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Managing the Elderly

Consequently, too many of our elderly end up being dismissed in our society forgotten as it were, as if their lives have somehow become meaningless and intrusive for the rest of us, once they reach a certain age or physical inability.


by M. J. Joachim

If you’ve ever visited a nursing home, you’ve probably seen the disconnected looks on the faces of a significant portion of America’s aging population. It is not by accident that many of these people, patients of their caregivers, are completely incapacitated and unable to function or think clearly. While it is easy to attribute their inabilities to old age and its many related ailments, it is foolish to dismiss their unresponsiveness so quickly.

According to the Nursing Home Abuse Center, “Unfortunately, however, giving patients the wrong medication, or overmedicating patients are too—frequent forms of nursing home abuse in poorly managed and operated nursing homes.” Medicare, defined as a federally funded program to help pay for the health expenses of the elderly, more times than not, picks up the tab for the use, misuse and abuse related to medicating the elderly in nursing homes. According to the United States Office of Inspector General, “A little more than half of the antipsychotic drug claims for which Medicare paid should not have been covered because the claimed drugs were not used for medically accepted indications or not documented as provided to patients.”

Consider the fact that government and large drug companies recognize large profits from medicating the elderly, both in and out of nursing homes, through Medicare claims that pay for those medications with tax dollars. Aches, pains, illness and disease are an expected part of the aging process. Helping the elderly with pain management and providing services and tools, to make it easier for them to continue functioning in society, is a reasonable thing to do.

Incapacitating the elderly, drugging them to the point of incoherency and even death, in an effort to manipulate and manage their physical bodies, with no regard to their mental and emotional state of mind, heart and soul, goes completely against respecting and dignifying these people who have contributed so much to society throughout their lives. The FDA has repeatedly issued a strong warning against giving antipsychotic drugs to patients with dementia, because of the increased risk of death associated with effects from doing so.

Institutionalizing the elderly is common practice for many families. Some of these families are limited in their ability to care for their aging relatives. Others prefer not to be burdened, opting for the out-of-sight/out-of-mind scenario. Consequently, too many of our elderly end up being dismissed in our society, forgotten as it were, as if their lives have somehow become meaningless and intrusive for the rest of us, once they reach a certain age or physical inability.

However, it seems imperative to remember that our elderly population still has numerous things to contribute to our well-being and functionality. They are the bearers of experience, wisdom gained through many years of trial and error, success and failure. It’s true. Many of them suffer the physical and mental effects of aging. However, that is not a reason to dismiss them or send them off to la-la land. If anything, it’s a reason respect, dignify and care for them even more. 



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