AuthorErvin, Mike
PositionHgh casualties of covid-19 pandemic reveal the vulnerability of people in nursing homes

There's one good thing I can say about the pandemic: It has made the obvious, well, obvious. I'm grateful for that.

The media have given a lot of coverage to how COVID-19 has rampaged through nursing homes. To take in the horror of it, check out the COVID Tracking Project at The Atlantic. It reports that, while less than 1 percent of the nation's population resides in nursing homes and other long-term-care facilities, these accounted for 34 percent of all U.S. COVID-19 deaths during a ten-month period under review. For nursing homes, this amounted to nearly 10 percent of all residents.

On top of all that, the site says, "the most complete figures we can assemble are both an estimate and a severe undercount of the true impact on long-term-care residents. Because of the historical deaths missing from both state and federal data, nonstandard state reporting, and the absence of federal reporting requirements for longterm-care facilities, we believe that the true toll of the pandemic among these residents is higher than these figures can show."

Seeing all of this devastation on full display has been heartening for me, in a sad sort of way. Disability activists have been hollering for decades about how disabled folks get trapped in the undertow that sucks them into nursing homes, where life becomes miserable. The pandemic's path of destruction has finally made that reality clear. There now seems to be a fledgling consensus that people in nursing homes are extremely vulnerable and that something needs to be done about it.

But what? That's the big question. And it's what makes me fear that this golden opportunity to make monumental progress in long-term-care policy could be squandered.

As someone who has successfully managed, with the assistance of others, to avoid living in one of these facilities, I hope that whatever political momentum may be emerging won't get derailed by the misguided notion that the inherently corrupt and oppressive system that dumps disabled people in nursing homes with no possibility of parole can be reformed. It cannot.

What makes people in nursing homes vulnerable? It's not their perceived "frailty." It is the ridiculous idea that nursing homes should be the means of first resort for delivering long-term care.

Suppose someone, because of a disability, needs someone else to assist them daily--and probably permanently--with routine things like getting in and out of bed, taking a shower, and so on. And suppose that person...

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT