Widespread neglect in the American nursing home system has been well documented, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, and it’s absolutely disgraceful. Simply put, policymakers have made some very bad choices that put residents at assisted living facilities, who were already at the greatest risk of succumbing to the novel virus, at substantially increased risk of contraction and death. The date bears that horrible reality out. Tens of thousands of excess deaths, directly attributable to subpar given to senior Americans in the facilities that exist purely to give adequate and humane care. This recent report from the Associated Press was particularly sobering:
A nursing home expert who analyzed data from the country’s 15,000 facilities for The Associated Press estimates that for every two COVID-19 victims in long-term care, there is another who died prematurely of other causes. Those “excess deaths” beyond the normal rate of fatalities in nursing homes could total more than 40,000 since March.
These extra deaths are roughly 15% more than you’d expect at nursing homes already facing tens of thousands of deaths each month in a normal year.
“The healthcare system operates kind of on the edge, just on the margin, so that if there’s a crisis, we can’t cope,” said Stephen Kaye, a professor at the Institute on Health and Aging at the University of California, San Francisco, who conducted the analysis. “There are not enough people to look after the nursing home residents.”
Comparing mortality rates at homes struck by COVID-19 with ones that were spared, Kaye also found that the more the virus spread through a home, the greater the number of deaths recorded for other reasons. In homes where at least 3 in 10 residents had the virus, for example, the rate of death for reasons besides the virus was double what would be expected without a pandemic.
The pro-life movement has always acted as a voice to the voiceless, and many residents in long term care facilities are increasingly voiceless. We must do better for our elder Americans.