The Blame Game

Members | May 19, 2020 | by Carol Silver Elliott

Senior care providers face uphill battles every day because of COVID-19. But they are some of the most thoughtful, hard-working, and resilient people I've ever met.

Here’s what we know for sure:

  • The world is being ravaged by a pandemic of proportions that previously were unimaginable;
  • This deadly and treacherous virus kills people of all ages and has a special appetite for older adults, especially those with underlying conditions; and
  • No one has yet developed an effective means for prevention and/or treatment.  

Here’s what we also know: Elder care providers, especially those who are mission- and service-driven, are well prepared to provide quality of life and meet ongoing health care needs. These providers are not hospitals, not ICUs, not emergency departments. They are great at providing ongoing care and, when urgent or emergent care is required, they often make the appropriate call to send those fragile elders to the hospital for a higher level of medical intervention.

COVID-19 changed the assumptions and changed the game. Many of our providers kept their elders in their buildings, knowing that the hospitals were overwhelmed and that the frail elderly would not be at the top of the triage list. Many of us turned our nursing home and assisted living hallways into mini-medical/surgical units, sometimes even feeling like satellite ICUs. We pivoted swiftly from maintaining health to fighting for healing, from managing conditions to actively treating.

We scrambled to get what we needed to make that shift. We scrounged and begged for PPE. We networked our colleagues for access to testing. We pushed our medical staff to think and act aggressively in treatment. We watched as staff became ill and rejoiced when they returned with heightened resolve to help our elders fight. We kept our expressions calm and thanked every staff person for being there while inside our anxiety never stopped, day or night.

Yet here we are, the scapegoats in the blame game. Whose fault is it that the virus is claiming the lives of elders? Think about what we know. Elders are at the highest risk both because of age and fragility. And they live in our buildings, they benefit from our care and support, and they thrive in these communal environments. The concentration of the vulnerable gives the virus the perfect playing field and the result is, in some respects, a foregone conclusion.

Senior care providers have jumped into this battle with everything we have, with few resources other than passion and heart, with little guidance other than what we taught ourselves along the way. We are treating, we are healing, and we are saving lives. And, yes, sometimes we are losing the fight and with each loss we lose a relationship, a friend, a member of our extended family.

I am proud to be a senior services provider, proud of my team, and proud of my colleagues. You are doing an incredible job despite overwhelming odds, overcoming obstacles, doing what you must, and making the care of your elders the only priority.  

Stay strong. Be proud. We must continue to stay close and hold each other up.