Monday, April 13, 2015

New Article On "Best Practices for a State Alzheimer's Disease Registry"

University of Georgia Law Professor Elizabeth Weeks Leonard has a forthcoming article in the Minnesota Journal of Law, Science and TechnologyUniv of George Law Professor Elizabeth Leonard Professor Leonard, working with graduate research assistants and colleagues from the University of Georgia's Institute of Gerontology, draws upon Georgia's recent experiences in implementing a state public health registry for Alzheimer's disease or similar dementias under legislation passed in 2014.  The article provides guidance on how to navigate the legal and ethical issues that can arise in implementing such a registry.   

This is a cutting edge program in its early stages, as described by the authors:

"This article offers a unique window into one state’s experience establishing an Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia registry. Georgia is the most recent of handful of states to adopt such a registry and, in doing so, has already committed to robust data collection practices along with clear commitment to protecting patients’ privacy. The authors were privileged to convene a group of stakeholders to brainstorm and submit rulemaking comments on Registry implementation to the Georgia Department of Public Health.

 

In addition, through further consultation with state leaders in gerontology and building on our own health law, public health, and legal services expertise, we offer additional recommended best practices for the Registry. We anticipate that Georgia is leading a nationwide trend in addressing the rapidly rising incidence of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia with the aging population. Accordingly, our recommendations will be valuable not only for Georgia but also for other states that may decide to establish similar Alzheimer’s registries."

You can get an early look at "Best Practices for a State Alzheimer's Disease Registry: Lessons from Georgia," here on SSRN. Professor Leonard's research focuses on health care finance and regulation.

April 13, 2015 in Cognitive Impairment, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Science | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, April 10, 2015

Day 3 Report on Iowa Sexual Assault-Dementia Trial

On April 10, the third day of the trial of State of Iowa v. Henry Rayhons, the prosecution offered its first witnesses.  According to news sources, the evidence included:

  • Testimony by an adult daughter of the alleged victim, the defendant's wife. She is reported as saying that she did not disapprove of the 2007 marriage between her widowed mother and the defendant, but that "in the years after the wedding, her mother began showing troubling signs of mental decline."  By the spring 0f 2014, her mother appeared "very confused" and the daughter, who runs an agency for people with intellectual disabilities, observed disturbing behavior, including incidents of her mother's inappropriate and inadequate clothing, inability to use silverware, and an attempt to use a toilet to wash her hands.  At a meeting a few weeks after her mother was moved from the couple's home to a care facility, the "doctor told the family," including the defendant, that Donna Rayhons "was no longer capable of consenting to sex."  She is reported as testifying she did not remember Rayhons' exact response, but that "he indicated it wouldn't be a problem."
  • Testimony of a doctor who met with Donna Rayhons in March 2014 He reportedly testified she was unable to answer "basic questions, including the names of her daughters." According to one news report, he testified that "it wouldn't be likely that a 78-year-old suffering from dementia would be able to consent to sex."
  • Testimony of a social worker from the care center where Donna Rayhons was a resident. According to news reports, the social worker testified about a staff meeting with the family in May, saying that she "wrote up a one-page list of suggestions, including limits on outside activities, and had Donna Rayhon's doctor go over it beforehand." At the bottom of the document, the social worker reportedly wrote: "Given Donna's cognitive state, do you feel she was able to give consent to any sexual activity?"  And according to the news reports, it was the doctor who wrote, "No." She is reported as testifying that she'd "never written such a statement for a family in 18 years on the job," but that she also said she never had a spouse seem to want to continue having sexual contact with a resident who was severely cognitively impaired." According to the Des Moines Register, on cross examination, the social worker said that no one at the meeting explained to Henry Rayhons what sexual activity meant, and that "she never saw any evidence that Rayhons harmed his wife, or that she was afraid of him or angry with him." She was reported as saying his wife was "always pleased to see Henry," and were very affectionate.

The testimony on Day 3 appears to raise interesting questions about the admissibility and effect of opinion testimony regarding the mental capacity of the alleged victim, potentially bringing into play prior Iowa case law.

Continue reading

April 10, 2015 in Cognitive Impairment, Crimes, Dementia/Alzheimer’s | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Day 1 Report of Iowa Sexual Assault-Dementia Trial

Day one of the sexual abuse trial of State of Iowa v. Henry Rayhons was Wednesday, April 8.  News report of the first day here.  Coverage of pretrial motions here, with the husband's lawyer describing potential  expert testimony about how individuals with Alzheimer's could be capable of consent, while the prosecution argues consent is impossible as a matter of law, making an analogy to sexual contact with a minor or an individual who was unconscious or passed out.  More background here

April 8, 2015 in Cognitive Impairment, Crimes, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sad Trial Begins in Iowa for Husband Charged with Sexual Abuse of Wife with Dementia

Today, April 8, is the scheduled day for jury selection to begin for the trial of State of Iowa v. Henry Rayhons.  We've written about the charges here and here, but to summarize, Mr. Rayhons, now age 79, was charged last year with "sexual abuse" of his wife, Donna Rayhons (78 at the time), who was residing in a nursing home with Alzheimer's.  Iowa law has several different ways in which a "sexual act without consent" between a "husband and wife" can constitute "sexual abuse in the third degree."  See Iowa Code Section 709.4(2).

Here, because the husband and wife were not "cohabitating," a conviction would appear to depend on the state's ability to prove that the sex act was with a person suffering from a "mental defect or incapacity which precludes giving consent." It appears the state takes the position that "consent" was impossible because Mrs. Rayhons had been diagnosed with a mental defect, the advanced stages of Alzheimer's.  Further, it appears the state expects to prove that her husband was aware of the diagnosis, and further, that at some point before the evening in question, he "agreed" she was incapable of giving consent because of her condition.  But at the core, isn't there still an essential question about whether, assuming the state can prove those statutory elements, the law is intended to prevent a married couple from having "consensual" relations because one partner has Alzheimer's? 

There apparently was no evidence of physical or emotional damage to Mrs. Rayhons, including no evidence of cries for help or protestations on her part. It appears there will be testimony about the close and loving relationship the couple had before the night in question.   It will be interesting -- and sad -- to hear whether there is evidence of a "sexual act."  

The Washington Post's Sarah Kaplan has drawn together a history on the case to this point, including details first reported by Bryan Gruley for Bloomberg News.  At one point the prosecution tried to get a change of venue for the trial -- a very unusual request from a prosecutor -- which the trial court denied. 

I've been hearing from a lot of folks lately about this case, including several medical professionals. I think that after the charges were first announced in August 2014, many people expected the case to quietly disappear, especially as Mrs. Rayhons has passed away, and her husband, then a state legislator, had retired from office. 

Yesterday, I had the interesting experience of being interviewed for a KABC radio show in Los Angeles by "Dr. Drew." It was pretty clear that with his background, board certified in internal medicine and a clinical professor of psychiatry at USC, Dr. Drew Pinsky was troubled by the possibility that a medical diagnosis could, without more, be treated as prohibiting legally effective consent to sexual relations. (A guardian was appointed for Mrs. Rayhons, but those proceedings were begun after the night in question.)  As Dr. Drew commented during the radio show, even in advanced dementia, there may be core functions that a person continues to be able to enjoy and therefore seek, including eating, drinking and ... intimacy.   

April 8, 2015 in Cognitive Impairment, Crimes, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Ethical Issues, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Must Lawyer Consult With "Agent" Before Complying With Elderly Client's Request to Terminate POA?

Here is a recent ruling (February 2015), based on a fact pattern that many elder law attorneys will appreciate as both familiar and challenging.

In Runge v. Disciplinary Board, the Supreme Court of North Dakota reversed a disciplinary board "admonishment" of an attorney for "violating" the Rules of Professional Conduct, Rule 1.14.  North Dakota's Rule 1.14, addressing representation of a "client with limited capacity," is similar to the ABA Model Rule 1.14 on clients with "diminished capacity."

At issue in the disciplinary proceeding was the lawyer's representation of a 79-year-old man who was residing in a "Care Center." The man wished to leave the nursing home, against "medical advice" and, apparently also in opposition to his daughter's apparent belief about what was best for him. The man had, before experiencing a heart attack, named his daughter as an agent under a durable POA. 

By the time the attorney met with the man, the man had been living in the care center for several months.  After meeting with the older man (and a female friend of the man), at the man's request the attorney prepared a revocation of the POA.  The lawyer explained to the care center that absent someone holding a guardianship or custodianship for the man, and as long as the lawyer was persuaded his client had sufficient capacity, the revocation of the POA was effective and neither the center nor the daughter had grounds to prevent him from leaving.

Unhappy with this outcome, the daughter filed a Disciplinary Board complaint against the attorney, asserting the lawyer had acted improperly by failing to consult with her as her father's named agent, and taking the position her father's "incapacity" for purposes of an earlier "emergency care" statement was conclusive of his incapacity.  The Court, however, observed:

"Here no guardianship or conservatorship existed that withdrew Franz's authority to act for himself. Rather, Franz shared his authority to act and he remained free to withdraw the authority conferred under that power of attorney, which, in any event, precluded anyone from making his medical decisions. This record reflects [Lawyer]Runge talked with Franz by telephone and in person to ascertain his wishes before Franz revoked the power of attorney. Runge's recitation of his conversations with Franz does not clearly and convincingly establish Franz was incapacitated in April 2013. This record does not reflect any subsequent attempt to obtain a court-ordered guardianship or conservatorship for Franz, which belies any suggestion that he was incapacitated in April 2013."

Therefore, the North Dakota Supreme Court dismissed the daughter's Disciplinary Board complaint.

Significantly, the Court observes that although the lawyer "could" have contacted the daughter before executing the revocation of the POA, the provisions of Rule 1.14 did not "require" him to do so. 

Lots of potential lessons here.  A key to the outcome seems to be the lawyer's persuasive testimony, showing the care he took in making the decision to represent the man and to prepare the revocation.  As the court observed, "[The lawyer's] assessment of [the man's] capacity was within the range of a lawyer's exercise of professional judgment."  This case is another demonstration that lawyers hold a lot of power -- and responsibility -- in matters involving client capacity.  

Many thanks to Professor Laurel Terry at Dickinson Law for sending this decision our way. 

April 2, 2015 in Cognitive Impairment, Consumer Information, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Legal Practice/Practice Management, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, March 30, 2015

The Impact of Play (It's Not Just for Kids)

While driving home from the grocery recently, I happened to catch "Press Play," a TED Radio Hour broadcast on the importance of play. It was such an interesting program that I ended up taking my groceries for another couple of spins around the block so that I wouldn't miss a segment!  

One interview was with researcher Dr. Stuart Brown, who described his early work with (and about) criminals, including at least one mass murderer.  While no single factor accounted for behavior, he noticed that in some of the worst histories, there was a distinct lack of opportunities for childhood imagination and healthy play.  He brought this forward into research with the general population, with observations about the role of play throughout life, even for persons with deep dementia. He and other researchers on the program were convincing, to wit, that play, involving pure fun and engagement with others, stimulates the brain in important ways.

Continue reading

March 30, 2015 in Cognitive Impairment, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Games | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Are Doctors Failing to Tell Patients of Diagnosis of Alzheimer's? And Why Not?

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.

March 24, 2015 in Cognitive Impairment, Consumer Information, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, March 23, 2015

On Being - With Alzhemier's

On Being, a program broadcast on NPR and via podcast, has an new episode on "Alzheimer's and the Spiritual Terrain of Memory" with many touching moments.  The summary is as follows:

"Alzheimer's disease has been described as 'the great unlearning.' But what does it reveal about the nature of human identity? What remains when memory unravels? Alan Dienstag is a psychologist who has led support groups with early Alzheimer's patients, as well as a writing group he co-designed with the novelist Don DeLillo. He's experienced the early stages of Alzheimer's as a time for giving memories away rather than losing them."

The website offers poems and essays from the writing group.

March 23, 2015 in Books, Cognitive Impairment, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Asking Questions re What It Means to Have "The Talk" about Long-Term Care Planning

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:

 

March 18, 2015 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Film, Health Care/Long Term Care | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, March 6, 2015

Harvard Prof. Robert Sitkoff to Speak on Incapacity Planning at University of Illinois

Harvard Law Professor Robert H. Sitkoff is speaking at University of Illinois School of Law on Monday, March 9.  The topic is "Revocable Trusts & Incapacity Planning: More then Just a Will Substitute." Sitkoff-Publicity-HLS 

Here are details provided by Illinois Law Professor Richard Kaplan

The use of trusts has evolved from means of transferring property to mechanisms for managing assets and more recently, to will substitutes for avoiding probate and simplifying post-death transfers. But lawyers increasingly use revocable trusts in planning for possible client incapacity to avoid the costs and publicity associated with custodianship and guardianship. State-level reforms of trust law to accommodate older uses of these devices are not, however, well-suited to this newer use of trusts, and this lecture will examine those reforms in this context.

 

Professor Sitkoff was the youngest professor to receive a chair in the history of Harvard Law School. He previously taught at New York University School of Law and at Northwestern University School of Law. After graduated from the University of Chicago Law School with High Honors, he clerked for then Chief Judge Richard A. Posner of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. Professor Sitkoff is an active participant in trust and estates law reform. He is a liaison member of the Joint Editorial Board for Uniform Trusts and Estates Acts within the Uniform Law Commission and has been a member of several drafting committees for acts involving trusts and estates matters. Sitkoff is also a member of the American Law Institute’s Council and has served on the consultative groups for the Restatement (Third) of Trusts and the Restatement (Third) of Property: Wills and Other Donative Transfers.

Word from Dick Kaplan is that Rob's  presentation will be available (eventually) via a recording, and his presentation will also be captured as an article in University of Illinois' Elder Law Journal

My students often ask why all casebooks can't be as engaging to read as the "Dukeminier" text on Wills, Trusts & Estates -- and I suspect one reason is that Rob Sitkoff, although uniquely prolific and gifted, is still only human and cannot write them all! 

Postscript:  I asked Rob to send me something other than his "official" Harvard photo.  The one above seems to capture his spirit and the smile I sometimes detect in his footnotes. 

March 6, 2015 in Books, Cognitive Impairment, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Estates and Trusts, Health Care/Long Term Care, Programs/CLEs, Property Management | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, March 2, 2015

Dementia -- A Triple Whammy for Women

Alzheimer's Research UK is releasing a report this month about the impact of dementia on women. Details released in advance of the formal launch are eye-opening.

As reported in The Guardian, “'Dementia is a life-shattering condition and represents a ‘triple whammy’ for women,' said Hilary Evans, director of external affairs at Alzheimer’s Research UK. 'More women are dying of dementia, more women are having to bear the burden of care, while a disproportionate number of women currently working in dementia research are having to leave science.'”

The full study calls for the government to make a significant increase in its funding of dementia research and an improved investment in care. Further, the report will explain that:

■ More than 500,000 women [in the U.K.] are now affected by dementia. About 350,000 men have the condition.

■ Women over 60 are now twice as likely to get dementia as breast cancer.

■ Women are more than two-and-a-half times more likely than men to be care-givers of people with dementia.

■ Most care- givers do not choose or plan to take on this role and often find the experience highly stressful.

Thanks to friends at CARDI, the Centre for Ageing Research and Development in Ireland for sharing this news.  The formal launch of the Alzheimer's Research UK report appears timed to coincide with their "sold-out" 2015 Conference on March 10-11 in London. 

March 2, 2015 in Cognitive Impairment, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, International, Science, Statistics | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, February 26, 2015

The French "Bettencourt Affair" - A "Universal Story" on the Cover of the NYT

The New York Times  offers dramatic front page coverage of a criminal trial against ten defendants in France, accused of manipulation of Liliane Bettencourt, the 92 year-old heir of the L'Oreal cosmetics fortune.  The defendants include a "celebrity photographer" (and his "long-time companion"), a former wealth manager, and an 81-year-old notary "who certified, with misgivings, Mrs. Bettencourt's decision to make" the 67-year-old photographer her sole heir, cutting out her only daughter. 

Serious money is involved, with Forbes once estimating Mrs. Bettencourt's fortune at more than $40 billion.  She has been diagnosed with "dementia and moderately severe Alzheimer's."

The prosecutors said her advanced age, the beginnings of dementia and a daily medical regimen of 56 pills, including antidepressants, also invited exploitation. And investigators contend that the schemes were so widespread that they included a political scandal involving a former finance minister seeking cash for the 2007 presidential campaign of Nicolas Sarkozy.

 

Some of the house staff members risked their jobs to challenge her advisers and confidants, particularly a French society photographer who gained the largest share of her fortune. At one point, investigators estimated that share to be about a billion euros, or $1.13 billion, in gifts during 20 years of friendship ending in 2010.

 

“Liliane wanted to do things for me, to ease my life,” testified the photographer, François-Marie Banier, 67, who is facing the highest penalty of the defendants, three years in prison. “I refused things like a mansion. But she took it so poorly. It’s really hard to cross that extraordinary woman.”

For all the details, sadly familiar if you followed the Brooke Astor history of wealth and manipulation, about the trial that just ended before a panel of judges who will issue their verdict on May 28, read "The Case of L'Oreal Heiress, A Private World of Wealth Becomes Public."

February 26, 2015 in Cognitive Impairment, Crimes, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Ethical Issues, International | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Another Movie for Our List

The movie, Still Alice, has been released.  Starring Julianne Moore in the role of the lead character, the movie is based on the book by the same name written by Lisa Genova. The book and movie are about a professor who has early onset Alzheimer's. The synopsis from the movie's website describes the movie this way:

Alice Howland, happily married with three grown children, is a renowned linguistics professor who starts to forget words. When she receives a diagnosis of Early-Onset Alzheimer's Disease, Alice and her family find their bonds thoroughly tested. Her struggle to stay connected to who she once was is frightening, heartbreaking, and inspiring.

 

February 26, 2015 in Books, Cognitive Impairment, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Film | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

ACL Webinar-Mark Your Calendars

The Administration for Community Living (ACL) has announced an upcoming webinar, Intellectual & Development Disabilities & Dementia-Experiences of a Family Advocate & Promising Practices. The webinar is scheduled for February 26, 2015 from 3-4 p.m. est.   Registration is free. The program website offers this description of the webinar:

The February 26th webinar will provide participants with information on personal experiences, advocacy efforts, and helpful practices for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (ID/D) and dementia. Mary Hogan will speak about her personal experience as guardian for her late brother and an advocate for her brother and others with intellectual and developmental disabilities and dementia. Phil McCallion will speak about promising practices of how to work with people with ID/D and dementia.

To register, click here.

February 24, 2015 in Cognitive Impairment, Dementia/Alzheimer’s | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, February 23, 2015

Moments of Lucidity vs. Mental Capacity

On Saturday, I had the privilege of attending the 7th Annual Conference of the Pennsylvania  Association of Elder Law Attorneys (PAELA), to give a presentation with Dr. Claire Flaherty, a Penn State Hershey Medical Center neuropsychologist with special expertise in frontal and temporal lobe impairments, on "Dementia Diagnosis and the Law."  February Snow 2015

Another speaker, Teepa Snow, an occupational therapist with long-experience in behavioral health, brain injury and dementia care, spoke on Sunday. 

It was one of the rare times when I've been glad to be "snowed in" at a conference, as that kept me in place for both days of the presentations, rather than rushing home to work on some other task. 

One of the topics that was discussed by attendees over the two days was the question of whether testimony by witnesses who observe "moments of lucidity" -- standing alone -- is proper support for a finding of "legal capacity." Context is important, of course, as both common law and statutory law increasingly recognize that capacity should be evaluated in terms of specific transactions. 

My own takeaway from the health care experts was the need for some measure of caution in this regard.  With many forms of dementia, especially at the early stages, unrecognized impairment of judgment may precede recognized impairment of memory.  In other words, as I understand it, we may spend too much time being impressed by a client's ability to remember who is the president or the names of their children, and too little time asking more probing questions.  Deeper inquiry may reveal or ameliorate concerns about judgment, including an individual's current abilities to make decisions, make reasonable, rational connections in formulating or following a plan, and related skills such as empathy or self-awareness.

Along this same line, it is a good time to remind readers that there are three useful handbooks on "Assessment of Older Adults With Diminished Capacity," one directed to lawyers, one to psychologists, and one for judges, that were created by experienced professionals working as a team on behalf of the American Bar Association and the American Psychological Association (APA).  Individual copies can be downloaded without cost from the APA website.  

February 23, 2015 in Books, Cognitive Impairment, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Ethical Issues, Legal Practice/Practice Management, Programs/CLEs, Science | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, February 22, 2015

First White House Conference on Aging Regional Forum Held in Tampa, Florida

The first White House Conference on Aging Regional Forum was held on February 19, 2015 in Tampa Florida. The morning featured comments by the WHCOA Executive Director Nora Super and remarks by Cecilia Munoz, Assistant to the President and Director, Domestic Policy Council.  Two panels followed, with comments by panelists on the 4 topics of emphasis for the 2015 WHCOA, healthy aging, long term services and supports, retirement security and elder justice.  In the afternoon, participants were divided into working groups for those 4 topics, where they discussed priorities, obstacles, and actions.  Representatives from each working group presented the group's topic recommendations in a closing panel presentation moderated by Kathy Greenlee, Administrator for the Administration on Community Living and the Assistant Secretary for Aging. In person attendance was invitation only, but the event was live webcast through HHS. The next regional forum is set for Phoenix, Arizona on March 31st. Visit the WHCOA forums website a day or so before the event to register for the live webcast.

February 22, 2015 in Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicaid, Programs/CLEs, Retirement, Social Security | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Questions Raised by Doctor's Guilty Plea for Kickbacks from Prescribing Risky Drugs to Seniors

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)

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Guide for Law Enforcement on Alzheimer's

The Bureau of Justice Administration (BJA) along with Center for Public Safety and Justice have released a guide for law enforcement on dealing with individuals with Alzheimer's. Alzheimer's Aware: A Guide for Implementing a Law Enforcement Program to Address Alzheimer’s in the Community is designed to help law enforcement create a community program to deal with the potential interaction with a person with Alzheimer's. This booklet identifies a number of scenarios when an officer might interact with a person with Alzheimer's. The tools provided by this initiative is designed

to assist in the development and implementation of a community educational campaign by, or n partnership with law enforcement. The resources have recommendations for developing a strategic plan with practical action steps and activity implementation, in order to develop a holistic  community approach to responding in crisis situations, involving persons with Alzheimer’s disease, as well as increase awareness of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.

The booklet includes recommendations for law enforcement to develop a program on making their officers aware of Alzheimer's and the issues they may encounter. These include officer training, policy reviews, creation of a "local registry", encouraging the use of monitoring technology or wearable devices and collecting statistics.

February 11, 2015 in Cognitive Impairment, Crimes, Dementia/Alzheimer’s | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Financial Decision-Making in Later Years

The Center for Retirement Research at Boston College has released a report, How Does Aging Affect Financial Decision Making? The introduction explains

 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.

February 10, 2015 in Cognitive Impairment, Consumer Information, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Property Management, Retirement | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, February 9, 2015

Free Tool Kits and In-Service Downloads-Limited Time Offer!

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
  • Sample Certificate
  • Alzheimer's Prayer

February 9, 2015 in Cognitive Impairment, Consumer Information, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Programs/CLEs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)