The COVID-19 virus continues to be a danger to the elderly. The total goes up every day, but more than 90,000 deaths took place in the country’s 15,000 long-care residencies. This pushes the staff, who also contract the disease at a higher rate, past their limits.
Advocates for the elderly now have raised the alarm about thousands of elderly who die in these elder care facilities. Rather than the virus, however, these other deaths result from staff across the country becoming overwhelmed. It has led to reports of:
- Residents who need help eating are not getting assistance.
- Residents who need diapers changed are getting sores or worse because it does not happen.
- Residents are withering away due to dehydration.
Chronic understaffing leads to neglect
Doctors and experts analyzing the data of deaths where there was no apparent cause say these other residents are at greater risk of being overlooked. According to analysis, the number of these “premature” deaths could be as high as 40,000 since the pandemic struck in March. These additional numbers add an extra 15% to the total number of deaths in nursing homes and long-term care facilities, which normally have tens-of-thousands of deaths each month.
The issue is that these facilities are not staffed for the increased number of sick residents so that COVID deaths are having a ripple effect of limiting the care other non-COVID residents get. It could be due to staff’s focus on residents with the virus or the fact they also contract the virus and leave fewer coworkers available to provide the necessary care. This dynamic is confirmed with non-COVID-related deaths going up in facilities particularly hit hard by COVID.
Good news on the horizon
Despite the tragic number of deaths, there is some good news in the form of a vaccine. Ideally, the staff and vulnerable residents will be the first to receive new vaccines. However, when the cloud of this pandemic clears, there will likely be a reckoning with those facilities that did not properly care for their elderly charges.