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Staff members wave to family and friends who came out to show support of residents and staff in the McKenzie Towne Long Term Care centre, in Calgary, April 2, 2020.

Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press

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COVID-19 and long-term care

Re Care-home Neglect Is Our National Shame (April 14): This seems to be a disingenuous argument on the failure in care-home facilities during the COVID-19 crisis only considering who is lecturing: Rona Ambrose.

Her points are valid on what could be done better to protect residents in care-home facilities. However, her solutions seem out of step with what she and other conservatives keep preaching as de facto solutions to Canadian ailments: less government, lower taxes (especially corporate) and more for-profit delivery of many essential services. She states, “Care-home staff are underpaid and many are casual.” Isn’t that what for-profit is all about?

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But the dead giveaway for me is this line: “Whether they are privately or publicly funded homes, they must be seen as part of our health care system during this pandemic.” The logical extension seems to be that, postpandemic, we should go back to the old underfunded and underpaid ways that led us to this care-home crisis in the first place.

Martin Zichy Toronto

Not for the first time, Rona Ambrose has said what needed to be said, and what needs to be done – now – to right a national wrong. I suggest that the Prime Minister call upon Ms. Ambrose to lead a national task force to sort out this mess – not only for the sake of present residents of long-term care facilities, but also for future cohorts as well.

Scott Burbidge Port Williams, N.S.

Re Ontario Looking To Recruit Health Care Staff (April 13): It has been said that it takes a village. This time I say: It takes a virus.

COVID-19 has done what has needed doing – put the spotlight on long-term care homes. While the issue of inadequate care has been raised, I don’t believe enough focus has been on poor wages.

A personal support worker in Ontario earns on average $18 to $21 an hour. These are the people who feed, bathe, clean, diaper, dress, smile at, listen to and sometimes take abuse from the seniors we claim to love. They do it understaffed, overworked and underpaid. They could do almost as well passing coffee through a drive-though window. They choose to do this.

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It’s time to augment talk with dollars for the caregivers who are risking their lives every day. I would suggest hazard pay while the virus lasts, paid retroactively, as well as a substantial raise in hourly rate when the crisis is over.

Mary Bowen Granville Ferry, N.S.

Re 31 Seniors Die At Montreal Nursing Home (April 13): Everyone on my social networks is reeling from revelations about the privately operated Montreal home where 31 residents have died.

We may learn a lesson from the response of home manager Katherine Chowieri. “It is obvious,” she was reported as saying, “that we are experiencing some difficulty staffing during these unprecedented times.” If this is the response of someone in the business of protecting vulnerable seniors after so many deaths, then I would say that person is in the wrong business. I would go further and add that the government was wrong to permit them to be in that business.

If we are to take just one positive thing from this dreadful virus affair, let it be this: From now into the foreseeable future, all essential services – health care, senior care, home care, paramedics, firefighters, police, prisons – should be publicly owned, operated and regulated, 100 per cent.

Edwin Janzen Montreal

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Re Seniors’ Care Shouldn’t Be A Horror Show, Even Postpandemic (April 13): As a former resident and now a volunteer, I have seen many good initiatives to improve quality of care and life, and hear great stories about caring staff. At the same time, families tell us that front-line staff barely have time to do the physical care residents need, and almost no time to just talk. I also hear stories of neglect. Sadly, governments have yet to take action on root problems such as the need for more funding, staffing and pay, increased accountability, as well as ensuring that there is public access to information about facility budgets and health outcomes.

We should also review the increasing practice of contracting out government-funded care to for-profit operators. During this pandemic, the importance and efficacy of our public system, with its co-ordinated planning, standards and policies for hospital and health services, seems evident. It should be asked: With more for-profit operators, will we have a system that is more and more difficult to manage despite best efforts? Should senior care be a for-profit business at all?

For change to happen, families, residents, the public and media – and columnist André Picard – should keep demanding it.

Linda McFarlane Calgary

Re ‘Human Rights Don’t Have A Best-before Date’: COVID-19 Lays Bare Rampant Ageism (April 14): I always enjoy André Picard’s column, but I didn’t today. I can’t understand this fuss about ageism and, since I am 77, I feel I have a right to speak up. I think most of us older than 70 would be more than happy to give up our ventilator to someone younger. In fact, I fancy, if it were possible, many of us in good health would donate our lives to the doctors and nurses who have succumbed to the virus in the course of duty.

Our generation has had the easiest time of it in all history. I don’t think it’s the elderly who are making a fuss – it’s their families, and it has more to do with political correctness than human rights. We all have to die. And, yes, families will and should grieve. It might help them to find a book about war and contemplate the grief of parents for sons, children for fathers, men returning home to find their families wiped out by a bomb.

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We’ve had it easy!

Janet Taylor Goderich, Ont.

Hello, world! I am 75 and still here. Still vertical. More than not dead. Do not call me “elderly.”

The term elderly now has connotations that have spoiled any hope of it being a purely descriptive term. It summons a picture of frailty and dependency. Some people are frail and dependent. Call them people in need of care.

I am not frail or dependent. Call me a person who is 75 years of age.

Donna Richardson Victoria

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Some years ago, before I became “elderly” at the age of 65, I was the CBC language adviser for radio, television and online. Reminders were regularly sent to writers to use words without baggage, and to use language that is descriptive but doesn’t carry judgment. We need to find language that doesn’t see older adults as “them” and not “us.” So how about saying older people, older adults or even mature adults?

Myself? I’m going for venerable. Something venerable deserves respect.

Judy Maddren Stratford, Ont.

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