Last year, a jury compensated a former resident of Renew Saddle Rock $3.6 million after the resident was beaten by another individual who resided there, identified as “Anne B.”  The facility is being sued again for the same resident beating another wheelchair-bounded 92-year-old and failing to report it.  Apparently the facility cannot keep the residents safe or keep Anne B. from harming others.  Anne B. has also been accused of assaulting a third female resident who has had only her first name released, Josephine.  Many of the residents have Alzheimer’s and dementia so the facility knows altercations are inevitable and foreseeable and therefore preventable with adequate staff to supervise and intervene if necessary.

The latest lawsuit accuses the center of putting profits over people and engaging in under-staffing to save money.  Renew regularly staffs just one employee for as many as 28 dementia clients throughout evening and weekend shifts, the lawsuits alleges, and when an attack occurs, the center doesn’t have the resources to report it in a timely manner.

It was filed on behalf of Joanna Dryva whose mother, Maria Pallman, was the elderly wheelchair-bound women assaulted.  According to the lawsuit, Pallman was sitting in the hallway in her wheelchair when the assault occurred.  Now, according to court documents, she suffers from anxiety and other recurring medical complications.  The nursing home refused to hand over surveillance footage Pallman’s family request that they believe documented the incident.

The lawsuit additionally accuses former director, Britny Otto, of violating state law when she denied throughout her testimony in court that Anne B. had assaulted the individual in the first case that was presented.  It says that Otto the facility as having higher levels of staffing than its competitors even though she and the company were well-aware that it was chronically understaffed.  Otto also didn’t report the assault of the first resident to the police or adult protective services, as required by state law.

 

 

New British research suggests that high-tech “robopets” are the next best thing for nursing home residents unable to have a beloved pet or those suffering from loneliness.  The robopets stimulate conversations and trigger fond memories of pets or past experiences.

In the new study, Abbott’s group analyzed data from 19 studies involving 900 nursing home residents, family members and staff at centers worldwide. Five different robopets were used in the studies: Necoro and Justocat (cats); Aibo (a dog); Cuddler (a bear); and Paro (a baby seal).

Many nursing home residents were entertained by the robopet even if they realized it wasn’t a real dog or cat. Of course, “residents’ responses could vary according to whether they were living with dementia and according to the severity of the dementia,” Abbott’s team noted.

Some residents talked to the robopet as if it were, in fact, alive and a real animal. Some even made an emotional connection with the “pet.” For example, one resident told staff, “I woke up today and thought, today is going to be a good day because I get to see my friend.”

For others, just holding and stroking the robopet brought “them back into a space in their life where they feel loved,” as one nursing home caretaker put it in the study.

As to whether the robopet felt “real,” one resident’s family member said that it “doesn’t matter, because I can see that the robotic cat has an impact on my dad’s quality of life.”

Besides their other benefits, robopets appeared to boost social interaction with other residents, family members and staff, often by acting as a trigger for conversation, according to the research.

“Of course, robopets are no substitute for human interaction,” she said, “but our research shows that for those who choose to engage with them, they can have a range of benefits.”

The study, which received no private industry funding, was published May 9 in the International Journal of Older People Nursing.

KWQC had a recent article about the benefits of robot pets which are becoming more common in retirement homes. They’re not as much responsibility as a regular pet, and can bring a lot of joy to the residents.  Where it might have gotten lonely before, now there’s a friend. This can help residents who suffers from agitation or dementia with behavior issues.

“When a person is in a room by themselves basically, it’s nice to have something that you feel is there with you,” said Clair Odell, whose daughter is a resident. “The sounds, the purring, the mewing seems to be very soothing.”

Odell remembers the first time he met his daughter’s pet.

“When we went to see her and her new cat, the excitement and the joy that she had when she was showing it off and showing off its antics,” he said.

Officials at Ridgecrest Village say the next step is getting pets with reminders in them for residents – letting them know about appointments and when to take their medicine.

WHAS11 had an incredible story about two friends who really made a difference in the lives of nursing home residents.  Sandy Cambron and Shannon Blair provide baby dolls to nursing residents suffering from dementia.

It began as a gift to Sandy Cambron’s mother-in-law.  “We would buy her a TV, buy her stuffed animals and nothing would work and one day, we were out shopping and I told my husband, maybe we should get her a baby doll,” Sandy Cambron said.  It made all the difference.

“She loved it. She took that baby and slept with it, had meals with it. You could see the biggest difference with her. She would not leave that baby. It was always by her side. When she passed away, we buried the baby with her,” Cambron said.

Then, last year, when her friend, Shannon Blair, was going through a similar experience with her own mother, Sandy offered a baby doll.

“It was actually my mom’s roommate’s response. She immediately reached out and started crying. I went back to Sandy the next day and I said, I get it. I get why you wanted to give my mom a baby,” Blair said.

“300 babies later, we are boomin’. We are visiting as many places as we can,” Blair said. They hand out baby dolls, stuffed puppies and kittens. Each doll is color coordinated and wrapped in the softest of blankets.  They’re changing lives one baby doll at a time.

“It is just a baby doll, but whatever emotions it stirs up, it’s all happy. It takes them back to a joyful time. It’s happy and it’s sad at the same time,” Blair said.

Pearl’s Memory Babies runs purely on donations. Shannon and Sandy buy the baby dolls and shop all the bargains they can find to get the outfits, blankets, and even the diapers. If you’d like to donate or learn more, you can visit their Facebook page or website.

Texas has slowly reduced the misuse of antipsychotics in nursing homes in recent years, but experts and advocacy groups say more can and should be done. Texas legislators are considering a pair of bills that would require the written consent of a patient or a family member before an antipsychotic drug is given to a nursing-home patient.

Amanda Fredriksen, associate state director at AARP Texas, explained about 12,000 nursing home residents are being given antipsychotic drugs for no legitimate reason, perhaps other than the convenience of staff in caring for patients who otherwise might be difficult. She said these medications are intended to treat schizophrenia, bipolar disease and Tourette’s syndrome, but are dangerous for those with Alzheimer’s and dementia.

“These drugs can increase the risk of falls, increase blood glucose levels, they dramatically increase the risk of stroke – all these risks are well known,” Fredriksen said. “We outlawed physical restraints many, many years ago and now we’ve moved to chemical restraints. It’s fairly barbaric. ”

Fredriksen noted there are other alternatives to antipsychotics, including music and memory therapies and safer medications.

“There are also behavior techniques that can be used to know how to anticipate some of the reactions from residents and intervene with different kinds of behavior techniques that don’t require any drugs at all,” she said.

Tulsa World reported on a bill pending in the Oklahoma House to crack down on the administration of antipsychotic drugs to nursing home residents. Oklahoma ranks first in the nation in giving antipsychotic medication to nursing home residents, according to AARP Oklahoma, which is backing Senate Bill 142, by Sen. Stephanie Bice, R-Oklahoma City.

This legislation will provide a stop to this immoral practice of drugging our seniors,” said Sean Voskuhl, AARP Oklahoma director.  “We rank No. 1 in the country in this category with the high use of antipsychotic drugs,” Voskuhl said. “We owe it to our most frail and vulnerable citizens to provide dignity and care.”

The measure defines antipsychotic drugs as a “drug, sometimes called a major tranquilizer, used to treat symptoms of severe psychiatric disorders, including but not limited to schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.”

Bice said the legislation requires written informed consent from the patient or legal representative.

If the nursing home resident is given the antipsychotic in an emergency situation, a physician would need to do a follow-up exam to ensure the proper diagnosis, according to the measure.

The medications are being prescribed for nonpsychotic reasons, Bice said.

“We want to ensure that if there is a medical diagnosis and they need it, they get it,” she said.

But if a patient doesn’t need it, caregivers must be careful about over prescribing, she said.

Some of the medications have negative side effects, such as sedation, which can increase the risk of a fall, Bice said.

There is a high occurrence of nursing homes giving antipsychotic medication when it is not necessary.

Nico Gomez is president and CEO of Care Providers Oklahoma, which represents about 200 nursing homes. Gomez said his organization is not opposed to the measure.

“It is an issue we have been working hard to improve for a number of years,” Gomez said. “We can understand that people who care for our residents like we do are getting frustrated with the lack of progress that other states have made.”

He said his organization is working to educate its members and with physicians to make sure “we are prescribing the right medications to the right person at the right time.”

Gomez said he didn’t have an answer as to why the state ranks first in the nation on administering the drugs to nursing home residents.

USA Today had the tragic and preventable story of James “Milt” Ferguson Sr., a blind World War II veteran, who died from a head injury suffered at a VA nursing home in Iowa. Ferguson was removed from one-on-one supervision, and he wandered into other residents’ rooms repeatedly, medical records show. When he rolled his wheelchair into one room unsupervised Dec. 20, 2018, his son said VA staff told him the resident of the room flipped Ferguson backwards out of his wheelchair. He landed on his head, causing a massive brain bleed.  A surveillance camera captured footage of James Ferguson Sr.’s fatal injury at a Veterans Affairs nursing home.

People are outraged that he wasn’t monitored more closely and what policies are in place to prevent a similar injury or death.  A USA TODAY investigation that chronicled Ferguson’s case and what specialists say was a concerning series of decisions by VA staff, before and after his deadly injury.

Nursing staff didn’t report the incident for 40 minutes, according to the records and surveillance video. They didn’t take him to the emergency room for more than two hours and he wasn’t transferred to a trauma hospital until five hours after the fall. He died from the injury two days later.
Ferguson was admitted to the acute psychiatry ward at the VA Medical Center in Des Moines in November after his dementia worsened. He had been in a private nursing home but became aggressive and wandered into other residents’ rooms. VA healthcare providers adjusted his medications and placed him on one-on-one observation with an aide to prevent him from straying into other rooms.

But on Dec. 11, 2018, staff removed the strict observation even though he was still determined to be a danger to himself and others, the medical records show. He was transferred to the VA nursing home on the medical center’s campus the next day. Ferguson continued to enter other residents’ rooms repeatedly, but records show staff did not reinstate strict observation.

After the head injury at 3:49 p.m. Dec. 20, Ferguson wasn’t taken to the emergency room until about 6:30 p.m., and he wasn’t transferred to a trauma hospital until 8:55 p.m.

Charlene Hunter James, President of AARP Texas, wrote the following for TribTalk, a publication of the Texas Tribune.

Imagine the horror of living in a deep fog day in and day out. Your steps, if you’re able to walk, are wobbly. Your memories are confused. Your grasp of reality is lost.

And to discover that you’ve been purposefully sedated for no legitimate reason.

Federal reports show that thousands of nursing home residents in Texas are being inappropriately prescribed antipsychotics. They’re not given the drugs because of psychiatric conditions for which they can legitimately be prescribed. Rather, they are being administered for other causes. Sometimes, it’s merely for the convenience of nursing home staff.

It’s called a chemical restraint and it’s akin to the way people were handled in the Dark Ages.

This is a misuse of one of the most powerful classes of psychiatric drugs. For those with dementia, which is not uncommon among nursing home residents, receiving antipsychotics is especially dangerous, even deadly. That’s why the Food and Drug Administration gives these medicines a black-box warning: an alert of an increased risk of death among people with dementia.

No one disputes that providing daily care for nursing home residents is a patience- and stamina-testing ordeal. Attending to these moms, dads, grandparents and other loved ones is a truly honorable profession. Working with those who have Alzheimer’s and other dementia adds greatly to the frustrations.

Through music and memory programs, and other therapies, Texas and some other states have made progress over recent years in reducing inappropriate use of antipsychotics among nursing home residents. But this crisis in care has by no means been eradicated.

So, it’s exasperating that lobbyists for the nursing home and medical industries this legislative session are opposing reasonable proposals to rectify the problem.

Today, the law says that nursing home residents must give consent for antipsychotics to be administered. And yet, all too often, family members of nursing home residents still report a lack of awareness of these drugs being administered. They see sudden and solemn changes in the mental well-being of their loved ones. Later they learn — or come to suspect — a culprit: antipsychotics being administered without their knowledge.

A stronger consent law that would require written consent of a nursing home resident or a legal decision-maker. And that’s essentially what’s offered in Senate Bill 1212 by Sen. Kelly Hancock, R-North Richland Hills and House Bill 2050 by Rep. Chris Paddie, R-Marshall.

To improve nursing home safety, please ask your state representative and senator to support those bills.

Disclosure: AARP has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune’s journalism. 

The family of Barbara Jones-Davis is suing Wesley Enhanced Living assisted living facility because the facility’s negligence resulted in their loved one’s death. The resident, who was visually impaired and suffered from dementia, was allowed and able to leave the facility unsupervised and was killed after falling from the second floor onto a sidewalk.

The incident happened July 2018 when Jones-Davis opened an unguarded and unlocked door on the side of the facility and wandered outside alone. The door Jones-Davis used to exit allegedly had an alarm, but surveillance video shows no one from the facility responded to the alarm for 25 minutes  She was outside for 23 minutes until she walked to the edge of the property and fell almost two stories onto the sidewalk. An employee allegedly later closed the door without inspecting the property for any residents who may have left.

Jones-Davis was found alive by a passerby and was taken to the hospital where she later died.  The facility allegedly learned of the incident about an hour later when a nurse was notified.

“Wesley Enhanced Living at Stapeley and its security contractor, U.S. Security Associates, were both negligent and grossly negligent for failing to put the appropriate systems, processes, and precautions in place to prevent such an event from happening, especially where similar instances involving unsupervised residents who wandered from the facility had occurred previous to this tragedy,” alleges the suit.

Officials with the Pennsylvania Department of Health and Human Services say there have been three recent incidents where residents have left the facility unsupervised, according to the lawsuit.

Popular Science had a great article on the #1 public health crisis–the opioid epidemic sweeping the United States.  The article shows several factors caused the crisis including the greed of the pharmaceutical companies and doctors, opioid overprescription, slow government response, and the availability of street drugs like heroin.

The largest and easiest to control is overprescription of this dangerous and addictive painkillers by doctors themselves. The medical community now recognizes the dangers opioids pose and the FDA introduced a special protocol for handling them. However, a new study, published last month in JAMA, from researchers at Johns Hopkins University shows that protocol was ignored by most doctors.

The most potent class of prescription opioids is known as transmucosal immediate-release fentanyls (TIRFs). These painkillers, which are fast-acting and powerful, are intended to help breakthrough pain in cancer patients, whose normal opioid pain relievers aren’t managing all the pain. “This is not a usual drug,” says Caleb Alexander, a Johns Hopkins professor of medicine and the corresponding author of the new study. It’s a last-resort drug. For that reason, he says, in 2011, the FDA instituted a program, known as the Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy for TIRFs, or TIRF REMS.

The strategy didn’t work. Through careful analysis of the reports, which cover the years 2011 to 2017, Alexander and his colleagues found that between 34.6 and 55.4 percent of TIRF prescriptions had been given inappropriately. That’s especially troubling because TIRFs can cause a person who isn’t already “opioid tolerant”—that is, taking a specifically defined number of opioid painkillers—to overdose, because their bodies aren’t used to them.

“I think our findings raise serious concern regarding the role of manufacturers and the FDA,” Alexander says. They also suggest that far more documents currently unavailable for public and academic scrutiny might contain even more key information about the state of the opioid crisis—that’s if we can get them.

“These documents provide just a tiny peek through one window that reveals just one piece of the epidemic,” says Alexander. “There’s an enormous amount about the inner workings of the FDA and pharmaceutical manufacturers that the public hasn’t been able to see.”

The CDC estimates that 130 Americans die each day from opioid overdose, while the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reports that millions of Americans misused prescription opioids in 2017.

In September 2018, the FDA approved a widespread REMS program covering opioid painkillers more generally, but it remains to be seen if that program will be more effective than the TIRF REMS. “The FDA’s opioid REMS activities extend far beyond the TERF products,” Alexander says, “and our findings raise questions as to the adequacy of the broader response of the FDA and manufacturers to the epidemic.”