Honoring the Elderly, by Charles C. Camosy

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By Charles C. Camosy, First Things, July 2, 2020

Charles C. Camosy is associate professor of theology at Fordham University and author of Too Expensive to Treat?—Finitude, Tragedy, and the Neonatal ICU.

COVID-19 has killed nearly 150,000 Americans, and about half of them were residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities. In misguided attempts to save space in hospitals for younger people, a handful of Democratic governors—with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo in the lead—sent elderly COVID-positive patients to nursing homes, creating wildfires of infection and death. These fires quickly spread, as the underpaid staff at nursing homes often work multiple jobs in multiple facilities.

If the pandemic has a silver lining, it is that it has forced us to reexamine how our culture treats the elderly. It has forced us to reconsider shuttling our relatives off to facilities to die alone, apart from their families. Even before the pandemic, nursing homes were woefully underfunded and understaffed, and many residents died because of despair or neglect. This is not how we honor our elders. It is essential to rethink how we treat the elderly in our society. Sen. Robert Casey Jr. (D-PA), ranking member on the Senate’s Special Committee on Aging, has introduced legislation proposing that Medicaid (or another established funding mechanism) receive resources to fund in-home care of the elderly. This would mean funding for nurses or other care aides who visit their patients at home or even reside in the home. Democrats, usually comfortable with this kind of spending, support his proposal. But many pro-life and pro-family groups also support it.  ….

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