America’s neglect of older people extends to the people who care for them at home.
Even as states reopen, Covid-19 continues to lay waste to the elderly and those who care for them. This country has a long tradition of banishing ailing seniors, and this neglect extends to the workers who help them eat and dress and nourish their minds and souls.
The home health aides and certified nursing assistants who work in long-term care facilities and private homes are usually paid no more than the minimum wage and given few, if any, benefits. Their salaries are drawn from public Medicaid funds, through a labyrinthine arrangement of state-by-state block grants, health insurers and private contractors. Medicare, despite its association with seniors, does not cover long-term care.
These frontline workers, mostly black and immigrant women, have become victims and vectors of the pandemic. More than 54,000 Americans living or working in long-term care have died of the coronavirus, representing 40 percent of all Covid-19 fatalities, and a disproportionate number of those deaths have occurred in facilities serving nonwhite patients.
These figures should scandalize, but they may be an undercount.