Friday, March 27, 2015
I thought it fitting to end the week with a recent story from the New York Times. You know that old saying that goes something like this "you are only as old as you feel"? Well according to Social Security, a whole bunch of us are a lot older than we are.... The A.P. ran an article on March 16, Flawed Social Security data say 6.5M in US reach age 112. The article notes that the reality is only about 42 people in the world are that old. So what about the other 6.4+ million others? According to the article, lack of death certificates can be a partial explanation.
But Social Security does not have death records for millions of these people, with the oldest born in 1869, according to a report by the agency's inspector general.
Only 13 of the people are still getting Social Security benefits, the report said. But for others, their Social Security numbers are still active, so a number could be used to report wages, open bank accounts, obtain credit cards or claim fraudulent tax refunds.
The Senate Committee on Homeland Security & Government Affairs held a hearing on SSA and death records on March 16, 2015. The solution is a bit more complicated than you might think, according to the article. Think about paper records and how time consuming it is to convert them to electronic records. Social Security is concerned about whether 6.5 million people are alive or not, but "the inspector general's report did not verify that any of the 6.5 million people are actually dead. Instead, the report assumed they are dead because of their advanced age." An SSA official was quoted as saying "our focus right now is to make sure our data is as accurate and complete as it can be for our current program purpose,... Right now, we're focused on making sure we're paying beneficiaries properly, and that's how we're investing our resources at this time."
Tuesday, March 24, 2015
The Alzheimer's Association's 2015 Facts & Figures Report that many doctors fail to tell patients (or their family members) about a diagnosis of Alzheimer's is getting a lot of attention, including this Morning Edition story.
Why aren't doctors revealing their diagnoses? During my work in Northern Ireland on access to justice for older adults, we realized that the doctor's diagnosis is a key opportunity for families to receive early advice about "non-medical" planning, such as arranging for powers of attorney or other arrangements for financial management, while the patient has adequate cognition to help with decision-making. If communication of the diagnosis is delayed, the window for effective participation in planning may also be lost.
Thursday, March 19, 2015
The National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA) recently submitted detailed formal comments to proposed VA rules affecting asset tests for eligibility for Veterans benefits. They begin:
NAELA welcomes the effort to try to make the eligibility criteria for pension and other benefits administered by VA objective and transparent, but we believe that these proposed regulations, if implemented, would cause substantial harm to wartime Veterans, their spouses, and dependents and will not solve the serious issue of unscrupulous organizations taking advantage of potential beneficiaries by selling inappropriate annuities or trusts.
In addition, we express the serious concern that the proposed rule’s 3-year look-back period and transfer of assets penalty exceed statutory authority, opening up VA to future litigation and causing additional uncertainty for Veterans and their families.
For the full NAELA submission, see here.
Wednesday, March 18, 2015
There is an interesting new YouTube video available, with charismatic, high-profile actors encouraging all of us to initiate "The Talk" about how we -- or our loved ones -- want to handle the possibility, indeed probability, that someday we will need long-term care. Rob Lowe, Maria Shriver, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Angela Bassett, Zachary Quinto and Jim Nantz admit the difficulties of talking about growing old, often using vivid tidbits from their own lives or families to emphasize the importance of breaking past the barriers of denial.
I like the video. It is simple, direct. But, at the same time, I find the initial video, while interesting, to be a lacking in specifics about what it means to "talk" about long-term-care planning. The 2-minute video is actually part of a series created by Genworth, the major seller of long-term care insurance, and if you hit the right (wrong?) buttons you are directed to Genworth websites that offer more details, especially about -- surprise, surprise -- buying long-term care insurance.
I suspect that many people will panic if they hear "pay some money now" in order to buy LTC insurance, as even a part of the "solution." See what you think:
Monday, March 16, 2015
Justice in Aging (formerly the National Senior Citizens Law Center) has released an issue brief, How California’s Assisted Living System Falls Short In Addressing Resident’s Health Care Needs The Problem: Pretending that Medication Is Always “Self- Administered” According to the brief, the issue of safe medication administration has
been overlooked for decades. “Assistance with self-administration” is too often a code word for medication administration by a poorly-trained non-nurse. As explained above, other states already have addressed this issue. California has not, due to factors such as the no-health-care orientation of California’s assisted living law, and important concerns about changing state laws related to nurses’ scope of practice. Stakeholders (including nursing representatives) should work together to consider the options to improve medication administration in assisted living. DSS to its credit has taken initial steps to work with stakeholders to identify problems and solutions related to the current RCFE system.
The issue brief is the first in a series to be released by Justice in Aging. More information about Justice in Aging is available here.
Sunday, March 15, 2015
Attorney and author Steve Dale has published a new book, Achieving Independence- A Guide to Creating an Estate Plan Which Ensures Quality of Life for You and Your Loved One with a Disability. According to the author
The primary purpose of this guide is to assist families in the planning process of creating a special needs trust for a loved one with a disability. Stephen shares with the reader his experience as an attorney that has focused primarily on estate planning for persons with disabilities and their families for the past 25 years. He also illustrates some of the challenges that persons with disabilities and their families face by sharing his experiences growing up in California’s State Hospital System as a child of three generations of institutional workers and later as a Psychiatric Technician giving direct care in a variety of psychiatric hospitals for 17 years.
Stephen and his office developed the Achieving Independence System to educate clients on key issues and decisions commonly encountered in creating a special needs trust so clients can be better prepared before meeting with their attorneys and advisors to create a team that best serves their needs. After the plan is created, an effective plan will assist the trust management team to focus on what is really important; to assist a person with a disability to live as independently as possible and to experience a quality of life that many persons who are not disabled take for granted. In essence to achieve the highest level of independence possible free from abuse and neglect.
The book runs 133 pages and is available from Amazon as a paperback for $20.00. Steve's Independence project is explained on his website, Achieving Independence. Full disclosure, Steve is a friend and a regular speaker at Stetson's annual Special Needs Conference.
Wednesday, March 11, 2015
Julie Childs, Project Manager for the U.S. Department of Justice's Elder Justice Website shared with us the resources now available to researchers, students and advocates. Some of the highlights:
Here, victims and family members will find information about how to report elder abuse and financial exploitation in all 50 states and territories. Simply enter your zipcode to find local resources to assist you.
Federal, State, and local prosecutors will find three different databases containing sample pleadings and statutes.
Researchers in the elder abuse field may access a database containing bibliographic information for thousands of elder abuse and financial exploitation articles and reviews.
Practitioners -- including professionals of all types who work with elder abuse and its consequences -- will find information about resources available to help them prevent elder abuse and assist those who have already been abused, neglected or exploited.
This website is intended to be a living and dynamic resource. It will be updated often to reflect changes in the law, add new sample documents, and provide news in the rapidly evolving elder justice field.
It will be interesting to watch this site develop.
March 11, 2015 in Consumer Information, Crimes, Current Affairs, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Ethical Issues, Federal Statutes/Regulations, State Statutes/Regulations, Statistics | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
Tuesday, March 10, 2015
University of Florida Professor Stephen M. Golant has a new book, Aging in the Right Place. The gerontologist advocates examining a host of modern options, and urges resistance to an overly simplistic mantra of "aging in place" as the only goal. For example, he examines assisted living, co-housing, supported "independent living" environments, the "village" movement and CCRCs.
Interviewed for a Washington Post article, Golant explained:
“It’s not an all-or-nothing situation, obviously,” Golant said in an interview about aging-in-place. “But I just wanted to point out the imperfections, and the weaknesses in some of the arguments. . .I want to point out that sometimes there’s too much hype.”
It’s the sort of hype that has surrounded what he calls the New Gerontology, a long running trend that sometimes seems to imply that if people follow certain regimens of diet, physical exercise, social activity and cognitive training, they might avoid aging altogether.
As I have also suggested here, it is important for individuals and families to be realistic about what it will take to stay at home safely, making it important to be open to a larger definition of "home" in order to emphasize better quality of life.
Monday, March 2, 2015
The White House Council of Economic Advisors released "The Effects of Conflicted Investment Advice on Retirement Savings" in February 2015, and the report is a must-read for anyone teaching courses on aging policy.
The major focus of the analysis is on evidence of "conflicts of interest" for those advising individuals on roll-over investment of IRA accounts, but the findings undoubtedly have relevance beyond that window on retirement planning.
The decision whether to roll over one’s assets into an IRA can be confusing and the set of financial products that can be held in an IRA is vast, including savings accounts, money market accounts, mutual funds, exchange-traded funds, individual stocks and bonds, and annuities. Selecting and managing IRA investments can be a challenging and time-consuming task, frequently one of the most complex financial decisions in a person’s life, and many Americans turn to professional advisers for assistance. However, financial advisers are often compensated through fees and commissions that depend on their clients’ actions. Such fee structures generate acute conflicts of interest: the best recommendation for the saver may not be the best recommendation for the adviser’s bottom line.
The report focuses on the quantifiable cost from conflicted advice, concluding that savers receiving such advice "earn returns roughly 1 percentage point lower each year." But isn't there also a deeper cost, as the large swath of middle-income Americans, who may have justified fears of being able to safely evaluate investment risk and their investment advisors, do nothing productive with their savings?
The New York Times editorial board draws upon the White House Council's report to call for adoption of reality-based rules on fiduciary duties for the financial services industry. See NYT's "Protecting Fragile Retirement Nest Eggs."
Friday, February 27, 2015
Texas attorney Renée C. Lovelace has literally written the book -- a guidebook -- on Pooled Trust Options. Renée was a recent guest speaker at Penn State's Dickinson Law, appearing before students in an advanced seminar on planning techniques. Indeed, our students had specifically asked to hear from experienced practitioners on special needs trusts, and with the help of the National Elder Law Foundation we were able to host a nationally known speaker to do just that.
Renée (third from the left, in blue) helped our students identify appropriate uses of pooled trusts, such as where the beneficiary's needs could be uniquely well-served by a trustee who is familiar with the challenges sometimes encountered in managing assets on behalf of persons with disabilities.
While the special needs beneficiary may be frustrated by a manager's handling of "his" (or "her") money, sometimes it is the family that has questions about application of the law. Recently I was reading a New Jersey case decision, where a family was challenging the state's attempt to seek reimbursement for medical and care expenses expended by the state, following the death of their disabled daughter. At the core of the dispute was what appeared to be a misunderstanding on the part of the family about the nature of their daughter's special needs trust, which they were describing as a pooled trust. The court pointed out, that in the absence of a nonprofit manager, the trust could not be deemed a (d)(4)(C) trust or "pooled" trust, that would have allowed assets remaining after the death of the daughter to stay in the trust for the benefit of other disabled persons, rather than be subject to the state's reimbursement claim.
Thus, the case is a reminder that pooled trusts, properly created and managed are usually drafted as special needs trusts (SNTs). However, not all SNTs are pooled trusts. Or as Renée explains so well in her thorough guidebook:
Tuesday, February 24, 2015
USA Today reports on home care workers "joining a nationwide movement" to raise wages, with rallies planned for "more than 20 cities in the next two weeks."
As described by journalist Paul Davidson,
"Like the fast food workers, the 2 million personal care and home health aides seek a $15 hourly wage and the right to unionize, which is barred in some states. Their median hourly wage is about $9.60 and annual pay averages just $18,600 because many work part-time, according to the Labor Department and National Employment Law Project. That puts the industry among the lowest paying despite fast-growing demand for home-based caregivers to serve aging Baby Boomers over the next decade.
'Home care providers living in poverty don't have a stable standard of living so they can provide quality care,' says Mary Kay Henry, president of the Service Employees International Union, which is spearheading the home care aides' movement and backed the fast-food worker strikes."
According to a representative of "Home Care Association of America, which represented agencies that employ personal-care aides," companies attempt to "balance the ability to keep care affordable with attracting employees."
Thanks to Dickinson Law 3L student Jake Sternberger for pointing me to this news item.
February 24, 2015 in Consumer Information, Discrimination, Ethical Issues, Federal Cases, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations, Statistics | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
The National Consumer Law Center (NCLC) is offering a free webinar on "Medical Debt: Overview of New IRS Regulations and Industry Best Practices" on March 4, 2015 from 2 to 3 p.m. Eastern Time.
The hosts describe the webinar as follows:
This webinar will present an overview of the IRS final regulations governing financial assistance and collection policies of nonprofit hospitals. The regulations require nonprofit hospitals to have written financial assistance policies; regulate debt collection by nonprofit hospitals and third party
agencies; and prohibit the imposition of "chargemaster" rates to patients eligible for financial assistance.
Find out how to use the regulations to help clients who owe medical debts to nonprofit hospitals and protect them from lawsuits, liens, and credit reporting damage. The webinar will also review the voluntary best practices on medical account resolution issued by the Healthcare Financial Management Association.
Here is the link for REGISTRATION. Thanks to the National Senior Citizens Law Center (soon to be "officially" Justice in Aging) for sharing news of this educational opportunity of clear relevance to older persons and their families.
Wednesday, February 18, 2015
A long-running investigation of a doctor in Illinois for Medicaid and Medicare fraud is coming to a close. Michael Reinstein, "who for decades treated patients in Chicago nursing homes and mental health wards," has pleaded guilty to a felony charge for taking kickbacks from a pharmaceutical company. As detailed by the Chicago Tribune, on February 13, Reinstein admitted prescribing, and thus generating public payment for, various forms of the drug clozapine, widely described as a "risky drug of last resort."
The 71-year old doctor has been the target of the state and federal prosecutors for months, and he's also agreed to pay (which is, of course, different than actually paying) more than $3.7 million in penalties. He may still be able to reduce his prison time from 4 years to 18 months, if he "continues to assist investigators."
The investigation traces as far back as 2009, as detailed by a Chicago-Tribune/ProPublica series that revealed he had prescribed more of the antipsychotic drug in question to patients in "Medicaid's Illinois program in 2007 than all doctors in the Medicaid programs of Texas, Florida and North Carolina combined." Further, the Tribune/ProPublica series pointed to autopsy and court records that showed that, "by 2009, at least three patients under Reinstein's care had died of clozapine intoxication." Reinstein's, and one assumes, the pharmaceutical company's, defense was that the drug could have appropriate, therapeutic effects for patients, beyond the limited "on-label" realm.
Assuming that the government ever sees a dime in repayment, from either the doctor or the drug company, my next question is what happens to that money? At a minimum, shouldn't there be review of the effect of the drugs on these patients, some of whom may have been administered the drug for years? We keep reading that the drugs are "risky," but shouldn't there be evidence of real harm -- or perhaps even benefit -- from the documented "off-label" use? Certainly, prosecutions for off-label drugs are understandable attempts to claw-back, or at least reduce, public expenditures. But isn't more at stake, including the search for relief or workable solutions for patients who are in distress?
In March 2014, for example, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd., the maker of generic clozapine, reportedly agreed to pay more than $27.6 million to settle state and federal allegations that it induced Reinstein to prescribe the drug. Recovering misspent dollars is important. But I also would like to see evidence of the harm alleged by the government -- or the benefit asserted by the defendants -- from the administration of the drugs. Isn't objective study of the history of these real patients a very proper use of the penalties?
February 18, 2015 in Cognitive Impairment, Consumer Information, Crimes, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Ethical Issues, Federal Cases, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicaid, Medicare, State Cases | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Monday, February 16, 2015
The themes for the two day conference are:
November 12 (Day 1): Connecting Across Discipline and Geography:
Join practitioners from law, social work, health care, finance, non-profit and other sectors from across the country and around the world to talk about the challenges and issues involved in working with older adults. Particular topic areas we are seeking include:
- elder abuse,
- assisted living and retirement housing,
- financial abuse,
- age friendly communities, and
- outreach strategies.
November 13 (Day 2): Key Practice Challenges and Hot Topics in Legal
Explore issues engaged in powers of attorney and substitute decision-making, health care decision-making and end of life care, mental capacity and dementia, elder abuse and neglect, and other challenging subjects that arise in representing older adults and their families.
Contact National Director Krista Bell with any questions, and additional details, including submission information are available here.
February 16, 2015 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, International, Retirement, Social Security | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Wednesday, February 11, 2015
The Center for Retirement Research at Boston College has a nifty pamphlet on Using Your House for Income in Retirement. The booklet covers home ownership in retirement and options, including downsizing and reverse mortgages. The booklet includes graphics and checklists, helpful examples and list of other helpful "decision aids" available on their website.
Tuesday, February 10, 2015
With the shift from defined benefit pensions to 401(k)plans, the welfare of retirees increasingly depends on their ability to make sound financial decisions. This situation has raised concerns that the cognitive decline that comes with age could compromise the elderly’s decision-making ability and thereby their financial well-being. This brief, based on a recent study,1 addresses this issue using a unique dataset that follows a group of elderly individuals over time.
The report is divided into four parts: literature review, data, analysis and conclusion. The conclusion paints an interesting picture
The findings confirm that declining cognition, a common occurrence among individuals in their 80s, is associated with a significant decline in financial literacy. The study also finds that large declines in cognition and financial literacy have little effect on an elderly individual’s confidence in their financial knowledge, and essentially no effect on their confidence in managing their finances. Individuals with declining cognition are more likely to get help with their finances. But the study finds that over half of all elderly individuals with significant declines in cognition get no help outside of a spouse. Given the increasing dependence of retirees on 401(k)/IRA savings, cognitive decline will likely have an increas-ingly significant adverse effect on the well-being of the elderly.
Monday, February 9, 2015
I received an email recently from the National Center on Elder Abuse listserv about free training materials. The National Council of Certified Dementia Practitioners/International Council of Certified Dementia Practitioners are offering for free their toolkits and in-service materials through March 15, 2015. Sign up here for the free training materials. There is a wide array of topics available, including a large library of dementia topics and some on elder abuse. According to the website, the took kits include the following:
Free Power Point / Over Head In-services for Health Care Staff, Tests and Answers, Seminar Evaluation and Seminar Certificates
97 Ideas To Recognize Alzheimer's Disease and Dementia Care Staff Education Week
20 Reasons Why You Should Provide Comprehensive Alzheimer's Disease and Dementia Training to Your Staff by A Live Instructor
Dementia Word Search Games & Interactive Exercises
Movies and Books About Alzheimer’s You Don’t Want To Miss
Proclamation & Sample Agenda for Opening Ceremony & Sample Letter to Editor
Contest Entry Forms- Staff Education week
Alzheimer’s Disease Bill of Rights & Alzheimer’s Patient Prayer
Nurse Educator / In-service Director of The Year Nomination Form
Corporate and Associate Membership Forms
Songs to Inspire You
Letter to the Editor
AARP has a fabulous video, using the voices of brave victims, to examine the Weapons of Fraud employed by con artists. The speakers span all ages (in fact, I think I saw a Penn State logo on one of the candid, younger victims), and thus the clear message is that anyone can be a risk.
The short (about 15 minute) and intriguing video seeks to inoculate viewers from the risk factors of the pitch. as discussed further on Boston College's Squared Away Blog.
I think one of the most useful parts of this video is identifying and naming the ways that standard marketing tactics are magnified and used to persuade individuals to participate in the con. The techniques include establishing a "phantom fixation," through promise of a sudden windfall that will be available to you and only you... if you just talk to them long enough (oh, and yes, send them money).
Law students will also appreciate the example of the "Miracle Shim" to demonstrate misuse of "social proof," "authority," and fake "scarcity," and other techniques.
Hat tip to ElderLawGuy Jeff Marshall, Esq. for these links.
Recently Elder Law Attorney Bob Anderson from Marquette, Michigan, spoke to law students at Dickinson Law on the theme of "planning" and his presentation stressed the importance of understanding long-term care insurance or, because our world loves acronyms, "LTCI."
Bob used his thirty years of experience in counseling families to outline key points, and to explain factors that have impacted the LTCI industry. I asked the students to summarize what they found to be most interesting and important. Their "takeaway" highlights included:
- LTCI is an important consideration, part of the same evaluation for insuring against "unacceptable" losses, that should take place in deciding whether to insure against home fires or early death, recognizing that such events are "unlikely" to happen, but can happen to a significant percentage of the population;
- LTCI has a "cost of waiting," both in terms of the potential to become "uninsurable" because of a disqualifying medical condition arising, and because of the cost increase in first time premiums as you get closer to the age of potential need; and
- The cost of LTCI has several important variables, which lawyers can help families understand when advising about planning options, including the term of coverage (e.g., 1, 3 or 5 years), the "elimination" period, the interaction with Medicare's 100 day maximum for post-acute care, and the need to consider inflation protection for the daily benefit.
Bob also talked about "hybrid" insurance products, combining life insurance with an LTCI option. I think it is safe to say that regardless of their goals after graduation, all of the law students came away with an appreciation for the need to understand all available options, including LTCI, in planning or advising for post-retirement needs.
One of our students, who is thinking about general practice, said that he can see clients asking questions about LTCI. Bob was excellent at reminding all of us that effective elder law and estate planning attorneys address more than just what happens after death.
Bob, whose diverse interests include cross-country ski racing and hockey, also provided a bit of surprise during his visit when he began speaking Russian -- and, I think, Ukrainian -- with our Russian and Ukrainian Law expert, Bill Butler.
We especially appreciate Pennsylvania elder law attorney Amos Goodall and the National Elder Law Foundation (NELF) for their roles in making this interactive program possible; the recording will be available to practitioners in the future through NELF's educational arm. Amos also addressed our students, adding important Pennsylvania specifics to the discussion.
In a timely coincidence, AARP has a newly published Money Column, on "Should I Buy Long-Term Care Insurance?"
Friday, February 6, 2015
H. R. Moody edits an electronic newsletter, called "Teaching Gerontology," under the auspices of the Creativity, Longevity & Wisdom Program at Fielding Graduate University in Santa Barbara, California. It is distributed by the Association for Gerontology in Higher Education. A recent newsletter contained this interesting item:
"We've all heard that famous statistic: only 4% of people over 65 are in a long-term care facility (sometimes called simply "nursing home"). But there's a reason why this statistic has been called the "4 Percent Fallacy." The reason is that it's simply a cross-sectional figure, a snapshot at a single point in time. What is the likelihood of being in a long-term care facility when we look at it longitudinally, that is, over the life-course? The bad news is that the risk is not 4% but more like 50%: 44% for men and 58% for women. The good news is the stays in a nursing home may not necessarily be long: 11 months for a single man and 17 months for a single woman."
H.R. Moody suggests that for more details, visit:http://crr.bc.edu/briefs/long-term-care-how-big-a-risk/
Further, he notes that CRR's calculation of average length-of-stay has been challenged and is worth closer examination: http://centerltc.com/bullets/latest/1070.htm