COVID found many victims amongst elderly long-term care “residents” so many so it virtually culled these “residents”. The worst hit were in privately run senior’s residences and long-term care facilities. The profit motive and proper senior’s care were not a good fit. As more of these facilities were inspected a whole raft of shocking stories emerged. Residents abused. Residents excessively drugged. Rotten and mouldy food. Poor cleanliness. Residents not bathed. Residents in soiled clothes for days. Rampant bed sores. And in many countries this had been the norm for years. I admired the Swedish system of integrating seniors into the community by improving at care home. Unfortunately in North America long term care homes were more prisons than compassionate and caring institutions. Just look at the forcible confinement of long-term care residents and prohibition of family visits in the name of “protective isolation”. Inmates in prisons had more rights!
Workers at these facilities were so poorly paid they had to take multiple jobs setting them up to become super spreaders in an environment where the COVIDs were an invitation to the pearly gates.
These horrific conditions were the subject of countless exposés for over 40 years and political promises to reform the management of these facilities abounded but talk was cheap and action was too expensive. So many wonderful seniors needlessly died and the result other than grief for many families and disgust of the general population was a commission of inquiry about long term care in Ontario after the COVIDs. I sat on this commission because of my voluntary work at these facilities. So we developed a set of recommendations most of which were common sense and not costly fixes but our Ontario government clapped and applauded but forgot. Bankrupt governments have so little to offer medical and social reform causing so many of us simply to cry and ask God to forgive us and mourn the loss of so many valuable souls.
Seniors have so much wisdom and experience to offer us but ageism and a tight budget and in some cases the profit motive shunted aside a rich vein of our cultural life. There were some that said the high mortality rate for seniors was a merciful act of Darwinism. Yes I think there was some truth to that as so many of these seniors, particularly those with debilitating illnesses, were suffering terribly and kept alive through modern pharmacology living a meagre and horrific existence but if you have worked with seniors like I have beneath that suffering and illness is a person fighting to survive and to politely ignore their death as “the fittest survive” doesn’t cut mustard. I think sometimes it was not the COVIDs that killed them but negligent management and regulation of long-term care and senior’s facilities. If there was any good to come out of this bad it was that bereaved and outraged families litigated against the privately operated facilities and basically shut them down globally with governments taking over their management so that in effect they became hospitals. Of course we know how well governments manage hospitals!
Photo: Robert Tuomi