Proceedings from an International Virtual Townhall: Reflecting on the COVID-19 Pandemic: Themes from Long-Term Care
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Residents of long-term care (LTC) homes have suffered disproportionately during the COVID-19 pandemic, from the virus itself and often from the imposition of lockdown measures. Provincial Geriatrics Leadership Ontario, in collaboration with interRAI and the International Federation on Aging, hosted a virtual Town Hall on September 25, 2020. The purpose of this event was to bring together international perspectives from researchers, clinicians, and policy experts to address important themes potentially amenable to timely policy interventions. This article summarizes these themes and the ensuing discussions among 130 attendees from 5 continents. The disproportionate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on frail residents of LTC homes reflects a systematic lack of equitable prioritization by health system decision makers around the world. The primary risk factors for an outbreak in an LTC home were outbreaks in the surrounding community, high staff and visitor traffic in large facilities, and crowding of residents in ageing buildings. Infection control measures must be prioritized in LTC homes, though care must be taken to protect frail and vulnerable residents from their overly blunt application that deprives residents from appropriate physical and psychosocial support. Staffing, in terms of overall numbers, training, and leadership skills, was inadequate. The built environment of LTC homes can be configured for both optimal resident well-being and infection control. Infection control and resident wellness need not be mutually exclusive. Improving outcomes for LTC residents requires more staffing with proper training and interprofessional leadership. All these initiatives must be underpinned by an effective quality assurance system based on standardized, comprehensive, accessible, and clinically relevant data, and which can support broad communities of practice capable of effecting real and meaningful change for frail older persons, wherever they chose to reside.