Freelance Contribution by Jessica Walter


Up to 20% of all American adults aged 55 or older experience a mental health concern. Despite these statistics, most seniors in the USA do not receive the necessary mental health care, with less than 3% having seen a medical or mental health practitioner. Reasons for failing to seek professional assistance include a lack of funding, a denial of the problems at hand and the stigma surrounding mental illness.

As we grow older we are faced with an increasing number of health problems which affects both our physical and mental wellbeing. There are numerous mental health concerns that are prevalent amongst the elderly and that should be addressed with the utmost of compassion and care.  

Of these conditions, depression and dementia are the most common while others such as psychosis and schizophrenia also require regular intervention and treatment.  A closer look at some of these can provide both the elderly and their caretakers with valuable insight into these conditions, resulting in greater understanding and care.


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as many of 5% of the beloved elderly population in America is affected by depression. It is very unfortunate that many cases of depression remain untreated due to misdiagnosis that stem from the depression mimicking normal age-related problems. It is in our human nature to be reluctant to talk about our feelings, making a much-needed diagnosis even harder. For those seniors that live independently it becomes even harder to reach out due to their isolation. Depression manifests itself in various ways such as insomnia, a loss of energy and appetite, overwhelming feelings of guilt and even suicidal thoughts. While anti-depressants are commonly used to treat the condition and have a reasonable success rate, psychotherapy is also often prescribed. Love and support from family and friends can also be of significant help in treating depression in the elderly.


Dementia is a very general term that refers to a decline in mental ability so severe that it interferes with the senior’s daily life. The most common type of dementia among seniors is Alzheimer’s which accounts for between 60% and 80% of all cases. Severe memory loss on a daily basis may be a sign of impending dementia although professional medical assistance is needed for an accurate diagnosis. As a caretaker to an elderly person it is important to look out for the often subtle signs that may point to the early stage of dementia. These signs include slight vocal and focus impairments as well as recurring episodes of apathy and listlessness.

Mental health issues are not always easy to discuss, especially for seniors who do not want to burden anyone with their problems, making it imperative for caretakers and family members to be alert to the various signs and symptoms pointing to a decline in mental health. As bitter a pill as it may be t swallow it is vitally important to remember that most conditions can be addressed fairly easily, ensuring a good quality life for the senior involved.

New York Magazine had an article explaining how Trump’s recent sabotage of ObamaCare has dire consequences for all of us.  ” In interviews with major publications last spring, Donald Trump repeatedly threatened to deliberately destabilize the Affordable Care Act marketplaces by abruptly halting subsidies to insurers.”

Some of the sabotage includes spreading doubt about whether it would enforce the tax penalty for refusing to sign up for insurance; cut funding for the law’s outreach groups; slashed Obamacare’s advertising budget by 90 percent; spent a portion of the remaining ad budget on propaganda calling for the law’s repeal; cut the open-enrollment period by 45 days; announced that it would be taking (where people can enroll in Obamacare online) offline nearly every Sunday during that time period, for “maintenance” purposes; described Obamacare as “a bad deal” that Americans “won’t be convinced to sign up for” in official public statements; and, most recently, expanded access to “short-term” health plans that do not meet Obamacare’s benefits requirements (and thus, are useless to anyone with a preexisting conditions, or who develops a serious condition after purchasing the insurance).

What are the consequences of these actions?  As HuffPost’s Jonathan Cohn reports:

Come 2019, the number of people without health insurance will rise by nearly 5 million, while millions more will enroll in “short-term” plans, according to Urban Institute research released…Those short-term plans will be popular because they are dirt cheap, relative to the usual price of health insurance. But that’s only because they aren’t available to people with pre-existing conditions and leave out key benefits like mental health, maternity care and prescriptions ― which at least some of those beneficiaries will need when they get sick.

Meanwhile, some people who need or want more comprehensive coverage will have to pay more for it, as the study predicts premiums for such plans will rise 18 percent. And the federal government, which subsidizes plans for lower-income consumers through tax credits, will have to spend more money.


The GoodNewsNetwork had an interesting article about an intellectual-property attorney in Austin, Texas named Stacy Zoern.  She uses a wheelchair and had an idea to help people like her become more independent.  She designed and is now manufacturing an innovative electric car that provides easy access and drivability, without ever getting out of your chair.

Just push a remote button and the back of the Kenguru car lifts up, and its automatic ramp lowers for immediate entry. Then, just drive the tiny vehicle away while seated in your wheelchair.

The environmentally friendly car has a top speed of 35 mph and is designed for getting around on neighborhood or city streets. It is steered by a motorbike-style handlebar and has room for just the driver.

Kenguru has secured millions of dollars from investors and the company projects the cars will sell for around $25,000.

(WATCH the video below from Kenguru Cars)

New Castle News reported the guilty plea of Ashley N. Wilcox, a nurse’s aide, employed at Golden Hill Nursing Home.  She entered a plea to charges that accused her of abusing dementia patients.  Wilcox had said at the time of her arrest that she had worked 10 months at Golden Hill before she was terminated in May, 2016. The charges were brought against her on May 2, 2016, following an investigation into reports from Wilcox’s co-workers about the allegations against her.

The sentence recommended by assistant district Attorney Jonathan Miller is three consecutive 90-day terms of probation. Her plea was to three summary charges of harassment for subjecting others to physical contact. Miller noted those represent one count for each of three victims.  Wilcox will be sentenced at 9:30 a.m. March 28 in Cox’s court.

The 13 other counts against her, which include six misdemeanors each of stalking and simple assault, and three other summary offenses, will be dropped as part of the plea agreement.

As a result of the charges and Wilcox’s termination from employment, the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s Division of Nursing Care Facilities conducted an administrative hearing on Aug. 10, 2016, and on July 25, 2017, concluded that “this nurse aide has substantiated findings on file with the Pennsylvania Nurse Aide Registry. Because there are substantiated findings on file, this nurse aide cannot work in a long-term care facility in Pennsylvania.”


Axios reported that “the pharmaceutical industry is livid about a surprise change to Medicare drug policy that was slipped into the Senate budget deal. The bill would close the Medicare Part D “donut hole” in 2019, a year earlier than previously scheduled, and force drug companies to shoulder most of the cost.”

 Medicare’s donut hole puts seniors and disabled people on the hook for a large chunk of their prescription costs. It’s supposed to go away in 2020, as part of the Affordable Care Act. Beneficiaries would pay no more than 25% of brand-name drug costs, while health plans would cover 25% and drug companies would cover the remaining 50% through discount payments.

But the Senate bill would end the coverage gap a year earlier, and change the ratios. Drug companies would be responsible for 70% of the costs instead of 50% — a move that would cost drug companies billions of dollars.

McKnight’s had an article on how Preferred Care of Plano is using bankruptcy to avoid responsibility for the abuse and neglect suffered by their residents.   Preferred filed for bankruptcy in November claiming in court that lawsuits led to its financial demise.  Consumer advocates and industry experts — including families who allege their loved ones were mistreated in facilities in Texas, Kentucky or New Mexico — say the company is trying to avoid accountability.

“If their quality of care were higher, they wouldn’t be getting sued,” said Dallas lawyer Gabriel Canto, who represents the family of a Preferred Care resident who died after falling twice in the same day.

Preferred Care was incorporated in 1992 by Thomas Scott.   Today it’s a web of corporations that includes technology services, rehabilitation services and nursing homes linked to Scott including Preferred Care Partners Management Group, Preferred Care Inc., Preferred Care Partners, Pinnacle Health Management and Pincomputing.   The company has annual revenue estimated at $750 million, it is one of the country’s largest senior care providers, with more than 100 skilled nursing, assisted and independent living centers in 12 states, including 38 locations across Texas.

A Dallas Morning News investigation published last week strung together state and federal inspection reports and dozens of lawsuits to illustrate the nursing home operator’s horrific track record and history of abuse and neglect. Allegations of neglect, injury and wrongful death included the beating death of two residents at the hands of a mentally ill roommate, a resident found dead with his wheelchair on top of his body and a state attorney general’s allegation that residents were left for hours in soiled clothes and sheets.

An unusually large share of Preferred Care facilities have poor ratings, based on federal inspection data. About a third of Preferred Care homes in Texas received 1 star overall in the Five-Star Quality Rating System, compared to a quarter of all nursing homes statewide.

State health departments, lawyers and the hundreds of families they represent say that the company is using bankruptcy as a way to escape the consequences of a long-standing pattern of substandard care.

Scott and his wife live on a 155-acre property in Celina that’s valued at $3.7 million, records show. Scott owns several other properties in Collin and Grayson counties, as well as a home in Fort Lauderdale, property records show.

The owner of Orianna Health Systems, a national for-profit chain, filed for bankruptcy last week.  Orianna will still own and operate the facilities during the bankruptcy proceedings.  See for more information.

Orianna owes $52 million in rent to Omega, a real estate investment trust or REIT, and $67 million to vendors and “related entities,” according to court records. Orianna is Omega’s largest tenant, according to securities filings. Omega has agreed to provide Orianna with up to $30 million in financing as the company goes through bankruptcy proceedings.

Orianna operates skilled nursing facilities in seven states, with around 4,500 beds and 5,000 employees.  Clearly the owners siphoned off too much money to allow the facilities to operate properly.  There is no reason a chain should go bankrupt unless mismanagement occurred.

4 West Holdings Inc, which operates as Orianna’s operating agent, reached a deal with its landlord Omega Healthcare Investors Inc and agreed to transfer 23 facilities to a new operator and provide for the sale of 19 others, according to court records.

The New York Times had an article on the ongoing problem of illegal evictions of residents from nursing homes.  The main reason for the evictions is that the residents’ better-paying Medicare coverage is ending and will be replaced by Medicaid.  Discharges and evictions have been the top-ranking category of grievances brought to state long-term care ombudsman programs, the ombudsman agencies say.

David R. Wright of the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said in the memo that wrongful evictions were “of great concern” because they could be unsafe or traumatic for patients, uprooting them “from familiar settings” and moving them far from family and friends.

Reimbursement rates for Medicare and Medicaid differ substantially, according to the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing and Care, a nonprofit group that collects data on the industry. Nursing homes receive about $200 a day for a Medicaid patient on average, compared with about $500 for a patient in the traditional Medicare program and $430 for a Medicare patient in a managed care plan.

The Macon Telegraph reported on the abuse allegations against two nursing home employees caught on camera assaulting a resident.  Hidden camera footage in an elderly man’s nursing home room led to the two women being arrested on elder abuse charges.

The family of William John Parks, 89, who lives at Lynn Haven Health & Rehabilitation nursing home in Gray, became concerned earlier this year and put a “nanny cam” in his room, said Jones County sheriff’s Maj. Earl Humphries.

Footage recorded Jan. 31 showed both physical and mental abuse of Parks, who was recovering from pneumonia and needed extra care with feeding and personal hygiene, Humphries said.

“The two attendants in the room were just really frustrated with Mr. Parks and were treating him pretty roughly, … manhandling him too much,” he said.

McKnight’s had an article about the importance of hand washing to prevent infections from spreading in nursing homes.  A new study finds that — by harnessing hand hygiene methods already popular in hospitals — infections in nursing homes can be prevented.  Researchers concluded that implementing simple hand-hygiene protocols in nursing homes helped drop both mortality rates and the number of antibiotic prescriptions doled out, according new study results published in the February American Journal of Infection Control.

“Hand hygiene protocols have traditionally focused on acute-care settings. Our study is changing this narrative, underscoring that we can take a proven intervention practice and make it work outside of the hospital space, by specifically adapting it to long-term settings,” said Laura Temime, lead author of the study and a professor at the Conservatoire National des Arts et Métiers, in Paris, in a press release.