Cuomo's COVID nursing home catastrophe underlines Americans' poor treatment of their elderly
Governor Andrew Cuomo has been taking a lot of flak lately. He had been the Democrats Golden Boy during the COVID-19 outbreak in New York City. Although his crime of sending elderly coronavirus-infected people into nursing homes had been well known earlier, the media preferred to stonewall that news until after the election steal had been signed, sealed, and delivered. Governor Cuomo's recent experience of being thrown to the wolves is just another example showing that the Democrats will eat their own when they are no longer useful.
Governor Cuomo's well publicized crime of geriatricide points to a problem endemic in United States society: we treat our elderly as useless, disposable people. We do not respect, value, or love our elderly. The roots of that view are found in our values of independence, freedom, and worship of youth. That's not to say we do not love our parents or grandparents deeply; that is just to say that as a society, we do not respect or value the elderly.
The nursing homes and assisted living care facilities have been quick to take advantage of that unethical attitude. There is big money to be made taking elderly into nursing homes and assisted living. Medicare and Medicaid, which most elderly have to use, provides limited funds for nursing home costs. The result: Most elderly end up in facilities with little privacy, hospital-like rooms with dozens of beds, and low-paid and low-motivated help. The elderly have no voice and are often abused, neglected, and disrespected. Those few elderly who have the means fare better. Their money buys them privacy, respect, care from better paid staff, and more comfortable accommodations.
Around 2003, my family had to move our father into assisted living. He suffered from dementia and severe circulation restrictions in his legs as a result of polio in his youth. We admitted him in Life Care Center of Kirkland, Washington. We removed him from that facility when we discovered that staffers had neglected to empty a bladder bag that nearly led to the rupture of his bladder. That is the same facility in which the coronavirus had its first major outbreak in the USA on February 29, 2020. I am not at all surprised by that coincidence, knowing firsthand how poorly our father had been cared for. Fortunately, we found a good assisted living facility that cared for our father well until his passing in 2004.
Contrast the care elderly are normally given in assisted living in the USA to care provided in South Korea. In Korea, the society is imbued with a profound sense of respect for the elderly. That respect finds its roots in the Confucian values that reverence the elderly. They are not considered disposable. Instead, they receive respect as the most esteemed people in society. That view permeates the society so that everyone treats an elderly person as he would his own parents or grandparents.
In 2016, my wife traveled to take care of her elderly mother who is suffering from Alzheimer's. Her mother had been living on her own with a daytime maid helping her. One winter evening she left her home and got lost. My wife's sister called the police. The police immediately issued an all points alert and searched until they found her alive and well. The police treated my mother-in-law as their own mother or grandmother.
After that incident, my wife traveled from our home in Las Vegas to take care of her in Korea. Even with my wife at home, the government paid for full-time care. In addition, she went to a six-day-a-week school setting where she enjoyed an educational environment from professionally trained health care providers.
The COVID-19 virus broke out in South Korea in early 2020. Not only did the Korean government respond in an exceptionally effective way, but the government would never have considered sending COVID-19-infected elderly into elderly care facilities. As of February 20, 2021, South Korea has suffered only 1,553 deaths from COVID-19. Of the total, the vast majority has been in the age group 60 and above (96%).
Recently, the South Korean government has received criticism for the way it has handled an outbreak of COVID-19 infections and deaths in nursing homes, by quarantining health care–providers with nursing home patients. So surely South Korea is not free from criticism for the way COVID-19-infected elderly are treated in nursing homes. Still, I expect that the people's respect for the elderly will lead to a quicker and more satisfactory solution than Cuomo found.
I think that we have to take great care not to use Governor Cuomo, as despicable as his actions were, as the scapegoat for our sins. We are all responsible for the view that our elderly are disposable, worthless, invisible people.
Image via Pixy.