The lockdown's most vulnerable invisible victims

Those who need us most are subjected to forced abandonment.  And they're paying a heavy price.  With increasing focus on the economic fallout from the lockdown, an often overlooked consequence from the mess we have made is the impact on those stuck in nursing homes and hospitals.

In some cases, they are needlessly dying because no one is there to advocate for them and not everyone taking care of them is a "hero," much as we love that image.

Having someone in an advocacy role is critical, irrespective of the coronavirus, as hospital-acquired infections skyrocket and medication errors abound.

But with no visitors allowed, sick patients are alone, vulnerable, and scared.

A nurse practitioner recently posted a video that offers a chilling report from a friend on the front lines in a New York city hospital that highlights the nightmare that some (many?) patients are facing.

She describes staff ignoring patients when they code, thus leaving them to die; nurses who lack the appropriate expertise who are putting patients on ventilators; patients put on ventilators when less invasive options would better serve their interests; patients not being monitored; and medical staff ridiculed if they suggest using hydroxychloroquine, Zithromax, zinc, and other medications that have shown promising results with many patients, among a host of other outrageous realities.

Meanwhile, we're subjecting patients in nursing homes to even more horror than many such facilities already dish up.  I understand we want to save lives, but at what cost?

The level of isolation heaped upon them is unthinkable as information about their condition is withheld from family members.  We're depriving those in nursing homes and assisted living facilities of contact with family and friends.

Surely creative measures could be implemented that would allow some visitors back in.  Everyone could wear masks, and distancing could be maintained.  It shouldn't require that a loving 88-year-old husband use a bucket truck to see his wife through the window where she lives in a nursing home, where he used to spend all day, every day with her.

Imagine how terrifying it must be to be old and alone in the hospital or in a nursing home as weeks turn into months with no visitors.  I realize that this is a tragic reality for many even before coronavirus lockdowns, but now it's become the norm for all patients.

Imagine how vulnerable they are, surrounded by staff who may not be well trained and who may not care.

Imagine being an elderly person with dementia living in a nursing home or assisted living.  People with dementia need routine and familiarity.  A sudden change or shock can send them into a rapid decline.  With no visitors, many such individuals undoubtedly have lost their ability to know the name, face, or voice of a loved one, perhaps sooner than would have happened because they are isolated, with no end in sight.

Imagine being completely abandoned because not a single staffer shows up to work.

What we are doing to this population is inhumane.  In an effort to "save lives," we're destroying the quality of life for so many.

Photo by Chalmers Butterfield.

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