In the Age of Covid, Elder Care Should Be an Election Issue

Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, many people—including my parents—said they’d rather die than end up in a nursing home. So when my mother suffered a brain aneurysm and became severely disabled at the age of 57, my father and I cared for her at home.

I had two young children and a full-time job, so I would help after work and on the weekends. But after my father fell ill, we needed more help than I could give.


Like many families with few long-term care options, we were forced to turn to the nursing home system.


Families have few choices when it comes to long-term care, and the ones that do exist can be dehumanizing—especially for those who can’t advocate for themselves. Covid-19 has made it clearer than ever that we need better care that honors everyone’s humanity.


My mother lived in a nursing home for 14 years. During that time I got to know the residents and learned that many didn’t have family or anyone to advocate for them. As a result of this experience, I became a volunteer legal guardian for my county’s Adult Protective Services to help those at-risk residents who didn’t have the kind of support that my parents did.


I quickly learned that many nursing homes prioritize profit over people—a trend that has only worsened since Covid-19.

The meeting took place in a bright and beautiful conference room with white leather chairs, in stark contrast to dark rooms filled with plastic chairs in the living facility. It’s a moment that laid bare who many nursing homes are designed to serve.


“Many nursing aides and other care workers want to provide high-quality care, but can’t because they are overworked, underpaid, and fear catching the virus themselves.”


The people who live and work in long-term care facilities are especially susceptible to coronavirus, but nursing homes—for-profit ones especially—are “ill-equipped and understaffed” right now, according to a recent New York Times investigation.


Another resident I supported lived in an understaffed facility where administrators didn’t require workers to wear masks. The resident wasn’t able to get the care he needed as he attempted to self-isolate. He lost 25 pounds in three months.


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