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The Elderly, Nursing Homes, and the Veil of Silence

By Judie Brown

I was shocked to read in a recent BARRON’s article that “the coronavirus has caused long-term-care facilities serving older and disabled people, who are among the most vulnerable to the pandemic, to draw the curtains,” keeping caregivers and family essentially in the dark regarding care and treatment of their loved ones.

This nursing home scourge started months ago.

For example, in February we learned that the first recorded death linked to the Chinese virus (aka COVID-19) occurred in a nursing home in Kirkland, Washington. Within a week it was revealed that 13 residents of that nursing home had died from the virus and others had exhibited symptoms related to the disease.

In New York, “Steuben County officials said about 73% of the county’s 33 confirmed deaths related to the coronavirus have been linked to nursing homes.”

And the grim facts relating to nursing home residents only get worse. In New Jersey, police discovered 17 bodies piled in a small morgue in the “Andover Subacute and Rehabilitation Center I and II, the state’s largest licensed facility.”

The news in Philadelphia is much the same. Calling nursing homes “tinder boxes,” a report explores how the virus “swept” through the city’s nursing homes: “At least nine Philadelphia nursing homes had 50 or more cases by then. As of Saturday, 374 nursing home residents have died of the virus, accounting for more than half of Philadelphia’s COVID-19 deaths.” This story, like so many others we have seen, tells a gruesome tale that is not readily explained if one depends on national mainstream media. A Philadelphia Inquirer reporter explains that “an analysis of the Philadelphia data shows that the worst 10 homes for rate of infections, based on number of beds, were all rated one star (‘much below average’) to three stars (‘average’) on the federal government’s five-star rating system.”

Why do so many nursing facilities in our country have such low ratings? What is the real problem, and how do we fix it?

Perhaps we should look beyond the “rating system” and ask questions about how advance directives are used in nursing facilities, especially in the age of COVID-19. Paul Byrne, MD, who is an expert on such matters, provides an outstanding analysis of that point. He writes about the trail to imposed death that is paved with years of promoting false definitions of death, living wills, advance directives, palliative care, and decisions to put old folks out of their misery instead of treating them with dignity and respect. He accurate explains:

Nursing home residents, relatives and friends are affected by the involuntary mandated imposition of no visitors. If a person, labeled a “client,” in a nursing home has an acute illness, they are subject to whatever is provided. Their Advance Directive is in place for non-treatment, even for unspecified imaginable illnesses. Many are frail; they are without relatives; treatment depends on whatever personnel in the nursing home provide. Their Advance Directive indicates that the person has chosen not to receive some treatments; thus, it is so easy to translate this into no treatment.

Dr. Byrne’s warning rings loudly, especially as we read about the decision California’s governor, Gavin Newsom, is facing right now. Apparently he is considering signing an executive order requested by “top officials from six healthcare groups” that would provide immunity to people who own nursing homes or who work in them should criminal prosecution or civil lawsuits occur because of the pandemic!

Talk about a veil of silence! Are those officials preparing to shirk their duties? Do they want protection because killing is going on? Some have said the pandemic demands that institutions take extreme measures. But we say no, not so fast. Regardless of the perilous times, every human being deserves our best care and our loving support, not imposed death that lurks behind the veil of silence.

Be prepared. Be pro-active. Make sure your loved ones are protected. Get your free copy of “Making a Difference: A Guide for Defending the Medically Vulnerable” and obtain a free Loving Will—an American Life League document that presumes a desire for life and provides for necessary medical treatment.