“It will have to be done over and over again,” said Branyas, describing such a transformation as a debt owed to those who died during the pandemic. “Given my age, I probably won’t be there. But believe me, a new order is required. “
The news that Branyas, the oldest living person in Spain, had survived the virus made headlines around the world last week, providing a moment of joy from one of the most affected countries in the world. Across Spain, the virus has claimed the lives of more than 27,500 people.
In late March, Covid-19 began making its way through the yellow-painted hallways of Branyas’ nursing home in the town of Olot, about 70 miles north of Barcelona. By spreading their own fears and anxieties about the contagion, the house staff continued to take care of the residents. Yet the virus has traced a deadly trajectory, killing at least 17 of the 133 people who live there.
This pandemic shows that the elderly are the forgotten of our society – they do not deserve to leave the world in this way.
Covid-19 left Branyas – who had the 1918 flu, two world wars and the Spanish civil war – sick for just a few days. But it has shaken itself from the deeper mark left by the pandemic, as it laid bare a society that it believed had pushed its elderly to the margins.
“This pandemic has revealed that the elderly are the forgotten people in our society,” she said in an interview with the Observer, made with the help of one of her daughters. “They have fought all their lives, sacrificed their time and their dreams for the quality of life today. They did not deserve to leave the world that way. “
The virus has spread to more than 5,000 nursing homes in Spain, killing around 17,500 residents. A similar story unfolded across Europe with almost half of the deaths of Covid-19 reportedly in nursing homes in Italy, France, Ireland and Belgium.
In Spain, where the reverence shown towards the elderly is a point of pride, the pandemic has forced an account with an industry that has long rejected complaints of funding and shortage of staff.
Before the pandemic, seniors shared stories of waiting hours to go to the bathroom or drink a glass of water. Others were struggling with ants or cockroach infestations, while house staff complained that they had to ration essential items such as diapers and soap.
“This is the situation in our care homes – not during the pandemic but over the past decade,” Madrid politician Pablo Gómez Perpinyà told the regional assembly last month. “This is how the elderly have faced the virus.”
The horrific situation was revealed in March after the army deployed to disinfect nursing homes. “The military found elderly people who had been completely abandoned, some dead, in their beds,” said Defense Minister Margarita Robles on Telecinco television.
Prosecutors in Spain said this month that they had opened 140 nursing home investigations following complaints from family members and relatives. The Federación Empresarial de la Dependencia, an industry association representing nursing homes in Spain, told Spanish broadcaster esRadio that homes were left to care for residents after overwhelmed hospitals refused to accommodate more patients or send the appropriate medication to nursing homes.
Speaking of the nursing home where she has lived for almost two decades, Branyas offered solutions. “It is as if those of us who choose to live in a care home have disappeared from society,” she said. “Governments must be careful and provide funding and trained staff in nursing homes. Most importantly, they need to provide much more home health care. “
With the help of an account created and managed by her daughter, Branyas got her start on social media last year – his Twitter biography reads: “I am old, very old, but not stupid” – after being recognized by the Gerontology Research Group as the oldest known living person in Spain and considered to be among the 30 most elderly of the world. Records from Club 110, a forum chaired by one of the group’s directors, suggest that Branyas is the oldest survivor of the Covid-19 in the world.
Born in 1907 in the United States, where her Spanish father worked as a journalist, Branyas moved to Spain in 1915. While the 1918 flu swept the world, she lived on the outskirts of a small village in Catalonia, apparently not affected by the pandemic, said daughter Rosa Moret.
Her mother rarely talks about the past, she added. “She says it’s better not to think about these things, you have to keep looking forward. I think that’s why she lived so long. “
Branyas was quite happy to describe the changes she hoped her 13 great grandchildren would see in their lives. “A change in values, a change that prioritizes education, health and research,” she said. “And fewer weapons and much less spending for so many politicians.”
She laughed at a question about what comes after the fight against the coronavirus. “Well, I’m going to live,” she said. “Until God willing. “