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Nursing Homes Abuse Blog

By Jonathan Rosenfeld

How Quickly Can Bedsores Develop on a Nursing Home Patient?

Posted in Bed Sores, Pressure Sores, Decubitus Ulcers & Pressure Ulcers

Decubitus ulcers, commonly referred to as bedsores or pressure ulcers, develop in individuals that are chair bound or bed bound for an extended period. Many ulcers begin forming in as little as a week when lying or sitting in the same place. On average, bed sore developing skin ulcers become serious in less than a month of being bound to a chair or bed.

Bedsores on the skin are caused by continuous pressure and irritation at any specific location on the body. However, bedsores tend to be common on a prominent bony area including the buttocks, hips, elbows, back of the head, shoulders, lower back and heels. Bed sores can be minimized when taking preventative measures including changing body position whenever possible to relieve pressure.

Most Common Bed Sore Occurrences

Bed sore developing ulcers are often a common occurrence in hospital patients. Research indicates that as many as five percent of individuals admitted to a hospital, nursing home or health care facility can develop a pressure ulcer within a week or two. The most common bedsore occurrences happened by a variety of reasons including:

  • The patient is not very mobile and unable to change body position
  • The patient is seriously ill, such as patients in ICU (intensive care unit)
  • Individual suffering a spinal cord injury and are unable to feel or move the legs and/or arms
  • Individuals with a poor diet
  • Individuals wearing a plaster cast for a broken limb, a body brace or prosthesis (artificial limb)
  • Smokers
  • Individual suffering from diabetes that lose the ability to sense pain or major discomfort
  • Individuals suffering incontinence of feces or urine where the skin remains damp, increasing the potential of damage
  • Individual suffering heart failure or COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
  • Those with rheumatoid arthritis, Parkinson’s disease or Alzheimer’s disease
  • Individuals who have recently undergone hip surgery or nursing a broken hip
  • People with poor circulation in the arms and legs (peripheral vascular disease) where the arteries are narrowed by atheroma

Identifying a Bed Sore

Decubitus ulcers often appear in various stages depending on severity. Medical care identifying or grade the sore, based on the depth of the ulcer.

  • Grade #1 – The patient’s skin appears permanently red but has no crack or break in the surface. Often times, the area feels warm and hard to the touch, and slightly swollen. Individuals with dark skin often have bedsores that are blue or purple in color.
  • Grade #2 – The bedsore appears superficial much like an abrasion or blister.
  • Grade #3 – The decubitus ulcer penetrates throughout the entire thickness of the patient’s skin where obvious damage appears in underlying tissue.
  • Grade #4 – This type of ulcer is the most severe, where the sore is deep with significant damage to the bone and muscle beneath.

Preventing Bed Sores

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommends consulting a healthcare provider as soon as possible whenever a noticeable bedsore appears. This is because surgery is usually required to repair and heal this kind of wound. The healing process of a decubitus ulcer often involves:

  • The ulcer is becoming smaller in size
  • The sore starts to develop pink tissue along its edges while increasing in size toward the center
  • During the healing process, noticeably healing signs include bumpy or smooth surfaces of new tissue growth
  • Bleeding can be present at the site indicating good blood flow circulation to the damaged area to promote and escalate healing

However, many bedsores do not heal without medical treatment. Often times, noticeable signs of necessary medical care can appear. These signs can include:

  • Significant drainage at the ulcer site or an increase in its size
  • Increase redness at the site or black areas beginning to form
  • A noticeable odor and/or extensive drainage with a green color at the sore site
  • Any indicator of a fever

Healthcare Provider Neglect

Anytime a bedsore is neglected in a hospital, nursing facility or assisted living home, it can be life-threatening. Many victims of abuse or neglect can develop an infection that can easily spread to the bone, heart and blood. Serious neglect of the decubitus ulcer can lead to amputation or autonomic dysreflexia (overactive autonomic nervous system).

Placing a loved one in a nursing home for necessary care requires a level of trust. Unfortunately, whenever the trust is violated, the love one can suffer a variety of serious injuries including debilitating bedsores. When this happens, it is important that family members hold the nursing home accountable for their negligence and abuse.

The legal team at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers at (888) 424-5757 is experienced in nursing home negligence cases involving serious injuries. We offer free consultations to evaluate the circumstances surrounding all treatments or lack of treatment to assist in obtaining financial compensation for your loved one.

Memory Care Facilities Emerging Specialty In Senior Care Industry

Posted in Dementia / Alzheimer's Patients
Senior Care Memory Care FacilitiesAs work continues on a 23,000-square-foot memory care center in Weston Wisconsin, it is important to remember that this is just one of the many facilities currently being built throughout the country. Because of the increased number of people who have memory-related illnesses, these types of ‘memory care facilities’ are only going to increase in number.

In fact, the number of people in Wisconsin alone who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease are expected to be around 202,000 by the time 2035 comes around, almost double the number of the current 120,000 Wisconsin residents with Alzheimer’s disease in 2011.

Defining memory care

It is important to remember that memory care facilities are not unlike assisted living communities. However, while assisted living communities may have memory care units that cater to specific individuals, the two types of care are not synonymous with one another.

Memory care is a specialized form of long-term skilled nursing. It specifically caters to patients who struggle with memory problems such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Memory care offers a residential solution for those people who are no longer able to care for themselves due to progressive impairment.

These professionals are trained to help people with impaired cognition or dementia. This goes beyond just having skilled professionals available too. Oftentimes the security of these facilities and their physical layout is designed to better suit patients with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. This ensures that the environment is pleasant and easy to navigate and wandering behavior is minimized.

There are currently 23 states that require care providers to disclose the special services they offer due to special care unit disclosure laws. However, because there is no single universal law in relates to memory care facilities, it is vital that caregivers research these facilities thoroughly before they ever decide upon one facility or another.

A cost comparison: assisted living vs memory care

There are many different variables that determine the costs of memory care and assisted living. These include what services are needed, whether a space has to be shared or not, the size of the apartment/room, and the geographic location of the facility. Beyond that, the determination of the costs is a bit different for both types of care.

Assisted living usually charges a base monthly rate. This includes two to three meals per day and covers room and board. According to a recent survey, in 2012,  a one-bedroom assisted living apartment on average cost around $3,300 monthly. Some facilities cover other services such as laundry and housekeeping in their base rate, while others will charge extra. This emphasizes the importance of requesting a cost breakdown for each facility that you are considering for yourself or someone that you care about.

Memory care offers nursing services and specialized care not normally found in regular assisted living. As a result, the costs are oftentimes quite a bit higher. That same survey showed that the average costs were around $5,000 per month. Fortunately, veterans’ benefits, Medicare, and Medicaid can all help reduce the out-of-pocket price tag.

Do you choose assisted living or memory care?

If dementia or Alzheimer’s disease are not an immediate issue and the person is still relatively independent in their daily lives, assisted living may be a good choice. However, if the patient suffers from memory impairment and has the complex care needs associated with that issue, a memory facility  such as the one being built in Weston is going to be the best possible option.

Mealtimes Turn Dangerous In Senior Care Facilities

Posted in Choking
Dangerous Meals in Nursing HomesThe Rookery home in Walcott found out that mealtimes could in fact be dangerous – and in this case even fatal. Paul Relton had a specific care plan that specified that he required one-to-one supervision when he was eating. His food also needed to be cut into minimal pieces in order to avoid choking.

However, on October 14, 2012, Mr. Relton finished his own meal and then took a cheese roll that belonged to another resident. He placed it in his mouth. A support worker at the home says that he took Mr. Relton out of the dining room and brought him into the lounge, this was done to ensure that Mr. Relton was unable to take any more food from other residents. Despite the fact that Mr. Relton did not appear to have anything in his mouth or appear to be in distress at the time, the support worker admits that he did not check whether Mr. Relton swallowed the cheese roll that he took a second ago.

A problem becomes evident

Minutes later Mr. Relton ran out of the room and began coughing in the corridor. The support worker first assumed that this was normal coughing, but as it continued on, he decided to check on the resident. He report that he saw Mr. Relton lean up against the wall.

After seeing Mr. Relton up against the wall, the support worker brought another patient that he was with at the time back to the lounge. By the time he came back, Paul Relton face was face first on the floor in another part of the building. After calling the emergency number, it took paramedics 24 minutes to arrive at the scene – 14 minutes longer than their target. Two days later, Mr. Relton died in the hospital.

The aftermath of this case

The support worker says that he felt that having more staff present in the dining room at the time may have prevented the grabbing of the cheese roll in the first place. However, the manager of the care facility said that the staff levels met the ‘regulatory requirements’. The death was later ruled ‘accidental’.

Why this could happen more often

Part of the problem that plagues a number of care facilities and nursing homes is the fact that there are not enough adequately trained staff members present at all times. This means that during hectic times such as breakfast, lunch, or dinner, staff members are busy trying to help as many residents as possible.

It is important to have more staff members during these stressful times to ensure that an incident such as the one with Paul Relton does not happen again. Despite that, there are an increasing number of nursing homes that are cutting down on personnel in order to save money.

Remember that even small incidents could have big consequences. If you notice that the staff is no longer able to provide support for your loved one, it is important that you speak out and make your voice heard.

Accidents do happen, but hiding behind ‘regulatory requirements’ shows us that if this type of incident can happen in accordance with the law, perhaps it is about time that we look at addressing our lack ‘regulatory requirements’

Reports From Nursing Home Inspections Frequently Lag Behind

Posted in Bed Sores, Pressure Sores, Decubitus Ulcers & Pressure Ulcers
Nursing Home Reports for InspectionsWhen Mary Chiu discovered the bedsores that her 85-year old mother was struggling with, she was shocked to say the least. Her mother suffered bedsores on her big toe, heel, left leg, and the one on her backside was deep enough to where it exposed the bone. Hospital treatments for the sores and subsequent bacterial infections became standards, upwards of a half a dozen times her mother needed to go to the hospital. Her mother finally passed away because of respiratory failure months later.

Slow justice indeed

Because Mary Chiu wanted a thorough investigation of the nursing home, she wrote the Los Angeles County public health officials in September of 2011. The 7-page complaint detailed everything she thought went wrong in the case that led to her mother’s suffering. In December of that year, she decided to take legal steps and sue the Arcadia Health Care Center.

Lawsuit settled – case closed?

The lawsuit has since been settled, in arbitration it was decided that her mother was in fact the victim of negligence and elder abuse. The wrongful death of her mother led to Mary Chiu receiving more than half a million dollars. Even though the lawsuit was started and settled – the investigation from the public health department is still not finished.

It would be easy to consider this an afterthought, but it goes beyond that. If people look up the public records of the Arcadia Health Care Center, they are not going to see any reports of this case. This means that those people who are referencing public records to help them determine nursing home quality are left out of the loop.

Not an isolated incident

Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident. It is one example of hundreds of similar cases in Los Angeles County alone. Statewide there are thousands of these cases. This begs the question: how many of these cases are still pending on a national level? Especially if we consider these cases are incomplete for months, possibly even years.

As of the middle of March, there were 3,044 open cases in the county. Out of the 3,044, almost a third (945) of these can be dated back two or more years. This shocking statistic was recently revealed by the Los Angeles County Auditor-Controller.

A lack of accountability

Part of the issue, as previously mentioned, is the fact that these delayed cases are not available on federal or state websites. The only thing that prospective clients are able to see is that Chiu lived at the Arcadia nursing home in 2011.

The issue here remains that aside from the temporary financial setback, these facilities are not being held accountable for their actions. In fact, until a reporter confronted them about the situation, the website for the Arcadia Health Care Center proudly displayed a five-star facility status. This would suggest that there is nothing wrong, and there has never been anything wrong, with the facility. The actual rating that the Arcadia Health Care Center has on the U.S. official government database is three stars. Since being confronted with these facts, the claim has been removed from the website.

What seems lost here

Part of the discussion that appears lost here is the fact that Mary Chiu does not want other families to have to go through the same heartbreak that she did. While the monetary compensation is certainly helpful in taking care of bills and attending to her mother’s last wishes, it does not give Mary Chiu her mother back.

Until there is adequate funding for these departments to enable them to investigate each claim properly, what type of message does that send to the offending healthcare facilities. What message does it send to the families left behind?

Authorities Investigate Rape of Woman In Nursing Home

Posted in Sexual Abuse & Assault
Rapes in Nursing HomesA transitional care facility and nursing home in West Chester received a brutal reminder that even those elderly patients who live in an elder care facility are not always safe. According to police, a rape reportedly happened between 9 and 11 PM. Despite the fact that neither the police nor the care facility would disclose the woman’s age, it is assumed that the woman was in fact a resident at the facility.

According to the vice president for marketing for the owner of the facility, there were re-conducted background checks for all the male caregivers and these male caregivers were removed from schedule on that particular floor for the day.

Remember that sexual elder abuse goes further

Even though this particular instance pertained to actual rape, it is important to remember that any contact without the elder’s consent is considered sexual elder abuse and is unacceptable and punishable by law. Contrary to what most people assume, this is not merely limited to physical sex acts. Sexual elder abuse also includes forcing the elder to undress without any specific reason, forcing the elderly patient to watch sex acts, or showing the elderly person pornographic material.

Some facts about sexual elder abuse

Even with the number of elder sexual abuse victims as high as it is right now, estimates suggest that only about 30 percent of sexual assaults/rapes on the elderly are reported to the police. Sometimes it is fear or embarrassment that prevents the victim from seeking help and justice, other times it is the nursing facility that attempts to downplay the situation.

Another troubling aspect of elder sexual abuse is the fact that people often fail to speak out. According to the statistics of one specific study, it is far more common to have at least one witness present for the sexual abuse (more than 75 percent) than it is for the sexual abuse to happen without any witnesses (24 percent). This means a large number of people are not reporting what they are seeing – perhaps due to the stigma of sexual abuse.

According to one final study (which did not actively screen for institutional sexual abuse), most of the time (81 percent) the suspected offenders of sexual elder abuse were caregivers themselves  while 78 percent were family members. Perhaps more shocking was that more than 33 percent of the suspects were in fact elderly themselves.

Remember that you are not helpless

It is important to remember that even if something did happen or almost happened, you are not helpless when it comes to seeking justice. Both seniors themselves and their relatives are able to bring forth claims against the nursing homes and the offending parties.

Remember that even if something almost happens, it is possible to institute a lawsuit for neglect. It is required by law that nursing homes provide reasonable care for its residents – these are industry standards. In fact, nursing homes are often held to a high standard of care. The NHRA (federal Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987) mandates that any nursing home that receives Medicaid or Medicare maintain safe facilities for its residents. If you are concerned about someone you care about, remember to speak out and make your voice heard.

Nursing Home Taking Recreational Care Too Far

Posted in Diabetic Ketoacidosis
Recreational Care in Nursing HomesThe East Neck Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in West Babylon, N.Y. has landed in some hot water after reports came out that suggest that the facility hired a male stripper to dance for the facility’s patients. The son of a resident found the picture of his mother (who is 86 years old) with a male stripper. The picture shows that the resident is putting money in the dancer’s underwear.

It is understandable that the residents’ family members were not pleased once they became aware of the incident. Mr. Youngblood alleges that when he confronted one of the employees at the facility about the racy picture, he felt that the situation was ‘laughed off.’ This led to Mr. Youngblood filing a lawsuit against the facility, claiming that his mother was degraded and humiliated.

More about the patient

The patient, Bernice Youngblood, has been a resident at the nursing home facility for five years before the the incident happened. She is also currently suffering from dementia. According to the court documents filed by her son, Bernice Youngblood was placed in imminent, offensive physical harm. The suit also alleges that the woman was both bewildered and confused as to why a muscular, barely clad man was placing his limbs and body all over her. The suit also alleges that it was the staff that urged Bernice Youngblood to place the money in the dancer’s pants.

The rebuttal from the defense

Howard Fensterman, the lawyer for the nursing home, suggests that it was the residents who decided to hire a stripper in the first place. According to Fensterman, a 16-member panel of residents agreed to pay the $250 that it would take to get the stripper to perform at the facility. In the same breath, Fensterman suggests that when it comes to the overall incident, there was nothing inappropriate about it.

Remember this

Regardless of what we think of patients hiring strippers, it is important to remember that those patients who reside in nursing homes are already in a vulnerable state – both mentally and physically. This makes them easy targets when it comes to something inappropriate and exploitation. Despite the fact that some family members are saying that their family members were happy about the situation and were in fact enjoying themselves, it still does not seem like a smart move to make.

Even if the residents did agree to hire the dancer themselves, it is still important to remember that people who place their family members in these types of facilities have certain expectations. While it is impossible to speak for everyone, it is doubtful that most people would want these types of things happening to their parents and/or grandparents, let alone have the situation documented on film.

At best, this is a serious lapse in judgment by those responsible for the facility. At worst, it could be a trial that nets the Youngbloods millions of dollars in damages.

 

Electronic Monitoring of Nursing Home Patients Moves Closer to Reality

Posted in National Nursing Home Issue & For-Profit Chains
Options to Keep Loved Ones Safe from Abuse in FacilitiesThere is a lot of anxiety and unfamiliar aspects to deal with if someone we care about enters into a nursing home facility. We wonder whether they will be comfortable, whether they will make new friends, but we should not have to worry about whether they will be safe. Families of nursing home residents in South Carolina now no longer have to worry about that as much.

More about the bill

The Electronic Monitoring of a Resident’s Room in a Long-Term Care Facility bill would make it possible for residents who want to place a camera in their room to do so. The bill ensures that facilities make accommodations for those patients who make such a request. It also offers penalties for those staff members who tamper with the equipment or the camera itself.

One of the reasons that the bill was introduced in South Carolina was because of the abuse of Jesse Lee Wood. This 101-year old man was a resident at the Mount Pleasant facility. A video, captured on a hidden camera, showed that the elderly man was kissed on the cheek against his wishes, grabbed, shaken, and hit.

What this means

If the bill does become law, any patient who alleges abuse or a family member who has power of attorney who suspects as much has the option to place a camera in the room. At that point, the nursing facility would be unable to stop the resident from doing so. The patient can dictate what the camera is going to capture and where it is positioned.

Opposition to the bill?

Perhaps even more interesting is the opposition from the chair of the South Carolina Healthcare Association Board of Directors – Rick Sellers. He believed that the bill was “bad public policy.” He made the argument that the bill would undermine the dignity and privacy of the nursing home staff and the nursing home patients. He suggested that cameras were disruptive, demoralizing, and demeaning, as well as a breach of confidentiality.

It is interesting to think that someone who claims to care about the wishes of the patients would make such statements. Keep in mind that this does not mean ‘forced’ supervision; the bill puts the decision in the resident’s hands.

Even though he is clearly trying to sugarcoat the message, the only thing that Mr. Sellers appears worried about is being sued after it turns out that one of his employees does not do their job accordingly or abuses one of the nursing home patients.

Protecting those who need it most

Especially if we have a nursing home that cares for vulnerable patients, the primary factor is safety above everything else. This includes being safe from neglect or abuse. This is not “disruptive, demoralizing, and demeaning” as Mr. Sellers puts it, it is about improving the patient’s quality of life. Especially if we consider Mr. Sellers’ opposing argument, it begs an important question: if you are certain that everyone you hire is doing a great job and you have nothing to hide, what are you afraid the cameras are going to find out?

Do Nursing Home Owners’ Assets Need To Be Protected From Lawsuits?

Posted in Litigation
Owners of Nursing Homes Could Have Their Assets on the LineThe story involving Jim Wilkes and the Florida nursing home industry would almost appear funny if it were not so morbid – this Tampa trial lawyer successfully sues nursing homes for abuse and neglect of its residents and wins millions of dollars in damages for his clients. Clearly, juries throughout the state were ruling that these nursing homes were not providing the adequate levels of care necessary. Instead of making changes, ensuring that their patients are safe, the industry decides to invest its money in trying to get the Florida Legislature to change the law.

What this is about

Why are nursing homes afraid of this type of approach and want to change the law? The concept is straightforward – instead of just targeting the management companies and the owners of a nursing home, you also target the contractors, vendors, and investors if you can provide evidence that they somehow influenced the company’s decision-making. In addition to that, seek larger punitive damages.

When a company did not put up any defense in 2012, a Poly County nursing home was forced to shut down alongside its management company. The awarded settlement was a $1 billion judgment.

Arguments for the bill

According to the representative for the Florida Health Care Association, this type of bill is necessary to ensure that Florida remains an interesting place to invest. They are actually suggesting that having these types of investment companies, who do nothing but look at the bottom line and try cut corners everywhere, are actually good for the state.

However, it is evident that the nursing home industry is determined to make this bill go through. They have been seeking a version of this bill for years now. Throughout the political campaigns in 2012, they spent $2.4 million on contributions. So far during this cycle, the same industry has spent another $903,000 on legislative campaigns.

Why this is more important than ever

There is no denying that tort reform can sometimes go overboard. We should not make people afraid of doing their job if they do it well or make a simple mistake. However, the truth is that many of these companies see nursing homes as nothing more than an investment opportunity. This often means that they will try to offer the least amount of care possible to ensure the maximum profits.

Those companies will only respond to one thing – punitive damages. Even though it is idealistic to assume that people will invest in a nursing home because they want to ‘better the world’, it is still vitally important that companies provide adequate, humane service.

This type of lawsuit highlights the attitude of these investment companies and directly shows us what is wrong with these people having a say in the day-to-day care of elderly residents. Here is a recommendation for these investment companies: use the money you are now spending on lawyers and invest it in providing adequate care for your residents. Not only would it be beneficial for your long-term bottom line, but it would also prevent you from spending time in court.

Study Examines Necessity of Feeding Tubes in Elderly

Posted in Feeding Tube Complications
Feeding Tubes in ElderlyIt can be extremely difficult for patients with advanced dementia to eat. Especially swallowing is difficult for these patients. Some doctors are more likely to use gastric feeding tubes with patients who suffer from advanced dementia instead of opting to feed these patients by hand. These results were evident in a study that was recently published in the Health Affairs journal.

According to Joan Teno – professor of Medicine and the lead on the study – the efficacy of feeding tube use has become something of a controversial topic in the last few years. The evolving literature does not suggest that feeding tubes help prevent pressure ulcers, do not prevent aspiration pneumonia, and do not improve the patient’s chance of survival. This leads to Teno asking the question: why are we still using this method?

The frequency is variable

According to Teno, the frequency of feeding tube insertion is highly variable. In some fields of medicine, the doctor will request a feeding tube in upwards of 44 percent of patients with advanced dementia. Meanwhile, in other forms of medicine that number stands at a modest 4 percent of patients with advanced dementia.

New doctor = feeding tube?

According to the research from Teno, one of the most problematic aspects was the introduction of a new physician in the care process. She believes that this handoff may be partially responsible for the increased rates of feeding tube use.

The study revealed that hospitalists and primary care physicians had the same low rate of feeding tube use. However, if a subspecialist is added to the discussion, the use of feeding tubes often increased.

Not always beneficial

According to Teno, it is important that doctors be careful when using feeding tubes at all. Especially in patients with dementia, the disadvantages often outweigh the advantages. An earlier study from Teno revealed that those patients who received a feeding tube were more likely to develop a stage 2 or higher pressure ulcer than those who did not.

Even when adjusting the risks, Teno said in her earlier research (published in the Archives of Internal Medicine) that with a feeding tube, the patients run a 2.27 times higher risk of developing a pressure ulcer than without it.

The central question

The central question with the use of feeding tubes is whether it will actually improve the patient’s quality of life. This study (and other studies done before it) shows that it may increase rates of pressure ulcers and cause many people agitation instead of improving their overall quality of life.

According to Teno, these cases would benefit from a ‘less is more approach’. This means diligently offering the patient food and to help them regain their appetite through hand feeding. Teno feels that the most important thing to take away from her study is the fact that subspecialists need to be educated about the benefits and risks that come with feeding tube insertion for elderly patients with dementia. Even though hand feeding may take far more time, it appears to be the preferable option.

Use Of Antipsychotic Medications Soars In Nursing Homes

Posted in Dementia / Alzheimer's Patients, Uncategorized
Medications on the Rise in Nursing HomesNursing homes throughout the country are resorting to the use of powerful antipsychotic drugs in order to ensure that nursing home residents are ‘less difficult’ to deal with. This goes on despite the fact that there have been many different warnings that reveal that elderly patients with dementia may not survive this type of treatment.

An investigation from The Star revealed that many nursing homes, especially those struggling with staff shortages, would use these antipsychotic drugs to calm down and ‘restrain’ patients that are aggressive, agitated, or wandering. In fact, the investigation revealed that in 40 of the homes researched across the border, almost half of the residents were being given these medications.

About the drugs themselves

Perhaps even worse was the fact that these medications (such as quetiapine and olanzapine) are not approved for use on elderly patients who suffer from dementia. According to the warning on the medications themselves, elderly patients who have dementia and still take the medication face a 60 percent increase in risk of death when compared to similar patients not taking those drugs. Doctors, family members, and even a provincial coroner believe that these medications may have contributed to the deaths of seniors who have dementia.

How is this happening?

Part of the issue here is the fact that ‘off-label use’ is legal for doctors. This means that the medications are used for an age group or a condition for which it has not been approved. These medications are not proven to work for seniors, they are extremely powerful, but yet these medications are being used routinely. In fact, in some seniors, the side effects may be the very symptoms that the drugs are trying to minimize – confusion and violence.

Part of the problem is the fact the overworked and underpaid staff is no longer able to identify specific issues within the patients, they are only able to manage specific crises. This is what happens when elder care becomes a business instead of a calling.

Not for everyone

The truth is that elder care is not always easy. There are days that the job might not seem as rewarding as it did before. This is why it is on the supervisory board to hire people that are capable of dealing with these occasional frustrations. It is never acceptable to use these powerful antipsychotic drugs on people who do not need them – especially if the side effects are as dangerous as they are in this instance.

There is no denying that a number of residents who side in long-term elder care facilities suffer from bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, or other conditions that may need antipsychotics. However, the majority of elderly patients suffer from dementia – not a form of mental illness.

If you feel that someone close to you is being given these medications without a true need, it is vital that you speak up. If you do find out, make sure to contact a skilled lawyer to seek out any legal compensation that you may be due, but also to ensure that this type of treatment of the elderly patient stops as quickly as possible.

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