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.

Alzheimer's Disease and Dementia: What's the Difference?

It happens almost imperceptibly — a misplaced wallet, a forgotten word or name, short-term memory loss. These incidents can be normal blips in memory, but sometimes they can be indications of a more serious cognitive degeneration. The fear of being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease can keep a person in the state of denial. In fact, new figures show half of those who are diagnosed with dementia waited at least six months before seeing their doctor.

The Alzheimer’s Association says that of more than 6000 people surveyed, nearly a quarter of list Alzheimer’s disease as the second most frightening condition they most fear getting, behind cancer. More than 80% believe that the disease is a normal part of aging, and nearly 40% of people believed that only those with a family history of the disease could be affected.

But Alzheimer’s disease is not a normal part of aging. It's a disease that causes brain cells to malfunction and ultimately die. Neurons are the chief type of cell destroyed by Alzheimer's disease. That causes memory changes, erratic behaviors and loss of body functions. It’s a sad fact that Alzheimer’s has no survivors. The disease is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States.

June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month. The Alzheimer’s Association is asking everyone affected by the disease to show their commitment to the cause by wearing purple and posting to social media sites like Facebook. As they say on their website, “Everyone who has a brain is at risk to develop Alzheimer's—but everyone can help to fight it.”

A number of celebrities have banded together to support Alzheimer’s awareness. Recently, actor and Alzheimer’s activist Seth Rogan spoke to congress about the need to allocate more funding to research and eradicate the disease that strikes so many, including his mother-in-law.

BradleyCooper

Bradley Cooper proudly promotes purple to #ENDALZ.

All Alzheimer’s disease is dementia but not all dementia is Alzheimer’s. Dementia is an overall term that describes a wide range of symptoms. Although Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, there are a variety of other dementia types. These include Vascular dementia, or post-stroke dementia, which accounts for about 10% of all dementia cases. Dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB) sufferers are more likely than people with Alzheimer's to have early symptoms such as visual hallucinations and muscle rigidity. Parkinson's disease, frontotemporal dementia, normal pressure hydrocephalus are also types of dementia. Some of these diseases are treatable. Unfortunately, no cure or treatment slows or stops some of these progressive dementia diseases, like Alzheimer’s. But there are drug treatments that may temporarily improve symptoms.

Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) is often, but not always, a precursor to dementia. If you’ve been diagnosed with MCI, or are caring for a senior with Mild Cognitive Impairment, there’s a lot you can do to ease the ease and reduce the signs of MCI. For example, it’s been found that, coupled with a healthy diet, regular exercise can have a very positive impact on the brain and cognitive function.

Caregiverlist® urges if you are a senior caregiver whose family member or client presents any symptoms of memory loss, to seek the counsel of a doctor. Early detection is key in order to benefit from treatment and to plan for the future. Some dementia disorders are treatable — such as depression, drug interactions, thyroid problems, excess use of alcohol or certain metabolic disorders, such as a vitamin B12 deficiency .

If you or your beloved senior has Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, share your story with the world. Reach out to us on Twitter @Caregiverlist and don't forget to use #gopurple and #endalz to join the conversation. It’s time we destigmafy Alzheimer’s and other memory loss diseases.

Are Brain Games Vital to Great Senior Care?

Whenever my older sister misplaced things, or forgot a word or phrase, or walked into a room and couldn’t recollect why, she was fond of saying that she was having a “senior moment.” While it’s true that memory and processing speed can be challenged as we age, there are some aspects of the cognitive mind that are sharper in the elderly than in the young. Older people have a depth and breadth of knowledge and experience from which to draw. Decision-making processes can be stronger and certainly, the elderly probably have better language skills than their younger counterparts. But, as with the rest of the body, the mind should exercise or face possible atrophy.

According to Marbles, the Brain Store, the brain is malleable and can continue to create more neurons and neuronal connections, even older adults can exercise their brains and improve areas that they may not be as sharp in. SharpBrains, an independent research and advisory company on brain fitness, concurs. Cofounder and CEO Alvaro Fernandez states in an article on Social Work Today, that brain fitness is becoming a standard in older adult residential facilities, with more than 700 facilities in the United States alone installing computerized cognitive training programs since 2007.

Although I love computers, I wanted to find some good old-fashioned offline games to help increase brain strength. With that in mind (pun intended), I’ve enlisted the help of my local Marbles to give caregivers an idea of some games they can play with their seniors. Here are some of the suggestions from their website:

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Marbles Good Thinking Kit – This portable kit boasts over 100 activities to help improve memory, critical thinking, coordination, visual perception and word skills.

 

Pengoloo – Pengoloo is as much fun as one of penguins’ favorite pastimes: sliding down icy hills on their bellies! The best part? This charming game works your memory without you even realizing it. (The greatest brain health games are sneaky like that.)

 

Rush Hour – This multi-award winner is one of Marbles’ bestsellers; my kids love it too. Perhaps it’s the fun of setting up the game board based on pictures of traffic jams and then plotting your escape as you slide cars and trucks out of the way. Although it looks like a kid’s game, it’s challenging to even the best adult puzzlers.

 

 

 

Sherlock Deluxe – As Sherlock searches for clues, players are asked to recall objects on a facedown card. If the player is correct, the card is turned face-up and Sherlock moves on. If Sherlock lands on a face-up card, the player gets to keep that card. The first player to collect six cards wins. For adults, the game just might help you remember that you left your keys in the freezer.

 

And because we are not always around or available to play, a good solitary brain game continues to be:

Little Black & White Book of Crosswords – Of course, there areother crossword puzzles out there. But The New York Times Crossword is the gold standard. The bible. The one that all others are measured against. Now you can get 200 of these brilliant bad boys in The New York Times Little Black (and White) Book of Crosswords from puzzle master Will Shortz.

Caregiverlist® suggests that the next time you think of healthy aging and senior caregiving, remember to add some brain exercises. Along with physical activity and good nutrition, it will help you help your senior to age well.

Caregiver Support Translates to Saved $$

Caregiver stress can have debilitating consequences on senior caregivers. Reports show that family caregivers tend to experience anxiety, loss of sleep, and become ill more frequently than their non-caregiving counterparts. An estimated 5.2 million Americans have Alzheimer's disease in 2014. Seniors suffering from Alzheimer’s disease require increasing assistance with basic activities of daily living (ADLs) such as eating, bathing, dressing, and toileting. These individuals eventually need around-the-clock care. Because of that, their family caregivers find themselves especially overwhelmed. When caregivers feel they can no longer cope, patients are more likely to be placed in institutional settings such as nursing homes.

Costs of Nursing Home Placement
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, in 2014 the direct costs to American society of caring for those with Alzheimer's will total an estimated $214 billion, including $150 billion in costs to Medicare and Medicaid. Alzheimer's will cost an estimated $1.2 trillion (in today's dollars) in 2050.

Medicare covers short-term skilled care up to 100 days the first 20 days are covered at 100% and from day 21 to day 100 the patient (or their family) has a daily co-pay. Medicaid is a state/federal program that does pay the cost of nursing home care for eligible individuals, however the patient must meet income and resource requirements. 

Families’ and patients’ total out of pocket costs for nursing home care in 2014 is estimated at $36 billion.

Image Source: Alzheimer’s Association

If we can delay the nursing home placement of patients with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, can substantial money be saved? If Alzheimer’s and dementia patients are aging in place longer, doesn’t that mean more stress (and its inherent problems) for family caregivers?

States are seeking to provide real and meaningful support for patients and their caregivers. Many states are looking to increase their funding for community-based programs to support individuals and families facing the challenges of Alzheimer’s disease, and in doing so, significantly reduce their state’s Medicaid costs. Recently, Minnesota determined it could save almost $1 billion in Medicaid over the next decade if the state adopted a new dementia caregiver support model, according to a study published Monday in the journal Health Affairs. That support model was introduced by a program called New York University Caregiver Intervention (NYUCI).

New York University Caregiver Intervention (NYUCI) is a counseling and support intervention for spouse caregivers that is intended to improve the well-being of caregivers and delay the nursing home placement of patients with Alzheimer's disease. The program also aims to help spouse caregivers mobilize their social support network and help them better adapt to their caregiving role.

The program consists of four components:

  • Two individual counseling sessions of 1 to 3 hours tailored to each caregiver's specific situation,
  • Four family counseling sessions with the primary caregiver and family members selected by that caregiver,
  • Encouragement to participate in weekly, locally available support groups after participation in the intervention, and
  • Ad hoc counseling, counseling provided by telephone to caregivers and families whenever needed to help them deal with crises and the changing nature of their relative's symptoms.The program is delivered by counselors with advanced degrees in social work or allied professions.

In addition, many states are seeking increased funding for the Alzheimer’s Disease Community Assistance Program (AlzCAP), which provides educational initiatives and caregiver respite programs. Paired with funded public awareness campaigns, the hope is that by addressing and getting in front of the challenges of the family caregiver, the length of time before placing a care recipient into a nursing home setting can be extended, saving everyone a lot of money.

What would help you, as a caregiver, reduce your stress and help care for a family member longer? If you or someone you know is overwhelmed with the task of senior caregiving, Caregiverlist® suggests you consider the possibility of hiring respite care from a quality senior home care agency.

New Chicken Soup Tackles Alzheimer's, Dementia Care

The numbers on Alzheimer’s disease and dementia are staggering. More than 5 million American seniors are living with the Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. More than 60 percent of Alzheimer's and dementia caregivers are women. In 2013, 15.5 million caregivers provided an estimated 17.7 billion hours of unpaid care valued at more than $220 billion. It’s no wonder that the publishers at Chicken Soup for the Soul saw the need to provide support and encouragement with their trademark inspirational stories, culled from those at the front line of caregiving.

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Living with Alzheimer's & Other Dementias: 101 Stories of Caregiving, Coping and Compassion by Amy Newmark is publisher and editor-in-chief of Chicken Soup for the Soul. Angela Timashenka Geiger is Chief Strategy Officer of the Alzheimer’s Association, the world’s leading voluntary health organization in Alzheimer’s care, support, and research. After sifting through thousands of admissions, they chose 101 of the best stories for their readers.

Chicago area resident Carrie Jackson became a caregiver to her father, Henry George Jackson Jr. while he was suffering with Alzheimer’s disease. She submitted some of her stories for publication and her essay describing a nursing home visit was chosen for inclusion. Life Matters Media was given permission to share an excerpt. Because of this experience (her father passed away in 2012,) Ms. Jackson in now a certified dementia practitioner.

Chicken Soup for the Soul always asks for story and poem submissions for upcoming titles, as they did for Chicken Soup for the Soul, Family Caregiving by Joan Lunden and Amy Newmark. That collection offered support and encouragement for family caregivers of all ages, including the “sandwich” generation caring for a family member while raising their children. Stories are by and about those who are both giving and receiving care.

The Chicken Soup for the Soul, Changing Your World One Story at a Time series began in 1993 by founders and motivational speakers Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen. They had a simple idea: that people could help each other by sharing stories about their lives. With over 250 titles and over 100 million books sold to date in the U.S. and Canada, the Chicken Soup for the Soul series continues to publish first-person stories to “soothe and provide comfort, just like their grandmothers’ cooking.”

Anyone who may have gained experience as a caregiver while caring for a loved one with memory loss may consider becoming a professional senior caregiver by receiving caregiver training and certification. They can then submit a job application to be connected with hiring companies in their area.

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Living with Alzheimer’s & Other Dementias will be released April 22, 2014. You can pre-order here. All royalties from the sale of the book will go to the Alzheimer’s Association.

For the latest numbers regarding Alzheimer’s disease, watch the following video from the Alzheimer's Association: Alzheimer's Disease Facts and Figures 2014

 

Word Search + App Provides Themed Puzzles for Cognitive Exercise: Caregiverlist Senior Care App Review

Senior caregivers and their clients may find that they tire of playing the same games over and over again to keep up cognitive activity. The Word Search + app provides a fun way for seniors to exercise their brains while completing themed puzzles.

Intellectual activity stimulates the brain and keeps it functioning in top shape. Just like physical activity is required to keep the body in shape, mental exercise is required for seniors to maintain a fit brain as they age. The Word Search + app provides 16 free categories of word searches with options to play on Easy, Medium or Hard levels. Categories range from Dog Breeds to Classical Composers to Ancient Civilizations and range from puzzles with six words to 12 words depending on the level of difficulty.

Words can be displayed horizontally, vertically or diagonally within the block of text. When a user finds a word from the bank below in the puzzle, they simply select it in the puzzle by sliding their finger along the letters of the word in the puzzle to highlight it. A timer also keeps track of how quickly a user completes the quiz, in case they would like to attempt to beat their own time in the future. 

In addition to simply finding the words, caregivers and their senior clients could learn from the words in the given categories. If seniors choose a specific category for the puzzle such as Artists, as they complete the search they will look for names of famous painters which could remind them of a favorite work or peak their curiosity about an artist that they've never heard of before. After finishing the puzzle, caregivers can help their senior clients look up any topics or people generated by the quiz that they would like to learn more about. 

 

The Word Search + app is available for Apple platforms.

Senior caregivers, let us know your feedback on this app and keep us posted if you discover additional apps that assist with caregiving duties and help relieve caregiver stress. You may also refer-a-friend to a senior caregiving job and win prizes weekly and monthly on Caregiverlist. 

-Paige Krzysko

App Focuses on Therapeutic Music for Seniors With Alzheimer's Disease: Caregiverlist Senior Care App Review

Working with senior clients affected by Alzheimer's disease and dementia can be very trying for senior caregivers and the families of their senior clients. Coro Health developed an app based around music streaming as a source of calming therapy. The programs within the app are split into to distinct categories- supportive music and sundowning therapy. 

The supportive music category has subcategories called energy, relax and sleep. Once users select the mood category, they can choose a genre of music from classical, country, instrumental, pop, etc. The app features popular songs that senior clients or caregivers may know, such as Here Comes The Sun by the Beatles. The segments are organized into program lengths of about an hour, to prepare senior clients to energize for a day or give them time to wind down and relax or fall asleep. 

The sundowning therapy category can be useful to minimize behaviors such as mood swings, agitation and paranoia that stem from confusion felt by senior clients during the evening. This category features an hour long program and a program that lasts almost two and a half hours. Unlike the supportive category, no further genre choices exist because the programs are designed specifically to calm seniors experiencing sundown syndrome. 

The streaming service is available for a monthly fee of $4.99, but the first three hours of streaming through the app are free so caregivers and their senior clients can try the service before they subscribe. 

 

The Music First app is available for free for Apple platforms.

Senior caregivers, let us know your feedback on this app and keep us posted if you discover additional apps that assist with caregiving duties and help relieve caregiver stress. You may also refer-a-friend to a senior caregiving job and win prizes weekly and monthly on Caregiverlist. 

-Paige Krzysko

Seth Rogen Talks Alzheimer's to Congress

Seth Rogen, comedic actor and self-described “lazy man-child” testified before a Senate hearing on Alzheimer’s research last month. His testimony, which was deeply heartfelt yet engagingly funny, tackled the need for more funding, more research and the need to de-stigmafy Alzheimer’s and other memory loss diseases.

Rogen gained first-hand experience with Alzheimer’s disease through his now- wife, Lauren Miller’s mother, who was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s in her 50s. By the age 60, Rogen told the committee, his mother-in-law "After forgetting who she and her loved ones were...then forgot how to speak, feed herself, dress herself and go to the bathroom herself”

In an effort to raise funds, he and his wife established Hilarity for Charity, comic and music events designed to raise money and awareness of Alzheimer’s and other memory diseases among the younger generation. They also started HFC U, a nationwide program that encourages and supports college groups to “throw their very own Hilarity for Charity events to raise awareness and much needed funds for fighting Alzheimer’s Disease.”

“Americans whisper the word ‘Alzheimer’s’ because their government whispers the word ‘Alzheimer’s,’ and although a whisper is better than the silence that the Alzheimer’s community has been facing for decades, it’s still not enough,” Rogen said. “I dream of a day when my charity is no longer necessary and I can go back to being the lazy, self-involved man-child I was meant to be.” You can watch Seth Rogen’s opening statement (provided by C-SPAN3 coverage) below.

Golden Globe Winners 2015: The Year of the Nursing Home Sitcom?

The Golden Globes 2014 are done — Bye Tina Fey! So long Amy Poehler! See you next year! — and I’m sure networks are already thinking about which shows and stars might make it to the red carpet in 2015.

This year, Brooklyn Nine-Nine and its star, Andy Samberg took home Golden Globes for Best TV Comedy and Best Actor in a TV Comedy, respectively. Don’t get me wrong, I love the show and watch it whenever I can but really, hasn’t the old “detective precinct” comedy been done before? (I’m looking at you, Barney Miller.)

If you want an original workplace comedy, well, place, I’d like to present a couple of comedies I’ve discovered recently.

Approximately 1.6 million Americans over the age of 65 live in institutions such as nursing homes. 10,000 baby boomers turn 65 every day and they can expect to live to 84 years old. This means that chances are, someone you know, or you yourself, may wind up in a nursing home or extended care facility. An aging population will increase demand, but costs and limited funding will make it difficult to provide the needed level of care. Now, doesn’t that just scream comedic situations?

The Netflix Original Series Derek stars Ricky Gervais in a “comedy-drama about a loyal nursing home caretaker who sees only the good in his quirky co-workers as they struggle against prejudice and shrinking budgets to care for their elderly residents.” Derek is a simple, sweet man who loves his job at Broad Hill nursing home, along with its residents. His best friends are his co-workers, including the nursing home manager. “Best of all is Hannah (Kerry Godliman),” says Derek. “She’s the manager here and she’s the nicest person in the world. She cares for everyone.” Hannah is a model senior caregiver. “People think care means 3 meals a day and a bed. But it means caring. And if you don’t care, you shouldn’t be in the job.” According to Derek, no one in his life treats him as well as the elderly in his charge. Even as he cuts their toenails or helps them manage through traffic, he considers himself the luckiest man in the world. Mr. Gervais is all but unrecognizable from his role as the abrasive David Brent in the UK’s The Office. Although filmed in the same mockumentary style, Derek has a broad sweetness that The Office certainly didn’t have.

In Derek, “Kindness is Magic”, but this trailer is NSFW.

HBO’s Getting On, is based on the British sitcom of the same name. The creators of Big Love present this new comedy set in The Billy Barnes Extended Care Unit of a fictional Long Beach hospital where many of the female patients suffer from dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Chicago veteran stage actress and Emmy winner Laurie Metcalf (Roseanne) is beleaguered Dr. Jenna James, Alex Borstein is eager-to-please nurse Dawn Forchette, and Niecy Nash is Denise “Didi” Ortley, the elderly caregiver I’d like to hire for myself, right now.

More than anything, this show gives a great and honest glimpse into the duties and responsibilities of a caregiver a long term care setting, dealing with red tape and always in fear of losing its Medicare reimbursement. In a hilariously literal game of “telephone”, nurses try to translate an elderly woman’s Cambodian with the translation department. Nurses are overworked and underappreciated and have to fill out the proper paperwork before simply doing what is needed.

“They say extended care is boring, which it is not. It is totally where the action is,” Dawn tells Didi, while bemoaning the lack of testosterone in the department. This is a sitcom that doesn’t shirk away from showing all the difficulties inherent in the eldercare industry, from the job of toileting to the responsibility of delivering news of the death of an 87 year old “baby sister”.

Check out this trailer. It too is NSFW.

Both are worth a watch for a true look at the life of caregivers and the elderly who rely upon them.

Have you seen either of these shows? Do you think they are realistic looks at caregivers and the caregiving industry?

Senior Care Considerations During Polar Vortex

Since most of the United States is locked in the grip of a fierce “polar vortex”, or sub-zero temperatures, I thought it might be a good time to revisit special considerations of elderly care during this time of extreme weather. Here in Chicago, yesterday’s low temperature was -16F, with a windchill of -50F. Elsewhere in the Midwest and Plain states, all-time low temperature records were broken. Exposure to the elements could result in frostbite or hypothermia in just a few minutes.

The elderly are vulnerable during extreme weather, especially those with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia who are prone to wandering. In New York state, an elderly woman suffering from Alzheimer’s disease left her home and was found dead in the snow, not more than 100 yards from her door. So as the frigid temperatures make their way east and south, all the way down to Florida, be on guard for the special needs associated with the aged.

Older adults lose body heat more quickly than the young, and hypothermia can set in fast. According to Stay Safe in Cold Weather, by the National Institute on Aging, “for an older person, a body temperature colder than 95 degrees can cause many health problems such as a heart attack, kidney problems, liver damage, or worse.”

Certain medications can make it easier for the elderly to get hypothermia, so check with a physician if that’s a concern.

Keep the house warm by restricting open rooms. Shut their vents and doors to maximize heat in the living and sleeping areas. Close blinds and curtains to help eliminate drafts.

Food is fuel, so make sure the senior eats enough. Also, cold air is drier, so make sure they keep hydrated. Caregiver training recommends a senior drink 64oz. of liquid (preferably water) daily.

If space heaters are used for supplemental heat, be sure they are turned off before bed and when unattended and make sure a smoke alarm and carbon monoxide detector are nearby, as these are common concerns.

If your senior family member or client shows the following signs, call 911 immediately, as these are signs of advanced hypothermia:

  • moving slowly, trouble walking, or being clumsy
  • stiff and jerky arm or leg movements
  • slow heartbeat
  • slow, shallow breathing
  • blacking out or losing consciousness

As always, if you or a senior in your care needs special help, contact your state's Area Agency on Aging. Until this arctic weather passes (and it shall, just not soon enough!), Caregiverlist wishes all seniors and their caregivers to stay warm and safe.

 

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