Updated on March 16th, 2020

Please comment below, as your feedback is greatly appreciated.  We will keep this article updated as we enter deeper into the pandamic.

Increase in Family Caregivers Coronavirus

How many jobs will be temporarily lost due to coronavirus?  How many layoffs will occur in the next several months?  The number is unknown, but we are already seeing a huge impact on both the US and global economies.  The sports industry is basically on pause, with both professional and collegiate sporting events being cancelled daily, including March Madness and the remainder of the 2020 NBA season.  But it’s not just the millionaire athletes that are affected… consider the food vendors, stadium employees, and product distributors who have found themselves suddenly out of work.  Like most of us, they are the middle class.  And, of course, other industries are taking a major hit too, include travel and consumer-facing sectors such as hospitality, retail, catering, entertainment, and fitness, among others.  

According to caregiver.org, about 80% of all elderly people receiving assistance live independently at home, and not in a senior living community or institution.  A percentage of these folks are cared for by their loved ones.  In the industry we refer to those individuals as “family caregivers.”  The other percentage of these independently living seniors receiving are cared for by paid professionals who work for home healthcare agencies. I cannot find the stat so if you are reading this article and know the stat then please comment below

This begs a very important question:  With potentially millions of Americans now at home and out of work, what will the impact on caregiving be?  Will these temporarily out of work Americans shift from working their normal jobs to caring for their loved ones?  It seems like a very real, short-term possibility while their day jobs are encouraging them to self-quarantine.  Will they suspend the home care agency they relied on for years to take care of their own elderly parents?  After all, with little or no income coming in, plus excess free time, it might be a financially solvent choice. 

If it happens that family caregivers start taking jobs away from homecare agencies, will it then create a shortage in jobs?  Markets naturally fluctuate due to multiple external and uncontrolled circumstances, which the coronavirus certainly is, so nobody really knows the answer.  Due to panic, we predict many older folks have begun postponing their move into a senior living community, at all cost. We think this will ultimately compensate for the loss of home care jobs taken by family caregivers, so more employees are going to be needed in home health care.  However, senior living communities are going into full lockdown, which means home health workers are going to start running into complications caring for their clients in those communities, too. There is a lot to consider!

The overall picture is almost entirely unpredictable and complicated because we really don’t know the eventual impact of the coronavirus.  If millions of Americans end up with the virus, sick at home and quarantined, then somebody is going to have to step up and provide care for them.

Full Senior Housing Lockdowns

In the past several weeks, 22 elderly patients at Life Care Center, a nursing home in Kirkland, WA sadly passed away from the coronavirus.  Life Care Center is one of the nation’s most reputable and well operated senior living providers, with nursing homes across the country, and is only the first of many nursing homes facing the possibility of the same heartbreaking fate.  To show the magnitude of the senior housing picture, there are 15,500 nursing homes in the US, caring for approximately 1,400,000 patients.  There are also an additional 28,000 assisted living residents and 245,000 independent living homes in the US, totaling approximately 289,000 senior living providers.

According to the Center of Disease Control and Prevention, older adult are among those at highest risk of getting seriously ill from contracting COVID-19.  Here are two graphs, posted by Buzz Feed, showing figures from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention.  The first shows Death Rates by Age, and the second shows Death Rates by Preexisting Condition. The figures were taken in March 2020.

Corona Virus and Death by Age

Coronavirus and Preexisting Conditions

In order to prevent the same dreadful fate that befell the community living at Life Care of Kirkland, most senior living residences, especially nursing homes and assisted living residences, are beginning to go into lockdown, which means no outside visitors either in or out. Consequently, seniors living in these communities will be away from their families for extended periods of time, with contact only by phone or electronically.  As COVID-19 spreads its tentacles throughout the United States, we could see an unprecedented national lockdown of nearly every nursing homes and assisted living facilities in all 50 states.

So how could lockdown impact the senior healthcare industry?  Without a doubt, seniors are going to be less willing to move into a senior living community due to the lockdowns, so admission numbers will suffer. This could create panic among those in charge of running these communities and in charge of keeping their censuses high. 

But the issue remains that many seniors still require a senior living community, especially people coming directly out of emergency rooms or surgery, as it is often the best option for their care over home health.   Thus a big question is raised: if hospital emergency rooms are packed with people getting tested for coronavirus, and discharge planners are still strongly recommending nursing homes to seniors who were admitted to the ER for unrelated corona issues like falls and injuries, then what will be the protocol for nursing homes accepting new patients?  The obvious answer is mandatory coronavirus testing for admittance of any potential resident prior to move-in.  They may even have a two-week quarantine period upon move-in after a testing negative for COVID-19, just to be safe. 

Here’s the curveball… due to lack of available test kits, most potential residents don’t really have a way of getting tested, at least currently.  President Trump just approved funding for another 5 million tests but they won’t be available for another month or so.  So, more than likely, nursing home admissions are going to halt until mass testing is available.

In spite of the recent coronavirus pandemic, the good news is that among the 1.7 million nursing home beds available at any given time, there are only 1.4 million occupied, leaving about 300,000 open beds.  That makes us feel more reassured than if there was a shortage of beds!

Emergency Room Overloads and High Wait Times

There are approximately 5,500 emergency rooms throughout the country, and another 7,100 urgent care centers.  According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, a 2010 survey by the American Hospital Association revealed that 50% of surveyed urban and teaching hospitals had ERs that were “at” or “over” capacity.  And according to US News and World Report, ER wait time averaged at about 22.4 minutes, with the shortest wait times in Colorado and Utah at approximately 13 minutes, and 53 minutes being the longest wait time in Maryland. 

With those stats in mind, if coronavirus cases explode in the US then the impact on emergency rooms and urgent care clinics could be devastating.  Crowded hospitals and slow wait times could result in lack of immediate access to emergency care, leaving thousands of Americans left in a healthcare blackhole.  Listen, we’re not just talking about those with the coronavirus.  Heart attacks, car accidents, drug overdoses, etc. would be ill attended to.  According to the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention, one in four Americans aged 65+ falls each year, every 11 seconds an older adult is treated in the emergency room for a fall, and every 19 minutes an older adult dies from a fall.

Another important and scary stat to keep in mind is the United States has, at most, only 64,000 Intensive Care Unit (ICU) beds and 160,000 ventilators.  Many hospitals are already at capacity.  This means if coronavirus becomes uncontainable and spreads throughout the American public, there would be a huge shortage in ICU beds and ventilators, leaving thousands of Americans in critical care and without the necessary medical equipment to support them. 

Care Advisor Hotline

Medication Shortages & Contamination

According to Rosemary Gibson, author of China Rx, “If China shuts the door on exports of medicines and key ingredients and raw materials, US Hospitals and military hospitals and clinics would cease to function within months, if not days.” 

It is utterly mind boggling that past and current leaders of our nation have so irresponsibly allowed American healthcare to be completely dependent on the Chinese.  China literally has its hands around our neck and can squeeze anytime.  Of course, it won’t during a normal economy and stable global atmosphere.  The money is too good!  But what happens if a global pandemic like coronavirus becomes unmanageable and spreads throughout the world, and millions of people need medicine?  Not only would China be forced to use vast amounts of limited raw materials on their own people, thus creating high demand; but, additionally, demand would skyrocket worldwide, potentially leaving each nation in a bidding war to stockpile medication as fast as possible. 

The Department of Homeland Security has already recommended to maintain a continuous supply of prescription medication at home.  Medicines for fever, cough and congestion are highly recommended.  You should stock-pile on a 30-day supply of over the counter medication just in case you have to be self-quarantined for 14+ days. 

Without regular inspections there is obvious risk of contamination of prescription drugs, and an even greater chance when laws on inspections are lax.  The Food and Drug Administration recently suspended most inspections on foreign food, medical supplies and prescription drugs.  This allows the chain of supplies to move more quickly and freely, but also increases the risk of contamination.  It seems to be a necessary evil.

Based off where this is headed according to geometric progression, which essentially states that if the amount of people who test positive for coronavirus everyday doubles until containment, then millions of Americans are going to contract the virus, and thus we are going to need a lot of medicine to go around.  We believe we medicinally we are prepared for this potential situation because, after all, there is no preventable vaccine for those without coronavirus, nor prescription drug developed for those who have already contracted it.  And therefore, the medicine you need most are over-the-counter, which this country seems to have plenty of.  

Shift in Economy – Increase Healthcare Professional and Government Jobs

Italy has recently enforced a “auto-certifying” form, essentially forbidding movement between towns and cities.  Germany, Czech Republic, Demark and Poland have closed their border to tourists.  Austria has closed all non-essential shops, including restaurants and bars.  It won’t be long until the United States follows suit and goes on full lock-down.  So, what does that mean for the American economy?

We’re not economists, so these predictions are formulated from our own opinions, plus information we have gathered from various online articles:

In the short-term, there will be an obvious, rapid shift in the economy.  As stated above, both the US and global economies are on hold.  All sporting events and conventions have been cancelled.  The food and hospitality industries are headed toward a complete halt.  Many people are terrified to get on a flight, and rightfully so.  That being said, unless the coronavirus kills millions of Americans, which it could, but probably won’t because it looks like the country is taking the right precautions early enough to mitigate mass contamination, then the economy will bounce back when the virus eventually subsides.

Where will we see a long-term increase in employment?  Our estimate is that coronavirus will awaken Americans to finally realize how broken our healthcare system really is.  Consequently, we believe more preventive measures will begin to be installed after the next election to not only prevent pandemics such as the coronavirus, but also to improve the healthcare system as a whole.  Thus, we believe there will be an increase in healthcare jobs available in the next decade. 

Additionally, due to the coronavirus, both state health departments have been forced to temporarily shift employees away from normal, day-to-day job responsibilities and toward coronavirus call intake.  This has resulted from hospitals and physician offices being overloaded with people calling in about the coronavirus, then redirecting them to the health department for answers.  So, for example, a health department worker who normally handles evaluating and distributing grants for cancer research, is now working from home taking calls from the public.  Consequently, after this pandemic finally calms down, we predict that all state health departments will see an increase in their budgets for handling crises and informing the public about potential dangers.


Article written by Alex Milzer with Senior Directory