The prevalent use of forced arbitration agreements by corporations continues to plague our society.  Not only are they used in long-term care facilities like nursing homes, they are also used in big businesses such as banks.  Just last week, Wells Fargo took the heat in hearing rooms of congress and national television alike for scamming thousands of customers with fake accounts.

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After the Wells Fargo scandal earlier this year in which the company admitted that its bankers created millions of fraudulent accounts, Wells Fargo is once again in the public eye for its attempt to stay out of courts by forcing the customers of these fraudulent accounts into closed door arbitration agreements. When existing customers were set up with fake accounts, they were entered into a new contract that required any disputes to be handled through arbitration and out of the court room. This new contract left existing customers dealing with an agreement that they never signed. The unfairness of this situation has left many customers without the legal rights to address the issue of fraudulent accounts in the court room or through a class action. Several Democrats have expressed their concern at the unfairness of these arbitration agreements and have advocated for legislation that provides remedies to those who were forced into these binding contracts without their consent. For example, California state Senator Bill Dodd introduced a bill to “override forced-arbitration clauses in contracts created through fraud”. This type of legislation would allow law suits to be brought against companies committing fraud despite the arbitration agreements in the customer’s contracts.

An editorial by the LA Times also disagrees with Wells Fargo’s ability to force their customers into arbitration for accounts their customers did not create, especially when these arbitration agreements are usually meant to favor the business rather than the consumer. Leaders such as Representative Brad Sherman and Senator Sherrod Brown have proposed similar bills to that of Senator Dodd’s, hoping to bar banks from requiring arbitration agreements in the future. Since these arbitration agreements are an attempt by Wells Fargo to stay out of the court room and settle disputes privately, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has proposed to prohibit banks from blocking future class action lawsuits brought on by customers. This will allow class actions to serve as a check on bank’s actions.

Similar to Wells Fargo’s practice of forcing their customers into arbitration agreements before doing business with them, some nursing homes and skilled living facilities also have their incoming patients sign into similar arbitration agreements before being admitted. These types of agreements are unfair to residents of these facilities since they are denied full legal remedies in the event that they are wrongfully treated. If their needs are not taken care of properly or they experience abuse and/or neglect residents with an arbitration agreement often find it difficult to pursue legal measures against the facilities that wronged them. These arbitration agreements create a legal barrier around these facilities, aiding them in avoiding law suits if they commit elder abuse or neglect towards their residents.

Falling is a common occurrence and a serious problem among the elderly population.  A myriad of studies has found that the use of psychotropic drugs on older adult patients in nursing homes significantly increases the risk of falling.  A recent study published by the Journal of the American Medical Directors Association (JAMDA) examined the relationship between fall occurrence and the prescription of psychotropic drugs and various categories of psychotropic drugs, such as antidepressants, antipsychotics, and benzodiazepines, among a representative nursing home population.

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With more than 47 million people worldwide suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia there is a growing need to identify the cause of these diseases as well as treatments for them. Millions of dollars have gone into the improvement of technologies and the research of brain mapping. At the USC Stevens Neuroimaging and Informatics Institute, Arthur Toga and Paul Thompson have been leading projects that are changing the world of neuroimaging. Toga and his team of researchers are on a quest to use digital imaging to map the brain. They believe that this type of detailed brain mapping will lead to solutions for neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Dementia. Recent developments have led these scientists closer to the goal of better understanding these diseases and providing a breakthrough in how to prevent them.
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As we begin to age our bodies react to the changing conditions and often sleep disturbances can begin to occur. The effects of aging can have an impact on the sleep cycles of the elderly. Sleep disturbances, common amongst seniors, bring about less meaningful REM sleep and shorter sleep periods in general. This puts them at risk of developing serious health conditions and increases the risk of injuries.

While the elderly need about 7-9 hours of sleep a night, many of them do not manage to sleep undisturbed for this long. About 50% of elders’ experience sleep insomnia and about 30% suffer from excessive daytime sleepiness. Both insomnia and excessive daytime sleepiness can bring about muscle strength loss, impaired mobility and balance, slower gait speed and awareness, often leading to accidents that could injure a senior. Other conditions, such as increased inflammation or insulin resistance, can also develop from these sleep disturbances.
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An increase in the health of the elderly population has produced a spike in the number of elderly that undergo surgery at an older age. Elderly who are candidates for major surgery often run great risks that are increased when partnered with frailty. Frailty in s can increase the risk of complications during medical procedures and surgery, or with the prescription of medications. Yet, within the surgery population, frailty is believed to be seriously under recognized, leading to a lack of proper preparation of these patients. Diagnosing an elderly patient with frailty early on can seriously reduce the risk of unforeseen complications post medical procedures.

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A billionaire owner of one of America’s biggest nursing home chains has just been convicted of intentionally overbilling federal healthcare programs.  According to a recent article from Forbes, the Life Care Centers of America owner, Forrest Preston, has agreed to pay $145 million to settle the government lawsuit.  This settlement, announced on October 24th, is by far the largest ever obtained by the Department of Justice from a nursing home company.

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Older adults are the fastest growing segment of our population and one the most vulnerable group of people in the world. Older adults are most likely to suffer from chronic health problems.  More than half are patients with a dementing illness, and half of those people are at high risk of being victims of abuse or neglect.  Financial abuse of elderly Americans is usually difficult to identify, commonly hidden by fear and shame and far too often quieted by the debilitation of mental impairment.  Yet the abuse is as commonplace as it is reprehensible—and appalling.  A recent study found that older adults are scammed out of almost $3 billion every year.  It is likely that this is only the tip of the iceberg, however, because most financial elder abuse cases are never reported.

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One of the primary health issues in the United States that significantly affects the older adult population is diabetes mellitus. Not only is this disease related to premature aging, chronic diabetes is related to serious physical and cognitive problems as well, particularly among people with poor blood glucose metabolism.  Furthermore, the danger of uncontrolled diabetes is reduced quality of life and increased healthcare expenses.

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Diabetes is characterized by high blood glucose levels and is the most common age-related disorder of the endocrine system. Diabetes is found in an estimated 10% of people between the ages of 56 and 64, 20% in those ages 65 to 74, and 40% in those over the age of 85. Approximately 24 million people in the US have this disorder.

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