In our last post, we suggested tips for confirming that a potential skilled nursing facility or residential nursing home has the appropriate staff to address the needs of elders with dementia. To recap, dementia is a syndrome in which there is deterioration in memory, behavior and thinking. This causes many who suffer from dementia to lose the ability to perform their regular activities. The most common form of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease, though there are multiple types of dementia.

Elders suffering from dementia need special care when they move into a long term care facility such as a California nursing home. If you are considering helping to move a loved one with dementia into a nursing home, there are specific questions you will want to ask about the services provided for your loved one.

Questions should include:

According to the World Health Organization, dementia is one of the major causes of disability and dependency among older people. Dementia, which is a syndrome in which there is a deterioration in memory, behavior and thinking, causes many who suffer from it to lose the ability to perform their regular activities.

Elders are stricken with dementia far more than any other age group. In many cases, dementia can lead to an elder moving into a longterm care residence, such as a nursing home. If you or someone you know is considering placing an elder suffering from dementia in the care of a nursing facility in California, there are certain questions you’ll want to ask of the facility.

In this post, we will specifically talk about what to look for in terms of the staff of a skilled nursing facility or nursing home. In a subsequent article, we’ll talk about other facility services you’ll want to inquire about.

elder-abuse-crop-600x338-300x169Unfortunately, there are far too many opportunists in the world, and the one thing they all share in common is that they are looking for the simplest way to get what they want. As a result, many con-artists specifically target the elderly, knowing that they are often some of the most vulnerable members of society. One way that elders are subjected to financial abuse is through fraudulent phone sales.

It has been estimated that Americans are bilked out of tens of billions of dollars each year via phony phone scams. Of those who lose money due to fake sales over the phone, more than half are over the age of 50, according to AARP. In order to ensure that you, or a loved elder does not fall prey to phone scams, keep the following in mind:

*Do NOT give anyone your credit card information or other sensitive information (social security number, date of birth, or bank account numbers) over the phone.

Elder-Abuse-dreamstime_m_28140354-300x200Elder abuse has been called an epidemic and is viewed by many as a national crisis, for good reason. As many as five million elders in the United States are abused, neglected, or exploited each year and 90% of these cases are perpetrated by family members or trusted advisors. The National Center of Elder Abuse has said that only one of every 14 cases of elder abuse is reported, while others put the number as high as one out of every 23 cases. Criminal elder abuse describes the willful infliction of physical or emotional suffering on an elder. Civil elder abuse includes any physical or financial abuse, neglect or abandonment resulting in physical or mental harm.

If you’re like me, those statistics are simply staggering, and we cannot continue to ignore this problem. But, how can we work to stop elder abuse? Well, there are actually a number of ways you can help in the fight to end elder abuse. Here are three ways you can help today:

1. Let your legislators know that you are an advocate for nursing home reform legislation. This would involve sitting down and simply stating your position to your elected official in writing. It is their job to represent the voice of his/her constituents. You can find your legislators here. Let them know that you find the statistics alarming, and that you support measures to help reform the nursing home industry to prevent additional abuse to elders.

Elder abuse in any form is strictly prohibited by California law. In addition to physical abuse and neglect, medication errors in nursing homes are considered a form of elder abuse. Unfortunately, due to insufficient staffing in many long-term nursing facilities, errors in the type and amount of medications administered to residents occur with alarming frequency. While in many cases there may be no detrimental side effects to an elder who is given the incorrect medication, or the wrong dosage; in many other cases, the error can prove fatal.

For example, if two patients’ medications are mixed up, and incorrectly administered, the outcome can be disastrous. A diabetic who is mistakenly given a fellow patients’ heart medication may not under normal circumstances have a negative reaction. However, if that heart medication happens interacts with other medications he or she is taking, or causes side effects that the patient can’t sustain; the mistake can result in death.

Other medications must be taken consistently in order for them to be effective. Therefore, missing a dose of the proper medication can have devastating consequences on the elder who has missed their dosage. Other medication errors that may occur in nursing homes include:

For many families the decision to help a loved one move into a long-term care facility is difficult. With elder abuse cases on the rise, it is understandable if you have concerns about a particular nursing home that you’re considering for yourself or your loved one.

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Although the decision may be necessary, you’ll obviously want to ensure that you’ve selected the most reputable facility available. To help you in the process of searching for the perfect long-term care facility for your loved ones, here is a list of helpful questions to ask of the facility’s administrators and staff.

*What is the staff to resident ratio?

mandated-reporting-300x213-300x213While Mandated Reporters are required to report elder abuse within 48 hours and know who to report the abuse to, many non-mandated reporters suspect Elder Abuse, but don’t know where to turn. The general rule of thumb is to always err on the side of caution when suspecting elder abuse. Unfortunately, if unreported, elder abuse often escalates, and all too often the results are tragic. If you suspect an elder you know is being abused, report it immediately. You may be saving the health, assets, or even the life of an elder who may be too afraid to report the abuse themselves.

There are numerous ways to report suspected elder abuse, and it is probably much easier than you think. Furthermore you will be protected from criminal or civil liability, so do not let the fear of retribution prevent you from ever reporting abuse.

If you suspect an elder is being abused in any capacity, while in a long-term care facility such as a nursing home; report the incident to both the Local Long-Term Care Ombudsman and the California Department of Public Health. You should also consider reporting to Adult Protective Services Agency.

In its simplest form, financial elder abuse involves taking money or property from an elderly person with the intent to defraud them. It is a growing problem in California given the state’s increasing senior population. The signs of financial elder abuse can be difficult to see. Though the presence of any of the following signs associated with financial elder abuse is not absolute evidence of abuse, it should prompt further investigation:

• Elder is withdrawn.

• Elder is confused and tends to be more forgetful than usual.

Under California law, elder abuse is both a criminal and civil offense. Criminal elder abuse describes the willful infliction of physical or emotional suffering on an elder. Civil elder abuse includes any physical or financial abuse, neglect or abandonment resulting in physical or mental harm. Diminished capacity due to the elder’s advanced age, physical confinement, and medical condition make it difficult for victims to speak out about their abuse. Even when they do, perpetrators may blame the complaints on the elder’s senility, confusion, or dementia. Many victims have no family or friends left to care for them. They rely entirely upon the staff and caregivers at their nursing home or facility. That is why it is important for anyone who witnesses elder abuse to recognize the symptoms and report the abuse.

elder-abuse-photo-300x297Signs of physical abuse include unexplained weight loss, malnutrition, and dehydration. While lack of appetite is a common complaint amongst the elderly, caretakers are required by law to provide the food and service necessary to the patient’s health and wellbeing. Unfortunately, poor nutrition often leads to easy bruising, another sign of physical abuse. Look for bruises and skin damage in the shape of fingerprints or clustered marks from repeated striking or beating. Also notice any new scratches, cuts, welts, or fractures. Marks indicating pinching, choking, or gagging evidence acute instances of abuse, while increased bedsores show neglect, as when the patient is not turned over enough in bed.

While not as visible, suspicious behavior may also indicate abuse. Watch for undue agitation, anger, or defensiveness. These may be signs of mental suffering. Patients may also become non-responsive, hesitant, and anxious when asked to explain their abuse. They may feel increasingly isolated as they lose contact with family and friends. Always look for signs of fear, withdrawal, depression, and helplessness in determining whether there has been abuse. Remember that any social isolation, absence of assistance, or indifference toward the needs of the elderly may constitute abuse. Even if you are not related to the victim, report any suspicious activity to the proper authorities.

bigstock-Middle-aged-man-holding-cardbo-12848081-300x200The decision to place a loved one in a long-term care facility for the elderly can be a very difficult and emotionally demanding process. Both you and your loved one need to take an active role in the decision to maximize the health, safety and well-being of your loved one. Once you have narrowed down your search and thoroughly researched and toured the facility, you should consider the following set of guidelines put together by California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform to ensure your loved one receives the best possible care and treatment.

1. Support your loved one’s transition to the care facility. Open communication is extremely important while your loved one transitions to their new home. There may be feelings of loss or abandonment by the person being placed in the facility, as well as mirrored feelings of guilt or neglect by the person assuming responsibility for the placement. Therefore, it is important to openly discuss these feelings. Make sure your loved one receives a comprehensive assessment upon admission and be attentive to any changes in needs, behaviors, attitudes, and affections during the transition.

2. Make your visits count. Vary your visiting schedule by going on different days and at different times. This will ensure you are able to meet various members of the staff, and observe how your loved one interacts with other residents and staff members at different times of the day. Also, make a plan before each visit. Try to discover new things, meet new residents and staff members, explore new areas of the facility, plan special events outside of the facility, and bring with you important talking points and your loved one’s special interests.