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The coming long-term care crisis

Meagan Day, Jacobin Magazine, (US)

Americans are aging, and millions will be unable to afford long-term care. The only way to avert social catastrophe is to implement a Medicare-for-All system with comprehensive long-term care benefits. By 2050, one in five US residents will be of retirement age. As we hurtle headlong toward this reality, we face a choice: we can either invest public money in comprehensive long-term care for seniors, or not.

If we don’t, the consequences will be grim. The average annual cost for a home health aide tops $50,000. The annual cost of a private nursing home room now exceeds $100,000, and it’s rising. At present, Medicare does not cover most long-term care needs; seniors often find that their best option is to deplete their life savings so they can qualify for Medicaid. But even then, benefits are limited, and the costs of home health aides and institutional care are not fully covered. Private insurance that covers long-term care is too expensive for many seniors, leaving them at the whim of the threadbare social safety net.

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Frail elderly “failed by care deserts”

BBC News, Nick Triggle

The system for looking after frail older people in England is falling apart, with what are being dubbed “care deserts” emerging, a charity says. An analysis carried out for Age UK indicates about 30% of areas now have no residential care beds. The situation is even worse for nursing homes – needed for the most frail – with more than 60% having no places. Recruiting staff and keeping services running were proving a real challenge some areas, the charity said. Age UK believes the situation is now so bad that about 1.4 million older people are not getting the care they need – nearly one in seven of the over-65 population. Ruthe Isden, from Age UK, said: “The system is failing people – and that is having catastrophic consequences.” The government has promised plans to reform the care system will be put forward soon.

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Jarring photo of elderly woman slumped over pillow in Ohio nursing home sparks investigation

Sia Nyorkor, Reporter, Cleveland 19 News, UK

Julia Wiggins, the family’s pastor, posted these photos to Facebook on Feb. 19. The woman pictured is 80-year-old Esther Brown, a resident of Altercare Nobles Pond in Canton. Her son, James Brown, said they have filed a complaint with the facility about the care his mother is receiving. Cleveland 19 News reporter Sia Nyorkor spoke to Beverly Laubert, State Long-Term Care Ombudsman with the Ohio Department of Aging regarding the allegations. The department advocates for people receiving nursing home care, home care and assisted living.

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Nursing homes sedate residents with dementia by misusing antipsychotic drugs, report finds

Jessica Ravitz, CNN

Children complained about parents who were robbed of their personalities and turned into zombies. Residents remembered slurring their words and being unable to think or stay awake. Former administrators admitted doling out drugs without having appropriate diagnoses, securing informed consent or divulging risks. These are just some of the findings outlined in a new Human Rights Watch report, “‘They want docile:’ How Nursing Homes in the United States Overmedicate People with Dementia.” The 157-page report, released Monday, estimates that each week more than 179,000 people living in US nursing facilities are given antipsychotic medications, even though they don’t have the approved psychiatric diagnoses — like schizophrenia — to warrant use of the drugs. Most of these residents are older and have dementia, and researchers say the antipsychotic medications are administered as a cost-effective “chemical restraint” to suppress behaviors and ease the load on overwhelmed staff.

What’s revealed in this report echoes the findings of a CNN investigation published in October. The CNN story described how one little red pill, Nuedexta, was being misused and overprescribed in nursing homes. What’s more, CNN learned that this overuse benefited the drugmaker to a tune of hundreds of millions of dollars, largely at the expense of the US government. The CNN report prompted an investigation into a California-based pharmaceutical company. The Human Rights Watch report shows that concerns about overmedicating nursing home residents with inappropriate drugs extends beyond this one pill.

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Nursing home resident died after receiving 20 times the prescribed dose of pain killers

ABC 5 Eyewitness News, Minneapolis, MN

The Minnesota Department of Health claims a New Hope nursing home neglected a resident after the individual died after receiving 20 times their prescribed dose of oxycodone. According to the MDH report, North Ridge Health and Rehabilitation did not have a policy to “notify staff of changing medication orders.” The report also said the individual administering the drug failed to follow correct procedures. The report said the resident was admitted to North Ridge Health and Rehabilitation with cancer, as well as chronic pain and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. MDH said the resident had a physician order to receive liquid oxycodone for pain. The resident was supposed to receive 20 milligrams for pain rated five to seven on a 10-point scale, or 30 milligrams for pain rated eight to 10. The concentration of the oxycodone the resident was supposed to receive was changed multiple times, according to the report. On the night before the resident’s death, the individual rated their pain at a 10 on the scale. The report said the staff member administering the oxycodone gave the resident 600 milligrams, instead of the 30 milligrams. The resident was later found unresponsive on the floor of his room. The individual was pronounced dead by emergency medical service professionals. The MDH report said the staff member admitted to administering more oxycodone than prescribed. The individual said they did not verify the concentration of the dose because they were busy with other patients.

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