Nursing Homes

Many people who live in nursing homes or assisted living facilities have health conditions that prevent them from leaving the site to vote in person. That means absentee by-mail voting is common enough that those facilities have some special rules about how to vote by mail in North Carolina. 

As overwhelmed health departments call for help, National Guard members have been deployed to help run COVID19 testing sites and assist nursing homes.

An empty rocking chair on a porch.
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Nursing homes have weathered more than 100 outbreaks of COVID-19 in North Carolina. More than 40% of the state’s deaths from the virus are from residents at those facilities. Some of those facilities are state-run nursing homes for veterans, and there is now scrutiny over government accountability amidst ongoing outbreaks.

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All North Carolinians living and working in nursing homes will soon receive a one-time coronavirus test, the state announced Tuesday.

Nursing home residents sit around a table.
PJ Johnson

Nursing homes are hotspots for spreading the coronavirus. Long-term residents can more easily stay isolated from family and friends, but workers and short-term patients travel in and out of nursing home communities. Many may be asymptomatic, unknowingly providing an opportunity for the virus to enter and exit vulnerable communities. 

Sign reads: No worries! We have plenty of toilet paper.
Courtesy of Lisa Leatherwood

Nursing homes are the source of more than 40% of North Carolina’s reported COVID-19 deaths so far. These facilities house some of our most vulnerable community members, many of whom need personal care — things like help going to the bathroom or brushing teeth. As of Tuesday, the data from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services shows that 48 nursing homes and 20 residential care facilities (which include adult and family care homes) have outbreaks

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Although the majority of Americans support paid family leave, only 12 percent of North Carolina workers benefit from it. Employees are able to take unpaid family leave under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act, but many workers simply cannot afford to go without pay while they take care of a new baby or sick relative. 

Image of Amanda Holliday with her grandmother Celeste Sawyer.
Amanda Holliday

Many kids grow up spending time after school with other kids in their neighborhood playing pick-up soccer, videogames or capture the flag. 

The state's nursing homes and elder care facilities are improving, according to a new study.
SalFalko / Flickr

After a hospital stay, many seniors on Medicare will go to a nursing facility to rehabilitate before going home. But a new study from Duke University, UNC Chapel Hill and the Carolinas Center for Medical Excellence shows many of them return to the hospital before long.

Mark Toles teaches at UNC's Nursing school and is a co-author of the report. He said nursing homes often provide good care, but the transition back home can be difficult.

Elderly senior citizen hand on cane
Meena Kadri, Flickr, Creative Commons

Regulators who oversee quality at the state's long-term care facilities depend on trained volunteers to visit assisted-living and nursing homes and report back about conditions. But there are ongoing vacancies on the citizen advisory committees in the Triangle.

Dennis Streets is the director of the state health department division on Aging and Adult services. He said the job is more important than ever.

The state's nursing homes and elder care facilities are improving, according to a new study.
SalFalko / Flickr

North Carolina has reduced its rate of antipsychotic drug use in nursing homes by 23 percent over the last year-- that's the highest such improvement rate in the country.

Many nursing homes and adult care homes have been known to use antipsychotic drugs to help calm and control residents who have dementia. But overmedication can cause all sorts of problems for patients who are so drugged they can't participate in activities and who might fall because the drugs impair their coordination. Bob Konrad is a professor in health policy at UNC-Chapel Hill's School of Public Health.

The state's nursing homes and elder care facilities are improving, according to a new study.
SalFalko / Flickr

A nationwide study of nursing homes says North Carolina's facilities are improving. 

A survey commissioned by the federal government shows more nursing homes scored higher on a five-star health rating system in 2011 than in 2009.  The number of stars awarded is based on health inspections, the amount of staff at each home, and quality-of-life measures. 

When James Clark retired as an English professor from North Carolina State University, he wasn't done teaching. He went from the classroom to the retirement home, where he taught the elderly how to share their experiences with family and friends through creative writing.