Friday, September 30, 2016

Filial Friday: PA Trial Court Rules that New Jersey's Law Controls Outcome of "Reverse" Filial Support Claim

I've been following for some time an interesting "reverse filial support law" case in Delaware County, Pennsylvania.  A key issue in Melmark v. Shutt is whether New Jersey parents of a New Jersey, disabled, indigent adult son are liable for his costs of his care at a private, nonprofit residential facility specializing in autism services, Melmark Inc., in Pennsylvania. Since most of the modern filial support claims I see involve facilities (usually "nursing homes") suing children over the costs of their elderly parents' care, I describe cases where the facility is suing parents of an adult child as a "reverse filial support" law claim.

In a September 2016 opinion that followed a June nonjury trial, the Pennsylvania trial court used a "choice of law" analysis to determine which state's substantive "filial support"  law controlled the parents' liability. The court ultimately ruled that New Jersey's statutes applied.  N.J. filial support obligations are more limited than those affecting families under Pennsylvania law.  Under N.J. Stat. Ann. Section 44:1-140(c), the state exempts parents over the age of 55 from support obligations for their adult children (and vice versa). By contrast, Pennsylvania does not place age limits on filial support, either for adult children or elderly parents.  See Pa.C.S.A. Section 4603. In the Melmark case, the father was 70 and the mother was 68 years old during the year in question.  The disabled son was 29.

The court decided that New Jersey had the "most significant contacts or relationships" to the dispute. That's classic conflict-of-laws analytical language.  At issue was more than $205,000, for costs of residential services between April 1 2012 and May 14, 2013.

Continue reading

September 30, 2016 in Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicaid, Social Security, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Attorney's Representation of 82-Year Old Woman on Slip & Fall Case Leads to Disciplinary Sanctions

I often talk with law students and practicing attorneys about the $64,000 question in representation of older clients. The question is "who is your client?"  It is all too easy with a disabled or elderly client for the lawyer to start taking directions from younger family members -- or even confusing the younger family member's legal issues with the reasons for representation of the older client.  The "family" is generally not the answer to "who is your client?," even if you represent more than one family member.  From the Pennsylvania Board of Discipline of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court we see another hard lesson involving professional responsibilities to communicate with and represent individual clients honestly:

By order dated July 14, 2016, attorney Terry Elizabeth Silva of Delaware County was suspended by the Supreme Court based on her handling of the proceeds of a lawsuit. Silva refused to disburse the funds received, asserting a charging lien on the recovery to which the Disciplinary Board determined she was not entitled.



Silva represented an 82-year-old woman in a slip and fall case. The woman’s son accompanied her to all meetings and conducted many of the communications with Silva on his mother’s behalf. The fee agreement provided for Silva to receive a contingent fee of 33 1/3%. 



The case was settled, and Silva’s staff deposited the check into her operating account.  A month later her office delivered a check for one third of the proceeds to the client’s daughter. Silva withheld a third of the check for her advanced expenses and a Medicare lien of less than $1,000.



While still holding the remaining third of the proceeds, Silva wrote several checks which reduced the balance in the account to $1,852. She made no further distribution over the following two and a half years, until the client filed a complaint with the Office of Disciplinary Counsel and a claim with the Lawyers Fund for Client Security. Silva defended those complaints with a claim she was entitled to a charging lien on the proceeds, based on her representation of the son and his wife in an unrelated matter. She also claimed that the mother authorized the use of the proceeds to pay debts of the son.

The Disciplinary Board rejected the attorney's arguments about why she could assert a "charging lien" against the mother's settlement for legal fees allegedly owed to her by the son. "All in the same family" was not a valid theory.  Different accounts for different clients.  While the original sanction proposed was a one-year suspension for the attorney, after hearing additional concerns about the lawyer, including the "lack of remorse and continued denials of wrongdoing," the Disciplinary Board recommended a three-year suspension from practice -- and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court approved that longer sanction.  The $64,000 question just got a whole lot more expensive for that lawyer. 

My thanks to Dickinson Law ethics guru Laurel Terry for spotlighting this disciplinary matter for us.

 

 

September 28, 2016 in Ethical Issues, Property Management, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Kindred Health Care Inc. Hit With Sanctions for Failure to Comply with Federal Settlement Terms on Hospice Care

Kindred Healthcare Inc., the nation's largest post-acute care provider (after acquiring Gentiva Healthcare in 2015) recently paid more than $3 million to the federal government as sanctions for inaccurate billing practices under Medicare for hospice services.  That may not sound like a lot of money in this day and age of Medicare and Medicaid fraud cases, right?  After all, North American Health Care Inc. reportedly settled a false claims case with the Department of Justice earlier this month in a rehabilitation services investigation by agreeing to pay $28 million

But, the Kindred Health Care sanction is actually a penalty for failing to comply with the terms of a previous multimillion dollar settlement by the feds with Gentiva.  As part of that settlement, the company and its successors agreed to comply with a Corporate Integrity Agreement (CIA).  From the Office of Inspector General, Department of Health and Human Services press release:

It is the largest penalty for violations of a CIA to date, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) said.

 

The record penalty resulted from Kindred's failure to correct improper billing practices in the fourth year of the five-year agreement. OIG made several unannounced site visits to Kindred facilities and found ongoing violations. "This penalty should send a signal to providers that failure to implement these requirements will have serious consequences," Mr. Levinson said. "We will continue to closely monitor Kindred's compliance with the CIA."

 

OIG negotiates CIAs with Medicare providers who have settled allegations of violating the False Claims Act. Providers agree to a number of corrective actions, including outside scrutiny of billing practices. In exchange, OIG agrees not to seek to exclude providers from participating in Medicare, Medicaid, or other Federal health care programs. CIAs typically last five years.

The post-acute care world -- which includes hospice, nursing homes, rehabilitation and home care -- is a tough marketplace.  According to a McKnight News report, Kindred is also closing some 18 sites as "underperforming."  For more on Kindred's operations, including its explanation of the penalty as tied to pre-acquisition practices of Gentiva, see this article in Modern Healthcare, "Kindred Pays Feds Largest Penalty Ever Recorded for Integrity Agreement Violations."

September 27, 2016 in Crimes, Current Affairs, Ethical Issues, Federal Cases, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicaid, Medicare | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 26, 2016

Home Care Workers at the Very Heart of Debates about Overtime Pay and Minimum Wage

Home care workers have many different titles and roles, but a common problem for all is the rate of pay.  Many work long "block" shifts of 10 or more hours at a time.  Many are employed by agencies that charge clients $20+ per hour while paying the workers less than half that rate. Home care agencies typically offer no or minimal benefits.   At the same time, for families facing the prospect of care for elderly parents or grandparents, increasing the hourly rate and/or mandating overtime rates can quickly become unaffordable. Home care is often not covered by insurance, especially if the care is not deemed to be "medically necessary." 

The New York Times recently offered a portrait of the problems, beginning with evidence the average hourly rate for home care workers has actually gone down -- from a national median of $10.21 (adjusted for inflation) in 2005 to $10.11 in 2016: 

This helps explain why Patricia Walker, 55, a certified nursing assistant who works for a Tampa home care agency and provides care for two older men — and hasn’t received a raise in five years — must rely on $194 in food stamps each month.

 

“It helps me a lot, because I don’t have to wait for my paycheck to buy food,” she told me.

 

Still, working only 16 hours a week while hoping for more, at $10 an hour, means she can’t afford a place to live. “I would love to be able to put a key in my own door and know this is mine,” she said.

Instead, she pays friends $50 every other week to rent a room in their apartment.

Home care aides, mostly women and mostly of color, represent one of the nation’s fastest-growing occupations, increasing from 700,000 to more than 1.4 million over the past decade. Add the independent caregivers that clients employ directly through public programs, and the total rises to more than two million.

For more, read As Their Numbers Grow, Home Care Aides Are Stuck at $10.11.

September 26, 2016 in Current Affairs, Discrimination, Ethical Issues, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (1)

Friday, September 23, 2016

Planning: Mid-Atlantic Works-in-Progress Retreat Opportunity for Health Law Scholars

Professor Carl H. Coleman at Seton Hall Law School in Newark, New Jersey, sent us advance news about a works-in-progress retreat scheduled for February 10, 2017.  Professor Coleman explained:

Seton Hall Law School’s Center for Health & Pharmaceutical Law & Policy is pleased to announce the inaugural Mid-Atlantic Health Law Works-in-Progress Retreat, which will be held on February 10, 2017, at Seton Hall Law School in Newark, New Jersey.  The purpose of the retreat is to give regional health law scholars an opportunity to share their work and exchange ideas in a friendly, informal setting.  The retreat is open to anyone with an academic appointment in health law (including professors, fellows, and visitors) in any institution of higher education in the mid-Atlantic area.



The retreat will consist of an in-depth discussion of approximately 5-6 draft papers.  A designated commentator will first provide a 10-15 minute overview of each paper, as well as his or her reactions.  The author will then have 5 minutes to respond, following which all retreat participants will participate in a general discussion of the draft.



Persons interested in having their papers presented should submit a preliminary draft or, if that is not possible, a detailed abstract, no later than November 18 to Carl Coleman at carl.coleman@shu.edu, using the description "Mid-Atlantic Health Law Retreat" in the regarding line of the emailed submission.   Papers to be presented will be selected by December 9, and final drafts will be due on January 20.  Drafts will be made available to all participants on a password-protected website.

Contact Professor Coleman with any questions. This looks like a fabulous workshop opportunity. Thanks, Carl!

September 23, 2016 in Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Programs/CLEs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Inspiring Conversations about Aging -- a Florida Example

Karen Miller, a lawyer and former administrative law judge from New York who has become a very good friend, recently shared with me reports about a long-time project of hers, to inspire direct dialogue between generations about aging.  As an engaged resident of a CCRC in Gainesville, Florida (Oak Hammock which is affiliated with the University of Florida), Karen and others in her community embody the notion of active, healthy, and realistic aging.  Karen knows that "aging in the right place" is a better goal than simply "aging in place."  The right place may or may not be the long-time family home.   

Over the course of three days in mid-September, Temple Shir Shalom and Oak Hammock hosted conversations on "Giving and Receiving Care" that were open to the public.  From the Gainesville-Sun coverage of the events:

[Rabbi Michael] Joseph said joking around with his wife about his forgetfulness becomes less funny, as he grows older. “It becomes a real anxiety, it becomes harder to talk about,” Joseph said. “Because I don’t really want to know the answer, part of me.”

 

Saturday’s festivities will address Joseph’s anxiety head-on. The Oak Hammock retirement community will serve as the backdrop to a lecture about age-related cognitive changes. The 3 p.m. non-clinical presentation by guest speaker Dr. Steven DeKoskey of the University of Florida's McKnight Brain Institute will take a look at what is and isn’t normal when aging.

 

[Karen] Miller said that as people age they may need help with numerous things, ranging from simple things like writing a check, to more complicated things, like making medical decisions. “There will come a time, unless you get hit by a car, where your faculties are not as sharp as they were at one time,” she said.

 

Concluding Sunday at the temple, the program will open its doors at 10:30 a.m. to a wider audience spanning at least three generations, Joseph said.

The combination of community hosts, professional caregivers, science-based speakers, and public round tables strikes me as an inspiring model for effective conversations about aging. Well done, Karen.

September 22, 2016 in Consumer Information, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Programs/CLEs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Thinking about Consumer Protection, Families, and Older Clients in Banking

I'm currently on sabbatical and working on a couple of big projects. I've been digging deeper into how banks approach consumer protection issues for older customers.  Awareness of the potential for financial exploitation of elders among bankers is clearly at an all-time high.  

One of the practical lessons, however, is that each banking institution does it differently when responding to concerns.  For example, one bank I met with has a system of "alerts" for tellers about prospective transactions, such as where an older customer is accompanied into the bank by "problematic" befrienders. Another bank said that before it could take any action in response to a request made by a valid agent with a broadly-worded power of attorney, the agent would have to be added as a party "on" the account in question.  The latter approach, although understandable on one level, seems to pose the potential for additional problems. One-on-one meetings with high-level officials at major banks makes me realize just how challenging this would be for the average family member or concerned friend of a prospective victim.

Along this line, I recently received news of a timely CLE program.  The Pennsylvania Bar Institute is hosting an "update" program on Consumer Financial Services and Banking Law on October 18, with simulcasts offered in several locations around Pennsylvania.  The Pennsylvania Bankers Association is co-hosting the program.  

Speakers include:

 

Hon. Robin L. Wiessmann
Secretary, PA Department of Banking and Securities

 

Leonidas Pandeladis, Esq.
Chief Counsel, PA Department of Banking and Securities

 

Jeffrey P. Ehrlich, Esq.

Deputy Enforcement Director, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Washington, DC

The planned program will include updates on the latest rules affecting consumer protection measures, and -- I suspect -- will likely address some of the "hot" issues, such as the Wells Fargo "mess.

Related articles

September 20, 2016 in Consumer Information, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Property Management, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 19, 2016

Upcoming Conference to Focus on Dispute Resolution in the Face of "Medical Futility"

On Friday, November 18, 2016, Mitchell Hamline School of Law and Children's Minnesota are hosting a one day seminar on "Ethics, Law and Futility" in Minneapolis.  The target audience is described as "Nurses, Physicians, Social Workers, Lawyers, Patient Advocates, Parents/Guardians or anyone interested in ethics, law and futility."  The premise is intriguing, as explained in conference promotion materials:

There is a knowledge gap between what is presumed as one’s ethical and legal obligations to patients during cases of futility and what actually their responsibility is. This conference will assist in clarifying these issues and provide the audience with tools for managing futility cases.

Speakers include: 

  • Thaddeus Pope, Director of the Health Law Institute at Mitchell Hamline School of Law, speaking on "When may you stop life-sustaining treatment without consent?  Leading Dispute Resolution Mechanisms for Medical Futility Conflicts.”

  • Emily Pryor Winston, Associate General Counsel at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, on "Minnesota Law and Medical Futility Analysis."

  • Jack Schwartz, Adjunct Professor at the University of Maryland School of Law and Former Maryland Assistant Attorney General, on "The Ethics of Legal Risk.

For more, see the home page for the symposium, which provides registration materials.

September 19, 2016 in Advance Directives/End-of-Life, Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Programs/CLEs, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, September 11, 2016

"Come Hell or High Water" at the Movies

Over the weekend, I caught the recently released movie, Hell or High Water. Both "contract law" and "elder law" figure into the plot.  Warning: Spoilers ahead -- so don't keep reading if you don't want to know.

The timeless and yet still "modern" plot -- with sons trying to save the family homestead from the bank -- has a few good West Texas twists (although the movie was mostly filmed in my old stomping grounds of New Mexico).  I enjoyed the play on words with the title of the movie from a legal perspective.  The bank's "reverse mortgage" on the homestead has a payoff clause that bars any excuses for nonpayment, such as Acts of God or other hardships.  In legal circles such clauses have are called "come hell or high water" terms, rejecting any "force majeur" excuses for late payments.  So the brothers are up against the clock. Can they steal enough from the very bank conglomerate that made the loan in order for them to get the mortgage paid off by the deadline?  Good character actors abound, including two waitresses who steal the scenes in small town diners and Jeff Bridges at the other end of a Texas journey he began 45 years ago with The Last Picture Show.

The reverse mortgage is the elder law part of the plot.  The movie hints the aging mother was loaned just $25,000 on the homestead (where oil may be found) -- enough to be difficult to pay off (especially with taxes and fees), but not enough money to truly save her from her debts.   While the plot stretches the realities of reverse mortgages, in truth such mortgages are typically very high cost loans, and are not easily refinanced. 

September 11, 2016 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Ethical Issues, Housing, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 9, 2016

The Surprisingly Complex Law of Descansos (a/k/a Roadside Memorials)

When I was growing up in Arizona, my father and I spent a lot of time on the road, and we would often comment on the small white crosses found along the highways marking the locations of fatal car accidents.  Perhaps this conversation was a bit morbid in retrospect, but the presence of the crosses made an impression on me, demonstrating just how significant a momentary lapse of awareness can be for drivers operating at high speeds.  I'm not sure when those state-sponsored memorials ended, but you still sometimes see markers installed by families. They can vary from simple to elaborate. In the Southwest generally, they are sometimes known as "descansos," a Spanish word for "resting places," and there is a long tradition behind them.  

More recently in Arizona, the tradition has been challenged, with state authorities aggressively removing the impromptu memorials as "safety hazards" in early 2016, citing long-standing laws prohibiting such markers.  An Arizona newspaper chronicled the issues earlier in the year: 

For the past 15 years, Pete Rios would say a special silent prayer as he drove past a large white cross that sat on top of a rocky hill just alongside the road on his way to work.

 

As a little boy, he said, he was told “that’s what you do to show respect” for the many memorial sites that line Arizona highways, marking the deaths of loved ones.

 

One in particular was special to the Pinal County supervisor.

 

It bore the initials of his sister, Carmen Rios, who had been killed near that spot by a drunken driver in 2000. It sat surrounded by a 3-foot angel, faded in color from years of sun beating down on it, and ceramic vases that held new flowers with every passing holiday and changing of seasons.

 

Last week, the memorial disappeared.

When dozens of crosses along Arizona highways disappeared suddenly, families protested.  They countered the "safety" argument, pointing to the absence of any evidence that the small crosses caused drivers to stop or otherwise change their course of driving.  The Arizona Department of Transportation offered "alternatives" as memorials, suggesting families could participate in Arizona's "adopt a highway" program.   

The grassroots advocacy of families took hold, and recently the Arizona Department of Transportation announced a new policy:

Recognizing the need of families to grieve in different ways for those killed in crashes, the Arizona Department of Transportation has established a policy allowing memorial markers along state-maintained highways in a way that minimizes risks for motorists, families and ADOT personnel.

 

Developed with input from community members, the policy specifies a maximum size and establishes standards for materials and placement so markers present less chance of distracting passing drivers or damaging vehicles leaving the roadway....

 

  • Size and materials: A marker may be up to 30 inches high and 18 inches wide, and the wood or plastic/composite material components used to create it may be up to 2 inches thick and 4 inches wide. It may include a plaque up to 4 inches by 4 inches and up to 1/16 of an inch thick. It may be anchored up to 12 inches in the ground, but not in concrete or metal footings.
  • Placement: In consultation with ADOT officials, families will place markers as close as possible to the outer edge of the highway right of way. Markers may only be placed in front of developed property if the property owner gives written permission to the family.

It turns out that states across the nation have different laws and policies governing roadside memorials.  And, I guess I'm not entirely surprised to discover law review articles on this very subject. Florida Coastal Associate Law Professor Amanda Reid has two very interesting pieces, including "Place, Meaning and the Visual Argument of the Roadside Cross," published in 2015 in the Savannah Law Review.

September 9, 2016 in Current Affairs, Discrimination, Ethical Issues, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations, Travel | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

One Practitioner's Perspectives on "The Practice of Elder Law"

Stuart Bear, a practicing attorney and member of the Minnesota State Bar Association's Elder Law Section, has written an interesting first-person account of "The Practice of Elder Law" for a 2016 issue of the Mitchell-Hamline Law Review.  It turns out the 2016 piece is an updated version of a similar article he wrote for the William Mitchell Law Review in 2002, with the same title.

In both versions Bear begins with a narrative about a family member's call to ask him legal advice on how to handle care issues following an emergency hospital admission for the caller's mother. Many of the events Bear relates will resonate, both with the public (especially those of a certain age) and lawyers.

At the same time, I find that some of Bear's words -- in both versions -- could be a springboard for a broader discussion with law students and elder law specialists.  For example, he chooses to label the family member initiating the contact as "Responsible Daughter," and he refers to other siblings as "responsible sons."  What is the meaning behind this phrase?  Is he referring to "morally responsible," "financially responsible," or just generically a "good" person?  

Further, in both versions, he offers an important discussion of how he handles potential conflict of interest issues in representing the elder parent where offspring are involved in client meetings and decisions.  In the 2002 version, Mr. Bear writes about alternative choices in identifying his client:

This rule [referring to Rule 1.7 of the ABA Rules of Professional Conduct as adopted in Minnesota] is clear that should I choose Mom as my client; it is she whom I serve and no other family member. I take my marching orders based upon Mom’s goals and objectives, serving her sole interests.

 

Suppose, however, that Mom is not so definitive in articulating her goals and objectives. It may be possible for me to represent the entire family, in light of rule 2.2 of the Minnesota Rules of Professional Conduct, which addresses the lawyer as intermediary.

In the more recent 2016 version of the essay, which is the version I first encountered on Westlaw, Mr. Bear cites a different rule for his authority to represent "the family." He points to Rule 1.14 on representation of a client with "diminished capacity."  He writes:

Suppose, however, that Mom was not so definitive in articulating her goals and objectives. It may be possible for me to represent the entire family, in light of Rule 1.14 of the Minnesota Rules of Professional Conduct, which addresses clients with diminished capacity. A comment to the rule provides in pertinent part:
 
The client may wish to have family members or other persons participate in discussions with the lawyer. When necessary to assist in the representation, the presence of such persons generally does not affect the applicability of the attorney-client evidentiary privilege. Nevertheless, the lawyer must keep the client's interests foremost and . . . must look to the client, and not family members, to make decisions on the client's behalf.
 
In the situation involving Mom and Responsible Daughter, and reading the conflict of interest rule together with Rule 1.14, I may act as the lawyer for this situation, provided that no conflict of interest develops
 
Perhaps the question is whether either rule, 1.7 or 1.14, clearly authorizes the concept of "family representation" where the older client has capacity issues. While many attorneys, including elder law attorneys, do take the position this approach is appropriate, others would take the position that the daughter is acting in the role of agent or alternative decision-maker for the mother, and thus the mother is always the real party in interest, not the daughter. Neither approach eliminates the potential for conflict of interest issues for the attorney. Either way, I think the question of client identity is key to most representational roles for elder law attorneys, especially in the context of family members serving as de facto agents for their loved ones. Stuart Bear's 2002 and 2016 essays should be good food for additional thought and analysis.
 
Editing Note:  The above Blog post was edited to refer to the correct name for the Mitchell-Hamline Law Review (rather than the "Marshall-Hamline Law Review").  Our thanks to readers for catching my error! KCP

August 30, 2016 in Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Legal Practice/Practice Management | Permalink | Comments (1)

Friday, August 26, 2016

The CNA Conundrum: Background Checks, Continuing Education & Licensure

The long-term care industry depends hugely on the services of "nursing assistants," also known as NAs, who provide basic but important care for residents or patients under the direction of nursing staff (who, in turn, are usually Licensed Practical Nurses or Registered Nurses). As the U.S.Department of Labor describes, NAs typically perform duties such as changing linens, feeding, bathing, dressing, and grooming of individuals. They may also transfer or transport residents and patients. Employers may use other job titles for NAs, such as nursing care attendants, nursing aides, and nursing attendants. However, the Department of Labor makes a distinction between NAs and other key players in long-term care, including "home health aides," "orderlies," "personal care aides" and "psychiatric aides." 

According to DOL statistics, the top employers of NAs include skilled nursing facilities (37% of NAs), continuing care retirement communities and assisted living facilities (together employing some 18% of NAs), and hospitals and home care agencies, which each employ about 6% of the NA workforce.  

For many years, states have offered licensing for nursing assistants.  The designation of CNA or "certified nursing assistant" meant that the nursing assistant had satisfied a minimum educational standard and had successfully passed a state exam.  As another key protection for vulnerable consumers, CNAs had to pass background checks, involving fingerprints and criminal history searches.

In Arizona, however, now I'm hearing a new label:  LNAs or Licensed Nursing Assistants.  The Arizona Board of Nursing continues to license CNAs, but now it is offers the designation of Licensed Nursing Assistants. What's the difference?  Frankly, not much, at least in terms of skill levels. Then why the change?

In Arizona, CNAs and LNAs have the same educational requirements, and must pass the same test and satisfy the same work credits. But, as of July 1, 2016, individuals seeking the LNA designation will be required to pay the state a fee to cover their mandatory background checks, including fingerprinting.  CNAs, however, will no longer be required to undergo background checks or fingerprinting.  

What is this about? Arizona is trying to save money.  It seems that state and federal laws prohibit state authorities from mandating that CNA candidates cover the cost for their own background checks.  In other words, if the candidate showed financial need in the application process, the state was required to pick up the costs for any background checks. Let's remember that the average wages of CNAs are relatively low -- the national mean is less than $30,000 per year. Presumably that is the reason behind the older laws limiting how much states can charge CNA applicants for their own background checks. By creating a new designation, LNA, Arizona takes the position it avoids the federal restriction.

But, what about the public?  Will the public understand that CNAs licensed after July 1, 2016 will not be subject to fingerprinting and background checks?   Responsible employers would, presumably, require such checks or limit their hires to LNAs.   At least, let's hope so.

I also learned that apparently Arizona does not require "continuing" education for either CNAs or LNAs.  (Again, you would hope that responsible employers would either provide or require such education.)  Arizona used to require a minimum of 120 hours every 2 years of what are, in essence, "job credits" -- i.e., proof of employment in an NA position -- to maintain the CNA license.  Recently, however, Arizona diluted that requirement to just 8 hours every two years for both CNAs and LNAs.  

Arizona does have a useful website where current or prospective employers, including families, can check the licensing status of CNAs or LNAs. The website is searchable by name or license number, and shows whether an applicant has failed the entrance exam, or has withdrawn an application or lost the license.  

Are other states creating this LNA designation as a "workaround" (loophole?) for financing background checks for CNAs?  Let us know!  

August 26, 2016 in Consumer Information, Crimes, Current Affairs, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Ethical Issues, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Washington Post: Legal Counsel for the Elderly Is Part of One Woman's Story

The Washington Post has a fascinating piece about Wanda Witter's decades-long battle with the Social Security Administration. At the age of 80, Wanda's story appears to be one of success, after many years of living in shelters and on the streets of D.C..  

At the shelters all those years, Witter tried to get someone to listen to her. She explained at different offices providing homeless services that those suitcases contained the evidence. She was owed money, lots of money, and she could prove it.

 

Witter is not a particularly warm or outgoing person. She isn’t rude, just direct. And suspicious of just about everyone. And obsessed with Social Security.

 

“They kept sending me to mental counselors. I wasn’t crazy. I wasn’t mentally ill,” she said.

With the help of the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless, Legal Counsel for the Elderly (LCE) and a dedicated, patient and persistent social worker, Julie Turner, it appears that Ms. Witter is now in her own apartment and will receive some $100,000 in back Social Security payments.  

For the full story, read "'I Wasn't Crazy.' A Homeless Woman's Long War to Prove the Feds Owe Her $100,000."  

August 25, 2016 in Ethical Issues, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Housing, Legal Practice/Practice Management, Social Security | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Philadelphia to Host the 27th Annual National Adult Protective Service Assoc Conference, August 29-31

Recently I received an email reminder from ElderLawGuy Jeff Marshall that Pennsylvania is hosting this year’s National Adult Protective Service Association (NAPSA) Conference from August 29 through 31 at the Loews Hotel in Philadelphia. The conference will feature many of the nation’s leading adult protective services professionals who will share their ideas, expertise and creative approaches, with workshop sessions for brainstorming application of new ideas. More details, including information about CLE credits, are available here. Immediately following the NAPSA conference, in the same Philadelphia location, is the 7th Annual Summit on Elder Financial Exploitation, on September 1.

These national meetings come at a time when elder abuse and elder justice have been the subject of growing attention in Pennsylvania, as well as around the nation.  It seems fitting that Philadelphia is hosting the national meeting, as it follows a months-long Task Force analysis of the role of Pennsylvania court systems in helping to protect at-risk seniors or other vulnerable adults.  

Thanks, Jeff!  

August 23, 2016 in Crimes, Current Affairs, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Ethical Issues, Federal Statutes/Regulations, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, August 22, 2016

Turning Silver Into Gold? Another "Advancement" in Non-Institutional Senior Care

The New York Times on Sunday had an exceptionally well written and important article about the latest trend in senior care.  For-profit companies are now allowed to participate in PACE, the Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly, a Medicare- and Medicaid-approved program designed to permit innovation in care that doesn't require residence in high-priced settings such as traditional nursing homes.  Sarah Varney writes:

Inside a senior center here [in Denver], nestled along a bustling commercial strip, Vivian Malveaux scans her bingo card for a wining number.  Her 81-year-old eyes are warm, lively and occasionally set adrift by the dementia plundering her mind.

 

Dozens of elderly men and women -- some in wheelchairs, others whose hands tremble involuntarily -- gather excitedly around the game tables.  After bingo, there is more entertainment and activities: Yahtzee, tile-painting, beading. 

 

But this is no linoleum-floored community center reeking of bleach.  Instead, it's one of eight vanguard centers owned by InnovAge, a company based in Denver with ambitious plans.  With the support of private equity money, InnovAge aims to aggressively expand a little-known Medicare program that will pay to keep oldr and disabled Americans out of nursing homes.

The feature-length article details how "private equity firms, venture capitalizes and Silicon Valley entrepreneurs have jumped" onto the PACE niche. For more on this important development, read Private Equity's Stake in Keeping the Elderly at Home.

My thanks to Laurel Terry and Karen Miller for sharing this article with us. 

August 22, 2016 in Consumer Information, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicaid, Medicare | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, August 19, 2016

Want to Laugh? Read "Old Age: A Beginner's Guide," by Michael Kinsley

I'm always just a bit suspicious of books that promise to make me laugh.  I think it is because I like to be surprised by humorous moments, rather than feel duty-bound to chuckle, guffaw or giggle.  

Nonetheless, I succumbed to the promise in the blurb for Michael Kinsley's 2016 book, Old Age: A Beginner's Guide, that it was a "surprisingly cheerful book ... and a frequently funny account of one man's journey to the finish line."  

And I'm glad I did.  I did indeed laugh, and at the most surprising of moments, as when he described the need to avoid the doors of his refrigerator because of the magnets that might interfere with the technology in his brain used to keep symptom of Parkinson's Disease at bay.  He has the knack of making wry observations about his own mortal state to think broadly about what it is for all of us to age. I can see the short essays that make up this book being useful in a class on elder law or estate planning.  

His words are perhaps most poignantly relevant to boomers.  For example, on a goal of living longer, he writes:

Even before you're dead, you may want to ask yourself whether this is what you really want.  Is being alive all that desirable if you're alive only in the technical sense?  Millions of boomers are watching their parents fade until they are no longer there. As they approach their seventies, they start observing their own peer group losing their collective marbles, one at a time. And they  reasonably conclude that the real competition should not be about longevity. It should be about cognition.

But he doesn't stop there, exploring other, potentially more important goals for the competitive boomer generation to consider.  

This is a short, deep book.  And I recommend it, not least of all because it gives readers welcome opportunities to smile. 

August 19, 2016 in Advance Directives/End-of-Life, Books, Cognitive Impairment, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Ethical Issues, Science, Statistics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, August 18, 2016

A Day in the Life of Phone Scams

I'm house-sitting in Phoenix this summer, and I've been gobsmacked, to use a good British word, to realize exactly how many unwanted callers manage to circumvent the home's do-not-call registrations.  Even worse is to realize how many of the calls expressly target senior consumers.

One of the most annoying call begins, "Hello Mrs. XXXX, I see that your physician has prescribed Xarelto for you, and I'm calling to let you know that we can offer you special pricing, at less than half what you are currently paying....."

Suffice it to say that this was a scam.  No physician had shared any prescription information about the homeowner in question.  But for the older consumer worried about costs, I can just imagine how effective the scammer's "guess" could be, as the scam focused on a very expensive and important drug for many older patients.  They were after credit card information.  I bet the boilerroom for this operation has a whole list of popular "senior" prescription drugs. 

Another frequent caller poses as the IRS and claims there is a deficiency on some tax payment that can be "handled" over the phone. Again, a scam -- and certainly one that could frighten many people.  In a single week, I intercepted 7 such calls, despite each time attempting to make it clear I knew this was a scam, and then blocking the number.  

Perhaps the most frequent callers are those trying to market "solar" systems, guaranteeing tax credits or rebates  -- and I guess that one just goes with the territory when you are living in sun-drenched Arizona.

August 18, 2016 in Cognitive Impairment, Consumer Information, Crimes, Ethical Issues | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, August 15, 2016

Medical-Legal Partnerships Are Needed For Elder Advocacy and Protection

In July, I drove some 2500 miles, from Pennsylvania to Arizona, to begin an exciting sabbatical opportunity.  I enjoy this drive (especially since I tend to do it fairly rarely, perhaps once every seven years).  I frequently visit friends along the way, and this summer I was struck by how many friends had saved up tough elder law stories for me.  

A theme emerged from their stories.  They would tell me, "I have an aging friend (or sometimes a family member or neighbor) who is in serious danger  of physical or financial harm, but refuses to cooperate with reasonable plans to solve the problems. What are my options to help this person I care about?"

In one instance, it seemed clear the at-risk individual was affected by some level of cognitive impairment.  But how to know for sure?  Was  the refusal to cooperate with a "better plan" the product of a sound, if somewhat eccentric mind?  A neurocognitive assessment seemed warranted.  We tried to arrange one. But the earliest appointment available was more than 60 days away and the  potential for harm was immediate.

Thus, it was with great interest I read a preview of  an article in the upcoming issue of the ABA publication, Bifocal.  Professors Marshall Kapp, Shenifa Taite and Gregory Turner outline "Six Situations in Which Elder Law Attorneys and Physicians Caring for Older Patients Need Each Other."  They are writing about a critical need for Medical-Legal Partnerships designed specifically to assist older persons and their family members.   For example, on the topic of "self-neglect," the authors explain:

Mistreatment of older persons by others is a serious problem. Both the medical and legal conundrums became more complicated, and thus even more amenable to interprofessional collaboration, when self-neglect is entailed. A significant percentage of older adults, mainly living alone, do not regularly attend to their own needs or well-being regarding health care, hygiene, nutrition, and other matters. The majority of cases reported to APS agencies by health and social service professionals and family members are triggered by suspected self-neglect. The health care system expends considerable efforts trying to intervene in these situations to prevent increased rates of hospitalization, nursing home placement, and even death.

 

In situations involving suspected elder self-neglect, the physician’s role is vital in recognizing the potential problem, characterizing the nature and seriousness of the risk posed, and trying to identify clinically and socially viable intervention strategies. Among other concerns, decisional capacity issues almost always arise in these cases. The physician may look to an attorney for advice about legal reporting requirements or options, as well as the legal boundaries within which interventions may be designed and implemented in a manner that best respects the older person’s dignity and autonomy while protecting the vulnerable at-risk individual from undue foreseeable, preventable self-generated harm.

A growing number of  law schools (including Penn State's Dickinson Law) have established Medical-Legal Partnership Clinics, where the collaborative relationship between attorneys and physicians is established in advance of need by clients. Often such clinics focus on younger clients, especially children.  Elder-specific services are an important subset of the services that can be provided in a timely and professional setting.  For more, read the full Bifocal article published in the-August 2016 issue -- and ask whether such services are available in your community.   

August 15, 2016 in Cognitive Impairment, Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Discrimination, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Ethical Issues, Housing, Legal Practice/Practice Management | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Integrating Criminal Justice Standards with Professional Conduct Rules for Attorneys Representing Clients with a Mental Health Disability

During the 2016 Annual Meeting of the American Bar Association that concluded on August 9 in San Francisco, the ABA adopted "the black letter of the ABA Standards for Criminal Justice: Criminal Justice Mental Health Standards, chapter seven of the ABA Standards for Criminal Justice, dated August 2016, to supplant the Third Edition (August 1984) of the ABA Criminal Justice Mental Health Standards." 

Here is a link to the Full Resolution

Here is a link to further details and a report: Proposed resolution and report

Significantly, the revised ABA standard expressly requires criminal defense lawyers to consider the implications of ABA Model Rule of Professional Conduct 1.14 (for representation of a client with diminished capacity), in determining whether, when and how much information can be shared about the client's disability with family members or others during the course of representation.  My initial reaction is this integration of the two concepts may actually broaden the defense attorney's authority to share information, rather than restrict it.  

Any thoughts among our readers? My special thanks to my colleague Professor Laurel Terry at Dickinson Law, guru of all matters related to professional conduct rules for attorneys and judges, for sharing the revised standard. 

August 10, 2016 in Cognitive Impairment, Crimes, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Ethical Issues | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Does Use of "Alzheimer's" as a Catch-all Label Cause Confusion?

Recently, a friend who is a neuropsychologist reminded me that the medical profession is moving away from using either dementia or Alzheimer's as a broad category label.  For example, in the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, commonly referred to as the DSM followed by a number that indicates the edition, the current edition (DSM-5) replaced the label "Dementia, Delirium, Amnestic and Other Cognitive Disorders" with "Neurocognitive Disorders" or NCDs.  As we talked, it occurred to me that this is an important change, and one that legal professionals should also embrace more strongly.  While short-hand labels can be useful, I think that using dementia alone as a label can invoke a stereotype that has the potential to confuse the public, while also unnecessarily frightening the client or client's family.  It can invoke an image of nursing homes or institutionalization, rather than what may be more appropriate, such as supported or guided decision-making or use of alternative decision-makers or agents, especially in early stages of the disorders.

As the DSM-5 further explains:

Although cognitive deficits are present in many if not all mental disorders (e.g., schizophrenia, bipolar disorders), only disorders whose core features are cognitive are included in the NCD category.  The NCDs are those in which impaired cognition has not been present since birth or very early life, and thus presents a decline from a previously attained level of functioning.

 

The NCDs are unique among DSM-5 categories in that these are syndromes for which the underlying pathology, and frequently the etiology as well, can potentially be determined.  The various underlying disease entities have all been the subject of extensive research, clinical experience, and expert consensus on diagnostic criteria.... Dementia is subsumed under the newly named entity major neurocognitive disorder, although  the term dementia is not precluded from use in the etiological subtypes in which the term is standard. Furthermore, DSM-5 recognizes a less severe level of cognitive impairment, mild neurocognitive disorder, which can also be a focus of care....

Indeed, greater appreciation for mild neurocognitive disorders is important in legal circles, as the changes may often be subtle or difficult to recognize, but still very important when talking about legal capacity or decision-making under the law.  

August 9, 2016 in Cognitive Impairment, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Science | Permalink | Comments (0)