Tuesday, January 24, 2017
Delirium and dementia are common causes of cognitive impairment in older populations. Although each may occur independently, delirium and dementia frequently coexist. Dementia is a leading risk factor for delirium, and there is an increased incidence of new dementia and cognitive decline after delirium. Delirium can accelerate the rate of cognitive decline, suggesting that an episode of delirium can result in a more rapid progression of dementia symptoms, leading to earlier functional disability, increased caregiver burden, and rising health care costs. As the population ages, there has been a rapid increase in the incidence and prevalence of delirium and dementia. Better understanding of the risk factors, outcomes, and mechanistic associations between these 2 conditions is therefore critical for developing successful prevention and treatment strategies for this increasing problem.
The conclusions and relevance from the article offers this:
CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE Delirium in the presence of the pathologic processes of dementia is associated with accelerated cognitive decline beyond that expected for delirium or the pathologic process itself. These findings suggest that additional unmeasured pathologic processes specifically relate to delirium. Age-related cognitive decline has many contributors, and these findings at the population level support a role for delirium acting independently and multiplicatively to the pathologic processes of classic dementia.
Sunday, January 22, 2017
The National Guardianship Association, NGA, released updated Standards of Practice for Agencies and Programs Providing Guardianship Services. The standards are free and can be downloaded here. Here is some information about the standards taken from an email announcing their release:
NGA's purpose in this document is to provide guidance for programs striving to provide quality guardianship services. While aspirational, the standards convey good business practice that agencies and states should consider adopting into policy or law.
NGA has defined Standards of Practice for the day-to-day provision of guardianship services. Those standards apply to all guardians whether professional guardians, volunteer guardians or family members. This document defines additional NGA standards for acceptable business practice and program design for non-family guardians who are developing or operating agencies or programs providing professional guardianship services.
Friday, January 20, 2017
We blogged previously that D.C.'s mayor signed the physician-aided dying bill that was then sent to Congress. According to a January 9, 2017 article in the Washington Post, Congressman plans to block D.C. law to let terminally ill patients end their lives, "Representative Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) said ... he’ll use rarely invoked congressional authority to block a new law passed by the D.C. Council to allow doctors to help end the lives of terminally ill patients in the city" by the end of January. The article notes that it's rare for Congress to block a D.C. law. On January 12, 2017 Senator Lankford and Representative Wenstrup (Oklahoma and Ohio respectively) introduced resolutions to block the law.
January 20, 2017 in Advance Directives/End-of-Life, Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)
Thursday, January 19, 2017
Do you use social media? You aren't alone if you are. Pew Research released a new social media fact sheet that breaks down social media use, with 69% of Americans using social media at some time. But since this is an elderlawprof blog, I know you want to know more--specifically the percentage of older persons using social media. Wait no longer! 34% of those 65 and older used social media as of the time of the survey, with 64% of those age 50-64 using social media. But which social media are older persons using? That 50-64 age group has a significant presence on Facebook, 61%, compared to 36% of those 65 and older. Pinterest and LinkedIn came in close seconds for those 50-64 (24% and 21% respectively). LinkedIn was a distant second for those 65 and over. Another report from Pew breaks out usage by social media platforms.
Tuesday, January 17, 2017
Kaiser Health News ran a story about a project that provides palliative care to individuals who are homeless and terminally ill. Mobile Team Offers Comfort Care To Homeless At Life’s End covers a pilot project in Seattle. "Since January 2014, the pilot project run by Seattle/King County Health Care for Homeless Network and UW Medicine’s Harborview Medical Center has served more than 100 seriously ill men and women in the Seattle area, tracking them down at shelters and drop-in clinics, in tents under bridges and parked cars." The project is funded through 2017 and is designed to avoid unneeded or unwanted care at the end of life while giving people who are homeless input in their care. The care providers arrange for the clients to get medical treatment (through Medicaid or pro bono care), follow up with patients, help patients make decisions and care for them so they don't die alone.
The mobile program has some advantages over other existing programs, such as going to where the patients are located and the providers are "more likely to engage the hardest-to-reach patients, those distrustful of medical care and outsiders...." Although the medical treatment is important, so far, the team is finding that coordination of care is a huge benefit of the mobile program. Mobile palliative care programs do exist worldwide, but aren't prevalent in the U.S. "Worldwide, there are only a few other mobile palliative care programs, all outside the U.S. The closest one in North America is the Palliative Education and Care for the Homeless program — known as PEACH — in Toronto."
Monday, January 16, 2017
So Meals on Wheels has an idea. We all know the dangers of isolation and how important it can be to check in with an elder on a regular basis. Kaiser Health News explains the idea, Meals On Wheels Wants To Be The ‘Eyes and Ears’ For Hospitals, Doctors. "Meals on Wheels, which has served seniors for more than 60 years through a network of independent nonprofits, is trying to formalize the health and safety checks its volunteers already conduct during their daily home visits to seniors. Through an ongoing campaign dubbed “More Than a Meal,” the organization hopes to demonstrate that it can play a critical role in the health care system."
Many nonprofits face challenges, including funding challenges, and Meals on Wheels is no exception. There are competitors now, less funding and increasing demand for services. So how would this work? "Meals on Wheels America and several of the local programs around the country have launched partnerships with insurers, hospitals and health systems. By reporting to providers any physical or mental changes they observe, volunteers can help improve seniors’ health and reduce unnecessary emergency room visits and nursing home placements, said Ellie Hollander, CEO of Meals on Wheels America." It's a very cost-effective system according to the article and has the potential for bigger savings in health care costs.
There has already been some research done on the effectiveness and advantages of Meals on Wheels. Consider this:
Studies conducted by Brown University researchers have shown that meal deliveries can help elderly people stay out of nursing homes, reduce falls and save states money.
Kali Thomas, an assistant professor at Brown University School of Public Health, estimated that if all states increased the number of older people receiving the meals by 1 percent, they would save more than $100 million. Research also has shown that the daily meal deliveries helped seniors’ mental health and eased their fears of being institutionalized.
There are projects taking place, with one between Meals on Wheels, Brown U and West Health Institute. Another is with Meals on Wheels, Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center and Meals on Wheels of Central Maryland, which will attempt "to keep seniors at home and reduce their need for costly health services after hospitalization. The idea is to have trained volunteers report red flags and ensure, for example, that patients with congestive heart failure are weighing themselves regularly and eating properly." The Maryland project is being run by Dr. Dan Hale (friend and former colleague at Stetson U).
Sounds like a great idea!
Sunday, January 15, 2017
On January 26, 2017, the Elder Justice Initiative will be hosting a webinar to highlight resources and information available on the Elder Justice Website.
This webinar will be hosted by Susan Lynch and Sid Stahl and will introduce you to the Department of Justice’s Elder Justice Website and will help you to navigate the many tools and resources available on DOJ’s website for elder abuse prosecutors, law enforcement, victim advocates, victims, families, caregivers, and elder abuse researchers. These tools can help you find assistance when in need, get involved in combatting elder abuse and financial exploitation, and educate you on elder justice programs operating at the federal, state, and local levels.
Registration opens the week before the webinar.
Friday, January 13, 2017
The plight of 108-year-old Ohio resident Carrie Rausch, facing the prospect of losing her spot in an assisted living community because she's run out of money, is generating a lot of attention in the media, including People magazine. Some states, such as New Jersey, have expanded the options for public assistance in senior living -- beyond nursing homes -- to permit eligible individuals to use Medicaid for residential care. Assisted living is usually much less expensive than a nursing home; but the pool of individuals who would might opt for assisted living rather than the "dreaded" nursing home is also larger. Ohio, along with many states, hasn't gone the AL route:
If Rausch can’t raise the money needed, she’ll have to leave what has been her home for the past three years and move into a nursing home that accepts Medicaid.
[Daughter] Hatfield worries about the toll the move would take on her mom, who is more lively and active than most people 10 or even 20 years her junior. . . . “We need a miracle,” she says.
Ms Rausch's adult daughter -- herself in her late 60s -- has turned to GoFundMe to attempt to raise the $40k needed for a year of continued residence, and as of the date of this Blog post, more than 700 donors have responded.
At a deeper level, however, this story reveals important questions about public funding for long-term care on a state-by-state basis. This funding issue is repeating itself throughout the country for seniors much younger than the frugal and relatively healthy Carrie Rausch. On a national basis, GoFundMe "miracles" seem an impractical solution.
Thursday, January 12, 2017
Who doesn't want to be a super "something"? How about a Superager? What is a Superager anyway? (and no, capes and tights are not needed). According to a recent story in the NY Times, Superagers are "those whose memory and attention isn’t merely above average for their age, but is actually on par with healthy, active 25-year-olds." How to Become a ‘Superager’ reports on a study of the brains of Superagers to figure out what makes them so.
How do you become a Superager? Well, the researchers aren't quite ready to tell us that yet.
Of course, the big question is: How do you become a superager? Which activities, if any, will increase your chances of remaining mentally sharp into old age? We’re still studying this question, but our best answer at the moment is: work hard at something. Many labs have observed that these critical brain regions increase in activity when people perform difficult tasks, whether the effort is physical or mental. You can therefore help keep these regions thick and healthy through vigorous exercise and bouts of strenuous mental effort.
There is a downside to becoming a Superager, according to the story. The author explains
The road to superaging is difficult, though, because these brain regions have another intriguing property: When they increase in activity, you tend to feel pretty bad — tired, stymied, frustrated. Think about the last time you grappled with a math problem or pushed yourself to your physical limits. Hard work makes you feel bad in the moment. The Marine Corps has a motto that embodies this principle: “Pain is weakness leaving the body.” That is, the discomfort of exertion means you’re building muscle and discipline. Superagers are like Marines: They excel at pushing past the temporary unpleasantness of intense effort. Studies suggest that the result is a more youthful brain that helps maintain a sharper memory and a greater ability to pay attention.
This means that pleasant puzzles like Sudoku are not enough to provide the benefits of superaging. Neither are the popular diversions of various “brain game” websites. You must expend enough effort that you feel some “yuck.” Do it till it hurts, and then a bit more.
The author points to the desire of Americans to pursue happiness, which leads us to" consistently sidestep the discomfort of mental effort or physical exertion, this restraint can be detrimental to the brain. All brain tissue gets thinner from disuse. If you don’t use it, you lose it."
So shall we all work on becoming Superagers? The author closes the article with this bit of advice, "make a New Year’s resolution to take up a challenging activity. Learn a foreign language. Take an online college course. Master a musical instrument. Work that brain. Make it a year to remember."
Also remember, capes and tights are optional!
Should Home Care Providers Be Permitted to Seek Broad Waivers of Liability from Elderly Clients? (And if so, are there clear standards for a knowing waiver?}
Recently an attorney wrote to me about an elderly client who had been victimized by a home care worker hired through an agency; the allegations included physical abuse, intimidation, identity theft, failure to provide care, theft of personal possessions and false imprisonment. Not too surprisingly, the specific worker was long gone once the harm was discovered by non-resident family members. Significantly, the family also learned that the mother had signed the agency's standard contract withtwo pages of single-spaced type that covered everything from hours to wages, and which included a numbered paragraph purporting to grant a broad waiver of the agency's liability for actions of the individuals sent to the home of the elderly client. Key language provided:
"CLIENT and/or CLIENT's agent/responsible party agrees on behalf of CLIENT, CLIENT's agent/responsible party, beneficiaries, heirs, and/or family/household members to release [agency], owner, officers, directors, agents and employees, office, office directors, office employees, and Caregiver from any and all liability, potential or real, for any injury, claim, damage, or loss, including attorney's fees, incurred in connection with the performance of this agreement and all services, incurred in connection with the performance of this agreement and all services performed by Caregiver for the CLIENT, including but no limited to assisting CLIENT with his/her medications and providing transportation to Client or any member of CLIENT's family/household, except for gross negligence...."
The attorney asked about any state regulatory language that would limit liability waivers or require, at a minimum, bold faced type or large type for such attempted waivers when used with elderly or disabled clients. Those receiving home care may be uniquely vulnerable to unwitnessed abuse, and also less likely to report abuse because of the fear of the "worse" alternative, a nursing home. In the state in question, regulations require certain disclosures to be made in a form "easily read and understood," but the regulations don't specifically address (nor prohibit) waivers of the company's liability. See e.g. PA Code Section 611.57.
What about in your state? Is there relevant regulation? Alternatively, is there a "best" (or at least better) practice in the home care industry when seeking contractual waivers of liability? The issue reminds me of an article written in the mid-1990s by Charlie Sabbatino discussing the one-sided nature of nursing home contracts in the absence of careful regulation protecting patient rights. He wrote:
Broadly worded waivers of liability for personal injury are likely to be unenforceable and void as a matter of public policy in most states. Residents are most commonly asked to consent to absolute waivers for injury caused by other patients or by independent contractors in the facility, or for injury occurring outside of the facility, such as on a field trip. Federal and state nursing home laws have not squarely addressed personal injury waivers. even though the whole thrust of the regulatory framework is expressly intended to set standards for the protection of residents' health, safety, and welfare.
And the subtitle of the article on Nursing Home Contracts is "Undermining Rights the Older Fashioned Way."
January 12, 2017 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)
Wednesday, January 11, 2017
A recent article in the Washington Post by Michelle Singletary suggested a New Year's resolution, knowing your retirement account. Resolve to take a closer look at your retirement account offers insights from author (Empire of the Fund: The Way We Save Now), William A. Birdthistle, who participated recently in her online discussion. The article contains 3 questions and Mr. Birdthistle's answers, one of which discusses in what types of investments to invest retirement funds. Ms. Singletary closes her article with this advice to readers: "Let 2017 be the year that you take a closer look at your retirement savings. Don’t just blindly throw money in your account. No one can predict the unpredictable when it comes to your nest egg. But at least you can become better informed about what there is to know for sure."
Thanks to Professor Naomi Cahn for sending us this article.
Tuesday, January 10, 2017
The American Bar Association Senior Lawyers Division is offering a free webinar on January 19 at noon on scams, as part of its series on preventing elder abuse. The webinar will include panelists from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, DOJ and the Harry & Jeanette Weinberg Center for Elder Abuse Prevention. Topics to be covered include the frequency of elder abuse, trends in scams, scam prevention, what to do if a victim, and civil remedies. Click here to register.
Kaiser Health News ran a story last week on the failure of CMS to recover significant overpayments from some Medicare Advantage plans. Medicare Failed To Recover Up To $125 Million In Overpayments, Records Show explains
An initial round of audits found that Medicare had potentially overpaid five of the health plans $128 million in 2007 alone, according to confidential government documents released recently in response to a public records request and lawsuit.
But officials never recovered most of that money. Under intense pressure from the health insurance industry, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services quietly backed off their repayment demands and settled the audits in 2012 for just under $3.4 million — shortchanging taxpayers by up to $125 million in possible overcharges just for 2007.
The story reports the overpayments occur for various reasons, including billing errors and from "overcharge[ing] Medicare, often by overstating the severity of medical conditions...." The story reports on CMS audits of some health plans, events that led up to the settlement of the overpayment claims and a May, 2016 GAO report.
Monday, January 9, 2017
Social Security's blog, Social Security Matters, posted the full retirement age info for 2017. 2017 Brings New Changes to Full Retirement Age explains that for those between 1955-1956, full retirement age is 66 and 2 months. The post also explains what the increase in full retirement age means to benefits: "[a]s the full retirement age continues to increase, there are greater reductions in benefits if you claim them before you reach full retirement age. For example, if you apply for benefits in 2017 at age 62, your monthly benefit amount will be reduced nearly 26 percent." The blog also offers tips to those who are contemplating retirement along with helpful links.
Friday, January 6, 2017
I was reading a recent blog post on the Scientific American that featured a guest blog by Dr. Snyder, the Senior Director of Medical and Scientific Operations, Medical and Scientific Relations for the Alzheimer's Association. The blog, Alzheimer's Falls More Heavily on Women Than on Men, opens with two vignettes of women who early-onset Alzheimer's.
Alzheimer’s dementia disproportionately affects women in a variety of ways. Compared with men, 2.5 times as many women as men provide 24-hour care for an affected relative. Nearly 19 percent of these wives, sisters and daughters have had to quit work to do so. In addition, women make up nearly two-thirds of the more than 5 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s today.
The blog explains that researchers are studying this to see if they can find the answer, but longevity alone isn't likely it. The post also reports on the work of the Alzheimer's Association including a funding initiative for 9 research projects. Some are looking at lifestyle factors including stress and education. The article concludes with a discussion of the role and importance of advocacy
Thursday, January 5, 2017
Kaiser Health News has released a Medicaid Pocket Primer. The Primer succinctly explains what is Medicaid, its structure, those covered, services, the impact of the ACA, how beneficiaries access care, the program's impact on beneficiaries' ability to get care, its costs, and financing. The conclusion to the primer explains
Medicaid provides comprehensive coverage and financial protection for millions of Americans, most of whom are in working families. Despite their low income, Medicaid enrollees experience rates of access to care comparable to those among people with private coverage. In addition to acute health care, Medicaid covers costly long-term care for millions of seniors and people of all ages with disabilities, in both nursing homes and the community. Medicaid funding is a major source of support for hospitals and physicians, nursing homes, and jobs in the health care sector. Finally, the guarantee of federal matching funds on an open-ended basis permits Medicaid to operate as safety net when economic shifts and other dynamics cause coverage needs to grow. Because proposals to restructure the Medicaid program could have significant consequences for enrollees and the health care system, the potential implications of such proposals warrant careful consideration.
A pdf of the primer is available here.
Wednesday, January 4, 2017
I'd posted about this previously (but had the wrong date, sorry Marshall) so just a reminder, Save the Date: February 13, 2017, the 6th Annual Health Law Conference at Florida State University. This year's conference is titled Patients as Consumers: The Impact of Health Care Financing & Delivery Developments on Roles, Rights, Relationships & Risks. Topics include Evidence-based Medicine & Shared Decision-making, Impact of Cost Containment Initiatives on Patient Rights and Provider Liabilities, and Patient Populations at Particular Risk of Not Controlling Their Own Medical Choices.
Registration is free unless seeking CLE credits. For more information or registration, click here.
Tuesday, January 3, 2017
I always have a discussion with my students about the name we use to refer to our clients: "senior citizen", "elderly", "elder" or "person who is older." I know there's been discussions periodically about whether elder law attorneys should describe themselves (and their practices) in that way. So I was very interested in a recent study from researchers at the National University of Ireland, Gallway. Trends in the use of terms to describe older people in the medical literature 1950 - 2015 explains the researchers study and their conclusion that over time the word used has changed, with "older" being the current favored term. Here is a brief explanation:
Background: There has been much debate about the most appropriate terms to use when describing older people. We examined changes in the popularity of different terms in the medical literature from 1950 to 2015.
Methods: The advanced search facility in PubMed was used to search titles and abstracts of the clinical English-language literature for use of ‘geriatric’, ‘aged’, ‘old’, ‘older’ and ‘elderly’ to describe older people.
Results: ‘Aged’ was the most popular term from 1950 to 1961 but declined to 3.4% of references to older people in 2015. ‘Geriatric’ was relatively common (more than 10% of references) from 1955 to 1976 but occurred in only 1.8% of references by 2015. ‘Elderly’ was the most popular term for all but one year from 1962 to 2007 and accounted for 37.8% of references in 2015. ‘Older’ was been the most popular term from 2008 to 2015, when it accounted for 54.6% of references.
Conclusions: The preferred descriptive terms for older people have changed greatly over the last 65 years. ‘Older’ is now the most common descriptor and is increasingly displacing ‘elderly’ which had dominated for four decades.
Sunday, January 1, 2017
The New England Journal of Medicine published Supporting Family Caregivers of Older Americans on December 28, 2016. The authors were part of a committee of "the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine Committee" dealing with family caregivers of elders. The report that resulted, according to the authors, "raises serious concerns about the current and future state of this caregiving in the United States."The authors include in their definition of family caregivers "relatives, partners, friends, or neighbors who provide help because of a personal relationship rather than financial compensation."
Here's a highlight
Our report challenges public and private stakeholders to transform policies and practices to make the delivery of person- and family-centered care a reality. We found that appropriate engagement and tailored support of family caregivers have the potential to improve caregivers’ experiences and quality of life and facilitate shared decision making while enhancing the quality of care provided to older adults and reducing the use of unnecessary services. But the United States currently lacks the infrastructure and knowledge base that practitioners and policymakers need to make support of caregiving families a reality. Moving to person- and family-centered care will require coordinated changes in several areas.
A pdf of the story is available here.
Thursday, December 29, 2016
The National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care has issued its second summary of the revised nursing home regulations. Summary of Key Changes in the Rule-Part II is a 19 page summary of phase 1 that covers changes to the resident assessment, comprehensive person-centered care planning, quality of life, quality of care, doctors and nursing services, behavioral health services, pharmacy services, lab, diagnostic and radiology services, dental, nutrition, and specialized rehab services, administration (the section that includes the ban on pre-dispute arbitration agreements), quality assurance, physical environment, controlling infection, and training (which includes training on recognizing, reporting and preventing abuse, neglect and exploitation). Read this, bookmark it, print it and save it!