Across Europe coronavirus is shining a harsh light on how we, as societies, treat our most vulnerable groups. In Spain, the army found abandoned old people dead in their care home beds. In France a former minister said residents in some care establishments had been shut in their rooms for six weeks after family visits were banned.
Now academics have revealed that in Italy, Spain, France, Ireland and Belgium, an average of 50% of Covid-19 deaths are taking place in care homes. In the UK, which is predicted to have the worst coronavirus outcome in Europe, people who die with coronavirus symptoms in care homes are not even counted in the daily virus death tallies. But the estimates are shocking.
Is ageism the reason that care home staff are often the least trained and lowest paid, when their skills should make them among the most valued? Is the virus sweeping through these homes precisely because of low pay, lack of testing and protective equipment? And are older people’s rights better guaranteed in some parts of Europe than others?
As European governments edge towards easing restrictions, has quarantine been more tolerable in Europe’s more equal societies? (Katherine Butler, The Guardian)
My take: I recently posted a piece on the resentment felt by young people for the baby boomers as a generation. I happen to sympathise, but in sympathizing I can’t condone the attitude of some who apparently are reported to shrug and say, “The Covid 19 deaths are mainly among old boomers. Why should I care?”. This may be apocryphal, but wouldn’t surprise me.
Actually, I have personal experience of a certain number of care homes near London, going back twenty years. There is truly nothing new about the terrible conditions in some of these homes, and it has nothing to do with millennials and everything to do with local authorities doing their job for the elderly on the cheap, and drugging the inmates to keep them quiet. I had at the time an elderly relative with a serious lifelong health condition. My wife and I decided under no circumstances to submit Mary to what looked like living death. It was a moral issue.
Care homes anger
Canada has been shaken by a disturbing report detailing the conditions found in long-term care homes ravaged by Covid-19 in Ontario and Quebec. In Canada, around 80% of all Covid deaths – those of more than 6,000 residents – have been in care homes, a much higher proportion than in the US or Europe. Some 1,400 soldiers were deployed to homes last month to help cope with the crisis – and the military has now detailed what they found there: overwhelmed staff, unsanitary conditions and desperate patients whose cries for help were ignored for hours on end. The PM, Justin Trudeau, said Canada’s “failure” to protect its elderly has left him with feelings of “anger, of sadness, of grief”. As of Wednesday, the Covid-19 death toll in Canada stood at 7,395 (a rate of 196 per million of population, compared with 327 in the US).