Category Archives: Long-Term Care

Report: Nursing Home Patients Given Potentially Lethal Anti-Psychotics

Is Medicare paying for nursing homes to give patients with dementia powerful, non-approved, and potentially lethal “atypical” anti-psychotic drugs?

According to a recent highly critical report from the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the answer is yes…

The auditors found that 83 percent of antipsychotic prescriptions for elderly nursing home residents were for uses not approved by federal drug regulators, and 88 percent were to treat patients with dementia — for whom the drugs can be lethal.

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Critics say the non-approved use of drugs such as Clozaril, Risperdal, Zyprexa, Symbyax, Seroquel, Invega, Abilify, and Geodon is a form of “chemical restraint” to control difficult patients, regarded by many as nursing home abuse. Others claim that prescribing drugs that the FDA has warned may be deadly to dementia patients is due to illegal drug maker kickback schemes.

In his letter to the senators who requested the audit, Inspector General Daniel Levinson wrote “Government, taxpayers, nursing home residents as well as their families and caregivers should be outraged and seek solutions.”

Outrage is easy. But coming up with a solution is going to be a lot more difficult. Many doctors argue that the risk of prescribing these drugs to patients with severe dementia is mitigated by the relief they provide from agitation. It’s a question of balancing quality of life against the remaining length of life.

Still, the cost of these meds — which only skyrockets within a Medicare system rife with fraud — and the danger that their use can easily become abusive and deadly, means this controversy isn’t going away anytime soon.


Protect Your Aging Parents from Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect

Want to protect your aging parent or loved one from nursing home abuse and neglect? Don’t count on a facility’s promises that all their employees are screened, trained and supervised. In too many care facilities, incidents of self-reported elder abuse fall short of official “zero tolerance” policy.

Outsourcing the day-to-day care of an aging parent is one thing. But trusting each and every nursing home employee to treat your parent as you would is not realistic.

A survey of nursing home citations (not even counting adult home care facilities) showed that 96% of them had been cited for violations of the Medicare and Medicaid rules for operation.  You can be sure that lots of those violations concerned health and safety of the residents.

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There’s just no getting around it: Ultimately, it’s still up to YOU to make sure your parent or loved one is safe.

The easiest way to start is to have family members visit often — daily it at all possible. Take a small notebook with you. Write down the the names of every person who has anything to do with your aging parent.

Be observant. If your parent has any bruises or bandages, ask your parent if they know why. Then ask a caregiver. If you don’t like the answers, or even SUSPECT something is wrong, notify the shift supervisor AND the Director of Nursing. Don’t assume your concerns will be reported. Make sure they are.

Don’t apologize for being persistent. Your job is to make sure your loved one is well cared for — and to let the nursing home staff know you take your job seriously.


Key Safety Tips to Avoid Nursing Nursing Home Neglect

Want to increase the odds that you or your aging parent is NOT neglected at a long-term care facility? One of the most important considerations is to make sure that the facility is near family and friends…

…residents who are visited regularly by involved and inquisitive family members generally receive better care. Residents who are isolated from family, and who do not have strong-voiced advocates, are more likely to be overlooked.

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Make it your business to know and record the name of any caregiver who has contact with you or your aging parent. Ask questions. Take notes.  And make it a point to review your elderly loved one’s medications for correct dosage and warnings about interactions with other meds. Your goal is to make it known that the elderly person in the bed comes with a lot of people who are actively concerned about their health and welfare.

For more advice on what to look for when considering a long-term care facility, check out these tips from “Neglected to Death,” — a gut-wrenching investigative report by The Miami Herald that exposes conditions in Florida’s assisted living facilities.


Nursing Home Criminal Background Checks Offer False Sense of Security

If you are evaluating long-term care facilities for an aging parent, ask if management runs criminal background checks on all their employees. But don’t let a “yes” answer give you a false sense of secruity.

That’s because nursing homes in 33 states only run criminal background checks for their own states — not national checks. Which means that it’s way too easy for someone with a criminal background to get a nursing home job in a different state.

But even criminal background check advocates say that lack of a national system is just part of the problem. According to one district attorney from Massachusetts…

…background checks aren’t a silver bullet against elder abuse. ”They do not solve the problem of abuse of senior citizens. [If a nursing home] runs a background check and it turns out the employee has no criminal record, that doesn’t mean they aren’t going to potentially abuse somebody… The most important thing you can do to protect nursing home patients is to make sure your staff is adequately monitored and supervised. It’s not who you hired — it is protecting your patients.”

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Still, a mandatory national criminal background check system is a step in the right direction towards protecting older Americans from nursing home abuse and financial elder abuse. Especially in light of the recent U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services report that 92 percent of U.S. nursing homes have at least one convicted criminal on staff.


Stay Safe After 70: Long-Term Care Planning Essential

Great news: Life expectancy in the United States is now about 78 years and 2 months — another all-time high. The not-so-great-news: The longer you live, the more likely you’ll need long-term care…

As many as 70 percent of people who are now 65 will need long-term care at some point during their remaining lives. And the incidence of Alzheimer’s rises with age, with fully half of people 85 and older likely to suffer from the disease.

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The bad news: The cost of long-term care for is only going to go higher. To get a sense of how much you might expect to pay for various long-term care facilities in your area, check out this nationwide “Cost of Care” survey from Genworth Financial.

The bottom line: You may live longer, but it ain’t gonna be cheap. In fact, your aging parents may have it pretty good compared to what’s going to be left of Medicare and Medicaid when the Baby Boomers get through with it.

All of which means that you need to start thinking about your long-term care options now. For a straightforward, step-by-step guide to planning your long-term care needs, start here.