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Are all nursing homes equipped to handle residents with Alzheimer's disease? Part I

Posted Mar 31 2013 12:00am



By Jack Halpern, CEO, My Elder Advocate

The answer to this question is a resounding NO. Throughout the United States, there are many thousands of people, who are afflicted with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease , and reside in nursing homes , that are not equipped to handle the special needs of this population. Instead these unfortunate souls (mostly poor) are thrown in with the general population at these facilities, and they die prematurely, not from physical illnesses , but from the rapid mental deterioration, due to the lack of meaningful therapy and stimuli.

Carl Rizzio, an elderly gentleman with advanced Alzheimer’s disease, was admitted to Mt. Sinai NY Hospital’s geriatric psychiatric locked ward, after his home health aide found him in his room “unresponsive.” I will never understand why he was placed in a locked down psych ward, other than to fill a bed. He was treated with antipsychotic drugs for 2 weeks and declared ready for discharge. Since Carl could no longer function in his home, the hospital insisted that he be sent to a nursing home. It was at this point that Mr. Rizzio’s family called me in to advocate for him.

Many families who have loved ones with Alzheimer's disease or other dementias are extremely reluctant to place them in a nursing home. The vast majority doesn’t want to do it, and many refuse to even think about it. Some feel it's the most cruel, shameful thing they could possibly do to their loved one, even if they have access to a high-quality facility nearby.

Standing back and looking at the situation more objectively, however, it becomes clear that sometimes a quality nursing home placement is the most loving course of action for the patient. In many cases, caring for the person at home actually deprives them of the amount, quality and level of care and safety they need. I have placed many homebound elders with advanced Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, into quality nursing homes, with great results

Nursing home placement should be of special consideration for patients in the mid-to-late stages of the disease. These patients desperately need so much more care than a single person or family unit -- even with some paid help coming in -- can provide. But you can only place in a facility with a great program

After assessing Carl’s needs, it became clear to me that he would function very well in a memory care unit in an assisted living facility . This is a choice that is not available to elders without means, because a well-equipped memory care unit is expensive. The costs range anywhere from $3000.00 to $8,000.00, depending on location. Medicare and Medicaid do not cover these costs.

There are 16,000 nursing homes in the USA. 80% of these facilities or about 13,000 nursing homes are for profit facilities. My Elder Advocate estimates that only 30% of these or about 4500 facilities have plus most of the not for profit facilities have dedicated, and professionally staffed Alzheimer’s and Dementia programs. These statistics are frightening, when you consider that we are still far from a cure for these illnesses.

In PART II we will discuss what the components of a good program are, and what substitutes for a program in a sub-standard nursing home.

In PART III we will find out how elders with dementia wind up in these sub-standard homes and what we can do about it.

My Elder Advocate responds nearly instantly to any elder or eldercare crisis… in order to provide nursing home intervention, arrange for immediate placements, prevent evictions from nursing homes, handle a hospital crisis, and respond to other eldercare challenges.

But we can’t solve an ugly and dangerous situation unless you contact us immediately. Often waiting a day is as harmful to a family member as taking no action at all.

If you and your family have an elder family member that is facing one of these challenges, don’t wait. We can resolve it quickly. Contact us TODAY by calling us directly at (212) 945-7550.


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