Articles Posted in Elder Caregivers

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Harmful Medication Overuse Often First Line of Defense for Managing Behaviorally Challenged Nursing Home Residents

There is excessive and unnecessary use of antipsychotics and psychoactive medications in U.S. nursing homes. These powerful drugs are sometimes given to patients living in long-term care facilities to calm behaviors associated with behavior disruptions and mental health illnesses. Antipsychotics can be so powerful that they sedate residents to the point where they become listless and unresponsive. Residents may be slumped in chairs or unable to get up from bed; they may no longer participate in activities like feeding themselves or engaging in routines they enjoy, or even talk with their loved ones. They are also overly-prescribed to residents who may be marked unruly or disruptive or when staff feel overworked and unable to support and service all residents due to understaffing or high turnover rates. Care teams will seek out specific medications that make patients with these issues easier to handle – or sadly, just to quiet them and make them lethargic and sleepy. Nursing home doctors have also been caught on relying heavily on the recommendation of nurses and other care staff when making these medication decisions.

  • According to the Office of the Inspector General for the Department of Health and Human Services, more than half of atypical antipsychotic medications that affect at least 105,000 nursing home residents annually are being incorrectly paid for by Medicare, despite the drugs being deemed ineffective and potentially dangerous for the elderly population.

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Report Shows Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs Gravely Affected Resident Exposure to COVID-19 at LaSalle Nursing Home

The Illinois Department of Human Services Office of Inspector General (OIG) has released its investigative report identifying the causes behind the massive COVID-19 outbreak in the fall of 2020 at the state-run veterans’ Home in LaSalle. The long-awaited public report confirms what many of us already know and outlines the unforgiving failures that resulted in the untimely death of 36 people from coronavirus. Notes published by the OIG show that the facility did not implement the proper infection control policies to prevent the spread of the disease among staff and residents and allowed a deadly outbreak to go on despite warnings. 

The report paints a gloomy picture that documents failures from many. It leads with, “Ultimately, our investigation determined that the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs’ (IDVA) lack of COVID-19 preparation contributed to the scope of the outbreak at the home. In addition, failures in communication at the home and within the IDVA leadership also contributed to a delayed response to the outbreak.”

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Did You Know Illinois Has Dementia Friendly Communities?

Located about 30 miles northwest of Chicago, the City of Elgin is one of the state’s newest dementia friendly communities aimed to support those living with the disease and their caregivers. An advisory council for the cause includes the city’s library staff, the mayor, a legal team, home care providers, the office of state Sen. Cristina Castro, Advocate Sherman Hospital leaders, and both the Elgin Police Department and the Elgin Fire Department. These trained workgroups hold open and friendly gatherings and guided activities at local businesses unique to those with dementia. Resources are also offered to help community members learn how to interact with people who have dementia. The council provides much-needed support and a place for caregivers to meet up as well.

Currently, six communities in Illinois are recognized as being dementia friendly by the group Dementia Friendly America. Those include:

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Hot Weather Poses Extra Health Risks for Nursing Home Residents

Even for residents who are sedentary, spending time outdoors or active indoors in small amounts can help decrease recovery times and promote independence. However, during the summer months when temperatures sometimes skyrocket into the dangerous digits, elderly who travel outdoors or are without the appropriate indoor cooling areas, can become especially at risk and negatively react to high-temperature exposures.

Because aging and certain medications can complicate the body’s ability to regulate temperatures, problems such as dehydration, fluid retention, heat stress, and heat stroke, and cardiac-related events leading to death may present more often.

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Learn About Alzheimer’s Disease and Assisted Living Centers

The month of June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month. Alzheimer’s disease is not a normal part of the aging process and for the estimated 5.8 million Americans who have been diagnosed with the debilitating memory and behavior illness – life is not easy. As these people with one of the most common types of dementia grow older, 75 percent will become entirely dependent on someone else to care for them. Much of the time, this support will be found in a facility where residents are easily ignored, abused, neglected, or tragically lost in a wandering or elopement incident.

The Alzheimer’s Association reports there are close to 2 million cases of elder abuse incidences each year for dementia residents living in community settings such as assisted living centers, homes that operate much different than federal and state regulated nursing facilities. There are 291 assisted living centers identified by the Illinois Department of Health (IDPH) that provide care to those with Alzheimer’s or dementia in Illinois. Two of these facilities are Brookdale Senior Living Centers located at Brookdale Orland Park and Brookdale Urbana. Brookdale is one of the largest owners and operators of senior living facilities in the U.S. Owners of these types of large, financially driven organizations are often found guilty of putting profits over resident and patient care. Brookdale’s presence in Illinois is significant, as it was the focus of a 2018 New York Times feature on assisted living facilities and dementia and Alzheimer’s care.

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Lawmakers Look to Position Older Americans Act into a Greater Enlightenment Phase

In 2017, the Older Americans Act (OAA) served more than 700,000 caregivers; and provided seniors across the country with 358 million meals. These services hit only the tip of how the law has improved the lives of seniors. OAA is also a federal policy that invests back to help older individuals age in place or at home and out of nursing homes and hospitals through low-cost, community-based services.

On Wednesday, May 8th the Senate Aging Committee held a hearing to highlight the importance of the OAA led by U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Bob Casey (D-PA), the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Aging Committee in hopes to rally a bipartisan coalition for OAA’s reauthorization prior to it expiring on September 30.

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The Time Is Now to Advocate for Older Adults

Any day is better than the last for advocating for the elderly as data from Adult Protective Services (APS) shows more than 5,000,000 elders are abused each year, including 1 in 10 elders over the age of 60. The abuse and neglect can come in many forms, including physical, emotional, sexual and financial, and not always obvious.

Like every other year, during the month of May, the Administration for Community Living, an operating division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, leads our nation’s observance of Older Americans Month. For this year the theme is, Connect, Create, Contribute and aimed to encourage older adults and their communities, including advocates, to:

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Majority of Nursing Home Residents Spend Their Time Inactive, Increasing Chances for Chronic Diseases and Injuries

Too many individuals who reside in nursing home facilities are spending their days – sitting. A typical daily schedule for residents will only include light to moderate intensity activities 20 percent of the time and they will remain sedentary the other 80 percent, according to a February 16, 2019 study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. An extremely sedentary lifestyle, especially for those who are already battling health issues, only creates a stronger connection to the development or progression of chronic diseases and disabling conditions such as:

  • Anxiety

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New Research Points to Music as Easy Form of Resident Therapy

Nursing home staff who make the time and administrators who devote the resources to helping residents recover from an injury or deal with an illness through something as simple as listening to music are on the right track says researchers at John Hopkins University. Leaders at one of the nation’s top-ranked hospitals have started music therapy sessions focused on the unique therapy needs of patients. After several months, staff evaluated the music routines and observed nursing home residents with debilitating memory diseases like Alzheimer’s associate certain music patterns as a cue to perform daily activities such as getting out of bed, eating, and even showering. These are all acts the residents were not able to perform previous to the music therapy.

The music playlists are designed to minimize distraction and increase productivity and played to balance the mind. Johns Hopkins Medicine suggests listening to music does the same thing for a brain as going to the gym does for a body and that listening to music can reduce pain, anxiety, and blood pressure as well as improve mood, ease tension, and increase memory. The movement to music also helps with coordination and increases relaxation.

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Illinois Lawmaker Says Families Should Be Able to Observe Nursing Home Care Provided to Loved Ones with Dementia Through Video Monitoring

Senate Bill 109, a plan sponsored by Illinois Senator Terry Link (D-Indian Creek), passed the state’s Senate in late March in response to multiple complaints received by the Illinois Department of Public Health about abuse, neglect and theft against nursing home residents. The bill was designed to help families of individuals battling dementia and would allow the installation of video and audio monitoring devices in their loved one’s room to deter or detect signs of abuse and neglect. The legislation language specifically speaks to the use of electronic monitoring in patient rooms in a building or care area solely dedicated to dementia residents.

The bill is now on the way to the Illinois House for further debate. It supports a 2015 law that allowed for video and audio monitoring equipment in facilities for individuals with developmental disabilities or those living in long-term care facilities.

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