James McPherson's Media & Politics Blog

Observations of a patriotic progressive historian, media critic & former journalist


  • By the author of The Conservative Resurgence and the Press: The Media’s Role in the Rise of the Right and of Journalism at the End of the American Century, 1965-Present. A former journalist with a Ph.D. in journalism, history and political science, McPherson is a past president of the American Journalism Historians Association and a board member for the Northwest Alliance for Responsible Media.

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My father will die soon because of COVID-19 — which he never had

Posted by James McPherson on July 18, 2020

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Thanks to COVID-19, along with the fact that Idahoans refuse to wear masks to protect themselves and others, my father will likely be dead within the next couple of weeks.
Conservatives whine that COVID cases may be overcounted, that perhaps the number of deaths is being inflated for unknown political reasons – a theory that makes sense only if you think medical professionals around the world are out to take down a president who is killing tens of thousands of Americans through his mishandling of the pandemic. But I am more concerned about the number of deaths that will never be connected to the virus, but which would never have occurred without the pandemic.
Deaths like my father’s, which hospice workers say is likely to occur within days. Yet Dad never contracted the virus, nor have any of his loved ones. Even so, assuming I make it in time, I’ll be suiting up in protective garb next week to say goodbye to the man who, more than any other, made me what I am today.
Dad has Alzheimer’s Disease, and he and my mother now live in separate rooms in a nursing home. Until a few weeks ago, Mom spent most of every day with her husband of 63 years. But then the facility apparently had some sort of COVID scare and residents were locked down, not just within the building but within their rooms. During the next couple of weeks, my father lost more than twenty pounds and the ability to stand, let alone to use the walker he had relied on for his multiple daily walks.
Unfortunately, Dad needed encouragement to eat, and sometimes had to be fed. My mother often took on those tasks, along with making sure he got all of his meds (sometimes he didn’t), and that he was toileted and cleaned in a timely manner (sometimes he wasn’t). Though the facility is rated well and seems ungodly expensive to me, it also always seemed to be poorly managed and understaffed, problems only worsened by the pandemic.
By the time Mom was able to get back to Dad’s side (having never been told why the strict lockdown occurred), he was bedridden. Before the lockdown, he sometimes mistook my mother for my sister, and confused their 50th anniversary photo with one of his own parents. After the lockdown he at first thought Mom was his brother. Only days later, Dad went under hospice care and soon will see his brother, who died more than twenty-five years ago.
Don’t get me wrong. Part of me is glad that my father’s suffering is nearly over. Having had a mother-in-law and some friends also go through dementia at the end of their lives even before my father’s experience, I wouldn’t wish the experience on anyone. But no one should be cheated out of their final days with a loved one simply because the United States happens to be the one industrialized nation in the world that is apparently incapable of dealing with a public health crisis.
And yes, my father’s death is one of those that will be easy for most people to discount. I have certainly told journalism students many times that some deaths are far more newsworthy than others. Dad was an outstanding teacher, coach, and school administrator who impacted the lives of untold thousands of people, but he was also an 83-year-old Alzheimer’s victim who had outlived many of his friends.
So, some might say, as an Alzheimer’s sufferer Dad could have died at any time. And that is absolutely true. But isn’t it also true of the rest of us? Especially in an age in which many Americans treat a deadly pandemic as a reason for political grandstanding, even if that grandstanding kills other people?

One Response to “My father will die soon because of COVID-19 — which he never had”

  1. Eric Voc said

    Professor: You and your family are in my prayers.

    EV

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