The Vatican is calling for the world to re-think the way it cares for older adults as the world suffers through the consequences of the virus crisis and other aging issues.
The Vatican's Pontifical Council of Life issued a position paper urging the world to re-think how it cares for the elderly. The consequences of aging have been a global problem for years because of greater longevity. However, as a result of COVID-19, the situation has become worse.
The Vatican calls it a "massacre" due to the pandemic that has disproportionately killed people living in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.
"The death tolls are brutal in their cruelty, a real massacre of the elderly," said Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the council.
Pope Francis has often spoken about today's "throwaway culture" that treats older people as weak and infirm as nonessential. The Pope has talked about the wisdom and richness that older people offer younger generations. He has denounced how the elderly and sick are often shut away in institutions.
High COVID-19 Death Rates in Nursing Homes
The CDC says less than 1% of America's population lives in long-term-care facilities, but, according to the COVID-19 Tracking Project, as of February 18, 2021, this tiny fraction of the country accounts for 35% of COVID-19 deaths in the United States.
The problem is worldwide as Canada and Europe have seen large percentages of COVID-19 deaths contributed to those living in long-term care facilities. In the U.S. and Canada, many families have removed loved ones from facilities and have attempted to provide in-home care. Costs of in-home care are also expensive, and family members can usually not take on the role of caregiver.
Family caregivers face enormous challenges as the job is physically and emotionally demanding. Women, the adult daughters and daughters-in-law of the care recipient, often have careers in addition to their family responsibilities.
According to Tel Aviv University's research, there is a proportional relationship between the number of beds in a facility and the number of deaths reported in Europe.
Archbishop Paglia notes that in every country studied, the more beds in a facility, the higher the number of deaths.
The World Is Getting Older
The pontifical academy says medical advances along with demographic changes are increasing the number of older people throughout the world. UN data shows that by the year 2050, one in every five people on the planet will be over age 60.
However, today families have fewer children, and those adult children are typically working and cannot become full-time caregivers.
"It is therefore very appropriate to begin immediately a careful, far-sighted, and honest reflection about how contemporary society should grow close to the elderly population, especially the weakest," the paper said.
Assisted Living and In-Home Care Offers More Independence
The document praised new assisted living models that offer companionship services and care but preserve the care recipient's autonomy and independence. It also calls for greater assistance to family caregivers who provide in-home care services.
"Isolating the elderly is an obvious manifestation of what Pope Francis has called the 'throwaway culture,'" the document says.
The problem with nursing homes is more isolation and less socialization. Thus, many families prefer loved ones to receive in-home care or assisted living which is much less institutional.
In the United States, assisted living facilities have played a greater role for those who need help with daily activities but do not require the more institutional care that a nursing home provides.
Help for Caregivers and Tax Incentives Being Pushed by Biden Administration
President Biden has called for financial help for family caregivers and additional tax incentives to encourage more people to purchase Long-Term Care Insurance. There are already tax incentives in place for some people and businesses, but the expansion would help make policies even more affordable to more people.
In addition, 45 states offer Partnership Long-Term Care Insurance plans that provide dollar-for-dollar asset protection for those who own a partnership policy. LTC Insurance is custom designed and is affordable, especially if you purchase a policy in your 40s or 50s as part of retirement planning.
The cost of paid long-term health care services are expensive and continues to grow every year. The LTC NEWS Cost of Care Calculator shows you both the current and future care costs, including in-home care and assisted living.
The paper talks about the issues that come with aging, like loneliness and memory loss. The elimination of the elderly from the life of the family and society represents "the expression of a perverse process in which there is no longer gratuitousness, generosity, that wealth of feelings that make life not just a give and take, that is, not just a market."
Families globally are dealing with the consequences of aging. There are ways to help you avoid dependence as you get older and avoid placing the stress and burden otherwise placed on your family. Your children want the best for you, and you probably want to protect income and savings and reduce the strain on them.
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About the Author
An LTC News author focusing on long-term care and aging.
Contributor since August 21st, 2017
A solid retirement plan should include a plan for longevity and the impact that long-term health care will have on you, your family, income, savings, lifestyle, and legacy. Affordable Long-Term Care Insurance gives you access to your choice of quality care either at home or in a facility.
Remember, Long-Term Care Insurance will pay for long-term custodial care, the most common type of care we will need. Health insurance, including Medicare and Medicare Supplements, will only pay for a small portion of skilled care. Medicaid will only pay if you have little or no savings and income.
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