Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: nursing homes

Questions, questions

When a radiologist takes an x-ray that shows you have a fractured hip, are you going to trust him to do the surgery to repair that fracture? When a scientist invents a new cell phone battery that is longer lasting and non-incendiary, are you going to ask him for advice on vaccines? Do you and I have any expertise on vaccines?

There are several factors that aggravate the confusion and anger about this this pandemic:

1. China is doing its utmost to conceal the origins of the virus;

2. People with no relevant expertise are offering “expert” advice;

3. Opinion, rumour and outright fiction are given the same weight as scientific evidence.

4. Scientific evidence is misunderstood and misinterpreted, sometimes deliberately.

For instance, there is much concern because the vaccine appears to cause myocarditis in 1-5 people out of every 100,000 who are vaccinated. Not as much is being said about studies that show the disease itself causes myocarditis six times as often and that these cases are apt to be more severe and longer lasting.

Why don’t we just accept that our public health officials are more competent than we are to sort fact from fiction? They probably aren’t getting everything right, but they are doing the best they can with the information available to them and we will be better off if we take their advice rather than thinking we know more than they do.

By far the greatest number of deaths from COVID have been people who are elderly or who are immune compromised due to other conditions. The same is true for seasonal influenza. The majority of these deaths take place in nursing homes. What if our system of warehousing the elderly in large institutions is a greater problem than the virus?

Nursing home blues

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The pandemic is winding down, businesses are reopening, yet normalcy is hidden by a mist of uncertainty. Some day we will know if the measures taken during the pandemic were the right ones. I don’t believe I am qualified to comment on that. All levels of government did what they thought was best, according to the information available to them. It is fair to say, though, that China and the WHO did not provide reliable information at the beginning.

I want to talk about one aspect of the pandemic. There was much fear-mongering at the beginning, with good intentions, to prepare people for a monumental health crisis. However, 80% of the deaths from COVID-19 have occurred in long-term care facilities.

We have known for years that there are risks when we take people whose health is not robust and place large numbers of them in one place. Influenza and Noro viruses spread like wildfire in such a setting. A little carelessness in food handling exposes many frail people to gastrointestinal upsets, sometimes fatal.

Why do we think it’s a good idea to expose them to such risks? Possibly because we don’t know what else to do with people who are no longer contributors to society. We have lost the respect we should have for elderly people. The best thing to do is put them in a place where professional staff can amuse them and care for them until the end of their days.

I know many of them have dementia. But evidence suggests that dementia develops more slowly when people feel they are doing something of benefit to others. Wouldn’t we all benefit if we could break down the walls of age segregation? Perhaps this pandemic has given many people time to ponder whether our pursuit of new and change is delivering the benefits we expected.

Every life lived has a story that can offer insights and encouragement to others. I’m not talking about nostalgia. That’s when the old folks get together and talk about how things were better in the good old days. Honestly, though, in many ways they were not better. But people have learned lessons from the difficulties they have faced, the mistakes they have made.

Getting back to my starting point about the way we care for the elderly, I don’t have any ideas about how we should change the institutions we now have. But I think social distancing is a horrible choice of words. We had far too much of that, already. Let’s do physical distancing as long as it’s needed. But lets build social connections between young and old and all strata of our society. I believe we will all benefit. Emotional and mental health are as important as physical health. People who are emotionally and mentally healthy are usually more physically healthy.

Is this the best way to spend your final years?

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Most of the people dying from COVID-19 are in nursing homes. Families, friends, pastors, priests, rabbis are not allowed to visit in those places. Many of the staff members that the residents have grown to know have contacted the disease and been replaced by strangers. Is this the way things are supposed to be?

Right now there is a single-minded focus on physical health. But the virus is not the only factor that impacts a person’s physical health. Don’t we understand that denying someone of emotional, mental and spiritual support undermines their physical health?

Yes there are risks in allowing visitors to those whose health is fragile. Aren’t the risks in denying such visits just as serious?

The problem is that we live in an era where things that can’t be measured and quantified are deemed to be non-existent. This is an inhumane world.

I am not suggesting that we defy rules put in place by government. But perhaps today’s circumstances should lead us to rethink how we care for the most vulnerable members of our society. When that care is delegated to large corporate entities or government agencies, it is inevitable that decisions about how to care for people will be made in offices far removed from those concerned, and those decisions will be made on the basis of what is most efficient.

How many of us look forward to spending our last years in an institution like that?

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