(CNN) — They are among the most numerous victims of the new coronavirus, however, old people they continue to be laid off, despite mounting evidence of the devastating effects the pandemic has had on them.
Earlier this week, the Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said he had heard people describe as “good” high death rates from covid-19 among older people.
“No, when the elderly are dying it is not right. It is a moral bankruptcy, “she told a press conference. “Every life, young or old, is precious and we have to do everything possible to save it.”
Figures from WHO last week show that almost 88% of all deaths in Europe occurred among people 65 years of age or older. AND almost half of all deaths Covid-19-related events around the world have taken place in nursing homes, according to the London School of Economics’ Long-Term Care Covid (LTCcovid) network.
But despite the large number of older people dying of coronavirus, and a significant drop in the quality of life for many who are forced to isolate themselves, the global response to the risks they face in the age of covid-19 often been creepy.
“How much is a life worth?”
When Sweden made the controversial decision not to impose confinement orders, the country’s chief epidemiologist, Anders TegnellHe told a local newspaper that the Public Health Agency “did not know there would be such a great potential for the disease to spread in nursing homes, with so many deaths.”
But he said that the country’s main social distancing strategy still “worked well” and that he “can’t see that we should have done it in a completely different way.”
Tony Abbott, the former prime minister of Australia, suggested in a speech -in the UK-, this Tuesday, that some elderly patients with coronavirus could die naturally.
“In this climate of fear, it was difficult for governments to ask, ‘How much is a life worth?’ Because every life is precious and every death is sad, but that has never stopped families from sometimes choosing to make their elderly relatives feel as comfortable as possible while nature takes its course, “he told the Policy Exchange think tank at London.
Abbott said governments were not “thinking like health economists, trained to ask uncomfortable questions about the level of deaths we might have to live with.”
And he said that even if Australia’s lockdown had prevented 150,000 predicted deaths, the $ 300 billion cost to the country resulted in $ 2 million per life saved, or $ 200,000 per year if they only had a life expectancy of 10 years. , adding that this price was “substantially beyond what governments are usually willing to pay for life-saving drugs.”
“A rich life”
It is an argument that Robin Hall, a manager of a nursing home in the south of England, has dismissed, saying that older residents were “much more capable than people think of leading a rich life.” .
“You can live in a nursing home and you can thrive,” said Hall, the treasurer for Home of Comfort in Portsmouth.
Before closing, Hall said the house was filled with regular activities, visits from friends and family and even a group of children.
“All of that stopped overnight,” he said. “It felt like the heart had left our house. Without these people here, it feels a bit empty and a bit soulless … Suddenly, everyone is confined to their room, “he said.
Home of Comfort faced problems similar to those of institutions around the world, including hospitals that returned to residents without evidence, as well as the shortage of personal protective equipment, medications and personnel, in addition to insufficient testing capacity.
Nursing home administrators around the world told CNN early in the pandemic that the situation was dire and the most difficult they had seen in decades of their careers.
Many relatives have described the pain of not being able to visit their relatives. Mary Daniel from Florida told CNN in July, that she had taken a job as a dishwasher at her husband’s nursing home just so she could see him.
She directs a Facebook group calling for a “reasonable reopening” of nursing homes across the United States, saying loved ones are “dying of isolation.”
The UK dementia charity John’s Campaign is calling for a judicial review of the guidelines on home visiting, which say face-to-face contact should be restricted wherever possible to minimize the risk of infection. Many families have been separated from relatives, often confused, for months and have been told they will only be able to see them when they are dying, according to the charity and CNN reports.
Julia Hailes, an environmental writer from Dorset, in the south-west of England, told CNN she was feeling “completely desperate” when the confinement prevented her from visiting her mother Minker, 90, who has dementia.
“I felt that she would just feel, if anything, that she had been abandoned,” Hailes said.
Minker was isolated in her room with suspected coronavirus, but was not tested, and the family’s attempts to connect via FaceTime calls were “a painful experience,” Hailes said.
Recently, Hailes was allowed to visit her mother in her room for the first time since confinement, but said she found it difficult to communicate wearing gloves, a mask and an apron and sitting behind a methacrylate screen.
Before the pandemic hit, Hailes said Minker was able to join in with the poetry reading, but now, “he’s faded further, he can’t really speak anymore.”
Hailes said it was important to look at the quality of life of older patients and not just survival rates.
LTCcovid reported last week that, on average, in 26 countries, 47% of all deaths related to covid-19 they have been from residents of nursing homes. But these were not people who had died from other causes.
Their analysis of excess deaths (the number of additional deaths recorded during the pandemic, compared to the same period in previous years) found an increase in the 79% in deaths in England’s nursing homes.
The coronavirus also exposed the chronic underfunding of nursing homes in Europe, North America and Canada, reported the network.
In America, nursing homes were named the ‘zero point»Of the pandemic. He Department of Justice now requests Covid-19 data from four states “that issued warrants,” according to the agency, “may have resulted” in the deaths of nursing home residents from the virus.
“For nursing homes, it has been catastrophic both in terms of the people who have died, as well as in terms of the people who have survived, but have not been able to access and the care and quality of life that they would normally expect,” Adam Gordon, Professor of Elder Care at the UK’s University of Nottingham, told CNN.
He said some nursing homes were at risk of closure after increased spending on personal protective equipment and personnel, along with a drop in demand for places due to the tidal wave of deaths and fewer people moving into nursing homes during the pandemic.
There are also concerns about a drop in hospital admissions during the pandemic, leading to fears that older people may be piling up undiagnosed health problems for the future, Gordon added.
Older people living at home have gone unnoticed during the pandemic. LTCcovid found limited evidence from anywhere in the world on how people who receive care in the community have been affected by covid-19.
In United States, the organization reported that challenges in the system, which already disproportionately affected people of low socioeconomic status and people from ethnic minority communities, “have been greatly exacerbated by the crisis.”
An analysis of Kaiser Health News of the data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that covid-19 death rates among blacks ages 65 to 74 were five times higher than among whites.
The number of nursing home residents dying from COVID-19 has decreased in countries like Sweden and the United Kingdom, as governments have begun providing more support and guidance to help tackle the pandemic.
But Hall said it was difficult for governments to drastically change their approach to the sector while the pandemic still raged.
“I think now it is very difficult for them to try and, from the beginning, … understand what it is like,” he said.
Cases are on the rise again in many countries and Hall said the threat remains serious for older people.
“They don’t have much visibility, they don’t have much attention, which is a shame because they are among the most vulnerable, but they are completely invisible.”