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Ep. 126 Considering COVID-19 and Long-Term Care

COVID-19 has ripped through nursing homes and long-term care facilities in the US. At its height, in North Carolina alone, four in 10 COVID-19 cases and deaths occurred in these kind of care facilities which are filled with the most vulnerable people in our society.

Our guest today says COVID-19 has painfully unveiled and amplified the problems that have been inherent in long-term care delivery for decades. The disease, he says, has both heightened the risk for staff while magnifying the patients’ vulnerabilities.

Nathan Boucher is an assistant research professor at the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University, and he says the time has come to address these systemic problems when it comes to delivering long-term care.

Conversation Highlights

On Americans and the elderly

In the United States, when you’ve stopped working, when you can no longer do a number of things for yourself, or maybe you need an awful lot of help, our society tends to value you less. This is a mirror back to our own mortality and it makes us feel very uncomfortable when people who are close to us are starting to get a bit more fragile, starting to need more help, aren’t as productive or as independent as they once were.

People who we saw as giants in our life are now a little more meek. And I think that scares people an awful lot. And individually, and as a society, we are scared of that. We want somebody else to deal with the problem.

On what COVID has revealed in our society

I think that COVID itself highlighted how self-serving and short-sighted some Americans can actually be. Looking out for the flock, looking out for our neighbors, looking out for strangers, that is something that we don’t do easily.

Why we should invest in long-term care

I would think that we would want to invest in the system, if not for the now (for our own older folks in our families), for ourselves — even in a selfish way for the future, that we’d want a better system to be standing there ready to take us on when we needed it.

But I will say that that is a uniquely American thing is to not plan ahead very well for that type of thing. We need a different ethos, a different philosophy.

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