- Steve Gruber - https://www.stevegruber.com -

Pandemic Deaths Have Put a Spotlight on Other Deaths Happening at Nursing Homes

America’s reverence for our elderly in nursing homes has never been lower. 

And their lives have never been more in jeopardy because of the COVID-19 pandemic, lockdown rules, overworked staff and governors shipping virus patients to their facilities.

The elderly in nursing homes have always been at risk in the best of circumstances because of staffing choices made by the homes. My experience with them has shown that they hire people, often without experience, often for minimum wage with no benefits. 

It’s a recipe for disaster in a business that is all about the care of a human being – life and death.

The owners of these nursing homes make money hand-over-fist from insurance companies and private payments but never seem to want to shell out more than $10/hr. for elderly caregivers.

As a granddaughter and daughter-in-law of two elderly women who ended up long-term care facilities, I can tell you, if you end up  in a nursing home, you are pretty much on your own and everyday you are at the mercy of low-waged workers, their schedule, their competence and what mood they are in that day. And you’re also in competition for their attention with their cell phone.

Even the high-end assisted living facility where my mother-in-law was at, probably one of the most expensive places in my city, was only moderately acceptable, which is why me and my husband visited her four or five times a week to make sure she was safe and that she was getting what she needed.

The care of the elderly in these homes is often ignored or overlooked because of staff laziness or because they have too many patients to take care of, especially now with the addition of COVID-19 patients.

With the lockdown of nursing homes since March, families are not around to watch over their moms, dads, aunts, uncles and grandparents. That allows the nursing home staff to take advantage of the situation and ignore care that they don’t deem “necessary” or pressing at the time. 

Without being able to get outside services, the nursing home patients are also suffering without dental care, podiatrists and other services, leading to additional health care issues.

And without access to their loved ones, families can’t help with feeding, bathing, dressing and other things which puts all of the burden of care on overworked or lazy staff.

Mairead Painter, Connecticut’s long-term care ombudsman said to the AP, “I don’t think anyone really understood how much time friends and family, volunteers and other people spent in the nursing home and supplemented that hands-on care.”

My wonderful mother was one of those caregivers years ago when my grandma was in a nursing home. My mom wasn’t pleased with many of the nursing home staff that worked in the home where her mother lived in.

My mom would go to my grandmother’s nursing home at least once a day, sometimes twice, as it was only about a mile away. She would go during the day and then check on her at night as well to make sure my grandma was okay before going to bed.

My mom kept on the staff on their toes constantly to make sure that my grandma was taken care of. They knew my mom would be there all the time so I’m sure they took extra care to do what they were supposed to do or there would be a price to pay.

My mom got several staffers fired for incompetence and I think one manager lost her job too. My mom didn’t take any crap and I have always admired her for how she took care of my grandma. I can’t imagine her being restricted from taking care of my grandma. I think she probably would have taken her out of there and figured out some sort of alternative temporary care plan with her two siblings and the grandchildren.

But not every elderly person in nursing homes has a family member to keep an eye on them. 

Some of the elderly have no one around to keep up with their care and right now, they can’t anyway because of the restrictions on visits to nursing homes. Many families haven’t seen their mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles and grandparents for eight months.

They can only see them through the doors and windows, through phone calls, internet chats, messaging and live stream videos.

So what’s going on with the elderly in the nursing homes during this pandemic?

Quite a lot.

Not only have at least 97,000 of nursing home patients perished due to COVID-19, many of the ones who haven’t gotten infected have died due to staff shortages and overburdened workers. 

Many in the nursing homes aren’t receiving the care that they need [1].

According to a recent AP article, 75-year-old retired Alabama truck driver, Donald Wallace, died a horrible death from lack of care at his nursing home. Malnourished and dehydrated, Wallace had septic shock, an untreated urinary infection and E.Coli in his body from his own feces. He also had pneumonia. 

His son, Kevin Amerson, said, “They stopped taking care of him. They abandoned him.”

Nursing home watchdogs are receiving complaints of incompetence, neglect and abuse but they are shut out as well. So nothing is being done about falls, medical declines, mental declines, lack of care and serious injuries reported. Even small issues can lead to a bigger health care crisis with no one around to make sure these people are kept healthy – or even alive.

According to the AP, a nursing home expert analyzed data from 15,000 facilities and said that for every two COVID-19 victims in long-term care, there is another who died prematurely of other causes. 

That’s more than 40,000 people since March who lost their lives in what I would call “murder” because they died due to a lack of care from the very people put in charge of their lives.

The story of Maxine Schwartz is a sad example of what is going on in nursing homes all over the country.

The 92-year-old was in an upstate New York nursing home. Her daughter, Ann, would visit often before the pandemic, encouraging her to eat and adjust to her new home. They’d sing and eat brownies. Her daughter would get her mom to walk the hallways several times a week for exercise.

When the nursing home was locked down, Ann explained that her mother would starve without her because she wouldn’t eat. That’s what seems to have happened.

Maxine got thinner and thinner, not even eating brownies, and Ann got a call one day about her mom gasping for breath. She died soon afterwards.

Ann doesn’t agree with the state’s investigation of the facility that there was no wrongdoing. She said, “She was doing so good before they locked us out.” 

Before the pandemic, Maxine would wait by the elevator for her daughter to arrive every day. Ann asks, “What did she think when I wasn’t showing up? That I didn’t love her anymore? That I abandoned her? that I was dead?”

How many others with dementia or Alzheimers thought the same thing when their families didn’t show up?

Ann thinks that the isolation also played a big role in her mom’s death. 

“I think she gave up,” Ann said.

How many more of our precious senior citizens will die quietly in nursing homes because of overworked or incompetent staff while America and the government ignores the growing crisis?