Thursday, January 29, 2015

Third Circuit: Officers & Directors of Bankrupt Nursing Home Liable for "Deepening Insolvency" But Punitive Damages Not Proven re Directors

We reported in December 2013 about the long saga of the Lemington Home for the Aged, a troubled nursing home that sought bankruptcy court protection in 2010.  Lemington Home for Aged Now, in a 2015 decision by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, following an appeal from the March 2013 jury verdict that awarded the Home's unsecured creditors a total of $5.75 million, key issues about that damage award are addressed.

Judge Vanaskie, who had taken the lead on an earlier appellate opinion regarding the officers and directors, provided some relief for the five former directors on the nonprofit organization's board, who faced joint and several liability for more than $3.5 million in punitive damages.  The opinion begins with a concise summary of the outcome:

"This lawsuit, which concerns the mismanagement of a Pittsburgh-area nursing home and its ensuing bankruptcy, comes before the Court for a third time on appeal. In the present appeal, the Defendants, two former Officers and fourteen former Directors of the nursing home, present several challenges to the jury's verdict, which found them liable for breach of fiduciary duties and deepening insolvency. The jury also imposed punitive damages against the two Officers and five of the Directors.

 

We will affirm the jury's liability findings and the punitive damages award imposed against the Administrator and the Chief Financial Officer of the nursing home. We will, however, vacate the jury's award of punitive damages against the Defendants who served on the nursing home's Board of Directors. We conclude that the punitive damages award against those Defendants was not supported by evidence sufficient to establish that they acted with 'malice, vindictiveness and a wholly wanton disregard of the rights of others .' Smith v. Renaut, 387 Pa. Super. 299, 564 A.2d 188, 193 (Pa. Super. Ct. 1989) (citations omitted)."

The full opinion, filed on January 26, 2015 for In re Lemington Home for the Aged, is well worth reading, especially for the additional analysis of how individual officers and directors of a corporation (even a nonprofit corporation), can face personal liability for contributing to  "deepening insolvency," a form of "fraudulent expansion of corporate debt."  At the same time, the opinion analyzes the active misconduct of the CEO and CFO of the company that supported the award of punitive damages, as opposed to the absence of proof of  "outrageous or malicious conduct" that precluded the directors' liability for same.

January 29, 2015 in Current Affairs, Ethical Issues, Federal Cases, Health Care/Long Term Care, Retirement | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Should the Senior Housing Market Segment Known as "CCRC" Change Its Name?

LeadingAge, an senior housing and senior care organization that often takes a prominent advocacy role on behalf of nonprofit Continuing Care Retirement Communities, has a "NameStorm Survey" underway.  The survey explores whether another name (and presumably an acronym other than CCRC) would better "resonate with consumers?" Everyone is invited to weigh-in, including current residents at CCRCs.

Here's the link to the reasons for the brainstorming of names, and here is a link to the on-line survey, that  takes just a few minutes.  The survey window closes on February 15, 2015.

January 28, 2015 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Congressional Leaders Seek Answers on Enforcement of Medicaid Asset Transfer Rules

Republican chairs of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce and the Senate Finance Committee recently wrote to the head of Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), demanding explanation for why 22 states and D,C. are "failing" to implement federal laws about Medicaid eligibility and asset transfer rules for Long Term Services and Supports (LTSS) benefits.   They write:

"We are troubled to learn that many states have not implemented all of the eligibility and asset transfer requirements enacted by OBRA and DRA.  Information provided to us by the Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Inspector General (OIG) shows that, as of November 2013, only 28 states reported they implemented all of the relevant provisions from these two laws.  Thus, although it has been over 20 years since enactment of OBRA and nearly 10 years since DRA, the remaining 22 states and the District of Columbia have yet to comply with federal law.  California, which accounts for 12 percent of Medicaid LTSS spending, reported that it has not implemented the majority of the relevant provisions.  As a result, federal Medicaid dollars may be paying for care for individuals who are not eligible for coverage under federal law, which puts a strain on resources for those individuals who are eligible and in need."

The Chairmen ask for answers to a list of questions (by February 27), focusing on what action CMS is taking or will take to bring states "into compliance." For example, they ask "How is CMS ensuring that federal Medicaid dollars are not being used to support coverage for individuals ineligible for LTSS under federal law?"

Here is the legislators' full letter, addressed to Marilyn Tavenner at CMS, dated January 23, 2015.

For another perspective on potential disparities among the states in administering Medicaid eligibility rules for LTSS, see AARP's Public Policy Institute Report on "Access to Long-Term Services and Supports: A 50-State Survey of Medicaid Financial Eligibility Standards" released in September 2010. 

This letter presents an interesting juxtaposition with the Armstrong case now pending in the Supreme Court.  On the one hand, federal and state governments are arguing in court that there is no private standing to challenge "underfunding" of federally mandated Medicaid programs; on the other hand Congress seems to be demanding that CMS stop any potential for overfunding Medicaid beneficiaries.  

January 27, 2015 in Current Affairs, Ethical Issues, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicaid, Medicare | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, January 26, 2015

NYT: Nursing Homes Seek Guardianships (And Fees) To Collect Unpaid Nursing Home Costs

In a major investigative report, The New York Times describes findings that nursing homes in counties throughout the state of New York are agressively seeking appointment of non-family members as guardians for residents of their facilities.  The trigger? Unpaid nursing home fees.  

Reporter Nina Bernstein uses the history of 90-year old Lillian Palermo to illustrate the practice, where a nursing home initiated a guardianship proceeding to displace her husband's authority as agent under a Power of Attorney, when disputes with her husband left unpaid bills, alleged to be "approaching $68,000."  

NYT  and researchers at Hunter College teamed to analyze the use of guardianships as a bill collection tool by nursing homes:

"Few people are aware that a nursing home can take such a step.  Guardianship cases are difficult to gain access to and poorly tracked by New York State courts; cases are often closed from public view for confidentiality.  But the Palermo case is no aberration,. Interviews with veterans of the system and a review of guardianship court data conducted by researchers at Hunter College at the request of The New York Times show the practice has become routine, underscoring the growing power nursing homes wield over residents and families amid changes in the financing of long-term care.

 

In a random, anonymized sample of 700 guardianship cases filed in Manhattan over a decade, Hunter College researchers found more than 12 percent were brought by nursing homes.  Some of these may have been prompted by family feuds, suspected embezzlement or just the absence of relatives to help secure Medicaid coverage.  But lawyers and others versed in the guardianship process agree that nursing homes primarily use such petitions as a means of bill collection -- a purpose never intended by the Legislature when it enacted the guardianships statute in 1993."

While, according to the NYT, at least one court has ruled such a "tactic by nursing homes is an abuse of the law," the increase of such suits highlights the payment dilemmas faced by facilities and families as Medicaid eligibility rules narrow and as the margin tightens for coverage of costs of care.

New York is not alone in seeing guardianship cases initiated by nursing homes.  In Pennsylvania, attorneys retained by families or individuals have also sometimes challenged the practice, focusing on the use of facility-preferred guardians and the amount of fees added to the care bills in dispute.

For more, read "To Collect Debts, Nursing Homes Are Seizing Control Over Patients."

January 26, 2015 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicaid, State Cases | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Justice in Aging: New Name plus Long-Standing Commitment

National Senior Citizens Law Center, an important advocate for low income seniors in the U.S. since its inception in 1972, has announced a new identity, "Justice in Aging." But, don't worry, this change represents a deepening of their long-standing commitment (including a cherished role in training and education of senior advocates, including free webinars). As explained in news releases:

"The new name and accompanying 'look' will more accurately reflect the nature of our work, build on our legacy of impact, and open the door to engage more supporters and partners across the country.  And it is a LOT easier to say and remember!

 

Our new name will be Justice in Aging.  Our new tagline will be Fighting Senior Poverty Through Law.... Our new website will be www.justiceinaging.orgWe will begin using the new name on March 2, 2015.... While our name is changing, our work will remain the same.  As income inequality increases across the nation and the population ages, senior poverty is growing to unprecedented levels.... We still serve serve as a resource for advocates on important programs like Medicare, Medicaid, LTSS, Social Security and SSI." 

We wish the hardworking staff of NSCLC -- or now JiA, perhaps? -- all the best as they roll out their new identity, and in their continuing commitment to advocating for seniors across the nation. 

January 26, 2015 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, January 15, 2015

WHCOA Regional Meetings

The White House Conference on Aging announced earlier in the week upcoming regional WHOCA meetings-coming soon, to a city near (sort of ) you. The first WHCOA regional meeting will be in Tampa, Florida on February 19.   The other locations and dates are:

  •  March 31-Phoenix
  • April 9- Seattle 
  • April 27-Cleveland
  • May 28-Boston

 

January 15, 2015 in Current Affairs, Programs/CLEs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

ABLE Accounts-What You Need to Know

As you probably know, Congress finally, after many years, passed a bill that provides for ABLE accounts. Want to know more? Take a look at two newsletters from leading elder law attorney, Robert Fleming, of Tucson, Az. explaining ABLE.  The first, ABLE Act Passes-We'll Tell You What it Means, gives an overview of ABLE accounts and succinct bullet points about the provisions. The second, The ABLE Act-How You Will Be Able to Use It.provides some hypotheticals about how ABLE accounts may be used. Steve Dale, a leader in the field of special needs planning has devoted a section of his website to ABLE accounts, including video available here.

Of course, there are still steps to take before ABLE accounts are in full swing, so stay tuned to learn more about them.

January 6, 2015 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, December 29, 2014

College Broadcast Student's Media Project Focuses on Filial Laws

Christopher Robb is in his final year at Westminster College in Pennsylvania and for his senior Media project he tackled "filial laws."  His impressive work included researching the history of such laws and studying recent court cases in Pennsylvania.  He interviewed and filmed a host of individuals from across the state who have experience with recent trends in use of filial support laws by nursing homes to seek payment from adult children for bills not satisfied by the resident's resources, insurance or Medicaid.  Chris Robb's resulting 15 minute video is titled, "Am I My Mother's Keeper?"  Thank you for sharing it with the Elder Law Prof Blog!

 

December 29, 2014 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, Medicaid, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, December 20, 2014

"Smart Talk" about Guardianships, POAs, Elder Abuse & Access to Justice in the Courts

Here is a link to a podcast for a Smart Talk program from WITF Public Radio, where Zygmont Pines, Esq., Court Administrator for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and I were invited to talk about quite a few "hot" topics from Pennsylvania Supreme Court's Elder Law Task Force.  The Task Force released its big Report and Recommendations last month. 

The topics strike me as quite universal, not Pennsylvania specific.  If you make it to the last few minutes (or skip ahead), there is an especially poignant moment with a family caregiver, who tells a real life story that will strike a chord with many. 

 

 

December 20, 2014 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, December 19, 2014

Looking for a Movie or Book this Season? Don't Shy Away From These....

New York Times Op-Ed Columnist Frank Bruni recalls his own reluctance to confront the realities of Alzheimer's, offering a touching account of his own grandmother many years ago, whose condition caused him to turn away.  But as he also points out in his column, "Confronting an Ugly Killer," "the world is different now.  Much of the unwarranted shame surrounding Alzheimer's has lifted. People are examining it with new candor and empathy."

As evidence for his observation, he points to the latest movie, Still Alice, with Oscar buzz already starting for Julianne Moore's performance.

As further evidence, he lists the new documentary "Glenn Campbell: I'll Be Me" and a best selling, celebrated 2014 novel, "We Are Not Ourselves" by Matthew Tomas. 

December 19, 2014 in Books, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Congress Passes Federal ABLE Act to Help Funding for Persons with Disabilities

Reason for celebration.  Not only did Congress act, but it came together to help those with disabilities.  The Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act cleared the Senate on Tuesday on a vote of 76 to 16, which is the last step on its way to the President.  As Gail Russell Chaddok of the Christian Science Monitor observes:

"But the reasons for its success go deeper and point to potential bipartisan paths forward on one of Congress’s most intractable issues: entitlement reform. The aim of the ABLE Act is to remove bureaucratic obstacles to help Americans save their own money to help pay for long-term care. To some activists, that could provide a template for reforming Medicare and Social Security in the next Congress.  

 

The ABLE Act helps people with disabilities save for college and retirement. Under current law, a child diagnosed with a disability can’t have assets worth more than $2,000 or earn more than $680 per month without forfeiting eligibility for government programs like Medicaid. The ABLE Act would allow a tax-free savings account up to $100,000 to pay for disability-related expenses."

 

December 17, 2014 in Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Did You Catch NPR's "Old and Overmedicated?" (Links and Updates Here)

Mark Friedman, an elder law and special needs attorney from New Jersey, recently wrote to comment on the important series offered by National Public Radio on use and misuse of certain medications in long-term care settings.  Here is what Mark said:

"NPR ran a story on 'chemical restraints,' - nursing homes using anti-psychotic drugs to make unruly residents more pliable. According to the article, the residents are usually Alzheimer’s or dementia patients, and anti-psychotics can make the residents easier for staff to manage. But the drugs can be dangerous, increasing a resident’s risk of falls and exacerbating health problems. At high doses, anti-psychotics can also sap away emotions and personality and put the resident into a 'stupor.'

 

Administering drugs in this manner, any drugs, including anti-psychotics, without medical need and for the convenience of staff, is contrary to federal regulations. Unfortunately, it may also be widespread.

 

The NPR story includes a tool drawn from CMS data that shows the rate of residents on anti-psychotics at nursing homes across the country. You can look up the facility in which your loved one resides.

 

The news coverage shows that this issue is getting increased attention, and that’s a good thing. I think that as Americans age and more people have spouses and parents in nursing homes, the use of anti-psychotics as chemical restraints will have to diminish or end. People won’t stand for their loved ones being drugged into a stupor."

Thanks, Mark, for making sure we included this topic and the latest links for more coverage and your additional commentary.  Along the same lines, I listened to an interesting follow-up conversation on AirTalk, a Los Angeles public radio affiliate's program, discussing "How California is Doing in the National Fight to Curb Over-Medication of Nursing Home Patients."  That program, now available as a 23-minute podcast, included an articulate medical professional, Dr. Karl Steinberg, who described how he sees medication practices changing in long-term care, including better use of behavior health techniques, rather than medication, to help residents.

Continue reading

December 16, 2014 in Cognitive Impairment, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Ethical Issues, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Science | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, December 15, 2014

Social Security Continues Debt Collections Against Family Members

The Washington Post has had several articles over the last two years, examining records of debt collection effforts and individual cases where "overpayments" are alleged by the Social Security Administration, leading to claims not just against the direct beneficiaries of the benefits, but also against family members.  Sometimes the claims are made many years after the alleged payments took place, making it hard for families to understand the basis of the claims or to defend against the claims. In April of 2014, as we summarized here, following protests the SSA announced it was immediately suspending its intercept program -- used to target IRS tax refunds --  for purposes of stale debt collection.  As I commented then, it seemed SSA was more concerned about the government's "self help" approach to debt collection, than answering questions about how and why it was seeking refunds from children of the alleged debtors. 

Is this a SSA-specific form of "filial support" claims, where children are liable for certain debts of their parents, or are the claims based on a theory of indirect benefit to the children? 

George Washington Law Professor Naomi Cahn alerted us to the latest news on renewed debt collection by SSA  from the Washington Post. (Thanks, Naomi!)  Some of the same families who were granted refunds of intercepts earlier in the year, were once again asked to pay their ancestors' debts. Five of the families have filed a lawsuit to seek answers, and the Post has also asked for an explanation, apparently with less than satisfactory results:

"Asked to explain the about-face, Social Security officials said they would respond only to written questions. Late Friday, four days after The Post provided questions, the agency issued this statement from spokesman Mark Hinkle: 'We are finalizing our review of the Treasury offset program, but cannot discuss specifics due to the pending litigation.' The offset program is Treasury’s effort to collect on debts to Social Security and other agencies by confiscating Americans’ tax refunds."

For more on the controversy, read Marc Fisher's article, "Social Security Continuing to Pursue Claims for Old Debts Against Family Members" from the Washington Post. 

December 15, 2014 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Social Security | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Comparative Legal News on the CARE Act: A Report from Pennsylvania's AARP Family Caregiver Summit

Earlier this year, Kim Dayton reported in our Blog (here) about the new CARE Act, enacted in Oklahoma as a means to provide better transition from facility-based care to home care for individuals needing support.  The CARE Act is a nation-wide project sponsored by AARP and thus I was excited to be invited to participate in an AARP Pennsylvania Family Caregiver Summit, as part of the discussion about introduction and passage of a CARE Act in my state. 

The Summit was held yesterday with administrative agency heads, legislators and their staff invited to attend.  The turnout was probably a bit affected by the weather reports for the day.  (What happened to the predicted Nor'easter, anyway?  Not that I'm complaining about winter weather that proves to be milder than predicted!)  I found the event very interesting.  As so often happens, I ended up being more of a student than a teacher, even while serving as a panelist.

It was quickly clear that virtually everyone in the room had experience with or personal awareness of the challenges of serving as a family caregiver under stress.  The room was practically vibrating with stories about how tough it can be to know what to do when you confront the reality that a parent or other aging family member needs significant support.  The keynote speaker, Cate Barron, a vice president of the PennLive and Patriot-News media group and by her own admission a take-charge kind of gal, spoke with great candor and humor about the process of realizing that a "diagnosis" of what is wrong did not necessarily provide answers to her mother's need for assistance.  We are so pre-programmed to believe that if we can find the right diagnosis of the problem, there must be a "solution" worth pursuing.

The opening presentation by Glenn Fewkes from the AARP National office provided the latest statistics and graphics about aging in the U.S.  What I found especially interesting were his graphics about Long-Term Services and Supports (LTSS) for individuals with caregiving needs.  It turns out Pennsylvania ranks near the bottom (42nd, according to the most recent statistics) on a national scorecard. evaluating LTSS for affordability and access.  That means the state with the fourth "oldest" population has some real challenges ahead.

That is where AARP's CARE Act project comes into play as a first step to improve supports for individuals needing care.  As we reported earlier, CARE is an acronym for "Caregiver Advise, Record and Enable" and AARP's model has straight-forward objectives.  To me, a key goal in adopting the model CARE Act is to create smoother transitions.  This can be facilitated  by making sure that hospitals or rehab facilities have clear information about any designated "caregiver," that they give notifice of discharge at least 4 hours in advance,  and that they offer practical instruction on any medical tasks that will need to be performed in the home.  For example, under the model CARE Act, the instruction shall include:

  • a live demonstration of needed "after-care tasks"
  • an opportunity for caregiver and patient to ask questions
  • answers to the caregiver and patient questions "provided in a culturally competent manner and in accordance with the hospital's requirements to provide language access services under state and federal law."

My own research has shown that family members often cite "access to accurate information" as one of the most important first needs for families responding to caregiving crises.  The CARE Act is clearly intended to respond to a critical first window of need -- hospital discharge --  by requiring facilities to give useful information and relevant instruction.

During the Family Caregiver Summit, there were a lot of good questions about the CARE Act, and it was great to have Pennsylvania State Representative Tim Hennessey on the panel. In his role as majority chair of the House Aging and Older Adult Services Committee, it is likely he will be able to provide early analysis and support for the CARE Act in Pennsylvania. 

As part of my own preparation for the Summit, I took a closer look at Oklahoma's result with the CARE Act.   Title 63 Okla. St. Ann. Sections 3113- 3117 (the statutory provisions created by the April 2014 passage of Senate Bill 1536) became effective on November 1, 2014.  The law requires that  hospitals "provide each patient or patient's legal guardian with an opportunity to designate one lay caregiver" following admission, and to record the designated caregiver and the caregiver's contact information in the patient's medical record.  Such a choice then triggers the hospital to "request the written consent" of the patient or guardian to release medical information to the patient." Only if the patient both designates a lay caregiver AND gives "written" consent is the hospital then obligated to do anything further with respect to discharge planning with the caregiver.

But what happens in Oklahoma when the written consent to share information with the designated caregiver is given? 

Continue reading

December 10, 2014 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Health Care/Long Term Care, State Statutes/Regulations, Statistics | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, December 1, 2014

Senior Discounts

Who amongst us have not heard of a senior discount? They are ubiquitous in some areas, such as movie tickets or dining out. Here is one program that allows the recipient of a senior discount to donate it to a charity. The NY Times ran a story about this program, Getting a Senior Discount? Here’s How to Give It Away, which allows the recipient of a discount to donate it.  The article tells the story of the Boomerang Giving Project which allowed senior moviegoers to pay full price for their movie tickets and to donate their senior discounts to a charity of their choosing.

More information about the Boomerang Giving Project is available on their website. According to the website, "BOOMERANG GIVING is a national movement of Baby Boomers who dare to imagine the impact we can make as a generation if Boomers with the means reinvest some or all of our senior discount savings back into our communities through charities we each choose ourselves..." The project was also the subject of a story on PBS.

The Boomerang Giving website provides some history on the project. Originating in Washington state, "seven community leaders from Bainbridge Island and Seattle Washington, all dedicated to bolstering future generations through support of nonprofit organizations" created the project  with the mission  "[t]o redefine Baby Boomers as the generation that gives back. By inventing multiple ways to give back, Boomerang Giving is committed to creating opportunities for the 3.5 million persons who turn 65 each year to increase their charitable giving and join others in supporting their communities."

Returning to the NY Times article, the story notes the upward trend in charitable giving and the benefits of doing so. The obvious, of course, is the help to the charity, but as well, the donor benefits

  • "A crucial conclusion from a study published last year in the International Journal of Happiness and Development ... concluded that people feel good when they make a charitable donation — especially through a friend, relative or social connection."
  • "Harvard researchers found in an experiment that donating to charity can increase physical strength. .. " and
  • "An increasingly popular way for retirees to stay active mentally and socially is to join a local giving circle."

The article also offers some advice on checking out a charity's legitimacy before committing to a financial contribution and basic charitable planning.

December 1, 2014 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Retirement | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Thank a Caregiver

Ramping up into Thanksgiving celebration, thinking about the things for which we are thankful---how about adding caregivers to that list? Huffintong Post Third Metric ran a three-part series earlier this month on Unsung Heroes: The Face of American Caregiving. The Unsung Heroes Who Give Up Everything To Take Care Of A Sick Partner, the first installment in the series, focused on eleven extraordinary caregivers providing care to spouses/partners.  The second,  The Unsung Heroes Who Give Up Everything To Take Care Of A Sick Parent covers 10 family members providing care for their parents., 9 of whom are over the age of 50.  The final installment, The Unsung Heroes Who Give Up Everything To Take Care Of Multiple Loved Ones covers ten amazing individuals who have provided care for multiple generations.

Knowing the statistics on caregiving, a number of us will be called upon to provide the care. These folks will inspire you.  Happy Thanksgiving.

November 25, 2014 in Cognitive Impairment, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Health Care/Long Term Care, Retirement | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, November 24, 2014

Senior Faculty?

I'm a senior faculty member at my law school. It doesn't seem like that long ago I was junior faculty and one day I realized I was now one of "them". I don't even recall being "middle management" but I must have been so, for a few years.  So first as an elder law prof and second as a senior faculty member,  I've been interested in a couple of articles published in the Chronicle of Higher Education.  The first article, The Forever Professors appeared in the Chronicle Review on November 14, 2014 in the Opinions and Ideas section.  The next, Ageism in Academe, appeared Novembere18, 2014 in the Chronicle's blog. 

There are a number of issued raised in this articles, and it appears there is a fair amount of interest, both with the Forever Professor piece and  The Ageism  post when you consider the number of comments posted to the two.  I'm sure we all cover aging and ageism in our classes and it engenders good discussions.

I wondered about whether to integrate in my classes the points made in these Chronicle articles (note, neither of these profs are law faculty-whether this is relevant or not). I am not going to summarize or comment on the two articles. I do encourage you to read them...and the comments.... and draw your own conclusions about the teaching points we can glean from them. Meanwhile, I'm going to ponder them further while I think about preparing for the next semester's classes.

November 24, 2014 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Explaining Palliative Care in Graphic Format

The Institute of Medicine (IOM) has released a great graphic on palliative care. What Should You Know About Palliative Care? has six graphics on topics including scope, function, location, family services and the benefits of palliative care.   The infographic can be downloaded or a poster can be ordered by sending an email.  The webpage also includes a link to the IOM report, Dying In America

November 20, 2014 in Advance Directives/End-of-Life, Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Health Care/Long Term Care | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

"City Sidewalks, Busy Sidewalks"... and the Importance of Safe Sidewalks

If you recognize the quoted language from the title above, you can imagine me humming the lyrics to "Silver Bells" as I type.  Perhaps we should add a new refrain.  As detailed in the Los Angeles Times piece on "Residents Celebrate the 100th Repaired Sidewalk in South L.A. District," safe sidewalks are important to everyone, but particularly to people who have mobility issues, including some older adults.  In the article, a stretch of deteriorated sidewalk outside an 84 year old woman's home prevented her for using her walker to get around her neighborhood. The challenge of accomplishing something as seemingly simple as this infrastructure issue, is demonstrated by the statistics in the article, showing there are 11,000 miles of sidewalks in L.A., and an estimated 40% are in need of repair. 

The question of how to pay for sidewalk repairs is significant for cities.  In Los Angeles, for example, policies on sidewalks can conflict with developers' preference for streets lined with trees.  Tree roots are often the cause of sidewalk damage.  For a number of years in the 70s, the city offered free repairs for sidewalks damaged by tree roots.  But as budgets tightened, public funding was withdrawn, and subsequent efforts to create alternative funding for sidewalk repairs have been controversial.

In my own small community, there is an ordinance that permits the governing body to mark sidewalks in need of repair with a big X (and for some reason they do so with pink paint), and the home or business owner has a fixed amount of time to make the repairs, or be subject to public repairs at a potentially higher price.  Obviously this approach won't work in every community -- and it is probably less than cost effective unless adjacent property owners work together to save money on contractors. 

By the way, while humming along on this topic, I discovered that there is a relevant, highly placed, law review article -- mostly dealing with sidewalk safety in winter weather -- published in 1897 in Yale's legal journal.  See "The Law of Icy Sidewalks in New York State," 6 Yale L. J. 258. In this article I learned the interesting historical fact, that at least in some jurisdictions of the day, "it is not negligence for a person to walk upon an icy sidewalk without rubbers." 

November 20, 2014 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Property Management | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, November 17, 2014

PA Supreme Court's Elder Law Task Force Issues "Bold" Recommendations

On November 17,  2014, following more than a year of study  and consultation, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's Elder Law Task Force issued a comprehensive (284 pages!) report and recommendations addressing a host of core concerns, including how better to assure that older Pennsylvanians' rights and needs are recognized under the law.  With Justice Debra Todd as the chair, the Task Force organized into three committees, focusing on Guardianships and Legal Counsel, Guardianship Monitoring, and Elder Abuse and Neglect.  The Task Force included more than 40 individuals from across the state, reflecting backgrounds in private legal practice, legal service organizations, government service agencies, social care organizations, criminal law, banking, and the courts. Pennsylvania Supreme Court Elder Law Task Force 2014 

From the 130 recommendations, Justice Todd highlighted several "bold" provisions at a press conference including:

  • Recommending the state's so-called "Slayer"  law be amended to prevent an individual who has been convicted of abusing or neglecting an elder from inheriting from the elder;
  • Recommending changes to court rules to mandate training for all guardians, including, but not limited to, family members serving as guardians;
  • Recommending adoption of mandatory reporting by financial institutions who witness suspected elder abuse, including financial abuse.

The full report is available on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court website here.  As a consequence of the Task Force study, the Supreme Court has approved the creation of an ongoing "Office of Elder Justice in the Courts" to support implementation of recommendations, and has created an "Advisory Council on Elder Justice to the Courts" to be chaired by Pennsylvania Superior Court Judge Paula Francisco Ott. 

November 17, 2014 in Consumer Information, Crimes, Current Affairs, Housing, State Statutes/Regulations, Statistics | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)