dementia patients

  1. Drop everything and read this

    Antipsychotic med doubles the risk of death

    If you have a loved one battling dementia in a care facility, drop what you're doing and check his or her list of meds.

    The word you're looking for is "haloperidol" (a.k.a. Haldol). It's an antipsychotic drug, and if it's on the list, demand that it be taken off RIGHT NOW. A new look at data on more than 75,000 dementia patients has found that this drug doesn't just increase their risk of death -- it can double it.

    And if you think that's shocking, you ain't seen nothing yet.

    That 50-percent increased risk is compared to risperidone, part of a class of meds called atypical antipsychotics. And, as a class, these meds can boost the risk of death in dementia patients by as much as 70 percent.

    The study in BMJ finds that the risk is highest in the first 40 days and that Seroquel is the "safest" of the antipsychotic meds. But don't kid yourself, because "safest" doesn't mean "safe." We're dealing with a lesser of evils here.

    To add insult to injury, along with that sky-high risk of death, one study found dementia patients who get antipsychotics also have double the risk of pneumonia.

    And here's the final straw: These drugs are completely unapproved for dementia patients in the first place because they're clinically shown to do nothing for the condition itself.

    Even the FDA has warned against it (and that's saying something). Yet a third of all dementia patients in care facilities are getting these meds every single day.

    That's because while antipsychotic drugs do nothing for the dementia, they're great at creating quiet, compliant, zombie-like patients who need as little care from the "care" facility as possible.

    Easier patients means fewer caretakers.

    Yup, like everything else, this is all about saving a few bucks. And I'm sure they're charging your insurance company top dollar for this level of "care" to boot.

    We know what helps dementia patients, and it's the hands-on care that requires an actual staff willing to give every patient the time and attention he deserves. (Read more about back-to-basics dementia care here.)

    If your loved one isn't getting a daily dose of TLC instead of meds, find a new care home -- one that actually cares.

  2. Squeezing cash out of dementia patients

    How nursing homes exploit their sickest residents

    Dementia patients are being used as pawns in a highly profitable game of musical beds -- helping nursing homes to triple their revenues in a scam that you're just not going to believe.

    Here's how it works: A dementia patient on his own, laying in a bed in a nursing home, will bring in $175 a day in Medicare payments.

    That may sound like plenty -- $1225 for a single week -- but it's not the kind of money that earns big bonuses for nursing home executives at the end of the year, even in a joint with hundreds of these patients.

    So they devise a reason to send the patient off to the hospital -- because when he gets back to the nursing home after that little trip, his value skyrockets.

    Now, at least on paper, he needs "skilled care" in that nursing home -- so Medicare will pay TRIPLE the fees... even if it turns out that "skilled care" is exactly what the patient would have received if he had never left the nursing home in the first place.

    It sounds like something the Enron boys would have schemed up, and the similarities don't end there. It's Medicare, after all, and that means you're the one ultimately footing the bill.

    You'll find all the details of this massive hoodwink in the latest New England Journal of Medicine, which finds that 19 percent of advanced dementia patients in nursing homes are sent off for dubious hospitalizations near the end of their lives -- with some being moved back and forth multiple times in the space of just a few months.

    These patients are sent to the hospital for conditions that are routinely and easily treated by nursing homes all the time: pneumonia, infections, swallowing problems, and dehydration, just to name a few.

    They should be getting that care from the relative comfort of a familiar face in a familiar place.

    Instead, they're being exploited in the name of cold, hard cash.

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