The number of assisted living residents who died in 2020 was “significantly higher” than the number of residents who died in 2019, and Covid-19 is the likeliest reason as to why.
That’s according to a new study from researchers at Brown University and the University of North Carolina. The study’s results, published this week in the medical journal JAMA Network Open, shed light on the effect that Covid-19 had on mortality in assisted living settings.
For the study, researchers examined data from more than 425,000 Medicare beneficiaries living in licensed assisted living communities with more than 25 beds, located in 49 states and Washington, D.C. The study’s researchers also analyzed data from 10 states with the highest rate of Covid-19 cases using data as recent as August 2020.
Assisted living residents on the whole suffered 17% more deaths between January 2020 and August 2020 than in 2019, they found.
And in the 10 states with the highest number of Covid-19 cases as of Aug. 11, 2020 — Rhode Island, South Carolina, New Jersey, Georgia, Alabama, New York, Mississippi, Florida, Arizona and Louisiana — assisted living residents suffered 24% more deaths during that period than in 2019.
And that may be an “underestimate,” given the lag in data availability along with the fact that the study’s end date came before record Covid-19 surges that came later in the year, the researchers noted.
The latest data analysis provides evidence that the Covid-19 pandemic had a profound impact on assisted living resident mortality. The study’s results were similar to other analyses that found higher death rates at nursing homes during the pandemic.
While assisted living deaths remained elevated in 2020, the rollout of several Covid-19 vaccines late in the year and in early 2021 has led to plummeting rates of Covid-19 throughout the senior living industry.
Nearly half (51%) of all senior living communities reported no deaths resulting from Covid-19 in 2020, according to a study recently released by NORC at the University of Chicago.
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That study also showed mortality rates increased by care type and health care complexity. While 67% of independent living communities, 64% of assisted living facilities and 61% of memory care communities studied reported no Covid-19 deaths in 2020, only 39% of nursing facilities could say the same thing.