Handling COVID-19 Vaccines for Nursing Home Residents with Cognitive Impairment

syringe needle and vial with vaccine

COVID-19 vaccines have already begun to be distributed across the country, and residents at nursing homes and assisted living facilities are among the first Americans to receive them, according to recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But what happens for residents who have cognitive impairment or dementia?

Much like any other individual receiving the vaccine, older adults in long-term care facilities must understand the details of the vaccine in order to consent receiving one. However, if consent is not possible, how can these facilities provide the necessary information to the guardian or conservator in a timely manner? And what happens if the surrogate does not agree with their elderly loved one’s decision to be vaccinated?

While nursing homes and other long-term care facilities nationwide grapple with these concerns, they are also faced with a sense of urgency. Residents at these facilities continue to succumb to the virus, viral outbreaks are increasing, and staff members are overwhelmed. That doesn’t leave much time to answer questions from residents and have thorough conversations with their families.

Each vaccine manufacturer provides detailed fact sheets that include the known benefits and risks, but industry leaders and facility operators want to make absolutely sure elderly residents and their families have a strong understanding. Some operators have already developed communication plans regarding the vaccine and set those plans into motion. Unfortunately, others are not as prepared.

Long-term care facilities that have conducted videoconferencing sessions for residents and their families have focused on communicating the extensive process of studying and testing that each vaccine has gone through as well as the extreme effectiveness they have proven. Although the COVID-19 vaccine is new and comes with unique concerns, most of these facilities have similar experience providing information and receiving consent to administer flu vaccinations each year.

Across the country, nursing home and long-term care facility operators and staff understand the urgency and the importance of leading the way out of this crisis.

Read the full article from Kaiser Health News.

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