Thursday, May 07, 2020

The Elderly and COVID-19 Revisited

Nova Scotia reports six more COVID-19 deaths at Northwood nursing ...

In these strange pandemic days we are inundated with statistics from our province, Canada and around the world concerning those infected with the coronavirus and those who have died. These are bleak numbers but I often find particular stories most affecting, the health care workers who get sick or workers in the meat plants of Alberta. 

Most poignant for me are the reports out of long-term care facilities for the elderly and one really hit home this past week. I served a downtown congregation in Halifax twenty years ago and visited a large number of elders in the sprawling Northwood seniors complex. One of our members in Northwood was woman who lived through the infamous Halifax Explosion of 1917. There was a grainy photo in her room of a group of children, herself among them, standing next to a huge chunk of metal which had landed in a field on their family farm. This was fascinating and we talked about that momentous day. It didn't occur to me that she also survived the deadly flu pandemic of that same year.

It turns out that Northwood is the epicentre of COVID-19  in Nova Scotia with 35 of the province's 41 deaths in that facility, more than 80%. We know that residences for seniors across the country have been hard hit including Pinecrest in Bobcaygeon where nearly half the residents have died from COVID. 

Nurses wave to hundreds of residents driving by Pinecrest Nursing Home honking their horns to acknowledge health-care workers in Bobcaygeon, Ont., on Wednesday, April 1.

What this has revealed is that we don't do well in caring for our elderly, not because those who work there aren't dedicated but because the resources for adequate care are underfunded, the staff members are often underpaid, and regulation is hit-and-miss. We have a sister-in-law who works in a nursing home and they are doing everything possible to avoid an outbreak, but it isn't easy, especially if nurses and PSWs must work in more than one facility to make ends meet.

I'm hoping that this pandemic wakes us all up to the importance of funding the facilities where those who were instrumental in building this country are supported as they become vulnerable in old age. We can ask why those who provide vital care in these facilities are so poorly paid -- what does that say about who and what we value? And while I'm loathe to criticize the Ford government which has responded to this crisis very well, they should be held to account for reducing inspections for long-term care homes. 

Of course many mainline congregations have a significant number of members in nursing homes and we can pray for their well-being and ask how we can be supportive in these difficult times. Please pray as well for the caregivers who should be regarded as heroes at any time. 


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Judy said...

And when board members of these long term care homes are paid almost $300,000 per year, there is definitely something wrong with the system ! Mike Harris - Chartwell homes ...

David Mundy said...

Yes, it is sickening. We really only pay lip service to the contributions of our elders. Today, on the 75th anniversary of VE Day we should ask why so many who sacrificed in that era are the most likely victims of COVID. Thanks Judy.