The Senior Watchdog has not always been a big fan of nursing homes.  If you've been following these blogs, you've read about the horrific kinds of abuse that can happen in these places. 

As it turns out, however, some nursing homes can actually be Great Places!  Here's one of them:

For the past dozen years, Beatitudes provides a unique program of "person-centered" care: Dementia residents are allowed pretty much anything that provides comfort--even alcohol.  Tena Alonzo, director of research notes, "Whatever your vice is, we're your folks. 

And why not?  There's no cure for Alzheimer's, and no effective medical treatment for sufferers.  Researchers are finding that creating positive emotional experiences for Alzheimer's patients diminishes distress and behavior problems that are frequent side effects of these diseases. 
Once, Alonzo says, "The state tried to cite us for having chocolate on the nursing chart. They were like, 'It's not a medication.' Yes, it is. It's better than Xanax."

Beatitudes eliminated anything potentially considered restraining, from deep-seated wheelchairs that hinder standing up to bedrails (some beds are lowered and protected by mats).  Perhaps most important, the center drastically reduced dosing of residents with antipsychotics and medications considered primarily for "staff convenience," focusing on relieving pain, according to Alonzo.

The National Institute on Aging and the Administration on Aging are studying "Things that . . . make the life of an Alzheimer's patient and his or her caregiver less burdensome," says Sidney Stahl, chief of the Individual Behavioral Processes branch of the Institute on Aging.
Techniques include using food, scheduling, art, music and exercise to generate positive emotions; engaging patients in activities that salvage fragments of their skills; and helping caregivers to be more accepting and competent.

And at Beatitudes, the occasional cocktail or Snickers bar!

I’m mad as hell about the way our elderly population—our parents, relatives, our senior relatives and friends—are shoved aside, tormented, victimized and abused.  They’re perfect targets for this kind of treatment, particularly if they’re living in a so-called “care” facility, such as a nursing home.  After all, seniors are committed to these places because they need assistance with “Activities of Daily Living”—the “tasks of everyday life,” such as eating, dressing, preparing meals, managing money, and shopping, which are required skills for independent living.  

When our elderly loved ones are unable to handle the activities of daily living, they are, to some degree, helpless—which makes them perfect targets for mistreatment.


Kristine Williams is a University of Kansas School of Nursing researcher.  After spending several years studying how we communicate with older people, she's found that "Elderspeak"—using baby talk and demeaning names (for example, “Sweetie” or “Dearie”)--is pervasive in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. 
Williams analyzed everyday interactions between nursing home residents with dementia and their caregivers.  When the staff used “Elderspeak,” residents were twice as likely to be uncooperative as when they were spoken to in a normal adult tone.  They showed their displeasure by pushing away, issuing threats, grabbing things, clenching their teeth, crying and screaming, hitting and kicking.

“People with dementia realize they’re losing their cognitive abilities. One of their challenges is to maintain their sense of identity. If they’re talked to like an infant, it can be very disturbing,” Williams says.  “They recognize they’re being talked down to, and they find it patronizing and demeaning.”
What should family members do when they witness “Elderspeak?”  "Try and tell (the caregivers) a little bit about your loved ones, that they were a high-functioning adult," Williams recommends.  "Get them thinking more of the person in terms of that competent adult framework. That might be a better approach."

We at Great Places are appalled every time a senior is mistreated.  That's why we'll name names, publish mug shots and describe in detail the abuses they suffer.  THE SENIOR WATCHDOG is on the case.

"Elderspeak" is just one of the many outrages that helpless seniors are forced to endure in nursing homes.  NEXT, we'll reveal some disturbing news about California home healthcare aides.

I’m mad as hell about the way our elderly population—our parents, relatives, all our senior relatives and friends—are shoved aside, tormented, victimized and abused.  Why, you may ask, are we so angry about how our seniors are treated? 

Here’s a recent example:  The State of California provides home care for its elders, yet allows convicted felons to participate in the program.  I’m serious: you can’t make this stuff up.

In home health care provides services that promote, maintain or restore the health of older adults in their own homes. The assistance may range from cleaning and home maintenance to personal care, including dressing, grooming, meal preparation, bathing, and the like.  In-home care enables seniors to maintain their independence, remain in their homes, receive the care they require, and avoid the trauma of nursing home living.  This sounds pretty good; but what if felons are allowed to be “caregivers?”  That’s the unfortunate situation in California.

The Los Angeles “Times” recently reported that “Scores of people convicted of crimes such as rape, elder abuse and assault with a deadly weapon are permitted to care for some of California’s most vulnerable residents as part of the government’s home health aide program,” including at least 210 of these “caregivers” who were determined to be “unsuitable” to work in the program, yet permitted to begin or continue employment. 

Imagine, if you can, the outrage of a child of an elder participating in this program, living in say, Chile or Vietnam, when she read this article.

Compounding the problem is the fact that privacy laws prevent notification of the “elderly, infirm and disabled clients” that their in-home health aides may be a dangerous felon, such as: 


·        A woman convicted of assault with a deadly weapon, forging drug prescriptions, and selling drugs;

·        A person convicted of welfare fraud, willfully threatening bodily harm, drug possession and two counts of burglary;

·        A man convicted of raping a three-year-old child.


Laura West, a Sacramento prosecutor, reports that she is prosecuting three caregivers for fraud against the system, one of whom has been convicted of armed robbery and assault with a deadly weapon; another has committed identify theft; and the third is a drug dealer.  West deadpans:  “Can you do this job if you burned down someone’s house? Yes. Murdered someone? Yes. Raped a three-year-old child? Yes.”


While Governor Schwarzenegger and the California legislature struggle to find a solution for this problem, help is available. offers a free background check for potential in-home healthcare aides. 
The service is available online at the firm’s 

We at Great Places are appalled by how our seniors are victimized--and we won't be quiet when government itself allows infirm seniors to be harmed by its own programs.  The SENIOR WATCHDOG is on the case.