December 13, 2017
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The growing victimization of our elderly

By: Julie Ann Soukoulis
November 17, 2017
Prevention and solutions

Those born right after World War II make up millions of baby boomers. They have become the primary cause contributing to the increase in demand on America’s health care system. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that the population aged 65 and over is going to grow 17 percent between 2015 and 2020. This outpaces the current national population growth of 3.9 percent. 

Medicare beneficiaries now make up well over the 13 percent of the population aged 65 and older in 2010. This is because that figure is rising to 19 percent by 2030. Experts anticipate 76 million baby boomers will age on to Medicare in just the next few years. Estimates indicate the program will grow from 47 million today to around 80 million by 2030. 

       Demographic trends Recent trends in population demographics seems to be one of the many reasons why health care costs are surging. Currently our elderly individuals receive most of their health care services within myriad of settings with a particularly high volume of medical bills. 

Despite the fact that older adults comprise a mere 12 percent of the population, they account for at least 26 percent of all doctor office visits. This means they utilize 47 percent of all hospital outpatient visits with nurse practitioners;

35 percent of all hospital stays

34 percent of all prescriptions 

38 percent of all emergency medical service responses and 

90 percent of all nursing home use

Regardless of the obvious steep incline in America’s elderly population, Medicare spending only (the primary health insurance used by most elderly individuals) grows by 8 percent each year. The Institute of Medicine (IOM) recently warned that critical action is mandatory. The healthcare workforce lacks the capacity (both size and ability) to deliver the needs of older patients in the future. In order to prevent deeper problems caused from major shortages, it is necessary to take specific steps to increase workforce numbers. The focus is to use every worker much more efficiently, if this crisis is to be resolved.

Efficiency concerns underlie entire nursing home and long-term care system liability issues.   

 Presented with accelerating costs and our increasingly intense demands for services, means that institutions for elderly individuals sometimes find it difficult to satisfy the standard of care. This has started accelerating during the last 20 years. This meant that concerns about the abuse of nursing home residents have received more focused legal attention. 

Studies expose violations

Recent reports have been unclear as to whether abuse rates have lowered recently. The 2001 congressional report showed that 5,283—approximately 30 percent—of U.S. nursing homes were cited for an elder abuse violation between January 1999 and January 2001. Over 2,500 of the violations were serious enough to place residents in immediate jeopardy of death or serious injury. 

Similar studies show that company incidence reports indicate 7.6 to 10 percent of all participants had actually experienced abuse within the prior year. Our elder abuse violations take many forms. Physical abuses include hitting, slapping, burning or kicking. Other heinous abuses include emotional manipulation —name-calling, insulting or embarrassing comments, even preventing an individual from communicating with family and friends. Liability cases arise from neglect, often involving a failure to meet an elder’s individual basic needs and working to protect them from harm. 

Common issues undermining nursing home and long-term care facilities that lead to litigation include; feeding tube choking, patient elopement, injuries caused by falls, improper use of physical or chemical restraints (used for purposes of patient discipline or provider convenience), scalding from bathing, bed sores, pressure sores, malnutrition, dehydration and medication errors. Most of these previous medical errors are considered basic fundamentals for quality care, and are preventable by nature. These events are also categorized as “Never Events,” i.e.; errors that should never occur in any health care system. 

Prevention and implementing solutions

These events are devastating to elderly individuals. In response, nursing home and long-term care providers are facing intense pressure to eliminate them completely. Also, both private health insurers and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) have created clear policies. These policies will not reimburse providers for additional costs connected with preventable errors like Never Events. Thanks to these new policies, facilities who commit malpractice now have to write-off and absorb any costs connected to an avoidable error.

Elder abuse is especially upsetting because elderly and disabled residents of nursing homes cannot usually protect themselves from physical attack or sexual assault. Individuals are often physically or mentally unable to communicate to family members that they suffered abuse. This means residents and their families are unusually dependent on nursing home staff to guarantee the safety of residents. Recruiting, training and retaining frontline nursing staff is critical for institutions to ensure patients continue to receive high-quality, skilled nursing care. 

Research shows us that elderly individuals who experience even minimal levels of abuse - are shown to have a 300 percent higher risk of death when compared to those who have never been victimized. While health care costs continue spiraling upward and significant numbers and members of our current population enter nursing homes or long-term care facilities - it is even more critical than ever that financial resources be diverted in order to identify and mitigate risk management concerns in order to ensure the highest quality of care for aging Americans. 

Much of this information was obtained from articles written by Annemarie Kelly, a practicing attorney, professor of legal studies at Kaplan University and member of the Michigan Department of Community Health’s Third Party Liability Division. 

Julie Ann Soukoulis is the owner of Home Instead Senior care office in Rohnert Park, mother of two and passionate about healthy living at all ages. Having cared for her own two parents, she understands your struggles and aims, through her website, to educate and encourage seniors & caregivers. Have a caregiving or aging concern? She’s love to hear from you at 586-1516 anytime.