Will Your Loved One’s Senior Care Community Perform CPR?

When our parents move to an independent, assisted living and dementia care community, we often assume we’re paying for their entire care.  I mean, we’ve done our homework, right?  We’ve checked that they have nurses on staff.  We’ve check that the med room is safe, and we made sure that the community has a good safety record and adequate staff.

But what actually happens when there is an emergency?  What happens in the event the staff needs to intervene to potentially save your loved one’s life?  The answers aren’t always clear. And there is no real way to see it in action.

Below is a sad and eye opening story from Bakersfield, California.  In this story, an elderly resident was denied CPR from the nurse on duty because it was not the policy of the community to engage in such activities.  Despite the pleas of the 911 operator, the nurse would not perform CPR and would not find anyone who would.

So this begs the question: do you know what the policies of your loved one’s community is? Would they step in during an emergency? If you don’t know the answer, you should find out and make sure you are comfortable with it.

How to Spot Overmedication in Nursing Homes

Medication Management

Millions of Americans place their loved ones in nursing homes every year with the belief that their parents and grandparents will be cared for at all times. Unfortunately, with one out of every three nursing homes cited for abuse across the country, nursing home abuse is a very real problem in the United States. From dehydration and malnutrition to mental and sexual abuse, there are a variety of ways that residents can be mistreated in a nursing home facility. One common way many nursing home or assisted living facility residents can suffer is through overmedication.

One of the most important parts of nursing home care is ensuring nursing home residents are receiving the proper amount of medication at all times. And with the average nursing home resident taking seven to eight different medications a month, this can be a very involved process. Even with federal regulations in place to ensure nursing homes have a system to provide residents with the appropriate amount of medication according to their doctor or pharmacist’s orders, many residents suffer from overmedication every year.

In 2010, statistics from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) reported that over 17 percent of all nursing home patients were receiving antipsychotic medications that exceeded the recommended levels on a daily basis. This number has reportedly been as high as 25 percent in the state of California and even a staggering 71 percent in the state of Florida. Even more alarming statistics suggest that close to 40 percent of nursing home residents were given antipsychotic drugs in 2010 even though they were not diagnosed with psychosis.

Unfortunately, a large number of nursing home abuse cases go unreported. If your loved one is a nursing home resident, you need to be aware of the signs of overmedication so you can take appropriate action. Some of the most common signs of overmedication include:

  • Erratic or unexplained change in personality and behavior
  • Sudden reclusive actions (even toward family members)
  • Fatigue or exhaustion
  • Oversleeping
  • Medical complications or other unusual physical symptoms
  • Loved one appearing easily confused

The new trend of using psychoactive medication to control nursing home residents is extremely dangerous. The Food and Drug Administration estimates roughly 15,000 nursing home residents die every year from unprescribed anti-psychotics. This method of treating nursing home residents is unfortunately used for the following reasons:

  • Nursing home staff shortages
  • A “drug first” mentality when treating elderly patients

If you believe your loved one is suffering from overmedication, ask to see a log of the drugs given to your loved one or visit the nursing home when medication is typically given. You may also seek the assistance of a medical professional or attorney to have experienced and professional help on your side.

About the Author: Donna Swanson is a professional blogger who regularly contributes to a number of different sites. She is passionate about helping people understand how a nursing home abuse lawyer can help those who have been the unfortunate victims of nursing home abuse.

Finally, a Vision for Care Referrals That Will Improve Outcomes

Picture this: you’re one of millions of Americans who needs care at home either because of aging, dementia, recovery from surgery or other disabilities.  You’ve got a family—and often an unpaid caregiver who helps with your care.  They’re part of an elaborate team of caregivers, physicians, therapists and non-medical assistance.  I’ve lived this first-hand as I’ve cared for my mother, and I’ve spoken to literally hundreds of families in the same situation.

Insurance companies and other employee benefit programs often deliver these care recommendations.  They do the best they can considering maintaining these programs—and the underlying data—is not their primary business.  Unfortunately, they struggle to extend these programs across the whole company so that each member-facing group can leverage the same data to provide the best care referrals to their members. I’ve just assumed it was one of those “not-yet-solvable” situations, as healthcare technology is always a bit slower than other industries.  So we did the best we could and used what was not an ideal support system.

The Future of Care Referral Programs

I think I finally found a vision for the future.

I ran into a white paper from SNAPforSeniors that really caught my eye.  If SNAP can deliver on this vision—and if insurance companies, call centers and other providers have the vision and foresight to adopt it—it will dramatically change the outcomes of care coordination as part of the age in place movement.  More important, it will give families like mine the peace of mind that we are getting referred to the best matched providers for our care.

I know this vision may not concern some of you, but I highly recommend you check it out.  These types of ideas are the ones that are going to make the biggest impact. If you think your family would benefit from your insurer adopting programs like this, you should let them know.

Here’s the link to the paper – http://bit.ly/aPPsWU.

Your Senior Health Care Bill: $260,000!

I have always been a big fan of Howard Gleckman, author of Caring for Our Parents.  In fact, he was the very first person I interviewed for my Leaders in Elder Care series.  If you aren’t familiar with Howard’s blog, you’re really missing out on a complete play-by-play of how the health care debate is impacting the cost of senior care.

This morning, he shared some startling statistics about paying for elder care that I have quoted below.  In this article, Howard has links to some fascinating studies about the out-of-pocket costs for seniors, and it is shocking.  It is mind-boggling to me how financing elder care will be solved as we move forward. He wrote:

A typical couple would have to save nearly $200,000 to pay for their out-of-pocket medical costs from the time they are 65 until they die, according to an important new study by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College. Add in nursing home costs, and they are likely to need $260,000.

But that’s only part of the story. About 5 percent of 65-year-old couples will face catastrophic medical and long-term care costs exceeding $570,000, according to researchers Anthony Webb and Natalia Zhivan.They estimate those expenses would have exhausted the total financial assets of 85 percent of all retirees even at the peak of the stock market in 2007.

As someone who has first-hand experience with out-of-pocket expenses and my Mother’s care, I was still so stunned by these numbers, that I could not write a conclusion to this article.  What do you say?

Obviously, I encourage you to check out Howard’s writing.  In the meantime, what are your thoughts about these big numbers?

Photo: bubble dumpster

Top Brain Fitness Programs for Sustaining Mental Acuity

In aging seniors, healthy brain function is about more than just memory and coordination; everyday tasks, relationships, hobbies and quality of life are all affected.  It stands to reason that the more aware and capable you are of cognitive reasoning and performing independent living activities the higher your self confidence and emotional health.

The nation’s largest study on brain fitness was performed in 2002 by the Advanced Cognitive Training for Independent and Vital Elderly (ACTIVE) and their results showed that a large percentage of participants over the age of 65 improved memory, reasoning and information-processing speed when they participated in training for five days per week.  In addition, the study showed a 47% lower risk of dementia in participants who worked crossword puzzles four days a week than those who only worked the puzzles once a week.  These results play into the notion of “Use it or Lose it” when it comes to cognitive aging.

Furthermore, an Australian study consisting of 30 peer-reviewed papers in controlled trials found that, as people experienced these lifestyle benefits they were also able to live longer and therefore reduce health care expenses.

Along with these studies, it is widely known that many seniors regularly engage in crossword puzzles, Sudoku and similar brain training games to slow dementia and aging.  Many software companies have tapped into this need by creating games and exercises that aid in sustaining mental acuity.  It has been reported that the brain fitness software market grew from $225 Million in 2007 to $265 Million in 2008.  Here are the top three systems that claim to reduce dementia rates in seniors.

Posit Science

Posit Science claims that their products will help the user “think faster, focus better, and remember more.”  Their software programs are designed for either a PC or a Mac. Each priced at $395.00

  1. Brain Fitness Program: Six programs that allow you to “Remember more & Feel Sharper” by practicing matching items, distinguishing objects, memory recall and story telling.
  2. InSight: Five programs designed for “Better Focus & Learn More” focusing on visual precision.
  3. DriveSharp: Two programs that deal with divided attention and increased processing times so that you will “Drive Carefully & React Faster”

Dakim BrainFitness

Dakim offers two brain training concepts for seniors.

  1. A complete self-contained console that only needs a high-speed internet connection but does not require a keyboard, mouse or software program installation.  It is marketed to both the individual senior and the senior living provider.  After the initial purchase of $2,299 for the touch-screen console, more than 150 games are available for a $19.95 per month subscription.
  2. 2. New brain fitness software to be released this April for $349.99, which includes a one-year subscription.


CogniFit is a web-based system that does not require you to install software or purchase a console.  Instead you access the programs through their website.  Both programs described below are priced based on the following subscription terms: $19.95 per month, $99.50 for 6 months, or $170 annually.

  1. CogniFit Personal Coach:  This program addresses overall cognitive skills and claims to improve memory and focus, and increase processing time.
  2. CogniFit Senior Driver: Similar to other driving programs, this system is designed to improve reaction time, handle multiple driving tasks and focus on potential road threat recognition.

About the Author: Ryan Malone is the founder and managing editor of Inside Elder Care and the author of the By Families, For Families Guide to Assisted Living.  He can be reach on Twitter at @RyanMalone.

Assisted Living Saved My Mom in Oregon

A couple weeks ago I had the pleasure of traveling to Oregon to speak at three assisted living communities across the state.  I posted some pictures of the event on the Inside Elder Care Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/eldercare.  Brookdale brought me up from California to visit three communities—all from distinct areas within Oregon.  They were:

  • Albany – small towns set in an agricultural area just southeast of Portland
  • McMinnville – right in the center of Oregon wine country
  • Gresham – at the base of Mount Hood (yes, I was cold)

At each community, I gave a talk entitled Assisted Living Saved My Mom—a presentation communities ask me to give that provides an insider’s view about how to determine which assisted living community is best for your family.  Assisted Living Saved My Mom shares many techniques that uncover information you would never get from just speaking to an admissions director.  Brookdale provided a copy of my book to each who attended—something appreciated by the attendees.  Based on the large amount of feedback I received from attending families and people in the industry, the message really hit home and benefited many people.

Despite the obvious differences in the locations of each of these communities, I found a few things in common:

  • Warm and friendly: nearly every person I met—from the staff to the residents—were very welcoming and warm.
  • Pride: there is a strong sense of pride in the residents that carried over to their feeling that it was their responsibility to make new residents comfortable.
  • Camaraderie: I got the feeling that the residents genuinely enjoyed each other’s company. You could tell because they all knew each other’s little quirks and habits—something they found amusing.

One thing that came up repeatedly was the concern over “How do I pay for this stuff?” Many people were surprised there were other payment options beside just selling their house and paying cash.

When I wrote the By Families, For Families Guide to Assisted Living, I interviewed nearly 200 families to ask them about the concerns related to assisted living and elder care.  The issue of paying for elder care came up as a primary concern from almost three-quarters of those families.

The financial issues are the elephant in the room.  Most people don’t know how to solve them or even where to start, because there is no holistic guide for families on how to navigate these issues.  I am a month or two away from releasing my second book that gets into these answers—the feedback from those that have seen it has been really positive.  Stay tuned.