Doctor and senior woman wearing facemasks during coronavirus and flu outbreak. Virus protection. COVID-2019..

Nursing home operators have an urgent need to reexamine their facility design models to better protect residents after the COVID-19 pandemic exposed flaws in current models, researchers argued in a new JAMDA study. 

“This pandemic has illustrated the importance of space and spatial practices such as social distancing, isolation, or quarantine, all of which have immediate and long-term implications for the built environment in terms of planning, urban design, and architecture,” lead author and geriatrics fellow at the University of California Diana C. Anderson, MD, and team wrote. 

Investigators explained that environment issues associated with long-term care, like living in close quarters and high levels of impairment and chronic illnesses, have been exacerbated since the onset of the public health crisis. This is particularly true due to the implementation of quarantines and visitor restrictions. 

To change that, analysts argue that design strategies for nursing homes should aim to find a balance among strengthening infection control, supporting a better quality of life and greater resilience among residents. 

“A holistic understanding of which features of the built environment are appreciated by the residents can lead to the design and retrofitting of nursing homes that are more in line with personal wishes and can impact positively on the quality of life and the sense of home of nursing home residents,” the authors said. 

Building details like private rooms with bathrooms, more porches, spacious outdoor areas and high-performance ventilation and air quality systems are among several macro and micro issues that should be considered in proposed design solutions. 

“The future of residential design for older adults should promote quality of life, social interaction, and engagement, but more importantly foster choice and collaboration with older adults,” researchers concluded. 

“Resilient nursing home building design needs to respond to potential vulnerabilities and allow the built environment certain flexibility in the face of changing conditions. Given the impending consequences of infectious outbreaks, it is imperative that health care leaders collaborate with architects and designers to invest in long-term care facility designs for maximum resiliency,” they added.