Women Bear The Brunt of Both Scandals, Nursing Home & Sexual Harassment

By Karen Hinton | March 27, 2021

Some New Yorkers worry the sexual harassment investigations may take time away from the due diligence needed on the nursing home deaths and, rightfully so, but the most egregious abuse of time lands squarely on the elected officials who have ignored nursing home deficits and sexual harassment for decades.

Women, not men, have borne the brunt of both.

Women, not men, are largely the victims of sexual abuse and harassment. Women, not men, are more than a majority of nursing home patients. Women, not men, are the caregivers of the elderly, either employed by nursing homes or a family member at home.

The investigations of both New York scandals should end with findings that not only tell us what went wrong, legally and ethically, in NY Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office but also should urge all branches of government to remove the brunt in New York and across the country.

The nursing home investigation focuses on Cuomo’s decision to require nursing homes to accept COVID positive patients and to manipulate the public reporting of nursing home deaths. All states have released their nursing home numbers, but only New York disguised the totals, and the 15,000 deaths in New York are higher than in other state.

Nursing homes and their advocates in several states, New York, New Jersey and California among them, argued to the powers that be that they could not care for COVID positive patients, fearing they may expose their employees and other patients, most of whom are women. Hospitals and nursing homes are where most patients have died.

More than 70 percent of nursing home residents in the country are women; their average admission age is 80. Almost 90,000 New Yorkers lived in nursing homes in 2019. Again, most of them women. Also, 90 percent of nursing home health care workers are women. The majority of the women are people of color, and one third are Black or African American. A higher percentage of people of color have suffered from or died from COVID than whites.

Nursing homes aren’t the most inviting place to work, and improving the quality of care in nursing homes is “complicated,” AARP said in its ten step plan to make them safer and healthier as COVID case numbers fall.

PHI National, an advocate for nursing assistants, found that the carrying and lifting needed in nursing homes injures mostly women – 3.5 times more often than the typical American worker. Women employees of all colors who work as nursing assistants in nursing homes rarely make more than $12 an hour on average. As a result, nursing homes have a hard time finding workers to fill vacancies. They have struggled pre and post COVID to hire enough women to meet the demands that continue to grow as more people, especially women, live longer. Nursing homes are expected to create an estimated 59,000 new nursing assistant jobs from by 2024. Women will fill most of the new jobs for very little money.

Women have long been the primary caregiver in families, and they often take time off, leave a job or retire to care for parents at their homes or in nursing homes. Daughters more often take this role than sons. Women’s finances and careers also are the hardest hit.

At the same time, though, they vote more than men, especially Black women. Pollsters tell us this has been the case since women got the right to vote a hundred years ago. The count of women’s votes continues to climb.

Any New York public official, man or woman, running for office or re-election should perfect their talking points and take positions on all the investigations, whether they center on nursing home deaths or sexual harassment.

The public is watching. Polling released by Quinnipiac recently found that 58 percent say Cuomo tried to mislead New Yorkers about nursing home deaths. Mislead is a kind way of saying lied or hid, and Cuomo’s approval rating has fallen from 45 to 39 percent, the lowest job approval for Cuomo since he took office in 2011.

In reality, though, we don’t need a pollster to tell us that women in New York or in any state are devastated and angered by knowing so little about how and why their family members died in a nursing home or hospital and how their daughters are being treated in both their personal and professional relationships.

Women and the men who care about them, elected or not, must sound the alarm on public transparency, the quality of nursing homes, as well as sexual harassment, not just worry.

Karen Hinton is a communications consultant who served as press secretary for Mayor de Blasio and Governor Cuomo when he was the Housing Secretary in the Clinton Administration.