Ageism at its deadliest in New York during COVID panic

What has transpired in nursing homes across the state of New York should never happen again in America!  The decision by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to place COVID-19 patients into nursing homes has been a precipitating factor in the deaths of over 5,000 senior adults so far in 2020. 

A double tragedy in New York City is the fact that several veterans' homes have been overwhelmed by the virus.

The Wall Street Journal reported on March 26 that New York officials informed nursing home operators that they will be required to accept patients infected with COVID-19 who are discharged from hospitals.  The document sent to nursing home administrators from the New York State Department of Health stated in one paragraph: "No resident shall be denied re-admission or admission to the NH solely based on a confirmed or suspected diagnosis of COVID-19."

Of the 26,000 COVID-19-related deaths in nursing homes across America, one fifth of them, or 5,300, are in the state of New York.  Knowing that adults above the age of 60 are the most vulnerable of dying from this virus, plus the history of contagion quickly spreading in nursing homes, did not seem to compute in Gov. Cuomo's decision-making process.

While receiving praise for helping hospitals in his state, Gov. Cuomo has faced criticism for his response to the safety of New York's over 100,000 senior adults living in nursing homes and long-term care facilities.  MaryDel Wypych, an advocate for older adults in the Rochester area, said, "The numbers, the deaths keep ticking up. It's just very frustrating."

Gov. Cuomo made matters worse recently by explicitly stating that providing masks and gowns to nursing homes is "not our job" because N.H.s are privately owned.  State assemblyman Ron Kim, a Queens Democrat, said, "It was such an insensitive thing to say."

Another statement that made owners and administrators of N.Y. nursing homes red-faced is Gov. Cuomo saying, "Now is not the best time to put your mother in a nursing home.  That is a fact."  They see the governor's policies worsening a health crisis in their businesses, and his public statements make it even worse for their industry and the families they serve.

Could the disregard for the health and safety of senior adults in New York nursing homes be a result of age-based prejudice?  The general term for this behavior is ageism.

Ageism – What Is It?

Ageism is experienced among senior adults when "societal norms marginalize seniors, treat them with disrespect, make them feel unwelcome and otherwise generalize as if they are all the same." 

This disrespect for senior adults in New York has led to many needless deaths.  Ageism is growing.  Ageism can kill!  This tragedy should never happen again in America.

Ron F. Hale is a retired pastor and freelance writer living in his hometown of Jackson, Tenn.