Nursing home deaths do not justify society's lockdowns

Using the excessive numbers of fatalities at nursing homes to justify the overly cautious behaviour of those who are at minimal risk is an insult to those who need our care most.

In Canada, nursing home deaths from the COVID-19 coronavirus account for 81 percent of the total fatalities. In the US, it's 42 percent of the total number of coronavirus deaths.

In recent weeks, we have seen viral video of nursing home residents being beaten. We have heard tales of them being left behind when all other residents of a long-term care home have been evacuated. And now, we've heard that the Canadian military personnel who were dispatched to look out for the most vulnerable among  us had to speak to the media before the Trudeau government would take action.

Nursing homes have come under scrutiny when it was revealed that governors of several states were sending coronavirus patients who were cleared to leave hospitals, or who had tested positive in other care facilities such as group homes, into nursing homes.

These states were mandating that nursing homes alter their mission to not only care for their geriatric residents but to create coronavirus recovery wards. In Gretchen Whitmer's Michigan, this was required for any nursing home that was at less than 80 percent capacity. In Andrew Cuomo's New York, he had a similar directive. And in Pennsylvania, those who are in charge about nursing home residents care more about their own identity than those who are dependent on their mercy.

Anyone who has been to a nursing home knows that they are primarily ghastly places, where our seniors are sent when caring for them is more than their family is willing to burden. Nursing homes are where the elderly go to be forgotten, and the pandemic reveals that this is exactly what we have done—culturally, legislatively, and emotionally.

In fact, we have gone so far in ignoring nursing homes that we have got to a point where we are hiding ourselves in our homes, enacting social distancing, wearing face masks as a sign of our virtue, quarantining, and self-isolating, because we fear an illness that is killing those people we have shunted off to the edges of society.

It has gone so far, that we are demanding that those who contract this illness and suffer it to death are not to be comforted on their death beds. They are offered phone with which to contact their families, but not a hand to hold.

The feeling is that giving a beloved older person solace in their final moments on earth is a selfish act. People have gone so far as to say that the dying would prefer to depart this world without human contact than to imagine they had infected another.

We pander to the elderly. Politicians ask for their votes, and offer policies to help them, such as enhanced benefits or pretending that they're listening to their concerns. But what's really going on is that we fear the old.

We fear the old because we don't want to be old, because we don't want to die, and because we don't want to imagine that we will be in their orthopedic shoes one day.

What we should be doing now is securing these homes against future infection. We should be demanding accountability from those companies and governments that run nursing homes and care facilities, and ask them what, if anything, they intend to do to prevent the violence, rampant abuse, mistreatment, and negligence that is so obviously present in these places.

Using the excessive numbers of fatalities at nursing homes to justify the overly cautious behaviour of those who are both healthy and at minimal risk is an insult to those who need our care, compassion, and selflessness most.