Wednesday, June 22, 2016
Two recent articles made me think that progress is being made in the fight against Alzheimer's. First I ran into an article in the Chicago Tribune on May 25, 2016 from a Harvard Health Blog post. Decline in Dementia Rate Offers 'Cautious Hope' details a recent report from the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), Incidence of Dementia over Three Decades in the Framingham Heart Study which we blogged about on February 23, 2016. After discussing the study and its results, the article turns to the question of whether dementia can be prevented:
As the Alzheimer's Association predicts, the numbers of people with dementia may ultimately increase simply because people are living longer. At the same time, the Framingham researchers offer "cautious hope that some cases of dementia may be prevented or at least delayed."
The Framingham results bolster the notion that what's good for the heart is good for the head. If you're pursuing a heart-healthy lifestyle -- following a Mediterranean-style diet, getting the equivalent of 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week, managing your stress, and engaging with friends and family -- you're likely lowering your risk of dementia in the bargain, too.
The other article also ran on May 25, 2016, this one in the New York Times. It posits an intriguing question: Could Alzheimer’s Stem From Infections? It Makes Sense, Experts Say. The article references a recent study by Harvard researchers, Amyloid-β peptide protects against microbial infection in mouse and worm models of Alzheimer’s disease the results of which was published in Science Translational Medicine. The abstract is available here but the full article requires registration.
Here is how the study results are explained in the Times article
The Harvard researchers report a scenario seemingly out of science fiction. A virus, fungus or bacterium gets into the brain, passing through a membrane — the blood-brain barrier — that becomes leaky as people age. The brain’s defense system rushes in to stop the invader by making a sticky cage out of proteins, called beta amyloid. The microbe, like a fly in a spider web, becomes trapped in the cage and dies. What is left behind is the cage — a plaque that is the hallmark of Alzheimer’s.
The article provides a fascinating recap of how the researchers got to this point and notes that "[r]ecent data suggests that the incidence of dementia is decreasing. It could be because of better control of blood pressure and cholesterol levels, staving off ministrokes that can cause dementia. But could a decline in infections also be part of the picture?" The article concludes describing the next steps in this research.
So, good news on the Alzheimer's front? You decide. (I vote yes).
Friday, June 17, 2016
The ABA's Bifocal publication includes a new resource guide designed to help lawyers identify and help to implement decision-making options for persons with disabilities that are less restrictive than guardianships.
The "PRACTICAL Tool," with the first word intended to serve as an acronym for nine steps that a lawyer can use to identify legal and practical approaches, includes:
- Presume guardianship is not needed
- clearly identify the Reasons for concern;
- Ask if a triggering concern may be temporary;
- determining whether the concerns can be addressed by Community resources;
- ask if the person already has a Team to help make decisions;
- Identify the person's abilities;
- screen for potential Challenges;
- Appoint a legal support consistent with the person's values; and
- Limit any necessary guardianship petition.
For more, read Resource for Lawyers Targets Options Less Restrictive than Guardianship, Bifocal, the Journal of the ABA Commission on Law and Aging, Volume 37, Issue 5.
Thursday, June 16, 2016
A recent court decision in New York details the extraordinary efforts made by an individual to take advantage of a former co-worker as she aged and became affected by dementia. One of the tools of abuse was a Power of Attorney, dated 2010, that he reportedly used as his authority to isolate her from family members. The court found that he was able to then manipulate her as he controlled her finances, having the woman sign checks he later claimed were "gifts," for purposes such as to "defray costs of his visit to France to see his daughter," "to help him buy a house in Normandy," or to cover "the costs of his art exhibit in Paris." Ultimately, the court concluded that the respondent/defendant, who under New York law was in the role of fiduciary as an appointed agent, could not satisfy his burden of proof to show the alleged gifts were free from undue influence.
The trial level court entered an order finding him liable for $122,000 plus costs and interest, and restraining him from "transferring, using, spending or hypothecating any of his assets" until the judgment was paid. See Matter of Mitchell, 2016 NY Slip Opinion 50853(U), decided June 3, 2016 by the New York Supreme court, Kings County.
That is the "befriender" side of the issues. However, the court also addressed the possibility of a will executed in 2013. The discussion of the will brings into play the role of an attorney who was called by the defendant to testify at the hearing on the gift transactions, apparently in an attempt to bolster his arguments about the woman's capacity. That plan backfired.
The way it all plays out through the testimony, as recounted by the judge in his opinion, raises important questions about what could or should the lawyer have done differently.
The court wrote:
Wednesday, June 15, 2016
We've blogged on a number of occasions about the "elder tech revolution" and the technology competency of elders. We're not the only ones watching this issue. In fact, the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology issued a report to the President in March of this year. Report to the President Independence, Technology and Connection in Older Age is a detailed look at various issues and technologies. The executive summary sets the stage
The U.S. population is getting older, and Americans are living longer, on average, than they ever have before. As they age, people are healthier and more active than the generations before them and have fewer functional limitations such as difficulty walking or blindness. Studies show that people are happier on average as they advance into their later decades and enjoy high levels of accumulated knowledge and experience.
Getting older is a time of social, emotional, mental, and physical change. Retirement might change how a person interacts socially every day, affecting a person’s mood and well-being. Cognitive aging—the normal process of cognitive change as a person gets older—can begin, or a permanent change in physical function may arise. Technology offers a path for people who are navigating these changes potentially to prevent or minimize the risks associated with them and to enhance people’s ability to live their lives fully. We, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST), sought to identify technologies and policies that will maximize the independence, productivity, and engagement of Americans in their later years.
The Committee focused on 4 areas of aging: physical and cognitive changes, hearing loss and lack of social interaction. The report contains "cross-cutting recommendations" as well as area-specific recommendations. The cross-cutting recommendations include federal support and coordination, widespread internet access, adoption of monitoring technology, and encouraging research to develop more innovation. There are 12 area-specific recommendations.
The blog post about the report is available here.
Sunday, June 12, 2016
The 2016 award for best actor in a dramatic play was awarded to Frank Langella for his performance as a man with dementia in The Father, a play that began its life as French playwright Florian Zeller's Le Pére.
Another sign of our aging times.
Thursday, June 9, 2016
Florida State Law Professor (and friend) Marshall Kapp has a new article out, and my recent post "He Died with Guns in His Closet" triggered him to share it with us. Marshall tackles the challenging topic of "The Physician's Responsibility Concerning Firearms and Older Patients," with thoughtfulness and candor.
Professor Kapp opens with observations and predictions about the potential for Americans to continue to own firearms as they age, even if they have declining cognition. He writes:
In the general population, the presence of firearms in the home is positively associated with the risk for completed suicide and being the victim of homicide. It is well-documented that “[g]un ownership and availability are common among the elderly”and that the rate of use of guns in suicides and homicides by older Americans is significant. Firearms, along with falls and motor vehicle accidents, cause the most traumatic brain injury deaths in the U.S. for people over age 75.
Mental illness has been found to be strongly associated with increased risk of suicide involving firearms. The disproportionate incidence and prevalence of cognitive and emotional disorders such as dementia, mild cognitive impairment, and depression--often presenting themselves simultaneously and exacerbating each other--among older persons has been identified clearly. However, many persons with such disorders do not receive a formal clinical evaluation for those issues. Age-associated decline in health status, in combination with other factors, is a risk factor for dementia.
Professor Kapp examines state laws and the collective role of the medical profession regarding firearms as a public health matter, including specific ideas about what might be an individual doctor's "duty to inquire about or report on access to weapons for a patient who demonstrates cognitive changes," and the potential for any such "duty" to impact patient choices about treatment. For example, he reports:
Under current law, physicians, with the possible exception of those practicing in Florida, have latitude to act according to their own discretion when it comes to questioning their patients about guns in the home in this context. According to a coalition of leading health professional organizations and the ABA, physicians are able to intervene with patients whose access to firearms puts them at risk of injuring themselves or others. Such intervention may entail speaking freely to patients in a nonjudgmental way, giving them safety-related factual information, answering patients' questions, advising them about behaviors that promote health and safety, and documenting these conversations in the patient's medical record (just as the physician would document conversations with their patients regarding other kinds of health-related behaviors).
On free speech implications, he writes:
The courts thus far are split in their responses to First Amendment challenges to compelled medical speech brought by physicians qua physicians in their role as patient fiduciaries or trust agents (as opposed to claims brought by physicians seeking protection in their capacity as ordinary citizens). Nevertheless, there is a strong argument for requiring that state laws compelling particular speech by physicians in their physician role be examined under at least a strict scrutiny standard.
And to further whet your appetite for reading the full article, in his conclusion, Professor Kapp advocates for certain changes in state law, including:
State statutes should authorize physicians to inquire of and about their older patients regarding patient access to firearms in the home and to counsel the patient, family members, and housemates about firearms safety, up to and including recommending that firearms be kept away from the patient. However, the states should not enact legislation that positively requires the physician to make such inquiries and engage in counseling, although states should consider a tort standard of care evolving through the common law in a direction that imposes an affirmative obligation on the physician to inquire and counsel.
The full article appears in the Spring 2016 issue of the Kansas Journal of Law & Public Policy.
June 9, 2016 in Cognitive Impairment, Consumer Information, Crimes, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Discrimination, Ethical Issues, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)
Tuesday, May 31, 2016
The annual American Society on Aging (ASA) conference is scheduled for March 20-24, 2017 in Chicago. The planning committee is now accepting proposals to present at the conference. For more information or to submit a proposal, click here. The deadline for submitting a proposal is June 30, 2017.
May 31, 2016 in Advance Directives/End-of-Life, Cognitive Impairment, Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Health Care/Long Term Care, Programs/CLEs | Permalink | Comments (0)
Friday, May 27, 2016
Robert A. Mead, with many years of experience as a law librarian at the University of Kansas, the University of New Mexico and the New Mexico Supreme Court, and now serving as the Deputy Chief Public Defender for New Mexico, recently offered his take on claims made by family members and third-parties under state "filial responsibility" laws. His article, "Getting Stuck with the Bill? Filial Responsibility Statutes, Long-Term Care, Medicaid, and Demographic Pressure," appears in the Elder Law Advisory published by Westlaw in May 2016 (and apparently available by subscription only). He tracks the demographics of aging in the U.S. and surveys cases from Pennsylvania, North and South Dakota. Based on research, Rob predicts:
The doubling of the number of elders in society will require a substantial increase in Medicare and Medicaid funding especially if a significant percentage of them are indigent in their last years. Without this increase, filial responsibility statutes and Medicaid estate recovery will likely be used by states to address shortfalls in Medicaid funding. . . . Even without state authorities using filial responsibility statutes to seek Medicaid reimbursement, they will continue to be raised in related contexts. When siblings spar over the medical debts incurred by their deceased statutes and the effect of these debts on the probating of estates, filial responsibility becomes a complicating factor such as in Eori, Pittas, and Linderkamp cases. More insidiously, long-term care facilities are beginning to use filial support statutes to seek reimbursement for debts without waiting for resolution of whether the elder was eligible for Medicaid, as in Randall and Pittas. In some situations it will be financially advantageous for facilities to litigate against heirs rather than to settle for lower Medicaid rates. As the case law continues to develop and the demographic crisis grows, look for these novel uses of filial responsibility statutes to continue and become mainstream. It is incumbent upon lawyers representing clients in states with such statutes to plan and draft accordingly.
It is fun for me to see that Rob Mead, a former student from my own days at the University of New Mexico School of Law, has, entirely independent of my influence, kept his own eye on law and aging policy issues.
Sunday, May 22, 2016
Two ABA commissions and two ABA sections have created the PRACTICAL supported decision-making tool for lawyers which "aims to help lawyers identify and implement decision-making options for persons with disabilities that are less restrictive than guardianship." PRACTICAL is the acronym for the steps the lawyer takes to identify the options both during the interview with the client and after when considering the case. The tool is available both as a fillable pdf or a word document. There is also an accompanying resource guide in pdf.
Download your copy now!
Monday, May 16, 2016
Have you ever been surprised by a loved one who, even with Alzheimer's, will sing or recite poetry? If you've had that experience, you will probably be as intrigued as I was by the Alzheimer's Poetry Project. Here are the details.
Sunday, May 15, 2016
As reported in several financial news services, including McKnight's Long-Term Care News here, HCR ManorCare, owner/operator of a large number of skilled nursing and assisted living properties, is to be spun off by its corporate parent, HCP Inc., into the hands of "an independent real estate investment trust" called, appropriately enough, "SpinCo."
Certainly this seems to be a move to improve the financial position of HCP by separating the nursing home operations from independent living operations; it remains to be seen whether it also allows "troubled" HCR ManorCare to resolve concerns about quality of care and billing practices. The business history of ManorCare, with all of its various partners and name changes, probably serves as a marker for changes throughout the skilled care industry. For ManorCare's own perspective on its history, see "Our History Is Still Being Written."
Friday, May 13, 2016
Evict, Reject, Discharge: Are Nursing Homes Following the Rules or Is the Problem Bigger than "Rules"?
My colleague Becky Morgan posted earlier this week on the AP news story on nursing homes' attempts to evict difficult patients. This week the ABA Journal also linked to the AP story, plus tied the statistical reports of a nation-wide increase in complaints about evictions, rejections and discharges to one man's struggle to return to his California care center following what should have been short term hospitalization for pneumonia.
The story of Bruce Anderson is a reminder that a need for high-quality, facility-based "long term " care is not limited to "elderly" individuals. But it is also a reminder that individuals with serious behavioral issues, not just physical care needs, complicate the picture. Anderson experienced a severe brain injury at age 55 following a heart attack, but his younger age, lack of "private pay resources," and a history of apparently problematic behavior, are all reasons why a "traditional" nursing home may seek to avoid him as a resident.
The ongoing California litigation over Mr. Anderson and similarly situated residents heightens the need to think critically about whether we're being naive as a nation about "home is best" shifting of funding resources. Certainly there are many -- and probably too many -- individuals in facilities when they could be maintained at home if there was more funding to supplement family-based care.
At the same time, I tend to see this as downplaying the very real needs for high-level, behavioral care for individuals who aren't easily cared for by families or "traditional" nursing homes, much less by hospitals organized around critical care. It is about more than mere eviction, discharge and rejection statistics. The 1999 Olmstead decision was a watershed moment in recognizing the need for de-institutionalization of those with disabilities. But it may have pasted over the real need for quality of assistance and care in any and all settings, and what that means in terms of costs to a nation.
My thanks to Professor Laurel Terry at Dickinson Law who took time away from the fun of grading her exams to send us the ABA story.
Sunday, May 8, 2016
The New York Times recently ran an in-depth article about Alzheimer's impact on one woman. Fraying at the Edges covers the journey of Geri Taylor, who at the beginning stages of Alzheimer's is described as in the "waiting period" of Alzheimer's. This 12 page article is an incredible personal look at one person's life with Alzheimer's. The article is accompanied by photos and short videos. Read this article!
Sunday, April 24, 2016
Here's is a new podcast of an interview with Rick Black on All Talk Radio (about 15 minutes, starting at the 3:25 minute mark), who has strong words about elder abuse based on his family's experiences with a guardianship in Clark County Nevada, plus his own additional research about guardianship systems in Nevada and beyond. (You may have to give this time to load, as it is an embedded video file).
For more, read the April 4, 2016 Editorial from the Las Vegas Review-Journal, entitled "Elder Abuse."
April 24, 2016 in Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Property Management, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)
Tuesday, April 19, 2016
I recently caught a rebroadcast of a Terry Gross interview -- from early 2015 and linked here -- with Dr. Frances Jensen, a neuroscientist from the University of Pennsylvania, on the "teenage brain." It was fascinating, especially as Dr. Jensen explained the latest thinking on trauma on the younger brain, and the potential for alcohol and drug use -- both illegal and legal -- to be especially significant to the still developing teenage brain. Given that we need those brains to last for a very long time, the broadcast seems relevant to our Elder Law Prof Blog topics.
This insulation process [from myelin] starts in the back of the brain and heads toward the front. Brains aren't fully mature until people are in their early 20s, possibly late 20s and maybe even beyond, Jensen says.
"The last place to be connected — to be fully myelinated — is the front of your brain," Jensen says. "And what's in the front? Your prefrontal cortex and your frontal cortex. These are areas where we have insight, empathy, these executive functions such as impulse control, risk-taking behavior."
This research also explains why teenagers can be especially susceptible to addictions — including drugs, alcohol, smoking and digital devices.
And as to that last item on the list -- digital devices -- Dr. Jensen emphasized her concerns about constant stimulation, especially when it lasts into time meant for sleeping. The intense light alone may be interfering with with sleep and brain development. She explains:
First of all, the artificial light can affect your brain; it decreases some chemicals in your brain that help promote sleep, such as melatonin, so we know that artificial light is not good for the brain. That's why I think there have been studies that show that reading books with a regular warm light doesn't disrupt sleep to the extent that using a Kindle does.
I'm from a generation that didn't pay much attention to closed head injuries -- indeed, I think we more or less thought of "mild concussion" as a right of passage for young athletes. Only in the last few years are we beginning to accept the connection between such injuries and later brain degenerative processes. Now, even as we're getting better about physical risks from sports, we need to work harder to avoid the almost round-the-clock effects of our computerized lives.
Dr. Jensen closed the interview with sound advice for everyone:
GROSS: We are out of time, but I just want to ask you if there's any quick tip you can give us to preserve our brain health - something that you would suggest that adults do?
JENSEN: I think [take] time to reflect on what you've done every day, to underscore for yourself the most important things that happen to you that day and to not respond to conflict - to try to not respond to conflict in the midst of your working environment, for instance, because it will color your efficacy.
For more, look for Dr. Jensen's book: The Teenage Brain: A Neuroscientist's Survival Guide to Raising Adolescents and Young Adults.
Thursday, April 7, 2016
The Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) Network, JAMA Psychiatry ran an article about a study looking at depression and dementia. Trajectories of Depressive Symptoms in Older Adults and Risk of Dementia considers that "[d]epression has been identified as a risk factor for dementia. However, most studies have measured depressive symptoms at only one time point, and older adults may show different patterns of depressive symptoms over time." The study came to the conclusion that a time line of consideration of a patient's depression may give a better picture of the patient's future potential for dementia ("Older adults with a longitudinal pattern of high and increasing depressive symptoms are at high risk for dementia. Individuals’ trajectory of depressive symptoms may inform dementia risk more accurately than one-time assessment of depressive symptoms.")
Wednesday, April 6, 2016
American Society on Aging (ASA) recently posted about 5 TED talks on Aging. 5 TED Talks on Aging to Inspire You range from curing Alzheimer's to a grandson's invention to help his grandfather with dementia from wandering. There's a talk from Diana Nyad about her historic swim ("In the pitch-black night, stung by jellyfish, choking on salt water, singing to herself, hallucinating ... Diana Nyad just kept on swimming. And that's how she finally achieved her lifetime goal as an athlete: an extreme 100-mile swim from Cuba to Florida") and a chat between Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda where they "discuss longevity, feminism, the differences between male and female friendship, what it means to live well and women's role in future of our planet. 'I don't even know what I would do without my women friends," Fonda says. "I exist because I have my women friends.'"
Check them out!
Tuesday, April 5, 2016
a statistical resource for U.S. data related to Alzheimer’s disease, the most common cause of dementia, as well as other dementias. Background and context for interpretation of the data are contained in the Overview. This information includes descriptions of the various causes of dementia and a summary of current knowledge about Alzheimer’s disease. Additional sections address prevalence, mortality and morbidity, caregiving, and use and costs of health care, long-term care and hospice. The Special Report discusses the personal financial impact of Alzheimer’s disease on families.
The costs of caring for a relative or friend with Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia can have striking effects on a household. These costs can jeopardize the ability to buy food, leading to food insecurity and increasing the risks of poor nutrition and hunger. In addition, the costs can make it more difficult for individuals and families to maintain their own health and financial security. Lack of knowledge about the roles of government assistance programs for older people and those with low income is common, leaving many families vulnerable to unexpected expenses associated with chronic conditions such as Alzheimer’s and other dementias. Better solutions are needed to ensure that relatives and friends of people with dementia are not jeopardizing their own health and financial security to help pay for dementia-related costs.
Thursday, March 31, 2016
A friend sent me several recent resources about elders with dementia. The Hospice and Nursing Home Blog published a video on Doctors’ End-of-Life Language, Impact on Patient-Caregiver Decisions. The Agency on Healthcare Research and Quality published Nonpharmacologic Interventions for Agitation and Aggression in Dementia. The pdf of the article is available here. Finally, in February, 2016, this article, Palliative care of patients with advanced dementia was published in UpToDate (which is "an evidence-based, physician-authored clinical decision support resource....")
Thanks to my friend Pamela Burdett for sending me the links to these 3 publications.
Tuesday, March 29, 2016
Roz Chast's memoir of life with her parents as they aged, Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant?, uses humor to explore the complicated issues that can arise when aging parents and their adult children try to address physical frailty and financial complexities in the "third age" of life. Another look, equally realistic and also ruefully humorous, comes from William Power, writing for the Wall Street Journal in "The Difficult, Delicate Untangling of Our Parents' Financial Lives." Thanks to the WSJ for making this an unlocked article for digital access!
Power begins with that ever-humbling attempt to use "help lines" to solve problems by phone:
“No, no, no, don’t transfer me to her again,” pleads my wife. It is a typically frustrating moment in our family crisis, one that many grown children will have to face, ready or not: We are people in our 50s who are unraveling the finances of parents who can no longer do it themselves.
My wife, Julie, is on the phone with the company where her 82-year-old dad had once worked, trying to change the direct deposit of his pension checks to a bank closer to the assisted-living home where he and his wife now live, which is near us in Pennsylvania. Again and again, she is transferred to the person in charge, “Rose.” And every time, the same recording: “This number has been disconnected.”
Power's account is punctuated by practical advice for others, including the importance of teamwork, involving both family members and others, in tackling the issues, as well as the use of key document-based tools, including Powers of Attorney, or as he stresses, "Repeat after Me: POA, POA, POA."
My thanks to Amy Bartylla, a long-time friend, for this article referral.
March 29, 2016 in Advance Directives/End-of-Life, Consumer Information, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Property Management | Permalink | Comments (0)