Coronavirus Tragedy in Senior Living

Coronavirus Tragedy in Senior Living Centers

This is the second in a series of article about the Coronavirus and nursing homes.  The first article dealt with the reporting of cases and deaths in nursing homes across the country.  In this article I will discuss the challenges senior living centers have faced during the pandemic.

Senior Living Centers Preparation

The simple truth is nursing homes have never been designed, prepared, stocked or staffed to handle a crisis of the magnitude of the current pandemic.  The evidence for this is everywhere since the first nursing home case in Kirkland, Washington.  Headlines about bodies stacked in storage rooms, high infection rates in employees, lack of protective gear and more cover the media.

Nursing and senior living centers were overwhelmed and most attempts to make corrections and catch-ups were unsuccessful.  One would expect those nursing homes with poor records would perform poorly in the battle to protect their residents. Problem is, many very well-run nursing homes with responsible leadership were unable to prevent the spread of Covid-19, in spite of taking extreme measures to treat and isolate their residents who became infected.

Why Covid-19 Took Over Senior Living

Senior Vulnerability

Nursing homes exist for people who are no longer able to live in the community due to physical and health related impairments.  In nursing-homes we find the most ill, the most frail, least wealthy people in our society living in close proximity.  This, as one would expect, is a recipe for rampant transmission of such a virulent disease as Covid-19.


Adequate Staffing

Nursing homes have a reputation for inadequate staffing secondary primarily to pay which does not represent a living wage.  The result is often a care-giving staff unable to cope with such a massive challenge as a once in a century world wide pandemic.  In spite of extremely dedicated and caring staff in many facilities, it is simply not enough to overcome the vulnerabilities mentioned above.

Inadequate Regulation and Oversight

Senior living facilities are, in almost all cases, regulated by City, County, or State agencies.  With some exceptions, the training, staffing, procedures and more, of these agencies can vary widely based on location, funding, staffing, and regulations.  Once again, these regulatory agencies were totally unprepared for a crisis of this magnitude occurring in their jurisdictions.  This led to no consistency of approach throughout the industry and thus a loss of control over the situation.


There are many more factors one could attribute to the crisis we now face in our senior living environments.  The complexity of the situation not only makes it impossible to identify all the causes, it makes it extremely difficult to identify the best approaches to overcome the tragic outcomes we are experiencing.


Allen Swanson spent the last twenty years of his career working in nursing home settings as a Speech Pathologist and Director of Rehabilitation. Previously in Maryland he served as the President of the Board of Directors of the Howard County ARC which, in part, ran 23 group homes.


The first article in this series may be found at the link below:…r-living-centers/