Elderly, Reduce Burden on Overwhelmed Hospitals

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WASHINGTON – Amid the escalating COVID-19 emergency that has infected more than 760,000 Americans and claimed the lives of more than 40,000 since the end of February, home healthcare providers nationwide have been working diligently to slow exposure to the virus by providing necessary healthcare services in the home – which also serves to reduce stress on hospitals and healthcare systems overwhelmed by severely ill patients.

“We have always been committed to our overall mission of safely caring for [elderly] Americans where they prefer to be – in their homes. But the COVID-19 emergency has made this mission more urgent and critical than ever before,” said Joanne Cunningham, Executive Director of the Partnership. “As we are seeing from news reports in towns and cities across America, skilled home health providers are lessening some of the pressing burdens felt by frontline doctors and nurses in hospitals by simply doing what we do best.”

For example, national news coverage on CNBC.com cites the nation’s 3.3 million home health-care workers as the “other front-line heroes in the war against the coronavirus.” That’s because, while hospitals’ physicians and nurses tend to the sickest COVID-19 victims, home healthcare doctors, nurses, nurse practitioners, physician assistants and other professionals are caring for millions of the most vulnerable Americans – including non-critical patients who have been discharged from hospitals under pressure to fill beds with the seriously ill.

In New Jersey, staffers for roughly 1,200 home healthcare agencies are helping keep that state’s coronavirus numbers at bay by treating elderly individuals and others who have been discharged from the hospital at home. Doing so reduces the potential for patients to be readmitted for complications like wound infection or illness reemergence. According to healthcare officials there, private nursing care is also essential to keeping severely disabled children and teens from developing complications that require hospitalization.

Elsewhere, Tennessee caregivers are keeping patients out of nursing homes, which have become COVID-19 hotspots. According to news coverage, 25,000 home health professionals and personal care aides are navigating the complexities of providing vital services, often involving intimate physical contact, to high risk individuals during a global pandemic. This is made especially complicated by the fact that home healthcare workers, like frontline caregivers everywhere, are dangerously low on Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), like masks and gloves.

Despite the challenges, these caregivers – like one in Norfolk, VA – are committed to keeping medically fragile and vulnerable Americans from cycling in and out of facilities where they would be at a higher risk for contracting the coronavirus.

More information about how the nation’s home health community is responding to the COVID-19 pandemic is available here.