Medline reported an article from Reuters Health about the risk of stroke after breaking your hip. The study out of Taiwan found that patients with a broken hip had more than a 50 percent increased risk of having a stroke within a year of their injury compared to similar patients with no fractures. Hip fractures account for more than 320,000 hospital admissions every year in the U.S.

Jiunn-Horng Kang of National Taiwan University, in Taipei, and his colleagues studied about 8,400 Taiwanese patients averaging 64 years old.  Among 256 patients who suffered a stroke over the course of a year, 4.1 percent had broken their hips previously, compared to 2.7 percent of those who hadn’t. That translated into more than a 50 percent increased risk of stroke after the injury.

The difference in vulnerability held after accounting for other stroke risk factors such as diabetes and heart disease. To potentially mitigate the risk of stroke after a fracture, Cummings advises taking a baby aspirin every day and doing everything else possible to control blood pressure. This can include taking medications and getting adequate exercise, as well as limiting alcohol and salt in the diet.

"Patients with hip fracture should get preventive primary care," he added, "not just an orthopedic fix."

 

Duane Byrge wrote a review of a documentary about our legal system called Hot Coffee.  Most critics and audiences have given a favorable verdict on this film by Susan Saladoff.

Byrge writes "No matter whether your politics lean left or right, "Hot Coffee" is a potent and provocative documentary. In this heady presentation, Saladoff presents a compelling case on how corporate America has used sensationalized lawsuit settlements to curry public opinion against "frivolous" lawsuits. Most jarringly, she focuses on the infamous McDonald’s case where a woman was awarded millions for spilling hot coffee on herself."

"Filmmaker Saladoff pinpoints that case, interviewing the elderly plaintiff, as well as showing graphic medical photographs of the burns she suffered in her private areas that are so jarring and horrific that one must look away. Saladoff also presents vividly McDonalds’ arrogant and dismissive treatment of the woman when she initially sought just to have her medical bills covered. All the while, McDonald’s had in its files numerous other reports where McCustomers had been injured by their overly hot brew."

"Another jarring issue that emerges from Saladoff’s fertile film is "mandated arbitration." It’s an often hidden clause in such seemingly innocuous documents as cell-phone and credit-card contracts where the recipient signs away his/her rights to sue the company for "harm," which is what a tort is."

 

Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) has been sentenced to three years in prison for conspiring to launder money from corporate donors, including nursing home chains, to illegally influence the outcome of Texas legislative races in 2002.  DeLay was convicted by a Texas jury last November of violating state campaign contribution laws when his political action committee redirected funds from several corporate entities, including $100,000 from the Alliance for Quality Nursing Home Care, to the Republican National Committee (RNC). Prosecutors charged that the RNC then illegally channeled the funds to the campaigns of seven Republican state House candidates.

Republicans gained a majority in the Texas House as a result of the election and passed a tort reform law that has virtually ended litigation against Texas nursing homes for abuse and neglect. The Alliance represents 17 of the largest nursing home chains.

Source: Compiled by Janet Wells, Consumer Voice director of public policy
 

Kitty Holman sent the following guest blog to me.  We are happy to share it with our audience.

It’s never pleasant when a loved one must be removed from the comfort of their home for medical care. But when a loved one moves from home/nursing care to hospice care, it’s even more heart-wrenching for family and friends. It can be difficult to watch as your loved one suffers, and the knowledge that they do not have much time left to them can be just as painful. However, an individual in hospice care often takes great comfort from their family and friends as they face worsening medical conditions. To help you toward that end, here are some tips for comforting the terminally ill:

Try Not to React to Their Appearance
The American Hospice Foundation advises those visiting hospice patients to try to get beyond the shock of their appearance and to love the person underneath it all. Your loved one may have lost a great deal of weight, lost their hair in chemotherapy or have other adverse physical reactions to treatments and medications. Make an effort to look at them with eyes of love and not revulsion or pity. By doing this, you are treating them with the dignity they deserve.

Don’t Be Afraid to Reach out and Touch Them
Human touch is tremendously therapeutic and very comforting to the terminally ill. If you have the go-ahead from the hospice nurse, hold their hand or gently rest your hand on their arm during your visit. Doing so shows your loved one that you are not afraid of them or their condition and helps them see that they are still worthy of love.

Be Strong
It’s often difficult to hold yourself together when your loved one is hurting, but it can be just as difficult for them to see you fall apart over their illness or injury. Do your best to keep up a positive attitude and beam a cheery smile when you see them. Become a bearer of good news whether it’s fun tidbits about your kid winning the spelling bee or an update about a promotion you received at work. While it’s certainly okay to cry genuine tears, your loved one may begin to believe they are a burden to you if you continually cry around them.

Be Comfortable with Silence
A hospice patient may not be able to communicate with you, may not be fully lucid due to medications or may simply prefer not to talk. However, this doesn’t mean they aren’t comforted by your voice and your presence. Be content to sit with them and hold their hand for a short time, or perhaps even read to them for a bit to pass the time. You might even have a one-sided conversation and fill them in on your week.

Come Prepared to Talk and Listen
Your loved one may want to talk at length or might not have much to say. If they want to talk with you, listen attentively and let them do most of the talking. Otherwise, come prepared to talk about something other than their illness, like current events in the news, politics or family updates. It helps to take their mind of their illness for a while. If they do want to talk about their illness, provide a listening ear and show them compassion.

Keep Your Visits Consistent
Finally, make a habit of visiting on the same day(s) and time each week. This way, your loved one gets accustomed to seeing you, it gives them something to look forward to, and the routine helps you remember to visit even when life gets busy.

By-line:
This guest post is contributed by Kitty Holman, who writes on the topics of nursing colleges. She welcomes your comments at her email Id:  kitty.holman20@gmail.com.

 

Greenwich Times had an article discussing Greenwich Woods Health Care Center’s approach to caring for residents with Alzheimer’s dementia. Changes such as music and activities are among many that make up a new approach in caring for people with dementia.  Greenwich Woods staff have been trained by the Alzheimer’s Association Connecticut Chapter to provide more personalized care.

"It’s culture creation," said Shipe Hajdari, director of staff development for Greenwich Woods, who has worked on what has been dubbed the Alzheimer’s Ambassador program.

There are 5.3 million Americans with Alzheimer’s, and that number is only expected to grow as the population ages, according to the national Alzheimer’s Association. With 75 percent of nursing home residents having some form of dementia, the shift in care is one that many facilities are making.

One of the key aspects of the change in care is staff really knowing the residents, including their likes and dislikes, and routines — whether they usually get up early, or like to sleep in and eat a little later in the morning. Staff gather information from family members, and the particulars for each resident are extensively documented.

Weight loss is also common in people with dementia, so the food services staff has included some new ideas, such as using red place mats to stimulate appetite, and making pureed food, for the residents who require it, look much more appetizing.

The physical environment is also important. Showering can be traumatic for people with dementia, so the shower room on the Redwood unit was painted and decorated with soothing blues and tans, and rechristened the "Spa Room."

 

 

Boston.com reported a Rhode Island proposal to create a database to help conduct background checks on nursing home employees and other health care workers serving elderly patients.  The state has up to two years to establish the criminal convictions database and link it to a national listing.

Assistant Attorney General Jim Dube says Rhode Island was promised more than $1.3 million in the federal health care reform bill for the project. Nursing homes and other health care facilities for the elderly often work with the attorney general’s office for employee background checks — but those reviews disclose only arrests and convictions within Rhode Island. The proposed database would expand those reviews to convictions in other states.

 

AOL Health had an article about the Top 10 most important family concerns in caregiving for a parent.  Consider:

1. Rally the Troops
Deborah Halpern, Communications Director for the non-profit National Family Caregiver’s Association, urges that caregiving your parent is not a one-person job or burden. Instead, you should have a family team that includes friends and neighbors, each with a role and responsibility in the caregiving process. There must be a ringleader, according to Halpern, who contacts each family member with the invitation or challenge to "step up to the plate and help."
When several family members are involved, even for just a few hours each week, the burden on the primary caregiver is reduced significantly. Sharing responsibilities also brings more family members into active contact, sharing, support, monitoring, understanding and visiting with Mom or Dad.

2. Talk with Your Parent
Discuss freely with your elderly parent his or her current needs, limitations and concerns, stating your positive belief and commitment to providing the services and assistance to maintain independence and activity while also fulfilling medical and other needs.

3. Consult with Medical Practitioners
Meet with physicians and other medical providers to learn their concerns and suggestions.

4. Bring the Family Together
Stage a potluck dinner or other gathering to bring all possible family, friends and neighbors together. Define a mission or program to maintain your parent’s independence, activity and medical needs. From the session with your parent and then medical practitioners, have a prepared list of tasks that need to be covered, such as helping on meal preparation, driving to and from medical appointments, assisting on household chores, or visiting on a regular basis for personal chats — then make task assignments accordingly.

5. Identify Community Services
There are many professional and volunteer services available in every region of the United States, with information and coordination provided by the Area Agency on Aging  Every community has an Area Agency on Aging, and this federally-mandated organization is staffed by professionals who know every elder program and service in your area.)

6. Observe Changes in Your Parent’s Condition
The family team concept in caregiving offers effective and unique opportunities for observing and identifying physical, mental or emotional changes in your parent. The primary caregiver may not recognize subtle changes, while a family member who assists for a few hours each week may quickly identify changes and can share them with the caregiving team. The family plan can be adjusted accordingly, professional counsel can be sought and/or support changes can be made to keep your parent independent, active and positive.

7. Cover your Bases, Legally
Everyone in your family caregiving group should be legally able to ask questions and receive information from medical providers, from physicians to pharmacists, physical therapists to visiting nurses. Today, under the federal HIPAA law, a legal authorization must be signed by Mom or Dad for each of the family members who are authorized to discuss their care with healthcare providers. Medical professionals can provide the necessary forms at no cost. There should be a Durable Power of Attorney legal document executed in which your parent names one or more family members who have authority to make medical decisions if the patient cannot.

8. Seek Financial Advice
Your parent’s financial and property assets, including any debts or obligations, should be listed and defined, including the source of each and every document. The documents should not be stored in a safe deposit box at a financial institution unless at least one family member’s name is also added to the box ownership. Failing such a co-ownership, on the death of your parent, the bank will not open the safe deposit box. Period. Your parent should have a legal will in effect and be a "self-proving document." The latter is achieved when the parent, witnesses and notary public are together at the same time to witness each other’s signatures.

9. Know Your Loved Ones’ Wishes for Final Disposition
Another great gift from the parent to the family is a pre-determination and even pre-funding of a final disposition after death. Careful planning and funding now can avoid almost-frantic decisions, which often end up costing more if family members must address such issues at the time the parent dies.

10. Watch the Caregiver’s Emotional and Physical Health
The emotional and physical health of the lead caregiver should be a top concern for the rest of the family. There should be offers to provide relief time for the caregiver. This can include coverage so that the lead caregiver can get out to dinner, movie or a walk in the fresh air. Without such relief, the physical and mental toll can be heavy on the lead caregiver.

 

 

Blake Dickson wrote the following column for Center for a Just Society.  The CJS Forum seeks to promote an open exchange of ideas about the relationship between faith, culture, law and public policy.

Two features of American life that distinguish us from much of the rest of the world, and define us as a free nation, are our democratic electoral process and our justice system. The civil part of our system of justice is guaranteed by the Seventh Amendment to the Constitution which provides that disputes involving money damages of $20 or more will be resolved by a jury of our peers. Many politicians who consider themselves “conservative,” and even call themselves “constitutionalists,” often express support for “tort reform.” The end goal of such so-called “reform” is to rob juries of their discretion to make decisions based on the evidence in each case.

I wonder what would happen to a politician who took the podium and advocated his support for a plan to rob the citizens of the United States of their right to vote. I doubt he would be an elected official for very long. I doubt that someone who espoused such “reform” would have much chance of being elected in the first place. I have never heard a politician suggest that American citizens are not capable of sitting on a criminal jury and making a decision about the guilt or innocence of a criminal defendant, even in the most severe cases where the possible penalty is life imprisonment or even execution. And yet many politicians espouse the notion that we cannot trust the average American citizen to sit on a civil jury and determine whether or not an individual who has been harmed or killed by the negligence of another is entitled to compensation, and if so, how much.

The Tea Party has recently gained ascendance in American political life. Their name refers to the Boston Tea Party, an act of defiance against the British, by people who came to this country to escape oppression and establish a new world where the main principle was freedom. What was it that the early explorers and early settlers of this country were seeking? What was it that the Founding Fathers sought to escape, in the formation of this country? They sought to escape the tyranny of both royalty and the wealthy ruling class of the old world. They sought freedom. They sought to create a world where a man’s success was limited only by his ability and his work ethic, not by his family name nor his birthright. And in order to ensure this vision, they instituted a constitutional republic whereby the leaders were elected by the people. They also instituted a justice system where criminal allegations and civil disputes were decided by a jury of one’s peers.

Legislating arbitrary caps on the damages that can be awarded to injured people or the families of those who have been killed by neglect, deprives jurors of the right and duty to make decisions in individual cases based on the evidence before them. Why can’t ordinary citizens make a decision as to whether or not a defendant was negligent? Why can’t ordinary citizens make a decision as to whether or not an individual was injured or killed by the negligence of another? Why can’t ordinary citizens determine the proper amount that would compensate someone injured or the family of someone killed, for their loss caused by negligence? The civil justice system in this country is exceptional. It has worked well for over 200 years. Anyone who supports tort reform seeks to dismantle this system and replace it with arbitrary limits that have nothing to do with justice or an appropriate evaluation of an individual case.

The Founding Fathers considered the civil jury a necessary check on the power of the government and on the power of the ruling classes. This fundamental American principle has been widely accepted throughout our history. King George III’s efforts to restrict jury trials was cited in the Declaration of Independence as one of the grievances that justified breaking away from England. Thomas Jefferson said that the right to a civil jury is “justice by the people”. Teddy Roosevelt said the jury “protects us from the harsh hand of government”. King George III’s efforts to restrict jury trials is in no way different than the current modern attempts to legislate tort reform.

The Founding Fathers considered the right of a citizen to have civil suits heard by a jury of his peers so precious that they guaranteed it in the Bill of Rights. The Seventh Amendment to the United States Constitution states: “in suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of a trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.”

Our civil justice system embraces, at its core, the notion of personal responsibility. Our system of justice requires that the person responsible for causing damage should pay for the damage that he or she caused. If the government passes restrictions on personal responsibility in the form of limits on damages people will not be held accountable for their wrongdoing.

Any notion that a jury should be limited such that they can only award so much compensation in certain types of cases against certain types of defendants, regardless of the facts and circumstances of the case, is not a notion that can withstand any logical analysis nor scrutiny. If someone has committed wrongdoing, if someone has been negligent, and their negligent actions have caused someone else harm, particularly if their negligent actions have caused someone else injury or death, they should be held fully accountable for all of the harm that their negligent actions have caused. Wrongdoers should not be insulated from the consequences of their wrongdoing.

Juries should have the discretion to make findings based on the evidence that comes before them. Otherwise our civil justice system could be comprised of a big chart – with verdicts which would apply to every potential situation. American citizens sitting on juries throughout the country should be given the opportunity to hear the facts of each case and then decide the proper verdict.

Alexander Hamilton said, “The civil jury is a valuable safeguard to liberty.”

Every measure of proposed tort reform erodes our civil jury system and threatens our liberty.

Blake Dickson is an attorney and the founder of The Dickson Firm, L.L.C., a law firm in Cleveland, Ohio devoted to representing victims of abuse and neglect.  While all the articles are original and written especially for the CJS Forum, they do not necessarily reflect the views of the Center for a Just Society.