Articles Posted in Elder Population Studies

A recent study estimates that financial abuse of elderly Americans defrauds these vulnerable citizens of almost $37 billion each. The report finds that almost 5 million senior citizens in America are victims of elder abuse each year. In New York alone, financial abuse of the elderly costs at least $1.5 billion a year. While the exact nature of financial abuse can be hard to notice for senior citizens with cognitive impairments, the legal definition perpetuated in the Older Americans Act of 2006 criminalizes “the fraudulent or otherwise illegal, unauthorized, or improper act or process of an individual… that uses the resources of an older individual for monetary or personal benefit, profit, or gain, or that results in depriving the older individual of their use or rightful access to benefits, resources, belongings, or assets.”

The report in Bloomberg Businessweek provides a sad, but unfortunately typical, portrait of elder abuse in 82-year-old Marjorie Jones, who one day received an anonymous call stating she had won a sweepstakes. According to the caller, Jones, who was legally blind and lived alone, would need to pay the taxes and fees on the winnings before the winnings from the sweepstakes could be released to her. After wiring the money to the anonymous caller, more stipulations and conditions became attached and Jones continued to send the money until she had depleted her entire savings, taking out a reverse mortgage on her home, and cashing in on a life insurance policy. Instead of reaching out to her family for help, an ashamed and embarrassed Jones killed herself.

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Elderly New Yorkers should carefully examine a nursing home’s finances before making their final decision, according to The New York Times. While full-blown insolvencies are rare, a poorly-run nursing home can offer a “bait-and-switch” type of scheme that lures the elderly in with its low costs, only to reduce services and increase costs in the years to come. According to the newspaper, elderly residents looking to join nursing homes or retirement communities with “joining” or entrance fees should be especially diligent about researching the finances of their facilities. These introductory fees, which can range between several hundred thousand to over a million, will not be returned if the nursing home fails to deliver services or increases its fees in the years, or decades down the road.

With little government regulation on the finances of these of retirement homes or retirement communities, potential residents must perform their own due diligence to ensure their future is safe and secure. This research can be performed by utilizing websites, such as Carf.org or MyLifeSite.net. However, these websites offering information about the finances of nursing homes usually charge a fee.

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A recent report released by Kaiser Health News shines a light on the diminished quality of care received by many senior citizens at for-profit nursing homes. The Kaiser Health study found that the average for-profit nursing home receives twice as many complaints by its residents and their families. Further, the research group also found that:

For-profit nursing home chains had an average of 8 percent fewer nurses per residents when compared to independent nursing homes.  Nursing homes that operated for a profit received almost twice as many validated complaints.  For-profit nursing homes received 22 percent more fines, and the fines levied against them were 7 percent higher.

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Mirroring national trends, elderly Americans are beginning to use more addictive prescription drugs. In a report by the New York Times, the number of prescriptions for benzodiazepines, a class of anxiety drugs which includes Xanax and opioids have markedly increased in the last couple decades. Not only do these addictive drugs have serious side effects, they can be deadly to the user, sometimes even when taken as prescribed.

According to the newspaper, the number of benzodiazepine prescriptions for Americans over the age of 65 increased 8.7 percent between 2003 and 2010, the year with the most recent data available. A 2008 study indicated that about 9 percent of adults between 65 and 80 took one of these anti-anxiety drugs. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) paints an even more ominous picture of the problem – the number of deaths caused by benzodiazepines in Americans over the age of 65 rose from 63 deaths in 1999 to 431 in 2015. In 1999, opioids were a contributing cause of 29 percent of these deaths. A mere fifteen years later, opioid drugs now contribute to two-thirds of deaths caused by benzodiazepines.

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A recent report by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) found that individuals with mental health or behavioral problems are more likely to be denied access to higher-quality nursing homes throughout the country. The study relied on data from 3.7 million admissions in 15,600 facilities across the country and found that, while elderly Americans with any type of mental health problem faced more difficulty, those diagnosed with more severe illnesses faced even longer odds of admittance. According to healthcare analysts, this is likely a combination of concerns surrounding individuals with mental health problems and a lack of high-quality nursing homes in lower-income areas, which are more likely to have senior citizens with mental health challenges.

CMS assigns a “grade” to each nursing home based on the number of staff at each facility relative to the number of residents, quality benchmarks and the results of health inspections. CMS then assigns a set number of stars to the facility representing its quality, with a one-star facility providing the lowest quality care and a five-star facility providing the highest.

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antipsyhotic-and-elderlyBetween 2013 and 2017, the Northern Manor Geriatric Center in Rockland County, New York received more than double the average number of citations by the New York Department of Health, the entity responsible for performing yearly inspections at all nursing homes in the state.  Compared to the statewide average of 34 citations- relating to either standard health or life safety violations – Northern Manor Geriatric Center received 73 citations by the government agency. Of these 73 citations, two were related to “actual harm or immediate jeopardy” – the most serious of violations issued by New York State.

The following are some of the most serious or most recent violations found by the New York State Department of Health: Continue reading

gavel-bed-300x199The Martine Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing, previously the Schnurmacher Center, in White Plains, New York received 60 complaints and 15 citations for violating New York and federal law, according to the New York State Department of Health. The Department of Health inspects each nursing home facility in the state every 9 to 15 months and publishes the results of these inspections. According to the state health care agency, the nursing home violated the following state or federal regulations on nursing home safety:

1. The nursing home did not perform criminal background checks on all of its employees. Under Section 402.6(b) of the New York Code, nursing homes must run a criminal history background check on all of its employees who come in contact with its residents. This includes completing a form and submitting two sets of the employee’s fingerprints to the Department of Health. The health inspector found that the nursing home violated this provision by forgoing a criminal background check on an employee who had direct contact with nursing home residents. Continue reading

According to a recent report released by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), almost 16 percent of residents at long-term nursing homes are being treated with antipsychotic medications. While down from 24 percent in 2011, the CMS report and many doctors question the efficacy and necessity of these powerful mind-altering medications. According to the report, decreases in antipsychotic usage were seen across all fifty states, with New York seeing one of the smallest reductions.

antipsyhotic-and-elderlyThe majority of elderly residents receiving the antipsychotic medicine are diagnosed with dementia. Antipsychotic drugs, such as Abilify, Seroquel, Risperdal, and Zyprexa, have not been proven to treat dementia, nor have these drugs been shown to reduce the symptoms of dementia. In some instances, antipsychotic medication can also cause serious side effects for the senior citizens who have been prescribed these drugs. In addition to a higher rate of death, antipsychotic drugs also increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and slip and fall accidents. Consequently, medical associations and patient advocacy groups believe the number of dementia patients taking antipsychotics should be closer to zero. Continue reading

A new report by Time Magazine shines a harsh light on the hospice care industry in America – reporting that 21 percent of hospices, accounting for more than 84,000 patients, failed to provide critical care to patients in 2015.  The report, which includes vivid and heartbreaking stories, points towards a largely unregulated industry that received almost $16 billion in federal Medicare dollars last year.

sick-man-nursing-home-300x200Hospice is provided to Medicaid patients if they are expected to pass away within six months. Starting in the 1970s, hospice care focuses on relieving the symptoms of a patient and providing “comfort care.” The use of hospice care has become increasingly popular in the last couple decades.  According to the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, enrollment in hospice care has more than doubled since 2000.

While most Americans think of hospice as a location, the reality is that most Americans utilize hospice care so they can pass away in their own home. With 86 percent of Americans saying they want to die at home, the trend is unlikely to reverse anytime soon, either.

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Nursing homes and assisted living facilities have become increasingly focused on their bottom line in recent years to the detriment of their elderly patients. A recent piece by the New York Times describes the trend where nursing homes have transitioned from non-profits to corporate behemoths – focused on outsourcing and consolidating to minimize costs, reduce their tax liability, and reduce their liability in lawsuits.

According to the nursing homes, consolidation provides a cost-effective way to deliver care to their elderly residents. Through a complex web of corporate ownership, nursing home businesses can reduce their tax liability. According to these nursing homes, those savings are passed on to the residents.

missing-patient-300x196There are also legal benefits to the owners of these nursing home chains – often coming at the expense of the elderly residents. Whenever a person is injured in a nursing home, a complex web of corporate ownership may help the nursing home avoid liability for the harm it has caused. By siphoning the profits of a nursing home into unrelated corporations, injured victims of elder abuse may not be able to hold their nursing home responsible for their damages. Continue reading

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