Thursday, December 14, 2017

"Nursing Home Compare" Subject to Errors through Self-Reporting "Inflation"

In a new article published by Xu Han (Florida Atlantic), Niam Yaraghi (University of Connecticut) and Ram Gopal (University of Connecticut), their analysis of data used over a 4 year period for nursing home ratings  in CMS' "Nursing Home Compare" system reveals key concerns.  From the abstract:

We argue that the rating system is prone to inflation in self-reported measures, which leads to biased and misleading ratings. We use the CMS rating data over 2009–2013 and the corresponding financial data reported by Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development and patients’ complaints data reported by California Department of Public Health for 1219 nursing homes in California to empirically examine the key factors affecting the star rating of a nursing home.

 

We find a significant association between the changes in a nursing home's star rating and its profits, which points to a financial incentive for nursing homes to improve the ratings. We then demonstrate that this association does not always lead to legitimate efforts to improve service quality, but instead can induce inflation in self-reporting in the rating procedure. A prediction model is then developed to evaluate the extensiveness of inflation among the suspect population based on which 6% to 8.5% of the nursing homes are identified as likely inflators. We also summarize the key characteristics of likely inflators, which can be useful for future audit.

For more, see the full article, Winning at All Costs: Analysis of Inflation in Nursing Homes' Rating System, published November 20, 2017 in the journal Production and Operations Management.

December 14, 2017 in Ethical Issues, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, Medicare, Statistics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

"Snake Oil," Tattoos & Why Some Hospice Doctors Prefer Medical Powers of Attorney

Are games and food supplements that promise to stave off the onset of dementia the modern day version of "snake oil?" I promised to write more about the Aging Brain Conference at Arizona State University's Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law on December 8, 2017.  Speaker Dr. Cynthia Stonnington, Mayo Clinic, offered an important look at ways in which law, ethics, medicine, and commerce can collide with her survey of a host of approaches receiving "popular" press treatment.  

She examined self-described "brain-training" programs, miracle diets, supplements and targeted exercise programs, noting that most studies that purport to demonstrate positive results from these items have serious flaws.  Thus, at best, programs that claim to provide "protection" against dementia are usually promising more than has been proven.  Dr. Stonnington, along with the morning keynote speaker, former U.S. Surgeon General Richard Carmona, reminded us that

  • maintaining social engagement,
  • engaging in lifelong learning,
  • getting regular exercise of any type,
  • having good blood pressure control,
  • getting adequate sleep, and
  • focusing on good nutrition (including eating plans such as the Mediterranean, DASH or MIND diets)

are  far more important than any single, magic game or exercise.

One of the most lively discussions of the day came near the end, in response to presentations by Dr. Patrica Mayer of Banner Health in Phoenix, Amy McLean of Hospice of the Valley. and Life Sciences Professor Jason Robert (ASU) speaking for himself and Susan Fitzpatrick (James S. McDonnell Foundation), about end-of-life considerations for persons with dementia or other serious illnesses.  What would be the most likely response of a physician or emergency personnel confronted with a "do not resuscitate" tattoo on the chest of an emergency patient?  Dr. Mayer stressed that she is seeking reliable methods of communicating end-of-life wishes, and for her that means a preference for a written, Medical Power of Attorney.  She wants that "live" interaction whenever possible, in order to fully explore the options for care for individuals unable to communicate for themselves.  But she also noted a frequent frustration when she contacts designated  POAs about the need to make tough decisions, only to learn they were completely unaware before that moment of having been named as the designated agent.  

LSI_Aging Brain 120817 Competency_and_Incapacity_1 SPEC (1)I was part of a panel of court-connected speakers, including Arizona Superior Court Judge Jay Polk (Maricopa County), neuropsychologist  (and frequent expert witness) Elizabeth Leonard, and experienced Phoenix attorney Charles Arnold.  I was interested to hear about  -- and will pursue more information on -- the psychologists' use of evaluative tools for clients that use scenarios that would appear to test not just for loss of memory, but impaired judgment.  I was speaking on the unfortunate need for judicial inquiries into "improvident transactions" by persons with problematic cognition and I used litigation approaches from other locations -- Ireland (common law) and Maine (statutory) -- as examples.  The Arizona legal experts reminded me to take a closer look at Arizona's financial exploitation laws.

For more from this conference, see Learning to Say the Word "Die"  --  about a pilot program developed by Dr. Mayer while she was an advanced bioethics fellow at the Cleveland Clinic.  I also recommend Dr. Mayer's article on CPR & Hospice: Incompatible Goals, Irreconcilable Differences

 

December 13, 2017 in Cognitive Impairment, Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Games, Health Care/Long Term Care, Legal Practice/Practice Management, Programs/CLEs, Science, Statistics | Permalink | Comments (0)

When "Emergencies" Last for Months -- and the Impact on Seniors

Over the last several weeks, I've been in an ongoing conversation with a good friend who operates a court-appointed special advocate program and guardianship agency in St. Croix, Virgin Islands.  I've visited her several times over the years, and in fact, was just there in May. We talked then about whether she would evacuate in the event of any predicted hurricane strike on her island.  Her answer was "probably not," in large part because of her commitment to sharing the workload for a community already under stress from lack of jobs and other financial pressures.  

She rode out the two hurricanes that hit her part of the Caribbean in September and while her own home was spared serious damage, she could provide only sporadic reports -- when she had cell phone service and enough battery power -- about the aftermath for her clients.  When she mentioned the trauma caused by the "simple" fact that having no way to escape heat and humidity, especially at night, was one of the most exhausting parts of the post-storm struggle for all ages, I searched my local stories for battery operated fans to send (and then we had the challenge of finding a way to get them to her island).  

The reality for seniors living day-after-day, week-after-week, and now several months in a row without a reliable source of power is part of the picture painted in a recent article in The New York Times.  

With large areas of Puerto Rico still in the dark three months after the first of the storms — according to government reports, only 60.4 percent of the pre-storm power grid load has been restored — older residents and those with chronic medical conditions are suffering in even more ways than their neighbors. Many nursing homes have no power. The failure to re-establish functioning telephone networks and transportation systems in many areas makes it difficult to get regular medical care. Fire safety systems are inoperable, posing special dangers for those who cannot easily escape.

 

A look inside the 356 units that make up Puerto Rico’s largest housing project for low-income seniors, Comunidad del Retiro, or Retirement Community, helps explain the hurricanes’ continuing impact on the vulnerable. Inside the complex, there is a man with apnea who cannot sleep at night without power to his oxygen machine. A woman with dementia who was scheduled for transfer to a nursing home before the storm. And Ms. Rodriguez de Jesus, who mistakenly drank a poison in the dark and came close to becoming another uncounted hurricane death.
There have been falls in dimly lit apartments. Special diets that could no longer be followed. Medical interventions, drugs and treatments missed or delayed.....

For more, read Lives at Risk Inside a Senior Complex in Puerto Rico With No Power

December 13, 2017 in Current Affairs, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Legal Implications of Biomarkers for Dementia Highlight ASU's Conference on "The Aging Brain"

The "Aging Brain" Conference hosted by Arizona State University's Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law held on December 8, 2017 at the Sandra Day O'Connor United States Courthouse in Phoenix (that's a double helping of Sandra!) proved to be a fascinating, deep dive into the intersection of medicine, ethics and law with a focus on neurocognitive diseases, including Alzheimer's Disease.  The panelists and audience included academics in a wide range of fields, plus practitioners in medicine, law, social services, and more, along with both state and federal judges.  United States District Judge Roslyn Silver is a long-time supporter of law and science programming with ASU. LSI_Aging Brain 120817 Competency_and_Incapacity_5 SPEC (2)

One of the important themes that emerged for me was the growing significance of pre-symptomatic tests that can disclose genetic markers associated with greater incidence of an eventual, active form of a degenerative brain disease.  Neurologist Richard Caselli from Mayo Clinic and Jessica Langbaum, principal scientist with Banner Alzheimer's Institute laid out the latest information on a variety of genetic testing options, including the possibly mixed results for "risk" connected to positive results for specific genetic markers.  A provocative question by a morning speaker, Law and Biosciences Professor Henry T. Greely at Stanford, captured the personal dilemma well, when he asked the audience to vote on how many would want to to know the results of a genetic test that could disclose such a connection, especially as there is, as yet, no known cure or even any clear way to prevent most neurocognitive diseases from taking hold.  

Taking that a step further, how many of us would want our employer to know about that genetic marker results?  How about our health insurers? As we discussed at the conference, some consumer information is already available through "popular" ancestry testing sites such as "23 and Me," which expressly offers testing for "genetic health risks," including "late-onset Alzheimer's Disease and Parkinson's Disease."  Arizona State Law Professor Betsy Gray, director of the Law & Neuroscience Program for ASU's Center for Law, Science and Innovation, who master-minded the conference, helped to identify a host of legal and ethical issues connected to this developing world of science and medicine. Jalayne J. Arias, a full-time researcher at University of California San Francisco's Neurology, Memory and Aging Center (and clearly a rising academic star and graduate of ASU Law) outlined the implications of pre-symptomatic testing from the perspective of long-term care insurance.  For more from Professor Arias, I recommend her 2015 paper for the Journal of Clinical Ethics on Stakeholders' Perspectives on Preclinical Testing for Alzheimer's Disease.

 I plan to write more about this conference, as many perspectives on legal, ethical and medical questions were offered.      

December 12, 2017 in Cognitive Impairment, Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Discrimination, Ethical Issues, Programs/CLEs, Science | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

California Law, Amended in 2017, Sets Process for Contesting Transfer Decisions in Continuing Care Communities

Following my recent post about "evictions" in Continuing Care and Life Plan Communities, Margaret Griffin, the president of the California Continuing Care Residents Association (CALCRA) provided me with a copy of legislation that was signed into law by the Governor in October this year, amending California law on Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC) contracts.  This history is another window on how to handle involuntary transfers of residents.  California's law already provided detailed topics that must be addressed in admission contracts.  The newest provision requires greater sharing of any reasons for an involuntary transfer.  For "disputed" transfers the law now mandates that the provider:

"... shall provide documentation of the resident's medical records, other documents showing the resident's current mental and physical function, the prognosis, and the expected duration of relevant conditions, if applicable. The documentation shall include an explanation of how the criteria [supporting the involuntary transfer decision] are met.  The provider shall make copies of the completed report to share with the resident and the resident's responsible person. "

Further, the amended law provides that even though the CCRC has the right -- under certain conditions -- to transfer the resident, the resident may "dispute" the decision and have the reasons reviewed in a timely manner by the "Continuing Care Contracts Branch of the State Department of Social Services" in California.  That office has statutory authority to determine whether the facility has followed its own contractual basis and process for transfers, and "whether the transfer is appropriate and necessary."  

Ms. Griffin explains that the law "basically . . . requires an assessment be done to establish a functional reason for the transfer (as opposed to merely having the administrator’s whim be sufficient), and it allows the resident to appeal the actual decision (previously we were limited to requesting a review of the process)."

Thank you, Margaret, both for sharing the latest information on CALCRA's successful advocacy with California Assembly Bill 713, and for your additional commentary.  

December 6, 2017 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, Property Management, Retirement, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Arizona State Presents Legal, Policy and Ethical Perspectives on "The Aging Brain"

On December 8, 2017, I'm excited to be participating in a conference on The Aging Brain: Legal, Policy & Ethical Perspectives, in Phoenix, Arizona.  This program is a follow-up to an interdisciplinary workshop hosted at Arizona State University's Sandra Day O'Connor School of Law in the fall of 2016. This year's presentations will take place at the the United States Courthouse in Phoenix.

The planned schedule is jam-packed with speakers I'm looking forward to hearing, including:

Welcome: Betsy Grey, Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, ASU

Introduction: Dean Douglas Sylvester, Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, ASU

Keynote Speaker:Richard H. Carmona, M.D., M.P.H., FACS, 17th Surgeon General of the United States, Chief of Health Innovations, Canyon Ranch, Distinguished Professor, University of Arizona

Scientific Developments in Aging and Dementia: Pre-Symptomatic Screening for Neurodegenerative Diseases

    Panel Chair: Hon. Roslyn O. Silver, U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona

  • Dr. Richard Caselli, Mayo Clinic
  • Dr. Jessica Langbaum, Banner Alzheimer's Institute
Ethical, Legal, and Social Implications
       Panel Chair:  Michael Saks, Sand Day O'Connor College of Law
  • Dr. Cynthia M. Stonnington, Mayo C;inic
  • Jalayne J. Arias, UCSF Neurology, Memory and Aging Center
  • Henry T. Greely, Stanford Law School

Aging at Home

    Panel Chair: Larry J. Cohen, The Cohen Law Firm

  • David Coon, College of Nursing & Health Solutions, ASU
  • Kent Dicks, Life365, Inc.
Competency and Incapacity: Assessment and Consent

    Panel Chair: Charles L. Arnold, Frazer Ryan Goldberg & Arnold, LLP

  • Hon. Jay M. Polk, Probate Dep’t. Associate Presiding Judge, Superior Court of Arizona for Maricopa County
  • Katherine Pearson, Dickinson School of Law, Pennsylvania State University
  • Dr. Elizabeth Leonard, Neurocognitive Associates
  • Betsy Grey, Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, ASU

End of Life

    Panel Chair: Dr. Mitzi Krockover, Health Futures Council at ASU

  • Jason Robert, Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics, ASU
  • Amy McLean, Hospice of the Valley
  • Dr. Patricia A. Mayer, Banner Baywood & Banner Health Hospitals

Keynote:

Dr. Susan Fitzpatrick, President, James S. McDonnell Foundation
Introduction by Jason Robert, Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics, ASU

December 6, 2017 in Cognitive Impairment, Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Federal Cases, Health Care/Long Term Care, Science, Statistics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, December 4, 2017

Growth of Mediation Programs in Orphans' and Probate Courts

Last Saturday, I had the unique privilege to sit in on a day of Advanced Probate Mediation Training, a component of a larger ADR program at the Orphans/ Court for Prince George's County, Maryland.  The attendees included long-serving mediators from other court divisions, judges and attorneys and individuals interested in a formal mediation process for probate cases. The facilitators for the training were Mala Malhotra-Ortiz and Cecilia Paizs, very experienced educators and ADR specialists. Chief Judge Wendy Cartwright welcomed us all and made it clear that mediation, collaborative probate and structured settlements are three vital programs for the probate division.  Certainly this is part of a trend favoring ADR, now applying to post-death disputes. 

My strongest impression of the day was the warm and positive demeanor of the folks I met, especially as they were giving up most of their Saturday.  I had the feeling that they were eager to share this experience.

Part of the training involved role plays -- and everyone in the room took the exercises seriously.  In Maryland, a challenge to a will is called a "caveat" proceeding, and a threshold question for court administrators is whether a specific dispute seems to be a good candidate for referral to mediation.  

In one exercise, I played a minor role (a "grandchild") of the testator, in a fact pattern that involved two named beneficiaries, a biological child and a second beneficiary who wasn't a direct blood relation. The fact pattern was realistic, as both sides wanted "accountings" for pre-death expenses by those serving as the caregiver or  POA for the elderly testator before her death.  The dispute included a long-history of difficult family dynamics, and was realistic as there was a temptation for other family members to take sides with the primary disputants. We even had an "obstructionist" attorney as an assigned role, someone who was still advocating for the purely "legal" outcome during the mediation.  

The majority of the participants were also lawyers -- and I could quickly see how uneasy the fact pattern made some attorneys. One option for the mediated outcome was distinctly "nonlegal" -- i.e., permitting the parties to split the proceeds of the estate in a way that was not the same as the testator's directions in her will.   The facilitators did an excellent job in counseling the lawyers on how to change their thinking, so as to allow consensus to emerge for a final, written settlement agreement. The fact pattern also put us in the position of needing to think about whether there had been any pre-death elder exploitation, and if so, to discuss how mediators should handle the possibility of a "crime."

I know our law students are going to be very lucky to have Mala Malhotra-Ortiz join us at Dickinson Law in the near future as an adjunct professor.   And, by the way, for anyone interested in why probate courts are sometimes called  "orphans' courts," I recommend the Court's link above on the history of Orphans' Courts in Maryland. 

December 4, 2017 in Consumer Information, Crimes, Current Affairs, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Professor Tamar Frankel and The Fiduciary Rule -- Still Shaking Up Wall Street

In the Wall Street Journal, there is a recent, wonderful profile of Boston University Law Professor Tamar Frankel, who has been fighting the good fight to gain adoption of "The Fiduciary Rule" for financial advisors, investment brokers and others in positions of trust for her entire academic career.  

And, at age 92, she's still fighting the good fight, as the Trump administration recently delayed full implementation.   

When Ms. Frankel began researching fiduciary law in earnest in the 1970s, she dwelled on that idea: A fiduciary is someone trusted by others because he or she has superior knowledge and expertise. People hire brokers because the brokers know what they’re doing and the clients don’t. That gives fiduciaries power and responsibility over those who trust them.

 

The unconditional trust that clients place in a fiduciary creates a paradox, argues Ms. Frankel. “When you get power, you lose the power you might otherwise have,” she says.

 

A fiduciary adviser can’t abuse the relationship of trust by collecting unreasonable compensation or harboring avoidable conflicts of interest. The relationship is meant to satisfy only the needs of the client.

Professor Frankel appears to be remarkably sanguine about the latest delays:

With the Trump administration putting parts of the fiduciary rule on hold, Ms. Frankel counsels patience.

 

“What the rule has done is sown the seed, and the longer it takes the better off we are, because what we must change is the culture and the habits in the financial industry,” she says. “Habits don’t change in one day. It takes time.”

 

After she turns 93 next July 4, Ms. Frankel says, she will stop teaching—although she will continue to research and write. What accounts for her longevity? “Caring less and less about what other people think,” she says, “and more and more about questions you don’t have answers to.”

I have a copy of Professor Frankel's thoughtful treatise on Fiduciary Law (Oxford Univ. Press, 2011) on the shelf behind my desk, complete with sticky notes and much yellow and red highlighting.  I've been meaning to write Professor Frankel to thank her for her work over the years -- and now this article reminds me to get to that task!

My thanks to my always eagle-eyed friend and correspondent, Karen Miller, in Florida for this latest find and reminder.  

December 4, 2017 in Books, Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Property Management, Retirement | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Questions Arise With Evictions of Residents from Continuing Care (Life Plan) Communities

Recently I wrote about a high profile suit filed by AARP attorneys on behalf of residents at a California skilled care (nursing home) facility to challenge evictions.  

I've also been hearing about more attempts to evict residents from  Continuing Care Communities, also known as CCRCs or Life Plan Communities.   For example, in late 2016 a lawsuit was filed in San Diego County, California alleging a senior's improper eviction from a high-end CCRC.  The woman reportedly paid a $249k entrance fee, plus additional monthly fees for 15 years.  When she reached the age of 93, however, the CCRC allegedly evicted her for reasons unconnected to payment. The resident's diagnosis of dementia was an issue.  Following negotiations, according to counsel for the resident, Kelly Knapp, the case reportedly settled recently on confidential terms.  

Is there a trend?  Are more CCRC evictions happening, and are they more often connected to a resident's diagnosis of dementia and/or the facility's response to an increased need for behavioral supervision?  If the answer is "yes," then there is a tension here, between client expectations and marketing by providers.  Such tension is unlikely to be good news for either side.    

CCRCs are often viewed by residents as offering a guarantee of life-time care. Even if any promises are conditional, families would not usually expect that care-needs associated with aging would be a ground for eviction.  

The resident and family expectations can be influenced by pricing structures that involve substantial up-front fees (often either nonrefundable or only partially refundable), plus monthly fees that may be higher than cost-of-living alone might explain.  Marketing materials -- indeed the whole ambiance of CCRCs -- typically emphasize a "one stop shopping" approach to an ultimate form of senior living.      

In one instance I reviewed recently, the materials used for incoming residents explained the pricing with a point system. The prospective resident was told that in addition to the $100+k entrance fee, an additional daily fee could increase as both "medical and non-medical" needs increased.  A resident who "requires continual and full assistance of others . . . is automatically Level C" and billed at a higher rate. The graded components included factors such a need for assistance with "cognition, mood, or behavior," or "wandering."  All of that indicates dementia care is part of the "continuing" plan.

CCRCs, on the other hand, may turn to their contract language as grounds for an eviction. Contracts may have language that attempts to give the facility sole authority to make decisions about a resident's "level" of care.  Sometimes that authority is tied to decisions about "transfers" from independent living to assisted living or to skilled care units within the same CCRC, as the facility sees care needs increasing.  Even same-community transfer decisions can sometimes be hard for families. Complete evictions can be even harder to accept, especially if it means a married couple will be separated by blocks or even miles, rather than hallways in the same complex.

Continue reading

November 30, 2017 in Cognitive Impairment, Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Ethical Issues, Federal Cases, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, Medicaid, Medicare, Property Management, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (1)

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Actions by Attorneys and Their Investigators Trigger Sanctions Affecting the Underlying False Claims Act Suit

A decision earlier this year in a qui tam suit, alleging the submission of false claims to Medicare for the off-label prescription of a drug for dementia, seems especially interesting in light of recent high profile allegations involving Harvey Weinstein's alleged use of private investigators to befriend his victims  in order gather information.  

In the qui tam suit the drug in question was Namenda, described in the opinion as "approved by the FDA  for treatment of moderate to severe Alzheimer's disease," but allegedly also promoted illegally by the companies for prescription to individuals with milder stages of dementia.  In Leysock v. Forest Laboratories, et al, the United States District Court in Massachusetts dismissed the complaint as a sanction for conduct by the plaintiff's attorneys and the investigator hired by those attorneys:  

The present dispute arises out of the conduct of counsel for relator, the Milberg law firm, in investigating the case. As set forth below, Milberg attorneys engaged in an elaborate scheme of deceptive conduct in order to obtain information from physicians about their prescribing practices, and in some instances about their patients. In essence, Milberg retained a physician and medical researcher, Dr. Mark Godec, to conduct a survey of physicians concerning their prescription of Namenda to Medicare patients. In order to obtain the cooperation of the physicians, Dr. Godec falsely represented that he was conducting a medical research study. Dr. Godec, at Milberg's direction, conducted two internet-based surveys as well as follow-up telephone interviews. Among other things, the physicians were induced to provide patient medical charts and other confidential medical information to Dr. Godec. Information derived from those surveys was then set out in the Second Amended Complaint in this action, and was relied on by the Court in denying defendant's motion to dismiss in 2014.

 

Defendants have now moved to dismiss the Second Amended Complaint as a sanction for alleged violations of attorney ethical rules. For the reasons stated below, that motion will be granted.

Continue reading

November 26, 2017 in Cognitive Impairment, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Ethical Issues, Federal Cases, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicare | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 20, 2017

University of Missouri Law Professor David English Presents Guardianship Reforms to New Mexico

University of Missouri Law Professor David English, who is part of a team working on new Guardianship Law proposals for the Uniform Law Commission, was reportedly in Albuquerque New Mexico recently.  His appearance is in response to one of the latest regional scandals in the U.S. about the use of so-called "professional" guardians.  See here and here for more on the recent history in New Mexico, including the summer 2017 federal indictment of key individuals .

According to news reports, part of Professor English's concern is about the dangers that can attend unnecessary secrecy about proceedings: 

“What struck me when I first looked at New Mexico, I was very surprised as a general matter that guardianship proceedings were not open to the public. That’s not consistent with how most other states address the issue,” he told the guardianship commission on Friday.

 

In New Mexico, guardianship proceedings are sequestered and closed to the public. The only publicly available record is a court docket sheet identifying the parties involved and a general list of the actions and filings in the case. But, in Missouri, where English lives, the public can attend hearings in which judges decide whether a guardian should be appointed for an incapacitated person. Typically, those placed under guardianship or conservatorships are elderly, those with dementia or Alzheimer’s or others who need help with their decision-making or finances.

 

He said the intent of the new reform laws would be to open guardianship proceedings to the public, unless the person for whom the guardianship is being considered asks for a closed hearing or a judge decides otherwise. “It’s very important that the public have some access to what’s going on in guardianship cases,” English told the guardianship commission. “At least be able to attend the hearing.”

For more on the hearings and possible changes in New Mexico laws and procedures, see New Reforms in Guardian Law Presented by the Albuquerque Journal's investigative reporter, Colleen Heid.  

November 20, 2017 in Consumer Information, Crimes, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Philly Area Nursing Home Fire's First Lessons

As I wrote last week, the dramatic five-alarm fire at a senior nursing care unit near Philadelphia (actually, in West Chester) was something we might want to keep an eye on, to see if lessons emerge about emergency response.  The good news is that the community around the nursing home wing (which appears to be part of a CCRC rather than a stand-alone nursing home)  has been warm, loving and helpful to the residents.  Today's Sunday morning news showed donations of clothing and key supplies arriving at the door step of a local fire department, along with practical expertise:

 

Tom Short, a statistics professor at West Chester University, said he and his wife, Darlene, had just moved to the area from Cleveland. He saw the ambulances taking the seniors to the university during the fire and knew he wanted to help. The couple had already had experience helping seniors.

 

So they arrived at the firehouse early Sunday to help with crush of donations.  “I knew how to organize,” Short said.

 

“We just want to help out,” his wife said. “We printed out a list of things that were needed.”

So, the first lesson is positive -- the importance of community -- and folks with organizational skills stepping forward to volunteer.

But, there also seems to be a question about whether all of the residents of the care facilities have been accounted for.  

See:  Barclay Friends Nursing Home Fire: What We Know and Don't Know [as of late Saturday]. 

Some  of the residents are being cared for in family members' homes; others at hospitals or other care facilities, but it seems that one lesson could be that a system of accountability for individuals who could be uniquely at risk in a fire or similar disaster should be part of an emergency plan, regardless of the age of the affected individuals.   More details on the cause of fire and a casualty report are expected on Monday.  

November 19, 2017 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, November 17, 2017

New Lessons to Emerge from Philadelphia-Area Nursing Home Fire?

In Pennsylvania, we awoke today to news media images of flames shooting into the night sky from a nursing home near Philadelphia.  I suspect many of us feared the worst outcome, including serious injuries to helpless residents, or worse.  In the region, wooden structures, narrow streets, and densely populated neighborhoods are the norm.    

But, although we are still in the early aftermath of the fire which reportedly ignited around 10:30 at night in a dementia care unit, evacuations occurred swiftly and with the help of the entire community, including college students who joined in the effort.  As my blogging colleague has pointed out recently in the context of hurricanes, often the real impact for seniors displaced by emergencies occurs in the days or even weeks after the event.  Let's hope we hear positive news about "best practices" in this instance.  Lesson number one may involve whether sprinklers in the building operated appropriately.

From one early news account: 

https://youtu.be/8UhX3Bo93Og

 

 

November 17, 2017 in Consumer Information, Ethical Issues, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, Property Management, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)

"Evictions" of Nursing Home Residents Trigger Lawsuits

The issue of "evictions" in residential facilities for older adults has long been on my radar screen, and I was especially interested to hear (and read) news of a lawsuit initiated by the AARP Foundation Litigation (AFL) against a California skilled nursing facility and its parent entity following the facility's refusal to "readmit" an 82 year-old resident following her temporary hospital stay.  As reported by NPR for All Things Considered on November 13, 2017: 

[The Defendants] say that she became aggressive with staff and threw some plastic tableware. So Pioneer House called an ambulance and sent her to a hospital for a psychological evaluation. The hospital found nothing wrong with her, but the nursing home wouldn't take her back. They said they couldn't care for someone with her needs.  Jones protested his mother's eviction to the California Department of Health Care Services. The department held a hearing. Jones won.

 

"I expected action — definitely expected action," says Jones.  Instead, he got an email explaining that the department that holds the hearings has no authority to enforce its own rulings. Enforcement is handled by a different state agency. He could start over with them.

 

This Catch-22 situation attracted the interest of the legal wing of the AARP Foundation. Last year, attorneys there asked the federal government to open a civil rights investigation into the way California deals with nursing home evictions. Now, they're suing Pioneer House and its parent company on Gloria Single's behalf. It's the first time the AARP has taken a legal case dealing with nursing home eviction.

For more, read AARP Foundation Sues Nursing Home to Stop Illegal Evictions.  

My thanks to my always alert colleague, Dickinson Law Professor Laurel Terry, for sharing this item.  

November 17, 2017 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Ethical Issues, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Pennsylvania's Secretary of Aging Talks about Demographic-Driven Challenges in Aging

Pennsylvania's Secretary of Aging, Teresa Osborne  was interviewed on Smart Talk, a Public Radio program in central Pennsylvania on November 16, 2017.  Secretary Osborne is well-spoken, and using the fact that Pennsylvania has one of the fastest growing "older old" populations in the country (usually defined as age 85+), she reports on some of the ways that Pennsylvania is attempting to assist healthy aging, including making available resources better available to age-in-place at home through a program called Community Choice.  One of her observations?  While everyone "hopes" to stay in one's own home, "'hope' is not a plan."  Active steps to make that happen safely are needed -- and one of the boomers interviewed  talked about his own periodic, "five year review" plan.   You can listen to a podcast of the approximately 30 minute interview here.  

The radio interview also introduced a segment from a public television Health Smart series on The Aging Boom-The 2030 Problem, scheduled to be aired for the first time on WITF-TV on November 16 at 8 p.m. (with additional broadcasts planned for various times of day on November 17 and 18). 

November 16, 2017 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Ethical Issues, State Statutes/Regulations, Statistics | Permalink | Comments (0)

What Do We Mean by "Ageism," And Are The Worst Offenders Our (Aging) Selves?

Recently I had a good chat with a former student, who has already retired from practicing law.  I was surprised as I had assumed he was younger than I am. Why?  Because I was the teacher, right?  But, as it turned out, he was about 10 years older than I was when he was my student, and, of course, that margin remains.  I was guilty of a form of reverse-ageism.  

I have another friend who teaches non-law courses on aging-related topics for Oregon State University.  She uses cartoons effectively in the course -- handing out provocative cartoons without any captions that include some imagery associated with aging and inviting the students to provide their own captions.  Pretty quickly the students get to see the difference between humor that both old and young could chuckle about -- and ageist humor.  She also admits to her students that her courses get more relevant with every year -- to her, of course -- as she and her friends are rapidly reaching silver or gold status as "older" adults.

Along that line, The New Yorker magazine has a current piece addressing ageism that is both thoughtful and eclectic.  Amusingly, it begins with scenes from a classic movie, where a young Paul Newman is toiling away in a Philadelphia law firm, resenting his elders.  Of course, for readers of a certain age, they might find it impossible to imagine a "young" Newman as all they know is his gray haired image (or, perhaps, his salad dressing bottles).

The author suggests that perhaps our biggest problem with ageism starts with ourselves -- our own unwillingness to confront the realities of our own aging. He uses an example from retirement communities, where residents sometimes attempt to ban walkers and wheelchairs from the dining areas. Ironic, yes? 

Lots of good food for discussion in Why Ageism Never Gets Old, written by Tad Friend, for the November 20 issue of The New Yorker.  

Our thanks to Dick Kaplan at University of Illinois Law for sending the link our way.  

November 16, 2017 in Current Affairs, Ethical Issues, Retirement | Permalink | Comments (1)

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Boomer Trends and the Coming Caregiving Crunch

The Future of Caregiving: The Coming Caregiving Crunch  is a report released in October 2917 by Merrill Lynch and Age Wave that  provides interesting data points to identify challenges and action items tied to aging in the U.S.  The information in the report was generated by surveys of more than 2,200 individuals, including "nonprofessional" caregivers.  

While perhaps it is tempting to assume we are already feeling the effects of retirement for the Boomer generation, this report reminds us that we still haven't had the "first" boomer hit 80 years of age, which is when the likelihood of needing care or assistance increases.

The report suggests that "denial" is a huge problem.  While 7 in 10 Americans turning 65 today will need "care for prolonged periods" in their later years, only 4 in 10 Americans believe they personally are likely to "ever" need such care.  Certainly Merrill Lynch has a goal to increase consumer awareness of a need for realistic financial planning, some of the most interesting parts of the report addressed not just the need for adequate savings, but the likelihood that families could benefit from "financial coordinators."  The report used this term for people with the skills to handle (or monitor/oversee) such tasks as:

  • paying bills from proper accounts
  • monitoring bank accounts and access to accounts
  • handling insurance claims
  • filing taxes
  • managing invested assets 

The writers observe:  

Financial caregiving is nearly uncharted territory, with little research identifying the flow and pace of transactions that individuals and their families experience as they navigate the caregiving journey. Similarly, little has been studied about the ways in which caregivers and care recipients need help financially. As Boomers age, the need for assistance in tracking, managing and paying for care-related expenses in complex relationships is destined to grow.

The writers warn that family members are frequently unprepared for the responsibilities that caring for an elder may involve, especially given the fact that Boomers are much more unlikely than previous generations to living near their own children.  

November 7, 2017 in Current Affairs, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Statistics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 6, 2017

What Does It Mean To "Specialize" In Elder Law (or, for that matter, in any field of law)?

Recently, as a result of a reporter asking me to explain the significance of "certifications" for elder law attorneys, I found myself digging fairly deeply in order to respond.  The answers depend on definitions to three different, but related concepts:  expertise, specialization, and certification. 

I know that when I'm looking in a region of the U.S. where I don't personally know someone, I often start with the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys' (NAELA) webpage that allows me to do a state or zip code search for member lawyers who identify as "elder law attorneys."  Also, depending on the issue, I look at numbers of years in practice, as well as areas within "elder law" that the individuals choose to identify as their areas of experience.  For example, are they more interested in retirement planning than, say, handling guardianships or conservatorships that might require litigation?  The NAELA attorney search engine allows members to provide this kind of information.

I also look to see if that attorney is a "Certified Elder Law Attorney" or CELA.  Or, because there are only about 500 CELAs in the United States, if I'm willing to consider a younger attorney, perhaps there is a CELA working in the same law firm or community, someone for a younger attorney to call for guidance.    

The CELA designation, which is usually listed on the NAELA website if a member holds such a designation, actually is earned from the National Elder Law Foundation or NELF, rather than NAELA.  It requires specific years of relevant experience handling elder law matters (at least 5 years), peer recommendations, participation in at least 3 years of continuing legal education focused on elder law, and passage of a day-long exam that covers the waterfront on elder practice-related issues.  The exam includes both essay and multiple-choice questions, addressing 5 "core" areas and 7 additional areas. A very seasoned attorney I know well and would recommend regardless of any "certification," once told me he didn't pass the CELA exam on the first attempt. He studied harder and passed it the next time and he likes to see lawyers in his firm seek the certification.

NAELA is a membership organization and NELF is a certifying organization, and each have relevant information to offer consumers about elder law practitioners.  (Historically, a group of NAELA lawyers helped to start the NELF organization, but the two entities have separate missions now.) Thus, I use NAELA to identify attorneys with experience and interest in elder law, and look for the Foundation's  CELA designation as a way to measure "expertise," as it  requires a mixture of objective information and testing and more subjective, but still important information from peers, to show engagement in the specialized field.  

In many states, the CELA certification also allows individuals to hold themselves out as "specialists" in elder law in advertising and communications with the public, because pursuant to professional conduct rules (e.g., Model Rule of Professional Conduct 7.4), that state has "approved" NELF as a "certifying" organization.   Each state decides for itself what certification or other measures of experience and expertise to use in deciding whether an attorney can advertise any particular "specialization." 

But what about a consumer who is trying to make an informed choice about an elder law attorney without first being aware of those organizations?  I suspect the consumer might turn to the state's Bar Association or Supreme Court websites for information.  While bar associations don't "recommend" attorneys, states do have regulatory bodies for lawyers that set standards for when and how lawyers can call themselves "specialists" in elder law or in any field of law. 

Continue reading

November 6, 2017 in Consumer Information, Ethical Issues, Legal Practice/Practice Management, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

LeadingAge: Hot Topics for Attorneys Who Advise Clients in Senior Housing and Service Industries

LeadingAge 2017 Hot Topics  for Lawyers Advising in Senior LivingThis week, the last session I was able to attend at LeadingAge's annual meeting was a panel talk on "Legal Perspectives from In-House Counsel."  As expected, some of the time was spent on questions about "billing" by outside law firms, whether hourly, flat-fee or "value" billing was preferred by the corporate clients.  

But the panelists, including Jodi Hirsch, Vice President and General Counsel for Lifespace Communities with headquarters in Des Moines, Iowa; Ken Young, Executive VP and General Counsel for United Church Homes, headquartered in Ohio; and "outhouse" counsel Aric Martin, managing partner at the Cleveland, Ohio law firm of Rolf, Goffman, Martin & Long, offered a Jeopardy-style screen, with a wide array of legal issues they have encountered in their positions.  I'm sorry I did not have time to stay longer after the program, before heading to the airport.  They were very clear and interesting speakers, with healthy senses of humor.

The topics included responding to government investigations and litigation; vetting compliance and ethics programs to reduce the likelihood of investigations or litigation; cybersecurity (including the need for encryption of lap tops and cell phones which inevitably go missing); mergers and acquisitions; contract and vendor management; labor and employment; social media policies; automated external defibrillators (AEDs); residency agreements; attorney-client privilege; social accountability and benevolent care (LeadingAge members are nonprofit operators); ACO/Managed Care issues; Fair Housing rules that affect admissions, transfers, dining, rooms and "assistance animals"; tax exemption issues (including property and sale tax exemptions); medical and recreational marijuana; governance issues (including residents on board of directors); and entertainment licensing.

Whew!  Wouldn't this be a great list to offer law students thinking about their own career opportunities in law, to help them see the range of topics that can come up in this intersection of health care and housing?  The law firm's representative on the panel has more than 20 lawyers in the firm who work solely on senior housing market legal issues.

On that last issue, entertainment licensing, I was chatting after the program with a non-lawyer administrator of a nursing and rehab center in New York, who had asked the panel about whether nonprofits "have" to pay licensing fees when they play music and movies for residents.   The panelists did not have time to go into detail, but they said their own clients have decided it was often wisest to "pay to play" for movies and videos.  Copyright rules and the growing efforts to ensure payments are the reasons.  

The administrator and I chatted more, and she said her business has been bombarded lately by letters from various sources seeking to "help" her company obtain licenses, but she wanted to know more about why.  For the most part, the exceptions to licensing requirements depend on the fairly broad definition of "public" performances, and not on whether the provider is for-profit or nonprofit.  

It turns out that LeadingAge, along with other leading industry associations, negotiated a comprehensive licensing agreement for showing movies and videos in "Senior Living and  Health Care Communities" in 2016.  Details, including discussion of copyright coverage issues for entertainment in various kinds of care settings, are here.   

November 1, 2017 in Current Affairs, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Federal Cases, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, Legal Practice/Practice Management, Medicaid, Medicare, Programs/CLEs, Property Management, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)

"America Freed From Ageism" - a LeadingAge Goal

LeadingAge President and CEO Katie Smith Sloan spoke at the Sunday morning (10/29/17) session of NACCRA's meetings in New Orleans.  Having taken the reins of LeadingAge after Larry Mannix, it's long time leader who retired in 2015, Katie seems to be settling in well.  She identified several themes for LeadinAge's immediate future, including: 

  • Advocating for an "America Freed From Ageism." Katie observing that this negative bias stands in the way of policy, philanthropy, and hiring in all of the nonprofit senior living and senior service sectors.
  • Making LeadingAge "the" trusted voice for aging.  She emphasized this goal is all about building relationships and she pointed to several recent high level policy meetings in DC where LeadingAge was invited as a key voice for older adults or the industry.
  • Katie also reported that LeadingAge received an outpouring of donations for its disaster relief fund, with over 600 donations.  So far the total is more than a half million dollars.  She gave examples of how these donations were already helping nonprofit providers affected by the recent hurricanes and fires, including helping staff members who had lost their homes to find housing and helping 3 affordable senior housing communities maximize insurance relief by using donations to pay-down deductibles. 

In the Q and A with NaCCRA members, Katie said that LeadingAge and NaCCRA can and should work together to identify common topics for joint efforts, especially on public policy advocacy.  

I'm aware that some NaCCRA members are discouraged (or perhaps frustrated is a better word) by a perception that LeadingAge tends to ignore policy points urged by NaCCRA, while still expecting NaCCRA members to support LeadingAge's positions.  Time will tell whether NaCCRA was being too tactful in raising this partnership project concern. 

November 1, 2017 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, Programs/CLEs | Permalink | Comments (0)