Alzheimer's Caregivers Cannot Sue, Rules California Court

Seniors who suffer Alzheimer’s can be a challenge to their professional caregivers, especially those who are able to age at home, outside of an institutional setting like a nursing home. Especially in later stages, Alzheimer’s patients and those with other dementia’s can be aggressive, angry, and violent. That can be a very difficult environment, especially for the in-home professional caregiver.

But if a senior caregiver suffers an injury at the hands of their Alzheimer’s client, they cannot sue the patient nor their family or estate for damages, according to a ruling by the California Supreme Court. Monday’s ruling came as a result of a case of a home health aide who was cut with a knife by her elderly client.

Prior to hiring her as to aid his ailing wife, a Los Angeles man informed the agency and the home health aide that his wife was prone to violent outbursts, including biting and scratching. Because of this prior knowledge, the court ruled 5-2 that it would not be appropriate to allow workers to sue their employers. 

California law already states that caregivers in nursing homes and other institutional facilities cannot sue Alzheimer’s patients who hurt them because those risks are inherent in their duties, especially since it’s well known that , although it’s not common for Alzheimer’s patients to become violent, discomfort and confusion can cause a violent flare-up.

The ruling is intended to help families keep their loved ones as home longer. If home healthcare workers were allowed to sue, families might decide it more financial sense to put seniors with memory issues into a nursing home.

Senior caregivers who are not warned of their client’s potential violent nature are precluded from future lawsuits, the court added. 

The best way a professional caregiver can learn how to deal with Alzheimer’s and dementia sufferers and help prevent latent violent outbursts is to partake in professional caregiver training. Caregiverlist® Basic Training, powered by Caregiver Training University provides the elemental training for every in-home caregiver. In addition, Caregiverlist® offers training videos especially for care techniques for those giving care to those with Alzheimer’s and other memory loss diseases.

South Carolina "Senior Plan" Touted by Lt. Governor Hopeful

Bakari Sellers, South Carolina Representative (D) and candidate for lieutenant governor, has made issues affecting South Carolina’s senior population his primary concern.

Rep. Sellers has been traveling the state discussing his proposed South Carolina “Senior Plan” to improve the life of its aging population.

In his Sellers for South Carolina blog, he outlines a six point plan focusing on the needs of the elderly which includes:

  • Expanding the state’s investment in senior transportation.
  • Advocating for tax relief packages for caregivers and long-term care insurance premiums.
  • Leading the Senior Fraud Taskforce.
  • Expanding the senior homestead exemption.
  • Strengthening the continuum of care.
  • Transforming the Office on Aging into a driving force for advocacy on behalf of Alzheimer’s patients and their families and increasing Alzheimer’s research

Representative Sellers is also proposing a $500 annual tax credit for family caregivers.

Citing the statistics of a greatly expanding senior population which is expected to double by the year 2030, this younger member of the General Assembly bemoans the fact that South Carolina “seniors have been neglected too long” and proposes to reach across the aisle and seek cooperation from Democrats and Republicans alike.

South Carolina’s victorious lieutenant governor will also lead the state’s Office on Aging.

In AARP’s recent State Scorecard on Long-Term Services and Supports for Older Adults, People with Physical Disabilities, and Family Caregivers, South Carolina ranked in the third quartile in 34th place nationally. Caregiverlist’s® Nursing Home database includes 195 South Carolina Nursing Homes, with a private-room cost average of $185.76 and an average Star Rating of 2.9.

The majority of senior issues and concerns are addressed on a state level. It’s nice to see a young representative like Mr. Sellers tackle the well-being of his elder constituency. If you’d like to learn more about South Carolina senior services and resources, Caregiverlist® offers by-state information such as SC Drivers License Laws, caregiver training requirements and a link to the South Carolina Department on Aging.

Sellers South Carolina Nursing Home

(95-year-old Dolly Sparks meets Rep. Bakari Sellers during a campaign stop at Agape Senior Assisted Living North Charleston. Wade Spees/Staff. http://sellers2014.com/ )

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Shots for Seniors: Vaccines Recommended for Older Adults

There’s a national debate going on questioning whether vaccines are safe.

Vociferous anti-vaccine activists link vaccines with rising numbers of children with autism, although studies have shown no correlation between the two. Nor has it been proven that vaccinations cause childhood leukemia, as previously thought. Despite scientific findings (or, in the opinion from the other side of the aisle, pharmaceutical company propaganda),  the anti-vaccine movement continues its rally against childhood vaccinations due to their proposed dangerous side effects while public-health experts contend that high rates of non-vaccination are the cause of recent contagious disease outbreaks.

But what about the elderly? Are they in danger of vaccine complications?

August is National Immunization Awareness Month (NIAM). Sponsored by the Center for Disease Control, the purpose of the campaign is to “provide an opportunity to highlight the value of immunization across the lifespan”.  The CDC recommends that the elderly (those 60 years +) receive the following vaccines to promote good health:

Seasonal flu (influenza) vaccine
The CDC estimates 90 percent of seasonal influenza-related deaths and more than 60 percent of seasonal influenza-related hospitalizations in the U.S. each year occur in people 65 years and older.

Tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (Td or Tdap) vaccine
Everyone, including the elderly, should have booster shots for tetanus and diphtheria every 10 years.

Pneumococcal  (pneumonia) vaccine
Pneumonia, which often starts as a simple viral respiratory disease, and can develop into a severe inflammation of the lungs, often cited as the fifth leading cause of death in the elderly and frail.

Zoster vaccine, to protect against shingles
The risk of getting shingles increases as one ages. Not only that, but shingles can be extremely painful in the elderly. The persistent pain, called postherpetic neuralgia (PHN), can last for months or years.

This is not to say that vaccines for seniors have been without their own controversy. Several years ago, “Fluzone High-Dose”, a flu vaccine manufactured by Sanofi Pasteur especially for those over 65 years old. And although Sanofi Pasteur reported finding the vaccine 24.2% more effective in preventing influenza in the aged, some believe the vaccine, which contains four times the amount of antigen compared to the regular flu vaccine, brought with it stronger side effects.

You can learn more about the vaccines you or your senior client or loved one may need at vaccines.gov. Their Adult Immunization Scheduler tool offers personalized vaccine suggestions based on your age (and other factors.)

How do you feel about immunization and vaccines? Do you believe them necessary to continued well-being or is it a dangerous scam perpetrated by big pharma? Is it part of your job as a senior caregiver to influence the decision of the elder in your charge whether to get that shot or not? We’d love to hear you opinions in the comment section. Regardless of where you stand on the issue, Caregiverlist® continues to believe in utilizing everything in one's health toolkit in order to age well.

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Minnesota Leads the Way in Senior Care

Minnesota’s comprehensive senior care programs may well become the nation’s standard. In addition to scoring a first-place position in AARP’s 2014 State Long-Term Services and Supports (LTSS) Scorecard (also in 2011), Minnesota’s Department of Human Services announced in a July 1 press release a plan to award $3.5 million to providers of services to older Minnesotans, as well as for people with disabilities. The money is specifically earmarked for innovative projects designed to improve quality for home and community-based services.

The program comes on the heels of the state’s successful 2006 Performance-based Incentive Payment Program (PIPP) that provides nursing homes with additional funds for proven quality improvement projects. In 2013, an article published in the journal Health Affairs determined that PIPP facilities showed significantly increased quality after PIPP funding and continued to have higher overall quality scores than nursing homes not in the program.

In fact, Good Samaritan Society - Albert Lea (Private), which rates over 4 stars in Caregiverlist's® Nursing Home Star Ratings, used its PIPP money to implement a nursing assistant mentorship program to increase its C.N.A. retention rate with great success.
 
The Minnesota Department of Health and Human Services is hoping to see a similar outcome by funding 27 projects in 39 Minnesota counties. Recipients must put policies in place to improve quality of life or deliver better service more efficiently.

For example, Knute Nelson Home Care will receive funding to implement GrandCare technology, an interactive touchscreen used as a communication portal between the older person and family caregivers. The Lutheran Home Association will use funds to decrease staff turnover in its in-home services, and the grant will help Tealwood Senior Living to develop and apply dementia care culture change in its assisted living facilities.

“Home and community-based service providers are key to helping people with disabilities and olderadults live independently, which is what most people prefer,” Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson said in a written statement. “We have found that initiatives like this promote greater, lasting quality and efficiency and a better overall experience for people being served.”

Caregiverlist salutes Minnesota for taking a proactive approach to improving the quality of care for its elderly citizens. Minnesota’s initiatives are proving to set the bar for the best senior care in the U.S.  Now if they could just do something about those winters!

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