nursing homes

  1. The deadly 'new' superbug -- and how to avoid it

    Going to the hospital is supposed to be the beginning of your recovery -- but for millions of us, it's the beginning of a nightmare.

    Close to 2 million Americans get infections in hospitals that they didn't have when they walked in, and close to 100,000 die of them.

    These people are literally killed by dirty rooms and careless care -- and new numbers from the CDC show that one bug in particular is responsible for a shocking percentage of those illnesses and deaths.

    Clostridium difficile, or C-diff for short, caused 336,600 illnesses in 2009 alone, more than double the 139,000 people infected by the bacteria in 2000. And the number of deaths from the bug has skyrocketed, from 2,700 in 2000 to more than 14,000 in 2009.

    People don't get C-diff at home. They don't pick it up in airports. And, no, they don't get it from dirty gas station bathrooms either. Nope. According to the CDC, 94 percent of all C-diff cases are connected to hospitals, nursing homes, and other care facilities.

    The bug is spread by contact with poop, which shows you the importance of washing your hands. And once it's on someone's hands, the spores can transfer onto walls, counters, doors, bedframes, and more -- and live on those surfaces for months at a time, resisting nearly every cleaner except for bleach.

    Inside the body, it's even stronger -- resistant to most drugs and even thriving after you take an antibiotic, since those meds will wipe out the friendly gut bacteria that can keep invaders like C-diff in check.

    Obviously, that means the best way to avoid C-diff completely is to avoid both hospitals and antibiotics.

    But that's not possible for everyone. Life happens. We get sick. We get hospitalized. And sometimes, even those of us who manage to avoid meds most of the time end up taking an antibiotic.

    And that's why you shouldn't wait to arm yourself -- take action now to protect your gut from everyday bacterial invaders, and you'll also make it better able to withstand the assault of an antibiotic.

    Dr. Mark Stengler, a leading naturopath, says that anyone taking an antibiotic needs a probiotic -- and not just any old off-the-shelf supplement (and certainly not the worthless little "probiotic" yogurts).

    Instead, take a probiotic that's actually been tested in human studies -- and even more importantly, keep taking it for at least a month after your antibiotic prescription has ended.

    Dr. Stengler added that the best probiotic for fighting C-diff is Sacharomyces boulardii -- so if you're spending any time in a care facility, be sure that one's at the top of your list.

  2. Dementia patients are being drugged to death

    It's bad enough that up to a third of all dementia patients in nursing homes are given powerful antipsychotic meds despite the fact that they're not approved for dementia.

    But what makes this one far worse -- what makes it a crime in my book -- is that doctors know these drugs can dramatically boost the risk of death in these patients, and they keep giving them out anyway.

    Now, a new look at data on more than 75,000 nursing home patients finds that one antipsychotic drug in particular is even worse than the rest.

    Researchers say Haldol -- aka haloperidol -- can more than double the risk of death in dementia patients, a risk that's even higher when you realize that's not compared to a control group of patients who were given no meds at all.

    It's compared to patients given risperidone, part of a class of meds called atypical antipsychotics. And as a class, these meds are known to increase the risk of death in dementia patients by up to a staggering 70 percent.

    It's like one death risk piled on top of another.

    The researchers behind the new study claim the "safest" drug is Seroquel, but that doesn't make it "safe." None of these drugs are 100% "safe," and there's a reason they haven't been approved for dementia care: They don't work, either.

    There's no evidence these drugs lead to better outcomes or improved symptoms, but nursing homes rely on them anyway because they're great for one thing: Silence.

    These drugs are used almost as tranquilizers for dementia patients that are simply too much to handle or even patients who complain too much.

    Some of the stories I've heard on how these meds are used are outrageous, and you can read more about dementia overmedication abuses here.

    In reality, even the most hard-to-handle dementia patients don't need these drugs, because studies have shown there's a much simpler way to keep them calm and happy.

    It starts with giving them a little more attention, care and sympathy. It might sound basic, but caregivers who pay attention can learn which objects and events trigger certain reactions in dementia patients -- and then learn to minimize them or avoid them completely.

    Combine that approach with a comfortable routine and a calm environment, and you can give dementia patients everything they need without the risks of dangerous and unapproved meds.

    Don't they deserve at least that much?

  3. How toilets spread disease

    British researchers recently conducted a series of tests on toilet seats -- and before you dismiss this as a bit of wacky and unnecessary research, check out what they learned: Toilets can spread potentially deadly bacteria when the lid is up.
  4. The great nursing home swindle

    It's the biggest scandal -- and the biggest swindle -- you've never heard of: Dementia patients are being shipped back and forth between nursing homes and hospitals in a calculated attempt to raise their cash value.

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