Articles Posted in Signs of Elder Abuse

A recent study has found that a class of drugs known as anticholinergics may increase the risk of dementia in patients aged 55 years and older. Commonly used in antidepressants, antihistamines, and antimuscarinics, the drugs have long been associated with side effects like confusion and memory issues. The new study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, suggests more powerful side effects than medical professionals have previously understood.

As a report by the New York Times explains, anticholinergics encompass a variety of medications. Examples include clozapine, an antipsychotic; diphenhydramine, an antihistamine used in Benadryl, among other products; paroxetine, an antidepressant; tizanidine, a muscle relaxant; and scopolamine, an anti-nausea medication. Anticholinergics owe their wide range of applications to their function in blocking acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter involved in nervous system functions like muscle regulation, respiratory activity, digestion, and the opening and contraction of blood vessels. “Older adults are more likely to be prescribed many of these medications,” the Times explained, “simply because they tend to have more health issues.”

The JAMA Internal Medicine study examined 58,769 patients who had been diagnosed with dementia, with 225,574 matched control patients. Researchers examined dementia patients’ medical records, scrutinizing what medications doctor prescribed them between eleven years and one year before they were diagnosed with dementia. The study took into account 56 separate anticholinergic drugs, accounting for the dosage patients were prescribed and the length they were prescribed the drugs in question. What researchers ultimately discovered was a 50% increase in the risk of dementia in patients “who used a strong anticholinergic drug daily for about three years within that 10-year period,” according to the Times. This risk was strongest in patients who used anticholinergics to treat depression, psychosis, epilepsy, and bladder regulation issues. The study also found a stronger association between anticholinergics and dementia in patients who received their dementia diagnoses before they reached 80 years of age, and in patients with vascular dementia in comparison to those with Alzheimer’s disease.

Making the transition from an independent life to living in a nursing home is rarely easy for an elderly person.  Fear, anger, anxiety, and many more emotions can make the anticipation of this lifestyle change dangerous.  What are the risk factors and methods of mitigation that can be used to prevent a tragedy?

Transitioning from Home to Nursing Home

The time period between when the decision is made to move to a nursing home and the actual move-in date is critical.  In some cases, the prospect of this lifestyle change is enough to make an elderly person consider suicide as an option.  Some of the reasons for this include:

Though much of the conversation around elder abuse is centered on nursing home malpractice, the leading issue many elders are currently facing is self-neglect. Self-neglect is defined by the National Adult Protective Services Association as, “an adult’s inability, due to physical or mental impairment or diminished capacity, to perform essential self-care…”, and is something that happens far too often within the older population worldwide. With many different factors to appreciate, it’s hard to always know exactly what to look for when trying to detect the symptoms of this epidemic.  

Who is most likely to experience self-neglect?

When having the conversation about self-neglect, it’s important to be aware of what some of the most vulnerable groups are. Though there has yet to be a study of adequate sample size and population diversity, researchers are already starting to see early trends of which demographics are more likely to have this problem.

Dehydration is a serious health risk, especially in elderly people.  Individuals over 65, who live alone or with their elderly partner, are at a higher risk of dehydration than other age groups because they may forget to stay hydrated or they are too tired to get a drink.  However, in a nursing home, dehydration should never happen and, in some situations, is an example of elderly abuse.

How Wide Spread Is This Issue?

One elderly person dying from dehydration in a nursing home is unforgivable.  People who live in nursing homes are there because they need help of varying degrees to survive.  One of the necessities of life is water.

Nursing homes are often under-staffed in an effort to maximize profits or because they are underfunded.  With the number of elderly people requiring care increasing at a record pace, some institutions use prescription drugs to make their residents more “manageable”.  Legal and ethical issues notwithstanding, the health implications of the use of chemical restraints are terrifying.

What Is a Chemical Restraint?

Put simply, a chemical restraint is when someone’s movement or actions are restricted through pharmaceutical intervention.  Types of drugs used as chemical restraints are:

One of the largest generations in American history is beginning to transition into the elderly stage of human life.  In this stage, many people become less independent and, as a result, require assisted living and clinical care.  As aging individuals become dependents, they tend to lose their mobility.  Pressure ulcers are a direct result of the inability of a person to reposition their body unassisted.  In nursing homes and hospitals, elderly people are too often neglected and the price they pay can be severe.

Pressure Ulcers and Their Stages

Pressure ulcers (often referred to as bedsores, decubitus ulcers, and pressure sores) are a form of breakdown of the skin caused by prolonged and unalleviated pressure, incontinence, dirty or untidy bedsheets, and more.  Typically, they form in areas such as the heels, hips, buttocks, tailbone, shoulder blades, and elbows.  They are categorized based on severity:

It is no secret that many people have difficulty asking others for help. Elders living in Southern California are no different. Even though physical and mental capabilities may start to diminish with aging, it is still not easy for many seniors to let others know they are struggling.

That is why it is up to all of us to keep an eye on aging family members or friends. Here is a list of warning signs that a senior you love may need help from family members or professionals.

  1. Abnormal or repeated phone calls If your grandmother, mother, father, or other elder family members begin making phone calls to you repeatedly, or at peculiar times of day, it may indicate confusion. It may also be a sign of memory loss, or could indicate that the elder is feeling lonely or depressed. If you notice these types of calls, try scheduling set calls with your loved one every day to see if they stick to those times and calls. If they don’t, it may be indicative of cognitive decline.

Nearly 70% of elder abuse victims are women, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. It is worth noting that the population of elder women is much larger than the population of elderly men in the United States, however, that does not make these alarming statistics any less disturbing.

Why are women the victims of elder abuse more often than men? There are a few reasons most experts tend to agree upon.

  1. Elderly females may be seen as easier targets for physical, financial, emotional, or even sexual abuse.

For many Californians the time comes when their loved elderly parent or family member may need some help within their home. Whether they need help with meal preparation, personal health and hygiene, or just some help around the home and with errands, finding the right person to care for your elder can be stressful.

Types of in-home caregivers for elders may range from a weekly housekeeper to a certified nursing assistant, or skilled care worker. The range of services provided may be cleaning the home, dispensing medication, helping the elder with transportation, or home care workers may help with personal care such as bathing, and monitoring overall health.

Once you determine the type of care your loved elder needs, there are many places to find compassionate, qualified in-home caregivers. Consider beginning your search by asking for referrals from friends and family, or from a doctor specializing in senior care. You can also check job postings such as those found in the newspaper, or online on sites including www.Caring.com.

Understaffing nursing homes is incredibly dangerous to adults over 65 residing in long-term care facilities such as Southern California nursing homes. That’s precisely why specific laws and regulations are in place which mandate proper staffing at long-term care facilities.

Under California law, “The facility shall employ an adequate number of qualified personnel to carry out all of the functions of the facility” Health & Safety Code § 1599.1(a). Moreover, Health & Safety Code §1276.5-1276.65 mandates that nursing homes must provide a minimum of 3.2 nursing hours per patient per day.

Unfortunately, many facilities choose to ignore the California law. Even worse, the understaffing of nursing homes has been directly correlated to abuse and neglect of elders. Indeed, understaffing in California nursing homes leads to substandard care over and over again. Substandard care in nursing homes then leads to illness, injury, and too often, death.