Depression spiked among nursing home residents during pandemic, report finds

Governor Ned Lamont arrives at a news conference at the Greater Bridgeport Transit headquarters, in…

Depression spiked among nursing home residents during pandemic, report finds


After nursing homes around Connecticut slammed their doors shut to visitors this spring, care providers saw a spike in symptoms of depression among residents, according to a new report released Thursday.

At the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, cases of unplanned weight loss almost doubled, while symptoms of depression increased by 15 percent.

Those outcomes suggest the true impact of the pandemic brought on by the novel coronavirus stretch far beyond the thousands of deaths and infections recorded at the state’s long-term care facilities over the past seven months.


Earlier this week, the state began allowing indoor visits for nursing home residents, a decision officials said was largely prompted by concerns about residents well-being in isolation.

The virus exacted a heavy toll as it tore through nursing homes and assisted living facilities, some of which are still grappling with outbreaks this week.



Nearly two-thirds of the state’s deaths attributed to COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, were among residents of nursing homes.

As of Thursday, 2,849 nursing home residents and three staff members have had their deaths attributed to COVID-19, according to the governor’s office. A further 381 residents of assisted living facilities have died.


The 157-page report released Thursday by Mathematica, a Cambridge, Mass.-based research foundation, concluded the state did not recognize long-term care facilities as critical parts of its emergency health care plan early on.

Long Term Care Facilities Final Report by Peter Yankowski on Scribd


“Compounded by a lack of knowledge about how the virus spreads, (long-term care) facilities did not take prompt and immediate action to limit entry to their buildings, enforce staff screening measures, and implement universal mask wearing,” the report reads.


An interim report released by the organization over the summer came to similar conclusions, including recommending nursing home staff should not work at multiple facilities, to prevent the virus jumping from home to home.

Asked about the final report during his Thursday news conference, Gov. Ned Lamont said the state is already implementing most of the recommendations raised by Mathematica.

That includes working with nursing homes on training around infection control. “Those nursing homes that didn’t get that right are really the ones that suffered the most,” Lamont said.


The report also found that nursing homes in communities with high caseloads, as well as homes with a large number of patients who had to go offsite for dialysis or cancer treatment, had higher numbers of cases and deaths.

It recommended the state find ways to reopen facilities to visitors, make infection control specialists required under federal law at nursing homes into a full-time position, increase staffing minimums and ensure access to protective garbs and sick leave for staff.

Deidre Gifford, acting commisioner for the state Department of Public Health, said the agency has not stopped working on intervening at nursing homes since Mathematica was contracted to write the report in June.

“What I found very reassuring about the report was the strategies that we’ve been putting in place to prepare for a second wave were validated,” Gifford said.

She said the agency will look at the report’s longer term recommendations — including engaging the nursing homes in the planning process — as the fall goes on.

Shortly after the press conference, Republican state Sen. Kevin Kelly blasted the governor over the report, calling it “an indictment on the state’s response to the pandemic in our nursing homes.”

“Connecticut must make patient-centered care a priority and guarantee that care plans address the prevention of isolation and loneliness,” said Kelly, whose district includes Monroe, Seymour, Shelton and Stratford.

“We have to make sure the terror, fear and isolation that nursing home residents experienced never happens again,” he said.

A joint statement from two nursing home organizations said the pandemic “is not over.”

“We are committed to reviewing and implementing Mathematica’s short-term and long-term recommendations as we continue to partner with Connecticut to prepare for the challenges ahead and put this virus behind us,” said Matthew Barrett of the Connecticut Association of Health Care Facilities and Mag Morelli of LeadingAge Connecticut.

The report comes as several high profile outbreaks have been reported at Connecticut nursing homes in recent weeks.

On Thursday, Harrington Court, a nursing home in Colchester, reported 56 new cases of COVID-19 among staff and residents there. The outbreak prompted the home to move some residents, the chief medical officer for the home’s parent company said.

That came after four people tested posistive for the illness at Fairview Rehabilitation and Skilled Nursing Care Center in Groton the week before.

Earlier in September, the state appointed an interim manager at Three Rivers, a nursing home in Norwich, after at least 21 people fell ill with the virus and four infected residents died. The state later ordered the facility to close.