Today, June 15, 2017 is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day as declared by the United Nations. I hadn’t thought of elder abuses as a world-wide issue but the United Nations committee cite to an expected increase in such abuse due to the numbers of elderly growing. Financial exploitation and material abuse is one of their focuses this year. And the statistics are troubling, between 5- 10 percent of older people world-wide may suffer from this kind of elder abuse. This kind of abuse is often not reported as the victims are often ashamed or embarrassed. Common forms of financial abuse may vary based on the country; in developing countries there is theft, forgery, misuse of property and denying access to monies and in less developed countries this abuse can be ejection of the elder from their home, denial of inheritance or theft of property. Regardless of country , elderly are at risk because of cognitive problems or health problems that leave them frail. So what can be done to prevent financial abuse begins with first education and encouraging specific measures to monitor financial abuse and then legislation and programs to detect this abuse, report it and protect.
Throughout the world our daily lives maybe look different but i am certain we can all agree that our parents, grandparents and elders are worthy of our protection . Our elders, all over the world , deserve to live in peace and dignity and free from financial abuse and this issue is certainly a worth a day of awareness.
There are a lot of reasons to care about climate change. But unbeknownst to many people, one of those reasons should be the health of your grandma or mom. A recent report issued by the Medical Society Consortium on Climate and Health makes the case that climate change is harming our health, and the Medical Society has a Report entitled just that. What is the connection? Our planet is experiencing more very hot days, along with more frequent stretches of these sizzlers accompanied by much greater humidity. And seniors, children, and pregnant women are the most vulnerable citizens affected by these temperature extremes. Seniors in particular are more affected because many suffer from chronic heart and lung conditions and their therapeutic medications tend to make them less able to regulate their body temperatures. If seniors do not have home air conditioning they are not able to get relief from these hot humid days, thereby subjecting them to sundry difficulties. As a result, health professionals, doctors and nurses see their patients affected by a variety of heat-related illnesses, including a worsening of chronic illnesses, injuries and deaths resulting directly from dangerous weather events, an increase in infectious diseases spread by mosquitoes and ticks, along with illnesses from contaminated food and water. Additionally, a marked increase in climate related mental health problems are noted.
So what can we do to improve the lives of our families? There are many groups that are already making a difference. One such example is the Regional Greenhouse Case Initiative which is a consortium of 9 States which came together in 2007 to reduce CO2 emissions from fossil fuel power. Their efforts in reducing air pollution have already documented a positive effect in preventing:
• 300-830 early adult deaths
• 40,000 lost work days
• 35-390 non-fatal heart attacks
• 8,000 asthma flare-ups
• 200 hospital admissions
• 200 asthma ER visits
That is some real and significant health benefits from combating climate change! So if you don’t already have a reason to care about the health of our planet, I have just given you one– reducing climate change will keep your loved one healthier! And don’t forget this Saturday April 22, 2017 is Earth Day! Honor our Planet and Celebrate!
It was disappointing and disturbing to see that Ohio’s nursing homes ranked as some of the lowest in the country. How could that be ? We are the land of buckeyes, the birthplace of eight US Presidents and a great lake- so why our state’s nursing homes treat our seniors so poorly? The Cleveland Plain Dealer reporters have spent the last few months analyzing data and recent published a scathing report of Ohio nursing homes According to the numbers set forth in the national nursing home rating system known as Nursing Home Compare. See my April 2, 2015 blog post on this national rating system. Let’s take a quick review of this government system here.The Center for Medicare and Medicaid who pay the greatest bulk of the bill for residents, set up a national rating system to grade nursing homes on a 1- 5 star rating system :1 star is a lowest rating and 5 star the highest or best rating. The rating system is based on 3 issues which are important to assessing good resident care :
1. Health inspections rating:
The health inspection ratings on the 3 most recent comprehensive (annual) inspections, and inspections due to complaints in the last 3 years. Though more emphasis on recent inspections.
2. Quality measures (QM) rating:
There are 16 QMs conditions that affect the residents in the facility; like how many residents have fallen recently, have pressure ulcers, have had a loss of mobility , have lost control over bowel and bladder function or have lost significant amount of weight . These condition are obtained from clinical data reported by the nursing home. These may indicators quality of care .
3. Staffing rating:
These rating are based on two factors a) Registered Nurse (RN) hours per resident per day; and 2) total staffing hours per resident per day which RNs; Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs) and Certified Nurse Aids (CNAs). Once again these numbers are submitted by the nursing home and take into account the needs of the residents;
So this investigation looked at Ohio’s nursing homes and their ratings as compared with the nation and found that Ohio has 184 nursing homes that are rated with only one star. And nearly 200 Ohio nursing homes received a two star rating . So that tally stands at nearly 41% of Ohio’s nursing homes only earned a one or two star rating. Charlene Harrington , a distinguished Professor of Nursing and member of the Nursing Home Compare advisory committee said “ One-star nursing homes tend to have a lot of deficiencies and low staff.” Of course that makes sense, that if there is not enough nursing staff to care for the residents, the residents suffer” . Why would a nursing home not hire enough nurses and nurse aides? Yep you guessed it money – staffing is the major expense in a nursing home, so short on staffing and save some money and increase those profits. Shameful but often true.
I believe the rating system in Nursing Home Compare is an important tool for families when researching the right nursing home for their family member. One of the best ways to prevent nursing home negligence is picking a home with a high rating which usually means a well- trained nurses and enough nursing staff to care for all the residents.
Who is Stealing from Grandma?
Well, I was surprised to learn there is a lot of stealing going on! It is reported that nearly 1 in 5 of our seniors (65 years and older), are the victims of financial abuse. This is according to a recent report by Public Policy Polling.As a result, there is a renewed effort by many different groups such as doctors, nurses, family members, and financial advisors to alert and educate seniors and their families to this growing problem. When seniors lose money they may no longer be able to pay for much needed care, assistance, equipment or life-saving medications. You can easily imagine how a senior’s inability to afford care and assistance can lead directly to declining physical and emotional health. Moreover, aging people often become more dependent, both physically and financially, on family members so the effect of stealing trickles down to many more than just the elderly. So well recognized is this burgeoning concern that even the government is now prioritizing concerns to protect seniors by placing them at the top of their 2017 list. Similarly, the Securities and Exchange Commission’s Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations plans to protect seniors by focusing on deals negotiated between investment firms and the seniors they represent. These firms will now be subject far more than previously to comprehensive reviews and audits. So while the SEC is monitoring financial advisors and their dealings with seniors, is there something we can do today to protect seniors? Yes. One of the most widespread and easiest means of ripping off the elderly comes in the form of the scam. Many seniors are victims of scammers who use the telephone to harass and steal. Remembering that sage advice that ‘forewarned is forearmed,’ here is a list of the top ten scams:
1. IRS impersonation scams
2. Sweepstakes scams
3. Robocall/Unwanted phone call scams
4. Computer tech support scheme scams
5. Identity theft scams
6. Grandparent scams
7. Elder financial abuse scams
8. Grant scams
9. Romance scams/Confidence fraud scams
10. Home improvement scams
This list was compiled by the Special Committee on Aging, and the details of these scams may be found by checking their website. Importantly, this Special Committee also has a fraud hotline (855-303-9470). This hotline is a wealth of great information and a terrific resource as they match victims with the appropriate authorities to investigate fraud cases. It is important to remember that we all have an important role to play in protecting our beloved seniors from financial fraud and abuse. They have worked all their lives for their savings, which is not only a source of pride and independence, but which may also make the life and death difference between getting the care and services they sorely need and going without. So be aware that abuse can also be financial. We are always ready to take action on elder abuse whether it is financial or physical.
Are there really specific breeds of dogs that are vicious by nature? There seems to be alot of information that indicates a certain breeds of dog (usually the “pit bull class of dogs”), is more likely to bite than other breeds. However, is there really any truth to this? The “pit bull class” includes American Pit Bull Terriers, American Staffordshire Terriers, Staffordshire Bull Terriers and English Bull Terriers. Some of the other breeds that are listed as “more aggressive” include, but are not limited to: the American Bulldogs, Rottweilers, Mastiffs, Dalmatians, Chow Chows, German Shepherds, Doberman Pincers or any mix of these breeds, or dogs who simply resemble these breeds.
What did nature intend? While it may be true that some breeds are known to be more aggressive, we need to be reminded that all dog breeds were once known to serve a specific function for us such as their guarding & protecting skills and/or hunting & gathering skills. Although pets of these certain breeds most likely do not fulfill these original purposes, they do still carry the DNA from their ancestors that can predispose them to certain types of aggression. So will targeting certain breeds and banning them from your community make you safer?
Some cities are passing “Breed-Specific” laws in an effort to make their cities safer. But does a town with less pit bulls mean less dog attacks or bites? There is no evidence that breed specific laws make neighborhoods safer, (see https://www.aspca.org/animal-cruelty/dog-fighting/what-breed-specific-legislation).
Although these breed-specific restrictions are meant to make the communities safer, they can also cause negative consequences such as:
- Families could be forced to move
- Dog owners with a “dangerous breed” may try to stay under the radar may not seek routine veterinary care, including avoiding spaying/neutering and important vaccinations
- Less community resources for dog licensing laws, leash laws and other laws that encourage responsible dog ownership
What doesn’t seem to be a myth is to always be cautious and careful around any dog! If you find yourself bitten by a dog, regardless of breed, you may want to determine if the owner is legally responsible, and we can help with that analysis.
Have you ever had the experience when visiting with a family member that their responses and behavior seems different and a little “off.” Are they having a bad day or is there something more serious affecting their health? Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive, degenerative brain disease which destroys memory and many other mental functions. This disease affects some 5 million people and is the sixth leading cause of death, though it actually is the third leading cause of death for the elderly. Though there are many types of and causes of Alzheimer’s there seems to be a some common features. Plagues and tangles in the brain are the main feature of this disease, along with the loss of connections between nerve cells in the brain. (https://www.nia.nih.gov/alzheimers/publication/alzheimers-disease-fact-sheet)
But how can you tell if someone is affected by this serious disease? A leading Alzheimer’s expert, Dr. George Perry, the editor of Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease recently discussed 7 signs of early Alzheimer’s disease and some might surprise you:
• Stealing or Significant Behavior Change
• Forgetting the use of Objects
• Eating Strange items (such as paper or non-food items)
• Losing their Sense of Humor or Sarcasm (not being able to recognize sarcasm)
• Depression (new onset)
• Staring into Space
This is not an exact list. But what is important is identifying significant behavioral changes which may be indicative of brain changes consistent with Alzheimer’s. So if you notice these signs in a family member it is best to have them evaluated by a doctor.
Falling can be deadly for any of us, but especially for people over 65 years of age. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) just issued a report outlining the danger and prevalence of falls in nursing homes and at home.
The numbers are scary: In 2014, falls caused 27,000 deaths and 7 million injuries. About 25 percent of older adults reported falling at least once in the last year.
So, falls are happening to many elderly. But are they just an inevitable part of aging? Not according to this report and a new program the CDC has recently launched.
The new program is called STEADI: Stopping Elderly Accidents, Deaths and Injuries. The program identifies fall risks and interventions to lower the risk of falls for both individuals and practitioners. It also offers education, practice guidelines and materials for practitioners.
For example, the CDC suggests three questions for health practitioners to ask their patients:
- Have you fallen in the past year?
- Do you feel unsteady when standing or walking?
- Do you worry about falling?
People who answer yes to any of these questions face an increased risk for falling, and the CDC recommends further assessment.
Some of the interventions include a review of all the medications a person is taking. Practitioners should eliminate unneeded medications and reduce those that affect balance and cognition. If a vitamin D deficiency exists, adding this vitamin will improve bone, muscle and nerve health.
Falls can be the beginning of the loss of independence — especially for our seniors. So I appreciate these simple efforts to reduce the risk of falls.
Millions of people suffer dog bites or attacks every year. Unfortunately, most do not know what to do in the event that they’re bitten by a dog.
First, immediately seek medical treatment by going to the emergency room, urgent care center or your doctor. Bite wounds need to be treated as soon as possible.
Second, prepare a detailed written statement of what happened, including a description of the dog and location of incident. You think you will not ever forget all the details, but you will — so write them down. Take clear photos of all injuries, and include any article of clothing or personal item that might have been ripped or damaged during the attack.
Be sure to obtain information of the dog owner(s) and any witnesses. This information is important should you seek to make a claim (medical expense reimbursement, lost wages, damaged clothing or personal items, pain and suffering).
Contact the local health department to report the incident and find out about the dog’s vaccinations. You may need to get a tetanus or rabies shot(s) as soon after the bite as possible. Ohio law requires a dog bite be reported within 24 hours of the incident so the dog can be quarantined for rabies observation. Reporting to the local police and dog warden is also helpful with the investigation and prevention of future incidents from this same dog.
Finally you may want to consider making a legal claim for costs of medical treatment, lost time from work and for pain of the bite and required treatment and maybe a disfiguring scar. Such a claim would be against the dog owner’s insurance company and you can be sure they have any attorney. So you should consider working with an attorney such as my firm which has experience with these claims. Give us a call; there is no cost to you for a consultation.
We’re all grown-ups, right? So why is it still so hard to talk to our aging parents about leaving their homes and moving to senior living?
A recent poll found that 35 percent of respondents most feared speaking to their parents about the need for long-term care or a move to assisted living. This topic even beat out conversations about dying!
Watching our parents age, develop medical problems, lose their mobility, and begin to forget names and conversations is incredibly sad. After all, for so much of our lives, these were our protectors, teachers, and supporters.
But that’s why it’s important to remember our parents are relying on us now. Today is the right time to begin talking about aging and long-term care. And even better, talk about it often — because it isn’t just one conversation.
As for what’s coming next, poll respondents suggested some emerging technology that might help them remain independent as they aged. Their suggestions included smart homes, mobile patient monitoring, artificial intelligence, and even robots! Now that sounds interesting for the future — but don’t put off that hard conversation.
As healthcare consumers, we rely on the government to protect our loved ones from unscrupulous caregivers. Each year the US Department of Health and Human Services compiles evidence from assisted living facilities across the country. The HHS has recently released its Medicaid Fraud Control Units Fiscal Year 2015 Annual Report. Think of it as an annual report card for assisted living fraud and abuse.
How assisted living facilities across the country fared
The report revealed an increase in criminal convictions. In fact, 2015 saw the highest number of convictions. There were 1,553 criminal convictions reported by all types of facilities studied.
Breaking down convictions according to caregivers
Nearly one third of convictions involved personal care service attendants, who provide most of the hands-on care. The remainder of the convictions were for assisted living fraud. An example of fraud is when caregivers bill for care not given, such as when an assisted living resident temporarily stays in a hospital but continues to receive bills for assisted living services. Almost half of the fraud convictions involved unlicensed providers. The report also highlighted that civil settlements and judgments are slightly down, which was due to a decrease nationally.
How Ohio facilities fared
In 2015 Ohio had 986 open fraud investigations, which resulted in 16 civil settlements or judgement. Of the 432 cases open to investigate abuse or neglect, there were only 27 criminal convictions.
Is it enough?
Based on these numbers, investigations into abuse and neglect are resulting in only a very small fraction of convictions. That is troubling because our seniors can be such a vulnerable population. It makes you wonder if we’re devoting enough resources to investigating claims of abuse in assisting living.
Certainly, requiring assisting living facilities to operate in compliance with federal regulations (like nursing homes must do) would make a good first step. But as I have discussed before, strong and sustained lobbying efforts have so far prevented that much-needed oversight.