All across the U.S., senior care homes have been hit hard by the novel coronavirus. We have seen a disturbingly large number of people pass away from this disease, and unfortunately, a lot of the signs point to the fact that many of these deaths were preventable if only we knew more about the illness and how to stop its spread earlier on. In some states, like New York, they are calling for full fledged investigations into why public policy was so poorly implemented, and placing thousands of people’s lives at risk as a result.
Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has become a highly politicized issue. But whatever your politics might be, the fact remains that this has been a tough time. Lives have been lost, jobs have disappeared, and poor mental health remains as one of the biggest concerns that our country has ever experienced.
But what makes all of this extraordinary is that Japan has one of the oldest populations in the world. When it comes to demographics, they should have been hit much harder than the U.S. when it comes to the impact of the coronavirus within senior care centers. However, Japan has had a different experience when it comes to how their nursing homes and senior care centers have been impacted.
More than 28 percent of Japan’s population is over the age of 65. The average person in this country lives to the age of 81. That puts them well ahead of most other countries, and implies that they have a much older–and vulnerable–population. But only 1,225 people have died from the coronavirus in Japan right now, compared to the roughly 180,000 that we have seen in the U.S. Only 14 percent of those deaths were in nursing homes. Compare that to the 40 percent of COVID related deaths in the U.S. happening in nursing homes.
The main difference? Japan acted a lot more quickly when it came to protecting its population than other countries. Controls on nursing homes, staff, and visitors were implemented quickly and thoroughly, limiting the ability of the virus to spread as soon as it was known. In other words, Japan had a plan in place and was able to get things moving right away. The severity of the issue was acknowledged, and care homes across the country took action. We didn’t see that on a universal level in the U.S.
We have made a lot of progress, but we’re not completely out of the woods yet. In some parts of the world, COVID-19 is still getting worse. We’ve gained some ground in the fight to keep people safe, but there’s a long way to go still. Hopefully, by looking at the places that have seen some success–like what we’ve observed from out of Japan–we can make even more headway. Keeping our elderly loved ones safe from COVID may be only a partial victory, but it’s a victory nonetheless. Let’s keep looking at what works, keep learning from it, and keep helping the people that we love. And if you have any questions about how we can help with your family’s senior care, please reach out to us.