We lost too many Elders to COVID-19 over the past year-plus. And too many are indifferent to their loss. – The Topeka Capital-Journal

By Connie Mason Michaelis  |  Special to The Capital-Journal

The Topeka Capital-Journal headline on June 23, 2021, read, “US tallies pandemic’s nursing home deaths. Fatalities rose 32% last year over 2019.”

I want to stop and pay tribute to those individuals and their families. At that time, 169,291 individuals living in care facilities and thousands more Seniors residing in their homes passed away in 2020 due to COVID-19.

The article quoted Harvard health policy professor David Grabowski, a nationally recognized expert on long-term care. “This was not individuals who were going to die anyway,” said Grabowski. “We are talking about a really big number of excess deaths.”

Reading that headline reminded me of a memory when I attended my best friend’s funeral many years ago. As the congregation traveled from the church to the cemetery, I noted many cars that stopped along the streets to pay respect. I also observed those that sped by oblivious to the loss and sadness suffered by those in the procession.

Pausing for a moment is such a small thing when you consider the grief of those loved ones. I remember feeling irritated that people could be so inconsiderate.

Such was the situation in nursing homes, assisted living and memory care facilities this past year. Elders were dying with no family members present, no family funerals, no closure to their beautiful lives.

The courageous health care workers shared in that grief every day.

It is estimated of the 600,000 plus deaths in the United States that 80% were over 65. And consider that the 65-plus population only makes up 16% of the population. A massive disproportionate number of Elders died in one year.

When you stop to think about it, it is shocking.

Many of my readers lost family members, and I, too, knew many Elders living in communities who died. I read the obituaries daily and grieved not only for the individuals and their families but also for the care facilities they lived in.

As we enter into this new phase of post-COVID freedom, I suggest we pause for a moment and think about the loss in our senior population. It breaks my heart to think that some people are indifferent to this, thinking they would die anyway at their advanced age.

This whole scenario reminds us that our Elders are worthy of our respect and admiration, and we must not forget what we owe them.

Find Connie’s new book, “Daily Cures: Wisdom for Healthy Aging,” at www.justnowoldenough.com.