The church cares for the unborn, however what in regards to the aged?
(Photo: Unsplash / Uncope)
In England and Wales, there are an average of 8,400 deaths in nursing homes in April. This April it was 18,000. But only 8,000 of them have included Covid-19 in the death certificate. It is a terrible statistic. The situation is even worse in Scotland: up to 60% of deaths related to Covid-19 are in nursing homes. Why did that happen and why is it important?
This is an important issue not only for the UK, but also for the rest of the western world, where deaths in nursing homes have been significant. Nursing homes are particularly dangerous because close contact between residents increases the risk of infection. Caregivers can spread the infection without adequate protection, and the elderly often have underlying conditions that make them particularly vulnerable. More than a third of Covid's deaths in the UK were over 85 years old (only 2% of the population). Over 60% of people in nursing homes are over 65 years old.
When I heard all of this, I was ready to write a little speech about how nursing homes are just grandma farms where ruthless private operators try to make a profit with families who just want to fire grandma and grandpa. This is a common perception. But it's a caricature – and like most caricatures, it's wrong, but largely wrong. I asked an "expert" – an excellent former nursing home manager who gave me (and you) the following helpful information – who is specific to Scotland but can certainly be used elsewhere.
Nursing homes generally provide a much better environment for the elderly who cannot stay at home and do not need the acute medical care of the hospitals. 64 percent of nursing home residents in Scotland suffer from some form of dementia. You will not be "dumped". You are in the most suitable environment. In general, the nursing inspection has set good standards, which – in contrast to hospitals – are well enforced! Although employees are often underpaid (politicians who stand in front of the cameras and clap don't really make up for it!), Generally try to create a homely environment. They get to know the residents well and thus ensure uniform care.
The big problems, however, are funding and recruiting. It is remarkable and sad how many churches have withdrawn from nursing home care, mainly for financial reasons. Scottish Care would strongly argue that the government does not pay the actual cost of caring for government-funded residents. In 2010, they paid £ 464 a week to private nursing homes for state-funded residents, but more than £ 800 to community homes for the same people. There was no evidence that the local authorities' homes offered a superior standard of care. At the moment there are only a few municipal houses left because they are not considered to be viable.
Nursing homes are not grandma farms, but they are underfunded and overlooked, and as always, there are some private operators that are pushing for the biggest profit.
The big problem with Covid is what happened (across the UK) when the crisis was approaching. The NHS in the UK is treated like a religious cult object. That is why we have the slogan "Protect our NHS". To "save" the NHS, elderly people were removed from hospitals and taken to nursing homes. Some blocked the bed and still waited to be moved. The policy in and of itself was not bad. But the way it was done was numb and scandalous.
Elderly people were taken to nursing homes from hospitals, the most likely place to get Covid, without being tested. Neither the UK nor the Scottish government has increased support for nursing home providers. They were so busy saving our NHS because the focus was on hospital deaths. At the beginning of this crisis, the Covid numbers did not even record nursing home deaths for several weeks.
After "saving" the NHS by blocking it, we now have a high rate of Covid deaths and astronomical economic damage, with the result that has not yet been achieved. Instead of testing and shielding the vulnerable (the South Korean and Swedish approaches – although the latter have also been hit hard by fatalities in nursing homes and admit they failed), we have reduced the tests and exposed the weakest to the greatest risk.
It is easy to be wise after the event. It's easy to comment on what should have been done if you weren't responsible for the call. I have great understanding of our political leaders who have faced this unprecedented situation. But it is also easy to close your eyes to the injustice and cruelty that does not affect us directly but has a significant impact on the weakest and weakest in society.
The Christian Church is rightly concerned about the "right to life" of the youngest members of society, the unborn child. We also have to worry about the right of older people to live. I write this in a week when my mother just turned 85. Who knows if she can still have 20 years of life for her family, church and society? How dare we find that older people are less vulnerable and worth living than any other generation?
I hope that out of all this mess we will take a more biblical attitude towards our older people – not least because hopefully one day we will join them.
Consider these verses:
James 1:27 – "The religion that God our Father accepts as pure and flawless is this: to care for orphans and widows in their misery and to keep themselves from being polluted by the world."
1 Timothy 5: 8 – "Whoever does not take care of his relatives and especially his own household has denied faith and is worse than an unbeliever."
Leviticus 19:32 – "Stand up in the presence of the old, show respect for the old, and worship your God. I am the Lord."
Isaiah 46: 4 – "Until your age and your gray hair I am he, I am the one who will support you. I made you and I will carry you; I will support you and I will save you."
Galatians 2:10 – "All they asked for was that we should continue to remember the poor, exactly what I really wanted to do all the time."
Let us make sure that we take care of our parents and grandparents. Let's make sure that the nursing homes have sufficient resources. Maybe the church could think about getting more involved in the nursing business? Above all, let us honor the Lord by honoring our older people and not seeing them as “out of sight” or “unproductive members of society”. They are a blessing, not a burden. May we reflect God's attitude in all of this.
David Robertson is director of Third Space in Sydney and blogs at www.theweeflea.com