Sunday, September 21, 2014

An Optimum Age to Die?

A more positive way perhaps to word the question might be "how old do you want to live to be?"  The Atlantic ran an article that phrased it a bit differently, but still focused on at what age is long lived enough?  The author, Ezekiel Emanuel, serves as Director, Clinical Bioethics Department, National Institutes of Health & chairs U. of Pa. Department of Medical Ethics & Health Policy. Why I Hope to Die at 75 appeared in the September 17, 2014 issue.  Dr. Emanuel writes about his decision that 75 is his "magic number" and how others have tried to convince him that he should change his mind on this.  Why 75? He explains

By the time I reach 75, I will have lived a complete life. I will have loved and been loved. My children will be grown and in the midst of their own rich lives. I will have seen my grandchildren born and beginning their lives. I will have pursued my life’s projects and made whatever contributions, important or not, I am going to make. And hopefully, I will not have too many mental and physical limitations. Dying at 75 will not be a tragedy. Indeed, I plan to have my memorial service before I die. And I don’t want any crying or wailing, but a warm gathering filled with fun reminiscences, stories of my awkwardness, and celebrations of a good life. After I die, my survivors can have their own memorial service if they want—that is not my business.

He makes it clear that he is not supporting physician-aided dying and if he lives past 75, so be it-he's not going to take steps to end his life. Where his wish comes into play is the type of health care he will consent to receiving once he hits that age.  He argues that more years don't necessarily mean good years, noting that seventy is NOT the "new fifty".  Although older folks may be more active or in better health, there is still a rise in disability which he points to as a reason that the focus shouldn't just be on quantity.  He quotes another expert, "health care hasn’t slowed the aging process so much as it has slowed the dying process."  The fact of living longer but more incapacitated holds no appeal for him. 

Dr. Emanuel looks at examples of health care issues, such as stroke and dementia, using statistics and real stories to illustrate his point.  Regarding Alzheimer's, after citing to statistics on the correlation between aging and dementia, he offers

[e]ven if we aren’t demented, our mental functioning deteriorates as we grow older. Age-associated declines in mental-processing speed, working and long-term memory, and problem-solving are well established. Conversely, distractibility increases. We cannot focus and stay with a project as well as we could when we were young. As we move slower with age, we also think slower.

He also discusses the correlation between age and creativity-an inverse relationship it seems--the older you are, the less creative, unless you are one of those rare individuals (we all know of someone quite famous who did something remarkably creative at an advanced age---think Grandma Moses).

As we age, to accommodate our "current selves" we constrict how we live, and as Dr. Emanuel describes, we find ourselves "aspiring to and doing less and less".  Yet we each enjoy different things. This calls to mind some of the arguments we hear about the use of substituted judgment in health care/end of life decision-making. We each define a quality of life in different ways, and Dr. Emanuel recognizes that his view may be a bit harsh.

Yet, he contends, it is not about the elder individual racking up the years.  There is a burden on the family to be considered, and he says "I will leave aside the very real and oppressive financial and caregiving burdens that many, if not most, adults in the so-called sandwich generation are now experiencing, caught between the care of children and parents. Our living too long places real emotional weights on our progeny."

Back to his plan when he reaches 75. As far as health care, here is his plan: to "stop getting any regular preventive tests, screenings, or interventions ... [and] accept only palliative—not curative—treatments if ... suffering pain or other disability."  He makes it clear that this is his view and he respects the views of others that are contrary to his.

This article provides a wealth of topics for discussions with our students and is worthwhile reading, even though you may hold a contrary view to Dr. Emanuel.

September 21, 2014 in Advance Directives/End-of-Life, Cognitive Impairment, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Health Care/Long Term Care | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Institute of Medicine-New report: Committee on Approaching Death

The Institute of Medicine of the National Academies has released a new report on end of life issues. The report, Dying in America: Improving Quality and Honoring Individual Preferences Near the End of Life  was released on September 17, 2014. The report brief offers an explanation of the importance of this new survey, including the sheer numbers of American elders who are living with some limitations on ADLs, chronic illness, cognitive issues and more.  As well the report points to issues with the health care system, including problems in accessing care, a lack of palliative care specialists and knowledge about end of life care, and a health care system that works out of sync, with economic incentives. The brief concludes with a call for "person-centered, family-oriented approach that honors individual preferences and promotes quality of life through the end of life [as] ... a national priority."  The report is "a comprehensive assessment of the knowledge gaps, structural problems, and financial disincentives that hamper delivery of optimal care and makes cross-sectoral recommendations to achieve compassionate, affordable, sustainable, and effective care for all Americans."

The website also includes a link to key findings, core components, an infographic and a quiz (5 questions) which is suitable for use in class.

The full report may be purchased as a book or downloaded as a pdf for free (registration is required).
Thanks to Charlie Sabatino for alerting me to this!

September 18, 2014 in Advance Directives/End-of-Life, Cognitive Impairment, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Health Care/Long Term Care | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Moving Video from Cleveland Clinic

If you haven't seen this yet, it's worth watching--and showing to your class. Titled Empathy: The Human Connection to Patient Care, the video runs just over 4 minutes. It can be accessed here.

(Thanks to Judy Stein, Executive Director for the Center for Medicare Advocacy (CMA) for sharing this).

September 17, 2014 in Advance Directives/End-of-Life, Cognitive Impairment, Consumer Information, Health Care/Long Term Care | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, September 15, 2014

Tailoring Powers of Attorney: Beyond the Minimum Statutory Requirements

One of our great readers, attorney Paul Meints from Bloomington, Illinois, has shared ideas about how to make Powers of Attorney (POAs) more responsive to practical concerns, including  the possibility that when tough times eventually occur, the principal may fail to realize or recognize his or her own waning abilities, including the ability to drive safely.  Here is language Paul has tailored to address these potential concerns:

Inability to Function as Principal; Inability to Operate a Motor Vehicle in a Safe and Proper Manner:

My successor Agent or My Attorney may execute and deliver an Affidavit that I am unwilling or unable to serve or to continue to serve, and such affidavit shall be conclusive evidence insofar as third parties are concerned of the facts set forth therein, and in such event any person acting in reliance upon such affidavit shall incur no liability to my estate because of such reliance.  The decision as to determining my inability (1) to properly, prudently, and fully function as Principal and/or (2) to operate a motor vehicle shall be made by a Committee consisting of three of the persons [or such person’s designee] named on page one together with one other person selected by my attorney or the family committee.  I authorize all health care providers who may have provided, or be providing me with any type of health care (physical and mental), to disclose all direct or Protected Health Information (HIPAA/PHI) to each member of the family committee.  If, in the Committee's sole and ab­solute judgment, I am so incapacitated by reason of illness, age, or other cause that I am incapable of expending funds for my own use and benefit or am not giving prompt attention to my financial affairs,  then my successor agent is authorized to act on my behalf.  If, in the Committee's sole and ab­solute judgment, I am so incapacitated by reason of illness, age, or other cause that I am incapable of operating a motor vehicle in a safe, proper, and prudent manner, then my successor agent, My Attorney, or both are authorized to release and terminate my driving privileges.

I like the fact that this language realizes that not all agents will feel comfortable making decisions on sensitive matters by acting alone, and that the POA actually provides guidance for how to make an ulitimate decision about the principal's inability to handle finances or drive. In essence, this POA would appear to permit the agent to override the principal's resistence. Thanks for sharing this language, Paul.  Reactions from other readers?  Would your state recognize the vailidity of such language? 

September 15, 2014 in Cognitive Impairment, Estates and Trusts, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, September 8, 2014

Living In the Moment--When a Family Member Has Dementia

Have you ever considered the similarities between caregiving and improv? Probably not--who would-they certainly seem to be quite dissimilar occupations. Yet when you think about their characteristics, they are quite similar.   The website, In the Moment, which is focused on "creative ideas for training staff" lists on the landing page characteristics that apply to both, including being flexible, adaptable, courageous, spontaneous, generous, selfless and trusting.

So the idea is very intriguing. Wonder how the founder came up with this concept?  She talks about receiving a phone call almost a decade and a half ago about her mom about her dad's imminent death:

and within twenty four hours ... was on a plane flying to be with ... family and wait for ... Dad to pass away. During that time of sitting, laughing, thinking, crying and rambling -[she]...realized that the world of Improvisation was very similar to the world of caregiving and Alzheimer's disease and dementia.... [unsure] why the idea hit ... then, maybe it was divine inspiration, maybe someone was telling [her] the reason why [her] ... Dad had Alzheimer's or maybe [she] ...was sleep deprived. Probably all of the above... [Having]... attended a lot of very informative and well executed workshops and trainings... [yet] not a very good learner... [she] remember[s] sitting in a class and listening to the instructor talking about effective communication with persons with dementia."

Then inspiration struck, as she says in her own words  "[a]ll  I could think of was how tired I was of sitting . If she would just do this improv exercise it would illustrate her point more clearly and get everyone up and moving. Hmmmm...." She wrote grant applications, with this excerpt from her abstract, explaining the parallels

The rules of Improvisation parallel the “ rules “ of Caregiving for a person with Alzheimer’s. Each rule of Improv has exercises, hands on techniques to illustrate points of care. Improv itself teaches characteristics that are essential to the caregiver : listening, validation, accepting others’ realities, problem solving and creativity to name only a few. I see improvisation as another tool for caregivers and for trainers to use to create a better quality of life for each person with Alzheimer’s. I want to clarify that this this is not training of how to do Improvisation. But training that uses Improvisation to teach Alzheimer care.

The "rules" she references can be accessed here. The website also provides information about the 6 week training program, training tips, and other resources. Ultimately, the goal of this project is to "[e]Employ ... theater games with creativity exercises ... [to] provide[] caregivers with the methods to become better at what they do." 

Live in the moment--and enjoy that moment with a family member who has dementia---very good advice indeed.

 

September 8, 2014 in Cognitive Impairment, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Games | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, September 5, 2014

Technology for Caregiving-A Tool, Not A Replacement?

We have several posts about the use of technology in caregiving.  I cover it in my classes (do you?) and in particular, I want my students to think about consent, privacy and autonomy.  Several years ago, there were stories about PARO, a therapeutic interactive robot designed to resemble a baby harp seal, and its use with certain individuals, including those residing in nursing homes.  (The company website has quite a bit of information about PARO, including research papers.)  There are lots of different types of technologies available, whether assistive or monitoring. 

A recent article in the San Jose Mercury News  (and picked up by my local paper, the Tampa Bay Times) Meet Paro, a robot designed to help the elderly, reports on the results from using Paro in a local retirement community.    This article looks at the issues of ethics as well as how the use of such "socially assistive" robots results in less isolation for some residents.  The story highlights the interactions of some residents with the robot.  The article also reviews the debate regarding using such robots.  For example, Sherry Turkle, an MIT social scientist is quoted in the article offering a concern that

"faux relationships" with machines may detract from human connections..."It's not just that older people are supposed to be talking. Younger people are supposed to be listening... [and] ... [w]e are showing very little interest in what our elders have to say." Robots like Paro may offer comfort to isolated seniors, Turkle has written, but it could "make us less likely to look for other solutions for their care."

Another expert, Professor Maja Mataric,  offers a counter-view, that such robots provide both "valuable reinforcement and motivation" and notes that

While robots aren't a complete substitute for human interaction, she stressed, they may play a vital role since "there just simply aren't enough people to take care of our very large and growing elderly population." ... [and] added: "We need to think about the humane and ethical use of technology, because these things are coming."

I think this is a great topic for discussion with students.  Let me know what you think.

September 5, 2014 in Cognitive Impairment, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Health Care/Long Term Care, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, September 4, 2014

"Why Do More Women Get Alzheimer's?" It's Not Just Because We Live Longer...

George Washington Law Professor Naomi Cahn alerted us to the Washington Post coverage on new research analyzing causation factors to explain why 2/3 of all persons with Alzheimer's Disease are women. Lots of opportunities here for important classroom discussions:

"It has long been known that more women than men get the deadly neurodegenerative disease, and an emerging body of research is challenging the common wisdom as to why. Although the question is by no means settled, recent findings suggest that biological, genetic and even cultural influences may play heavy roles.....

 

Because advancing age is considered the biggest risk factor for the disease, researchers largely have attributed that disparity to women’s longer life spans. The average life expectancy for women is 81 years, compared with 76 for men. Yet 'even after taking age into account, women are more at risk,' said Richard Lipton, a physician who heads the Einstein Aging Study at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York.

 

The area of inquiry has been growing in part because of a push by female Alzheimer’s researchers, who have formed a group to advocate for a larger leadership role in the field and more gender-specific research. 'Scientific workforce diversity is very important because it’s much more likely to shape the research agenda,' said Hannah Valantine, the chief officer for scientific workforce diversity at the National Institutes of Health and a professor at Stanford University’s medical school.

 

Running counter to the longevity argument, Lipton’s research suggests that women who are 70 to 79 years old are twice as likely as men the same age to develop Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia. After 80, the risk is identical and remains similar throughout the rest of life, Lipton said."

For more on emerging issues and indictors, see "Why Do More Women Get Alzheimer's?" by Frederick Kunkle.  Thanks, Naomi! 

September 4, 2014 in Cognitive Impairment, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Science, Statistics | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, September 1, 2014

A Love Story Without a Happy Ending (But Not Without Hope)

Book by Meryl Cover Slow Dancing With A StrangerWashington Post writer Frederick Kunkle profiles Meryl Comer, author of "Slow Dancing With a Stranger," a new book that "offers an unflinching and intimate account about what it means to surrender one's career to care" for a loved one stricken with Alzhemier's.  In describing the  author and her book, he writes:

"Its a a love stsory without a happy ending, because the ending for Alzheimer's patients can seem more like endless twilight.  And it's a call to arms for caregivers such as Comer....

When Alzhemier's took hold, [her husband, chief of hematology and oncology at NIH, Harvey Gralnick] was a fit 56-year-old -- he ran six miles a day -- who dressed impeccably wearing the latest fashions beneath his lab coat.... For a time, he was able to mask his symptoms behind his reputation as a brilliant if eccentric scientist....

As  his condition worsened, Comer, too, gave up her career -- and she adds with a note of bitterness, her 'prime.' In her blunt-talking manner, she acknowledged that she did so not entirely out of devotion but because doctors told her more than once, wrongly, that the progress of her husband's disease would not be long.

Finances, too, were a factor.  It was almost impossible to find care that she felt would be satisfactory for her husband and yet affordable.  Her burden intensified even further when her mother, too, developed Alzheimer's; her mother now shares the same home with Comer and her husband."

The book is meant to make people mad -- and more realistic and focused -- about the need for solutions. The article quotes George Vradenburg, a co-founder with Comer of the nonprofit group USAgainstAlzheimer's, who hopes that Comer's book will stir conversations about a disease many prefer not to think about. "I hope America gets mad," Vradenburg is quoted as saying.

For more, see "Alzheimer's -- Thief and Killer," in the Washington Post.

 

September 1, 2014 in Books, Cognitive Impairment, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Health Care/Long Term Care | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, August 29, 2014

"Glen Campbell ... I'll Be Me"

Glen Campbell was diagnosed with Alzhemier's disease in 2011, and with his wife, he bravely told the public. What happened next -- on his "Goodbye Tour"-- has been turned into a vivid, moving film. The trailer of "Glen Campbell ... I'll Be Me" is now available, in advance of the official October 2014 release of the film.

 

 

 

August 29, 2014 in Cognitive Impairment, Dementia/Alzheimer’s | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Preparing for the "Alzheimer's Monster" To Get You

Here's another great educational video suggestion from John Marshall Law School's Barry Kozak

Unfortunately, this video is in a format that I cannot show directly here.  Nonetheless, I'm recommending it too, and providing the link.  Alanna Shaikh's "How I'm Preparing to Get Alzheimer's" is provocative, with  great dashes of wry humor.  She uses her father's twelve year history of dementia as incentive to prepare herself for getting dementia.  Alanna rejects "denial" and she's realistic about the likelihood of "prevention or cure" in her lifetime.  She talks about preparing for the "Alzheimer's Monster."

Listen to her practical steps to prepare. What do you think of them?  Realistic? What I appreciate is her focus on working harder to become a better person now, in hope of carrying forward that quality as a deeply engrained personality trait.  She's echoing my own belief, based on observation, that "personality" tends to concentrate over time, with the strongest held traits lasting the longest -- whether for good or ill effect.  Once the rational mind is no longer in control, those essential traits do seem to dominate.   

August 28, 2014 in Cognitive Impairment, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, August 24, 2014

State Legislator Charged with "Sexual Assault" of Wife In Complicated Nursing Home Case

We've reported several times, including here and here, on recent academic and professional publications that address the sensitive topic of "consent" to sexual relations for individuals residing in nursing homes. 

The Huffington Post and other media reports now bring the topic into the general public realm with coverage of a complicated case emerging in Iowa, where a husband has been arrested on charges connected to sexual relations with his wife, a resident with Alzheimer's, in her nursing home room. 

Two items that may be critical to the outcome of the case: Alleged "notice" to the husband by the facility that his wife was no longer legally able to give consent to sexual relations, and the identity of the husband as a public figure. The fact that the husband is a state legislator is a reason why the case may get wide news coverage.  But that wider coverage could also generate important discussion and debate about the deeper legal, personal and public issues.  From one article:

"An Iowa legislator who allegedly had sex with his mentally incapacitated late wife has been charged with sexual abuse. Henry Rayhons, 78, a Republican state representative from Iowa House District 8, was told by medical staff on May 15 that his wife, 78-year-old Donna Rayhons, no longer had the mental ability to consent to sexual activity, according to a criminal complaint obtained by WHO-TV. Donna Rayhons, who suffered from Alzheimer's disease, had been living in Concord Care Center in Garner, Iowa, since March, according to the Des Moines Register....

 

In an interview with law enforcement in June,Rayhons allegedly confessed to 'having sexual contact' with his wife, according to KCCI. He also allegedly admitted that he had a copy of the document that stated his wife did not have the cognitive ability to give consent. Rayhons was charged with third-degree sexual abuse on Friday.

 

Elizabeth Barnhill, executive director of the Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault, told the Des Moines Register that even though spousal rape has been illegal in Iowa for about 25 years, arrests for the crime are rare and 'convictions are even rarer.' Barnhill also noted that sexual assault between spouses is not considered a 'forcible felony' in Iowa."

According to new sources, the family has also made a statement

August 24, 2014 in Cognitive Impairment, Crimes, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Ethical Issues, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, August 22, 2014

SSRN Potpourri: Recent Elder Law Articles Posted on SSRN

Articles recently posted by U.S. law school academics on the Social Science Research Network's (SSRN's) Elder Law Studies network:

August 22, 2014 in Cognitive Impairment, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Retirement, Social Security | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Haunting self portraits from the descent into Alzheimer's....

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Tennessee: Limits on Estate Planning Attorney's Authority to Disclose Will

 

In recent Formal Ethics Opinion 2014-F-158, the Board of Professional Responsibility for the Supreme Court of Tennessee addressed the following interesting question:

"Can a lawyer who represented a testator refuse to honor a court order or subpoena to disclose, prior to the client's death, a Will or other testamenatry document executed when the testator was competent on the basis that the document is protected against disclosure by the attorney-client privilege or confidentiality."

The Board's opinion indicates that not only "may" the lawyer refuse to disclose the will, but where circumstances indicate the client is no longer able to give informed consent because of intervening dementia, the lawyer may have a duty to raise all "nonfrivolous grounds" to protect the will from disclosure, including privileges under Tennessee statutes, citing Rule of Professional Conduct 1.6(c)(2). 

In opening its analysis, the Board noted that it has become "increasingly common for courts to appoint attorneys in a representative capacity to represent individuals suffering from dementia and/or Alzheimer's who are the subject of a dispute or litigation regarding management of the individual's funds and/or person." During the course of the dispute, parties may attempt to seek review of the will prior to the death of the testator, citing reasons such as the need to "engage in estate planning." 

The Board acknowledged the potential for facts that would permit the lawyer to disclose the contents of the disabled client's will, such as when a "lawyer believes the disclosure of the contents ... would be in furtherance of client's interest."

In commentary on the Tennessee Board Ethics Opinion, the ABA/BNA Manual on Professsional Conduct, in Vol. 30, No. 15, observed that "a 2010 law review article cites demographic patterns that have increased the likelihood of such scenarios," pointing to "A Common Thread to Weave a Patchwork: Advocating for Testatmentary Exception Rules,"  3 Phoenix L. Rev. 729, 734-35 (2010) by then law student Andrew B. Mazoff, now an attorney in Phoenix.

Thanks to my colleague and ethics guru, Laurel Terry, for sharing this ethics opinion.

August 6, 2014 in Cognitive Impairment, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, State Cases | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

New Book: The Law and Ethics of Dementia

The Law and Ethics of Dementia, co-edited by Israel Doron, Charles Foster and Jonathan Herring, recently released in hardback by Hart Publishing and available for e-readers in September, is definitely on my "must read" list.   Followers of this Blog will certainly recognize Issi Doron, from the University of Haifa, who has long exercised an international, comparative perspective on issues in ageing.  Professor Foster is a practicing barrister and a fellow at Green Templeton College, University of Oxford, which is also the working home of prolificFoster, Herring and Doron on The Law and Ethics of Dementia writer and Law Professor Herring.

The book is organized into five parts, Medical Fundamentals, Ethical Perspectives, Legal Perspectives, Social Aspects, and Patient and Carer Perspectives. As part of the first section, physicians and researchers Amos Korczyn and Veronika Vakhapova co-author "Can Dementia be Prevented?" a question we all hope will be answered in the affirmative. Not surprisingly, given the title of the book, the section on ethical perspectives promises to be especially fascinating, offering multiple views on ethical components of decision making and care. To suggest the scope, Andrew McGee's chapter is on "Best Interest Determinations and Substituted Judgement," while Leah Rand and Mark Sheehan tackle the challenge of "Resource Allocation Issues in Dementia."

In the Social Aspects section, I notice that Syracuse Law Professor Nina Kohn has a chapter on "Voting and Political Participation," while Chinese (and University of Pennsylvania) health care scholar Ruijia Chen and colleagues address "Physical, Financial and Other Abuse."

With more than forty individual chapters and dozens of international writers, this book promises to be a key guide  for the future. 

August 5, 2014 in Advance Directives/End-of-Life, Books, Cognitive Impairment, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Ethical Issues | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Five Halves of Elder Law

The CarTalk Guys on National Public Radio have a crazy tradition of breaking their one hour radio program into "three halves" (okay, they have a lot of crazy traditions -- I'm focusing on just one).  In that tradition, I'd been thinking about how the practice of "elder law" might also have three halves, but then I realized  that perhaps it really has five halves.  See what you think.

  • In the United States, private practitioners who call themselves "Elder Law Attorneys" usually focus on helping individuals or families plan for legal issues that tend to occur between retirement and death.  Many of the longer-serving attorneys with expertise in this area started to specialize after confronting the needs of their own parents or aging family members. They learned -- sometimes the hard way -- about the need for special knowledge of Medicare, Medicaid, health insurance and the significance of frailty or incapacity for aging adults.  They trained the next generations of Elder Law Attorneys, thereby reducing the need to learn exclusively from mistakes.

 

  • Closely aligned with the private bar are Elder Law Attorneys who work for legal service organizations or other nonprofit law firms.  They have critical skills and knowledge of  health-related benefits under federal and state programs.  They also have sophisticaed  information about the availability of income-related benefits under Social Security.  They often serve the most needy of elders.  Their commitment to obtain solutions not just for one client, but often for a whole class of older clients, gives them a vital role to play. 

 

  • At the state and federal levels, core decisions are made about how to interpret laws affecting older adults.  Key decisions are made by attorneys who are hired by a government agency. Their decisions impact real people -- and they keep a close eye on the financial consequences of permitting access to benefits, even if is often elected officials making the decisions about funding priorities. I would also put prosecutors in this same public servant "Elder Law" category, especially prosecutors who have taken on the challenge of responding to elder abuse. 

 

  • A whole host of companies, both for-profit and nonprofit, are in the business of providing care to older adults, including hospitals, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, group homes, home-care agencies and so on -- and they too have attorneys with deep expertise in the provider-side of "Elder Law," including knowledge of  contracts, insurance and public benefit programs that pay for such services.

 

  • Last, but definitely not least, attorneys are involved at policy levels, looking not only to the present statutes and regulations affecting older adults, but to the future of what should be the legal framework for protection of rights, or imposition of obligations, on older adults and their families.  My understanding and appreciation of this sector has increased greatly over the last few years, particularly as I have come to know human rights experts who specialize in the rights of older persons.

Of course, lawyers are not the only persons who work in "Elder Law" fields and it truly takes a village -- including paralegals, social workers, case workers, health care professionals, and law clerks -- to find ways to use the law effectively and wisely. Ironically, at times it can seem as if the different halves of "elder law" specialists are working in opposition to each other, rather than together. 

My reason for trying to identify these "Five Halves" of Elder Law is that, as with most of us who teach courses on elder law or aging,  I have come to realize I have former students working in all of these divisions, who began their appreciation for the legal needs of older adults while still in law school.  Organizing these "halves" may also help in organizing course materials.

I strongly suspect I'm could be missing one or more sectors of those with special expertise in Elder Law.  What am I forgetting?   

July 24, 2014 in Cognitive Impairment, Consumer Information, Crimes, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, Medicaid, Medicare, Other, Social Security | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Significant Statistics on Drop (yes, drop!) in Alzheimer's Incidence in US

From McKnight's comes this interesting report on new statistical information on Alzheimer's:

"The odds of developing Alzheimer's disease fell sharply among seniors in the United States over the last 30 years, according to research presented Tuesday at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference in Copenhagen. The finding casts a new light on prior estimates that the number of people needing long-term care will triple by 2050, largely due to Alzheimer's."

For a more complete report on the Conference, see McKnight's piece "Chance of a senior developing Alzheimer's has dropped 44% over the last three decades, large U.S. study shows."

July 16, 2014 in Cognitive Impairment, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Health Care/Long Term Care | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Updates on Programming at July 2014 Int'l Elder Law and Policy Conference

We've previously posted advance information about the International Elder Law and Policy Conference that will be  hosted this week -- July 10-11 -- in Chicago.  The organizers are John Marshall Law School; Roosevelt University, College of of Arts and Sciences; and East China University of Political Science and Law.

The conference will have an interesting format, combining presentations from a range of professionals with experience working with or for older persons, and working sessions to draft a model "International Bill of Rights for Elderly Persons, in parallel with U.N. sessions on ageing. 

As an example of the breadth of participation and coverage at this conference, my session  on Thursday focuses on "Health Care, Caregving for Older Persons and Legal Decision Making," and will be co-moderated with Professor Walter Kendall at John Marshall.  The panel includes the following topics and speakers:

  • "Dementia and Planning Death: The Challenge for Advance Directives," by Meredith Blake at University of Western Austalia Law School
  • "Social Change and Its Apparent Effect on Senior Care Services: A Comparative Study of Post-Soviet Union Russia and the U.S.," by Amy Delaney, partner at Delaney, Delany & Voorn in Illinois, and Alina Risser, a lawyer from Russia, currently studying law at John Marshall;
  • "Rights are Not Good for Older Persons in Long-Term Care Settings? Experience from the European Union," by Nena Georgantzi, Legal Officer for AGE Platform Europe;
  • "Bridging the Caregiver Gap: Does Technology Provde an Ethically and Legally Viable Answer?," by Donna Harkness, University of Memphis School of Law;
  •  "The Insufficiency of Spiritual Support of Urban Elders in China and Suggestions on Legislation," by Jun Li, East China University of Political Science and Law.

 We'll report more after the events on Thursday and Friday!  

July 9, 2014 in Advance Directives/End-of-Life, Cognitive Impairment, Consumer Information, Discrimination, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

2014 Webinar Series on Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias

The Administration for Community Living, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the National Institute on Aging are collaborating to host a webinar series to increase knowledge about Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias, and resources that professionals in the public health, aging services, and research networks can use to inform, educate, and empower community members, people with dementia, and their family caregivers.

You can register for all the webinars or just the one that most interests you.  You must register separately for each webinar.  If you plan to view the webinar in a central location with others, we encourage only one person to register for the group.

Each webinar is from 1:30 p.m.–3:00 p.m. ET/12:30 p.m.–2:00 p.m. CT/ 11:30 a.m.–1:00 p.m. MT/10:30 a.m.–12:00 p.m. PT.  The schedule is as follows:

Tuesday, July 22, 2014:  Updates on Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias Resources

Thursday, August 28, 2014:  Community Collaborations for Assisting People with Alzheimer’s and Dementias: The Steps to Success

Thursday, September 25, 2014:  Alzheimer’s Research Updates

Click here for additional information on the series and each webinar session.

July 2, 2014 in Cognitive Impairment, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Webinars | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

What's New In the War on Alzheimer's?

Psychiatric Times has an update on "What's New in the World on Alzheimers," written by Alisa J. Woods, PhD.    Here's the intriguing opening, minus the footnotes:

"It’s hard to believe that 40 years ago it was proposed that Alzheimer disease (AD) is caused by brain aluminum. Some people even threw out their cookware, in fear of acquiring the memory-impairing disease. The aluminum hypothesis has long since been discounted, and research has marched forward: β-amyloid (Aβ) protein was identified in 1984 in brain plaques of patients with AD, and hyperphosphorylated τ protein was identified in 1986. These are true AD markers; possible culprits behind neuronal death and memory impairment....

 

In the trenches of Alzheimer research, the battle continues . . . but where do we stand? Is the war on AD dementia nearing conclusion, or are we simply in the initial throes of the fight? In interviews with Psychiatric Times, 3 AD experts, Murali Doraiswamy, MD, of Duke Medicine; James Lah, MD, PhD, of Emory University; and Dagmar Ringe, PhD, of Brandeis University weighed in on this important topic."

To read the full article, you can register with the publication on-line, free of charge. 

June 18, 2014 in Cognitive Impairment, Dementia/Alzheimer’s | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)