The beginning stages of the COVID-19 pandemic saw a large number of the elderly die earlier than they might have. A new analysis published in the C2C Journal indicates that Canadian seniors were especially at risk, although the cause of death appears to have not been the virus. The report shows that severe malnutrition and dehydration and the use of euthanasia drugs as a first treatment option were a large part of the shocking number of deaths.
In May 2020, Canada’s official statistics indicated that 81 percent of the nation’s deaths from COVID had taken place in long-term care facilities (LTCFs). That stunning number has gone down over time, but by December 2021 it still stood at 43 percent of COVID deaths.
In the spring of 2020, care staff in LTCFs left their jobs in unprecedented numbers. The risk of infection by COVID along with poor working conditions and compensation further depleted an already understaffed industry.
Lockdowns also prevented family and friend caregivers from providing the daily support that many seniors depended on. The nature of that care went far beyond just physical needs, of course. The loss of love and companionship took an immeasurable toll.
As Canada had to rely on military personnel to provide care in LTCFs, common themes emerged. There were reports of the general lack of trained staff, misuse of drugs, supply shortages, and poor nutritional practices.
In comparison to Canada, New York in the U.S. suffered “superspreader” events as thousands of COVID-infected patients were transferred into LTCFs, leading to at least 15,000 additional deaths.
In Canada and some other Western nations, it appears that staff were directed by protocols to administer lethal cocktails of drugs to any patients showing symptoms of COVID infection as a form of triage to ease burdens on healthcare systems.
Experts stated that there is a fine balance between administering a dose that manages pain and one that causes death in many older patients.
Chief of Psychiatry at Ontario’s Pembroke Regional Hospital Michael Ferri said the protocol for palliative care was not surprising in and of itself, but widespread use without proper oversight or accountability was “disturbing.”
Even though it is obvious that there is much to investigate regarding the large number of elderly deaths at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, it appears there are few government officials interested in doing so.