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Deaths in US nursing homes rise, not all from COVID-19

More than 90,000 people have died in nursing homes due to the coronavirus in the United States and activists defending the rights of the elderly say that there are thousands of deaths derived from the lack of care by staff overwhelmed by the pandemic and deterioration associated with isolation.

Reports abound that their diapers are not changed for so long that they peel and develop deep sores. A poor diet and dehydration, on the other hand, accelerate their deterioration.

There are also many deaths that doctors believe are caused by despair at not being able to see loved ones.

“The pandemic brought to light what is really going on in these facilities,” said June Linnertz, whose father died in June. He said he lived in putrid conditions in a nursing home in Plymouth, Minnesota. “It was already bad, but things got worse” after the pandemic.

A nursing home expert, Stephen Kaye, a professor at the San Francisco-based University of California Institute on Health and Aging, studied data from 15,000 facilities for the Associated Press and found that for every two fatalities of COVID-19 in nursing homes, there is one that dies prematurely from other causes. He estimates that since March there may have been more than 40,000 premature deaths.

The more spread the virus is in a nursing home, Kaye found, the more deaths there are for other reasons, suggesting that patient care is declining because staff are overwhelmed by COVID-19 cases or because staff is short. many employees of these facilities are also infected with the virus.

“The health system is on the edge. If a crisis comes up, we can’t handle it, ”Kaye said. “There are not enough staff to serve the residents of the nursing homes.”

Dr. David Gifford of the American Health Care Association, who represents nursing homes, denies that these centers are understaffed and maintains that the estimated tens of thousands of deaths from reasons not associated with COVID-19 are pure “speculation”.

“There are some really sad stories,” he said, “but it’s not widespread.”

Across the country, however, there are people who say they lost loved ones who should not have died.

In Birmingham, Alabama, Donald Wallace was one of the lucky few who did not catch COVID-19 at West Hill Health and Rehab. But this 75-year-old retired truck driver lost 98 pounds (44 kilos) from malnutrition and dehydration. His son said he appeared to be in a concentration camp.

A septic shock suggested that he had a urinary infection that was not treated; the presence of E.coli would be an indication of poor hygiene, while aspiration pneumonia suggests that he choked on food.

“They stopped seeing him,” said his son Kevin Amerson, who showed medical records documenting the problems he described. “They abandoned”.

West Hill Health assured that Wallace was “cared for with the utmost compassion, dedication and respect.”

Cheryl Hennen, a Minnesota geriatric-focused advocate, says complaints of sores, dehydration and other factors that reveal neglect have risen recently, such as a man who died of choking while eating unsupervised. He suspects that many more such stories will emerge as his office staff and families of the elderly are able to return to nursing homes.

“If we can’t go there, how do we find out what’s really going on?” He asked.

When confinement was arranged at the Gurwin Jewish Nursing Home on Long Island outside New York, Dawn Best thought her 83-year-old mother would continue to receive the same care as ever. But as the virus spread, Best felt that the staff couldn’t keep up.

His mother was not infected with COVID-19, but died of dehydration, Best said.

“She was cared for very well, but she passed away after three weeks” of neglect, Best said. “They were totally overwhelmed.”

Gurwin representatives said they could not discuss the matter, but that the staff “have been doing a heroic job.”

Dorothy Ann Carlone said she visited her mother, $ 92 Maxine Schwartz, every day at Absolut Care in Aurora Park, upstate New York, and pushed her to eat. She stopped eating in March, due to restrictions associated with COVID-19, and her mother did not eat again. He passed away within a few weeks.

Dawn Harsch, a spokeswoman for the firm that owns Absolute Care, said state investigators determined that there had been no negligence and that “the natural progression for a patient like Ms. Schwartz with advanced dementia is to refuse to eat.”

Carlone, however, is not convinced and wonders what her mother would think when she stopped going every day. “That he no longer wanted her? That I abandoned her? That I had died?

He suspects that the pain his mother felt led to his death.

“He gave himself up,” he said.