Articles Posted in Alzheimer’s

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It’s one of the certainties of dementia: creating a calm environment for those suffering with the disease can help ease symptoms. Here in the U.S., however, the tradition has been to medicate nursing home residents with the disease, a confusing tactic given that limited activity and isolation have been shown to contribute to the advancement of dementia and Alzheimer’s. Nursing homes in the Netherlands have been taking an alternative approach to treating dementia patients, using visual and sensory stimulation, as well as social interactions, to relax and lift the moods of their residents.

Bars, Beach Rooms, Bus Stops and Shared Experiences: Alternative Dementia Treatment

According to the New York Times, researchers began considering alternative treatments to treating dementia patients when they realized the growing number of Dutch senior citizens suffering from the disease. Nearly 8.5% of the country’s residents over 64 have dementia, with that number expected to double within 7 years.

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Last year, a 75 year old man suffering from Alzheimer’s was aggressively arrested and pepper sprayed after he was discovered wandering within the Wanaque Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation in Haskell, NJ. He was left blind as a result of the pepper spray and spent the last 10 months of his life never again able to see his daughters. According to a lawsuit filed this month in Passaic County court, Angel Pantoja was freely roaming the halls at the Wanaque Center for Nursing and Rehab, where he was a resident. For unknown reasons, nursing home staff alerted local police that a resident was on the loose within the facility, exaggerating his behavioral and health status enough to lead police to believe that forceful arrest measures were necessary. When the responding officer came across Mr. Pantoja in a hallway, they claimed he was carrying an unidentified weapon and advancing towards the officer, justifying his use of pepper spray. The pepper spray blinded him, a pre-arrest tactic that the lawyer for his estate deemed unnecessary. As a result, Mr. Pantoja was hospitalized and was blind until he died 10 months later. He was also arrested and charged with assault, resisting arrest, and disorderly conduct. The responding officer said in a statement that he was led to believe that Mr. Pantoja was dangerous because the facility told him Mr. Pantoja had stabbed one of his own daughters in the eye, a claim his daughter denies.

While family acknowledges that the pepper spray was not Mr. Pantoja’s cause of death, the complaint filed by his family against both the local police and the Wanaque Center for Nursing and Rehab says they are seeking damages for their father having to “sustain mental anguish, distress and damage. [He] was never able to open his eyes again and was not able to see his daughters in his time of passing.”

Local Police Trained to Handle Situations Involving Those with Alzheimer’s and Dementia

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We’d like to share some upcoming Alzheimer’s Association events and activities that are specifically intended for caregivers of those who suffer from Alzheimer’s and dementia.

All conferences and events listed below are located in the Chicago-area or other Illinois city and are hosted by the Greater Illinois Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association.

  1.  The Savvy Caregiver: A 2 hour per week, 6 week FREE course designed to give confidence and knowledge to those taking care of someone with Alzheimer’s or age-related dementia. Upcoming courses take place in Rockford, Bloomington, Joliet, Eureka, Crystal Lake, and Peoria. For more information or to register, please visit the Alzheimer’s Association – Greater Illinois Chapter website here. 
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Levin-Perconti-Dementia-Abuse-Blog-PicToday, an estimated 5.5 million Americans have been diagnosed with the tragic memory, thinking and behavior disease, Alzheimer’s – one of the most common forms of dementia. As these people age, 75 percent of them will be admitted to a nursing home by their 80th birthday and fully dependent on someone else to care for them. Unfortunately, there are too many times when these patients are abused. In fact, the Alzheimer’s Association reports there are approximately 1 to 2 million cases of elder abuse incidences each year for dementia residents living in community settings such as nursing homes and long-term care facilities. Most adult protective services officials and long-term care ombudsman will say the true incident rates are likely to be much higher though since this abuse can come in many different ways as defined by the Alzheimer’s Association:

  • Physical: causing physical pain or injury
  • Emotional: verbal assaults, threats of abuse, harassment and intimidation
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Nursing home care is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor. While all those at these facilities need some form of skilled nursing care, there are individualized needs for each resident that must be taken into account. Of course, that is why each resident must be evaluated individually to identify certain risks. How likely is this resident to suffer an injury during a fall? Is wandering a risk? How many risks are present with prolonged elopement? Do they have cognitive challenges that must be taken into account? These and other issues are a standard part of proper nursing home care.

That individual analysis obviously would factor in whether or not a resident is suffering from Alzheimer’s or other dementias. The lawyers at our firm work on many cases where residents with dementia were not handled properly, leading to serious accidents, attacks, and neglect. Complex injury and even death have resulted from these mistakes.

Challenges of Dementia Care

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The civil law is premised on the idea that community members need to act reasonably in their interactions with one another. Not all accidents can be prevented–some things are simply true accidents that involve fluke circumstances. But those incidents are the exception. When analyzed deeply, many accidents that cause harm include unreasonable conduct by one, two, or many different parties. Figuring out that unreasonableness and seeking to compensate those hurt is the root of the civil law.

That is true in all settings, including the care of senior citizens.

One misconception, however, relates to gauging what is or is not reasonable. There are not simple rules, because everything hinges on context. For example, take two similar accidents–a fall in the hallway. Both fall-victims are 67 years old, both falls were caused by the shoes that the person was wearing–they were too big and made it difficult for the senior to walk. One fall took place in an emergency room waiting room–the senior went there to get a few stitches for a small cut. The other fall took place in a nursing home hallway.

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A recent study from the University of California, Irvine, examined the treatment of the elderly who have been diagnosed with Alzheimers or similar disorders. Shockingly, the study found that nearly half of the elderly individuals had suffered from mistreatment by their caregivers. The research is only the latest example of the prevalence of elder abuse throughout the country.

The study involved observation of 129 elderly residents and their caregivers. Throughout the study, a panel met each month to sift through the observations and data to make determinations about the degree of psychological abuse, physical abuse, and neglect. Overall, 47% of caregivers were found to have abused their patients in one form or more, with psychological abuse being the most prevalent.

The researchers discovered that the best indicator of mistreatment was examination of the behavior of the dementia sufferer toward the caregiver. Mistreatment was most likely to have occurred when the elderly resident exhibited psychological and physical aggression toward the caregiver (i.e. pushing, shoving, and swearing at the caregiver). The physical, emotional, and psychological damage caused by the mistreatment is difficult to ever reverse.

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A caregiver at a North Carolina nursing home was charged with murdering Rachel Holliday, an 84-year-old Alzheimer’s nursing home resident, with morphine. The nursing home caregiver, Angela Almore, also faces charges of felony abuse, which are related to the hospitalization of six other Alzheimer’s patients whom authorities suspect she also gave morphine. This investigation began when authorities suspected abuse after the Alzheimer’s patients tested positive for morphine. The State believes that the patients were likely given morphine to make them more manageable.

Overmedication is a problem that arises too often in nursing homes. An October report in the Chicago Tribune investigated this issue, finding that nursing home staff will resort to overmedicating their residents in order to make it easier to manage them. This usually stems from nursing homes being understaffed or insufficiently trained to handle the complex needs of residents with dementia. Of course, this decision to overmedicate, or to medicate without a physician’s order, is against the standard of care. Further, overmedicating residents in nursing homes can have potentially detrimental effects on their health, and can deteriorate their fragile and vulnerable nature. As evidenced by the article mentioned above, and many similar cases throughout the country, overmedication can and does cause death in nursing home residents.

Our attorneys at Levin & Perconti are very familiar with the effects of overmedicating nursing home residents. Most recently, one of our attorneys, Partner, Steve Levin, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the licensee of Woodstock Residence, in Woodstock, IL, a former nurse, and former nursing director, for administering a heavy dose of morphine that caused the premature death of a resident.

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A new test offers hope that Alzheimer’s Disease can be diagnosed and treated at an earlier stage. The Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease reports in its April issue that researchers have developed a new test, called a computerized self test, to detect brain conditions such as Alzheimer’s Disease. The short and interactive online test gauges impairments in a person’s basic functions of thinking and processing information that are affected by brain injuries and cognitive impairment like Alzheimer’s Disease. The new test is easy for medical providers to administer to patients and is much more effective at detection than older tests. While current tests used to diagnose Alzheimer’s Disease are approximately 70% accurate, this new test has a 96% accuracy rate. Accuracy is extremely important because early detection of Alzheimer’s Disease means a better chance for a patient to receive effective treatment for this brain disorder. The researchers developed the test after recognizing that 60% of Alzheimer’s Disease cases were not diagnosed in a primary care surrounding, leading to a delayed detection and lost treatment opportunities.

The Alzheimer’s Association defines Alzheimer’s Disease as an incurable, progressive brain disorder that destroys brain cells, causes memory loss, and creates thinking and behavior problems. If Alzheimer’s Disease is diagnosed at an early stage, people who suffer from it have more time to make life choices and plan for their future, and have an increased chance of benefiting from treatments that delay the debilitating effects of this brain disorder.

The effects of Alzheimer’s Disease can be severe and patients are often moved into nursing homes so that medical providers can provide permanent care for them. According to Alzheimer’s Association, half of all nursing home residents suffer from Alzheimer’s Disease or a similar disorder. Nursing home abuse and neglect is a serious issue that affects many residents with Alzheimer’s. Failure to provide the proper care and treatment often occurs because nursing homes do not train their staff on how to properly address the complex medical needs of residents suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease. The Chicago nursing home lawyers at Levin & Perconti are experienced at representing residents suffering from Alzheimer’s who have been victimized by abuse and neglect. For example, our Illinois nursing home negligence lawyers received a $700,000 verdict for the family of a nursing home resident affected by Alzheimer’s Disease who was hit by a car and died when nursing home staff negligently allowed the resident to wander away from the nursing home.

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According to an article in the New York Times, hopes were recently crushed crushed when an Alzheimer drug failed in its first late-stage clinical trial. The companies working on the drug, a start-up in San Francisco called Medivation and the world’s largest drug company, Pfizer, said that the drug, called Dimebon, “had shown virtually no effect after six months in treating the cognitive decline or behavioral problems associated with Alzheimer’s when compared with a placebo.” The companies are now determining whether they will abandon other trials for Dimebon or whether Pfizer, which has been paying a majority of the costs, pulls out.

On a more positive note, researchers at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago have found that people who view life with a sense of purpose and who set goals are less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. These findings could provide new treatment interventions for elderly adults. The report appears in the March issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry.

Nursing home attorneys at Levin & Perconti represent a number of people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. As such, the attorneys at Levin and Perconti remain up to date on the latest ways they can best assist clients suffering from Alzheimer’s both inside and outside the courtroom.