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)

Thursday, September 29, 2016

More on the Reg Change Regarding Pre-Dispute Arbitration Clauses for Nursing Homes

I blogged yesterday about the new and updated regs for nursing homes and highlighted a few changes. One that is getting attention is the reg regarding pre-dispute arbitration clauses, mentioned in yesterday's post. The NY Times ran an article, U.S. to Bar Arbitration Clauses in Nursing Home Contracts offers some examples of individuals who were injured but not able to seek redress in the courts.   The article notes that this is the first significant revision to the FNHRA regs in a while, and also another federal agency moving to limit the use of arbitration clauses. "It is the most significant overhaul of the agency’s rules governing federal funding of long-term care facilities in more than two decades...And the new rule is the latest effort by the Obama administration to rein in arbitration’s parallel system of justice that was quietly built over more than a decade...In May, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the nation’s consumer watchdog, unveiled the draft of a rule that would prevent credit card companies and other financial firms from using arbitration clauses that bar consumers from banding together in a class-action lawsuit." The article also references prior stories by the Times that focused on arbitration, the links to which are available at the end of the story.

September 29, 2016 in Consumer Information, Crimes, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicare | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Important: CMS Issues FInal Rules on Requirements for LTC Facilities

The Federal Nursing Home Reform Act went into effect back in 1987. Those accompanying regs have been in place a long time. Now CMS has issued final rules that revise the LTC regs.  The official publication date is Oct. 4, 2016.  The regs are being implemented in phases, with phase one going into effect on November 28, 2016.  Here is the Federal Register summary:

This final rule will revise the requirements that Long-Term Care facilities must meet to participate in the Medicare and Medicaid programs. These changes are necessary to reflect the substantial advances that have been made over the past several years in the theory and practice of service delivery and safety. These revisions are also an integral part of our efforts to achieve broad-based improvements both in the quality of health care furnished through federal programs, and in patient safety.

The regs are over 700 pages and are available here. Here are the effective dates: "Phase 1 must be implemented by November 28, 2016... Phase 2 must be implemented by November 28, 2017 ... Phase 3 must be implemented by November 28, 2019 ...  A detailed discussion regarding the different phases of the implementation timeline can be found in Section B. II 'Implementation Date.'"

42 C.F.R. 483.10 is updated but CMS is "retaining all existing residents’ rights and updating the language and organization of the resident rights provisions to improve logical order and readability, clarify aspects of the regulation where necessary, and updating provisions to include advances such as electronic communications."

There's a new reg, 42. C.F.R. 483.21, "Comprehensive Person-Centered Care Planning" wherein CMS, among other things, is "requiring facilities to develop and implement a baseline care plan for each resident, within 48 hours of their admission,  the instructions needed to provide effective and person-centered care that meets professional standards of quality care."

One of the most watched sections involved the use of arbitration clauses. 42 C.F.R. 483.70 now includes, among other things, the following: "Binding Arbitration Agreements: We are requiring that facilities must not enter into an agreement for binding arbitration with a resident or their representative until after a dispute arises between the parties. Thus, we are prohibiting the use of pre-dispute binding arbitration agreements."

This is just a brief overview of a few provisions. We'll blog about more of them later, but for now, be sure to read the new regs. They're important!

P.S. this post has been updated to correct the publication and effective dates (I was too excited)

September 28, 2016 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicaid, Medicare | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Families Caring for Aging Americans-Briefing Webinar

We blogged last week regarding the release of a new report by the National Academies Press: Families Caring for an Aging America. The National Academies is holding a webinar briefing on September 29 from 1:30-3:00 p.m. edt.

Here is some information about the briefing:

At least 17.7 million individuals in the United States are family caregivers of someone age 65 and older who has a significant impairment. The circumstances of individual caregivers are extremely varied. They may live with, nearby, or far away from the person receiving care. The care they provide may be episodic, daily, occasional, or of short or long duration. The caregiver may help with household tasks or self-care activities, such as getting in and out of bed, bathing, dressing, eating, or toileting, or may provide complex medical care tasks, such as managing medications and giving injections. The older adult may have dementia and require a caregiver's constant supervision. Or, the caregiver may be responsible for all of these activities.  With support from 15 sponsors, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine convened an expert committee to examine what is known about the nation's family caregivers of older adults and to recommend policies to address their needs and help to minimize the barriers they encounter in acting on behalf of an older adult. The resulting report, Families Caring for an Aging America, provides an overview of the prevalence and nature of family caregiving of older adults as well as its personal impact on caregivers' health, economic security, and overall well-being. The report also examines the available evidence on the effectiveness of programs and interventions designed to support family caregivers. It concludes with recommendations for developing a national strategy to effectively engage and support them.

This 90 minute webinar is free, but registration is required. To register, click here

September 27, 2016 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Health Care/Long Term Care | Permalink | Comments (0)

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, 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)

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The Stanford Letter Project

Remember that line from the song "My Way" immortalized by Frank Sinatra, "[r]egrets, I've had a few...." For some people, telling their families how they feel about them, especially at the end of life, can be daunting and not having done so sooner may be a regret.  An ethical will or even the 5 Wishes document can be helpful in explaining things in writing that are too difficult to say. 

I was interested in learning about the Stanford Letter Project with its goal "[t]o help, empower and support all adults to prepare for their future and take the initiative to talk to their doctors and their friends and family about what matters most to them at life's end." So what does this project do? The website explains:

All of us will face the end of life one day. Contemplating one’s own death and doing some basic preparatory work is certainly not an easy task. However, the emotional, physical and the financial toll of not doing so is exorbitantly high. People who do not clearly document their wishes and preferences for care at the end of life are often subjected to futile medical treatments that they neither seek nor benefit from. Their families are burdened by the medical bills accrued from the numerous ineffective treatments many patients get at the end of life. In fact, a large research study showed that 62 % personal bankruptcies are due to medical expenses. Over 75% of the people who became bankrupt due to medical expenses had some form of health insurance (i.e., having health insurance does not protect you and your family from medical expense related financial crises).

A major reason for all these problems is that most Americans don’t like to talk about and prepare for the last phase of life. Our research has shown that  people find it extremely difficult to discuss this important issue both with their doctors and with their friends and family.

We started the Stanford Letter Project in 2015 based on many years of research and discussions with people from various cultural and social backgrounds. We conducted interviews and focus groups in multiple languages with people in the community and talked to numerous patients and their family members as well as health professionals. We found that while almost all doctors agree that it is important for them to have end-of-life conversations with their patients, most doctors struggle with these conversations. We also found that patients from all ethnic backgrounds feel that is is very important for them to have end of life conversations with their doctors and their family members. However, patients do not quite know how to initiate these conversations.  

Based on these research findings, we created the Letter Project tools to help you write letters about your wishes for care in the future.

These letter templates are specifically designed to help you voice the key information needed to help you prepare for the future.  Use the Stanford Letter Project tools today to write to your doctor, your friends, and your family. It is free, easy, and extremely important.

The website includes some video letters to friends and families, as well as to doctors.  There is also a "template" for an advance directive generated from a user's responses to questions as well as a "life review letter" template.

The goal of our Friends and Family Letter template is to help all Americans complete the seven vital tasks of life review while they still can. We designed this project based on years of clinical experience caring for thousands seriously ill patients and families. ... The template was pilot-tested and refined after extensive discussions with patients from diverse cultures and traditions to identify the seven tasks of life review.

There are 7 tasks for a life review, which include:

  1. Acknowledge the important people in your life...
  2. Remember treasured moments from your life....
  3. Apologize to those you love if you hurt them....
  4. Forgive those who love you if they have hurt you...
  5. Express your gratitude for all the love and care you have received....
  6. Tell your friends and family how much you love them... [and]
  7. Take a moment to say "goodbye.

Check out the website.

September 21, 2016 in Advance Directives/End-of-Life, Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Health Care/Long Term Care | Permalink | Comments (0)

18th Annual CLE: Special Needs Trusts & Special Needs Planning: Early Bird Ends 9/23/16

Stetson's 18th annual National Conference on Special Needs Trusts & Special Needs Planning takes place on October 19-21, 2016 at the Vinoy Hotel in St. Petersburg, Florida.  Early Bird Registration rates end September 23, 2016. The national conference spans two days, with general sessions in the mornings and three tracks of breakout sessions in the afternoons (basics, advance and administration) Information about the conference, including the agenda, speakers, and links to register is available here. (Full disclosure, I'm the conference chair. Hope to see you at the conference!)

September 21, 2016 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, Medicaid, Medicare, Other, Programs/CLEs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Caring for Caregivers

While we are on the subject of caregivers (in case you missed yesterday's post ....) I was interested in the article published in the NY Times earlier this month on the impact caregiving has on caregivers. After all, it is a 24/7/365 job.  Love and Burnout: Caregivers, Too, Need Care discusses both the emotional and financial costs of caregiving. "Though caregiving can be a profound and moving journey, caregivers’ needs are often overlooked. The health care system is mainly focused on patients; caregivers who are slowly burning out can slip by unnoticed until it is too late." 

We have all seen studies about the physical manifestations of stress, but do we all realize that the physical impact can continue long after the stress is gone? "Researchers have found that the human immune system can be weakened by stress and strain for up to three years after caregiving ends. As a result, caregivers can be more prone to having serious illnesses. Yet they rarely complain."

Caregivers are true superheroes for what they do, but even superheroes can benefit from help (after all many superheroes have sidekicks or other superhero pals!)  The article offers information about help and services available to caregivers,  from information, to support groups, to resources to respite care.

Ever thought of which caregivers might be more affected by the role of caregiving? The article explains that  "[m]en, who generally have smaller networks of friends than women, are at even greater risk. “They are less likely to maintain relationships and seek help,” said Zaldy Tan, medical director of the UCLA Alzheimer’s and Dementia Care Program. 'They’re less prepared for the caregiving role. So they have a higher burden and burnout rate.'"

Burnout is a real thing and manifests itself in a variety of physical symptoms. The article offers that the best way to combat burnout is to have help. "Perhaps the best antidote to burnout, many experts say, is building a team, rather than handling everything yourself." But there is a risk in assuming that the family will automatically pull together. "The best family teamwork involves meeting, talking and sharing responsibility ... One team member, for example, can handle medical appointments, another might be good at preparing meals. 'Have weekly phone calls if you’re in crisis....'"

Regardless of the planning, it's not going to be an easy job to be a caregiver. But it is going to be an important one.


September 20, 2016 in Cognitive Impairment, Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Health Care/Long Term Care | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 19, 2016

Families Caring for an Aging America: New Report from National Academies

The National Academies Press (NAP) has released a prepublication report (uncorrected copy) of a new report, Families Caring for an Aging America.   The prepublication version of the report can be downloaded now as a pdf or read online. Downloading requires a NAP account or selection of the guest option. (Regardless of the method, the download if free).  You can also preorder the report in hard copy now.

The description of the report offers this information:

Family caregiving affects millions of Americans every day, in all walks of life. At least 17.7 million individuals in the United States are caregivers of an older adult with a health or functional limitation. The nation’s family caregivers provide the lion’s share of long-term care for our older adult population. They are also central to older adults’ access to and receipt of health care and community-based social services. Yet the need to recognize and support caregivers is among the least appreciated challenges facing the aging U.S. population.

Families Caring for an Aging America examines the prevalence and nature of family caregiving of older adults and the available evidence on the effectiveness of programs, supports, and other interventions designed to support family caregivers. This report also assesses and recommends policies to address the needs of family caregivers and to minimize the barriers that they encounter in trying to meet the needs of older adults.

The entire 297 page report is likely too long to be assigned in its entirety to students, but portions would be a good addition to reading assignments. The report is also a good resource for students working on scholarly papers on the topic. The report is divided into 7 chapters, the last of which is devoted to discussing the 4 recommendations made by the committee.  Those 4 recommendations:

RECOMMENDATION 1: The committee calls upon the Administration that takes office in January 2017 to take steps to address the health, economic, and social issues facing family caregivers of older Americans.

RECOMMENDATION 2: State governments that have yet to address the health, economic, and social challenges of caregiving for older adults should learn from the experience of states with caregiver supports, and implement similar programs.

RECOMMENDATION 3: The Secretaries of Health and Human Services, Labor, and Veterans Affairs should work with leaders in health care and long-term services and supports delivery, technology, and philanthropy to establish a public private, multi-stakeholder innovation fund for research and innovation to accelerate the pace of change in addressing the needs of caregiving families.

RECOMMENDATION 4: In all the above actions, explicitly and consistently address families’ diversity in assessing caregiver needs and in developing, testing, and implementing caregiver supports.


September 19, 2016 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Health Care/Long Term Care | Permalink | Comments (1)

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)

Thursday, September 15, 2016

A New Approach to Designing ALFs

One of our recent grads sent me an article about a new design for an ALF, This Assisted Living Facility Is Designed To Look Like Homes On A Golf Course. Another article, published in the local newspaper, the design is for residents with dementia. Svayus takes a different approach to Alzheimer's explains that this ALF is a place out of time

What they’re about to enter is a world more reminiscent of one that existed in the 1930s and 1940s. The exteriors of the residences are designed to look like homes commonly found during that time period, down to the color of the paint. 

The world of Svayus houses 22 residents, most of whom have Alzheimer’s disease. As the disease progresses, Makesh said, people begin to revert back to their childhood. Svayus serves as something of a time capsule. 

The reasoning behind this is emotional: to provide the residents with a familiar "feel" to their residences. The company has several ALFs designed with the residents in mind. One of them offers this:

Entering into Svayus is like walking outside. In addition to the period-accurate home exteriors, residents are also greeted with a grass-green floor, (artificial) plants, a small waterfall and audio of birds chirping. Overhead is the sky ceiling, designed to help with residents’ physiological clock. During the day, residents will see a sunny sky, even on the grayest Northeast Ohio days. ... 

At night, the sky ceiling darkens and the porch lights come on. 

“Every little thing you see, the wall color, the paint, actually has a therapeutic benefit, a therapeutic value" ...[according to the CEO].

Different aromas also are pumped into the air, providing a therapeutic benefit. Peppermint and frankincense, for example, help with anxiety.  

As far as the ALF designed as though the residents live on a golf course, "rooms designed to look like houses on a golf course. Not only is this aesthetically pleasing, the point is to help residents feel more at home. Compared to your average retirement or assisted living facility, this place looks so much more inviting and calming. The hallway features a ceiling painted like the sky, porches and even porch lights that turn on at night."

Very cool idea. I wonder what one designed for the Boomers would look like? (tie-dye curtains, peace symbols, Beatles posters anyone?)




September 15, 2016 in Cognitive Impairment, Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Patients with Dementia, Pain & Hospice Care

The American Journal of Alzheimer's Disease & Other Dementias ran an article on Pain in Hospice Patients with Dementia: The Informal Caregiver Experience. The abstract explains:

Introduction: At the end of life, patients with dementia often experience high levels of pain due to complex interplay of disease processes and numerous barriers to symptom management. In the hospice setting, informal caregivers play an essential role in pain management. This study describes their experience managing pain in hospice patients with dementia.

Methods: We conducted a qualitative analysis of audio-recorded interviews with informal caregivers of hospice patients with dementia who had chosen pain as the challenge they wanted to work on within a problem-solving therapy intervention.

Results: The thematic analysis of sessions with 51 caregivers identified 4 themes: difficulty in communicating with patients, lack of consistent guidance from health-care professionals, perceived uncertainty about the etiology of pain, and secondary suffering.

Discussion: Our findings indicate the possible need for increased support for caregivers, including educational interventions targeting pain etiology and assessment, and improved communication with health-care professionals.

The full article is available here or as a pdf here.

I thought the points made in the discussion were well-taken. Think about a person with dementia and her ability to communicate regarding her pain level.

[The study] findings indicate that caregivers of persons with dementia in hospice face numerous and significant challenges when it comes to managing their loved ones’ pain. Several studies have already demonstrated that the needs of people with dementia at the end of life are not fully met and that caregivers require more support at this time as they may feel exhausted and alone. Furthermore, while communication between health-care providers and caregivers is important, it does not often take place at times of crisis, affecting overall quality of care... Caregivers described uncertainty about the etiology of pain, difficulties in communicating with patients, lack of consistent guidance from health-care professionals, and secondary suffering as the factors that prevented them from properly and effectively managing pain in their loved ones. Thus, these findings indicate the possible need for increased support for caregivers, including educational interventions targeting pain etiology and assessment, and improved communication with health-care professionals.

Well worth reading!

September 14, 2016 in Advance Directives/End-of-Life, Cognitive Impairment, Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Health Care/Long Term Care | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Asking The Elder What She Needs Leads to Good Results

A recent study was published in Health Affairs, Home-Based Care Program Reduces Disability And Promotes Aging In Place. The abstract explains:

The Community Aging in Place, Advancing Better Living for Elders (CAPABLE) program, funded by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation, aims to reduce the impact of disability among low-income older adults by addressing individual capacities and the home environment. The program, described in this innovation profile, uses an interprofessional team (an occupational therapist, a registered nurse, and a handyman) to help participants achieve goals they set. For example, it provides assistive devices and makes home repairs and modifications that enable participants to navigate their homes more easily and safely. In the period 2012–15, a demonstration project enrolled 281 adults ages sixty-five and older who were dually eligible for Medicare and Medicaid and who had difficulty performing activities of daily living (ADLs). After completing the five-month program, 75 percent of participants had improved their performance of ADLs. Participants had difficulty with an average of 3.9 out of 8.0 ADLs at baseline, compared to 2.0 after five months. Symptoms of depression and the ability to perform instrumental ADLs such as shopping and managing medications also improved. Health systems are testing CAPABLE on a larger scale. The program has the potential to improve older adults’ ability to age in place.

A subscription is required to access the full article. A Kaiser Health News (KHN) story about the study, Study Finds Benefits When Seniors Call Shots To Help Them explains "A federally funded project that researchers say has potential to promote aging in place began by asking low-income seniors with disabilities how their lives at home could be better ... At the end of the program, 75 percent of participants were able to perform more daily activities than they could before and symptoms of depression also improved, the researchers said in the journal Health Affairs."

According to the KHN article, the study is based on two ideas: "environment influences health" and elders "should set goals to improve their health." So asking the elder what the elder needs, and then providing the right services leads to a good result, it seems. "Instead of dictating health goals to the patients, the therapist’s first two visits were about listening to what the seniors thought their biggest problems were and creating plans on how to tackle them." The positive impact continued after the study ended, according to one of the researchers interviewed for the article,  who noted environment plays a big role as a barrier to aging in place.


September 13, 2016 in Cognitive Impairment, Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing | Permalink | Comments (1)

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Just Keep Moving, Even in the Hospital

Have a fitness tracker? A standing desk?  Exercise regularly? If you answered yes to any (or all) of these questions, you know how important it is for us to be active. It turns out that being active is more important than we thought, perhaps.  Kaiser Health News (KHN) ran an article in August, Elderly Patients In The Hospital Need To Keep Moving that features a project at a hospital to keep elders active. The article highlights "the coordinator of a unit designed to address the challenges specific to caring for the elderly. She told her new patient that throughout her stay, one of the main goals would be to keep her active... The medical center’s effort to get older patients up and moving while they are in the hospital is far from typical. Despite a growing body of research that shows staying in bed can be harmful to seniors, many hospitals still don’t put a high priority on making them walk."

Part of the success of such a project is changing the mindset of patients and others.

In addition to employing specially trained staff who work together as a team, the Alabama unit has special handrails attached to the walls, low-glare lighting and non-skid floors. Every room has a walker and plenty of space to move around. Volunteers walk with patients, and therapists work with them on maintaining their strength.

Staff members try to disabuse patients of the idea that they are there to rest. “People walk in the door of a hospital and think it’s OK to stay in a bed. It’s not,” said ["the coordinator of a unit designed to address the challenges specific to caring for the elderly."].

The article notes changing mindsets isn't without challenges, and this project started with changing caregiver attitudes.  Why might there be some reluctance to buy-in to the idea of getting patients moving?  Well, the Affordable Care Act might be one reason: "The Affordable Care Act explains some of the reluctance by staff at many hospitals to get patients moving, experts say. Under the law, hospitals are penalized for preventable problems, including falls. Researchers believe that hospital staffers, to ensure their patients don’t fall, often leave them in their beds." The article offers other reasons, such as lack of staffing or fear of being sued are offered. The physical layout of the hospital room and hospital may be more conducive to patients staying in bed rather than moving about. (think about the beds, the hospital tables, the remote controls, and more).

The results of not moving go beyond the hospital stay.

The impact of remaining so sedentary in the hospital can be devastating for older patients: It is puts them at greater risk for blood clots, pressure ulcers and confusion.

Immobility can also reduce patients’ ability to take care of themselves when they go home — a difficulty that persists a month after their discharge, according to Brown. And it puts them at higher risk of readmission to the hospital, according to research.

Immobility hurts older patients more than younger ones, in part because the elderly are generally weaker, have less bone density and are at higher risk of falling. Ironically, keeping a patient in bed, which is often intended to prevent falls in the hospital, can increase their risk of falling after they are discharged, experts said.

Being more mobile in the hospital can save money, too, as well as improve the patient's health.  So now that you have read this post, put down your computer and go for a walk. See you when you get back!


September 11, 2016 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Health Care/Long Term Care | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, September 8, 2016

High-Need Patients and the Impact on the Health Care System

The Commonwealth Fund released issue briefs examining "high-need" patients. High-Need, High-Cost Patients: Who Are They and How Do They Use Health Care? is a 14 page issue brief, which is available as a pdf here.  Here is the abstract

Issue: Finding ways to improve outcomes and reduce spending for patients with complex and costly care needs requires an understanding of their unique needs and characteristics. Goal: Examine demographics and health care spending and use of services among adults with high needs, defined as people who have three or more chronic diseases and a functional limitation in their ability to care for themselves or perform routine daily tasks. Methods: Analysis of data from the 2009–2011 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey. Key findings: High-need adults differed notably from adults with multiple chronic diseases but no functional limitations. They had annual health care expenditures that were nearly three times higher—and which were more likely to remain high over two years of observation—and out-of-pocket expenses that were more than a third higher, despite their lower incomes. On average, rates of hospital use for high-need adults were more than twice those for adults with multiple chronic conditions only; high-need adults also visited the doctor more frequently and used more home health care. Conclusion: Wide variation in costs and use of services within the high-need group suggests that interventions should be targeted and tailored to those individuals most likely to benefit.

Looking at this from an elder law perspective, I was interested in the age data in this brief. "High-need adults are disproportionately: ... Older. More than half were age 65 and older; of these, most were 75 and older. In contrast, only about a third of adults with multiple chronic diseases, and less than a fifth of the adult population as a whole, were age 65 and older."

The companion issue brief, Health System Performance for the High-Need Patient: A Look at Access to Care and Patient Care Experiences, is available here as a pdf. The abstract for this brief explains

Issue: Achieving a high-performing health system will require improving outcomes and reducing costs for high-need, high-cost patients—those who use the most health care services and account for a disproportionately large share of health care spending. Goal: To compare the health care experiences of adults with high needs—those with three or more chronic diseases and a functional limitation in the ability to care for themselves or perform routine daily tasks—to all adults and to those with multiple chronic diseases but no functional limitations. Methods: Analysis of data from the 2009–2011 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey. Key findings: High-need adults were more likely to report having an unmet medical need and less likely to report having good patient–provider communication. High-need adults reported roughly similar ease of obtaining specialist referrals as other adults and greater likelihood of having a medical home. While adults with private health insurance reported the fewest unmet needs overall, privately insured high-need adults reported the greatest difficulties having their needs met. Conclusion: The health care system needs to work better for the highest-need, most-complex patients. This study’s findings highlight the importance of tailoring interventions to address their needs.

September 8, 2016 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicare | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

The Continuing Problem of Polypharmacy

Kaiser Health News (KHN) ran the story, ‘America’s Other Drug Problem’: Copious Prescriptions For Hospitalized Elderly, focusing on the problems of polypharmacy in elders. Opening with examples of actual patients, one of whom was taking 36 prescriptions,  the story focuses on the issue of elders taking multiple medications and the implications of doing so.

An increasing number of elderly patients nationwide are on multiple medications to treat chronic diseases, raising their chances of dangerous drug interactions and serious side effects. Often the drugs are prescribed by different specialists who don’t communicate with each other. If those patients are hospitalized, doctors making the rounds add to the list — and some of the drugs they prescribe may be unnecessary or unsuitable.

“This is America’s other drug problem — polypharmacy,” said Dr. Maristela Garcia, director of the inpatient geriatric unit at UCLA Medical Center in Santa Monica. “And the problem is huge.”

Among the problems with polypharmacy noted in the article is whether the patient actually needs the drug and the role of medication issues in the patient's hospitalization.  The numbers are high:

Older adults account for about 35 percent of all hospital stays but more than half of the visits that are marred by drug-related complications, according to a 2014 action plan by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Such complications add about three days to the average stay, the agency said.

Data on financial losses linked to medication problems among elderly hospital patients is limited. But the Institute of Medicine determined in 2006 that at least 400,000 preventable “adverse drug events” occur each year in American hospitals. Such events, which can result from the wrong prescription or the wrong dosage, push health care costs up annually by about $3.5 billion (in 2006 dollars).

The article reviews the instances where patients are prescribed additional prescriptions during hospitalization and on discharge, are confused about what medications to take.  Who becomes the "traffic cop" to keep the patients from undergoing drug-related complications?  The pharmacist! Focusing on the inpatient geriatric unit in one hospital, the story explores the importance of the clinical pharmacist's inclusion in a patient's medical team. The featured hospital hired their clinical pharmacist about 3 years ago, according to the story,  with "[t]he idea was to bring a pharmacist into the hospital’s geriatric unit to improve care and reduce readmissions among older patients." How successful has this been?

Having a pharmacist ... on the team caring for older patients can reduce drug complications and hospitalizations, according to a 2013 analysis of several studies published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

Over a six-month stretch after [the clinical pharmacist] started working in UCLA’s Santa Monica geriatric unit, readmissions related to drug problems declined from 22 to three. At the time, patients on the unit were taking an average of about 14 different medications each.

This seems like a really great idea and hopefully one that will be picked up by other geriatric units.

September 6, 2016 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicaid, Medicare | Permalink | Comments (1)

Monday, September 5, 2016

"Mission Creep" in End of Life Care?

The Washington Post ran an article last month that looked at the provision of treatments to those who are at the end of life.    Mission creep doesn’t benefit patients at the end of life  explains

Here in America, there is a deeply held belief that advances in medicine will eventually conquer or cure the chronic scourges of cancer, dementia, heart disease, lung disease and diabetes. This notion leads many elderly patients to seek aggressive treatment not only to spare their loved ones grief but because they hope (and expect) to be cured, if only they hold on just a little longer.

So how often is futile care provided? And why?  The story reports "more than 75,000 people older than 85 die in intensive care units seeking care that proves to be futile, according to a 2004 study, and why more than 65 percent of our senior citizens die in institutions when a significant majority say they would prefer to die at home, according to a 2014 report by the Institute of Medicine."  So what does the author mean by "mission creep" when patients make choices?

Not every patient has the option to decline surgery for a threatening aneurysm or chemotherapy for late-stage cancer. Most patients have multiple smaller decisions to make in the mission creep of treatment vs. care. These patients and their families need help thinking about the natural progression of aging and visualizing what they want at the end. Then, if they decline treatment and choose palliative care, they can consider an exit strategy.

So oversimplified, this boils down to a quality vs. quantity discussion. The author recommends that when the patient is an elder, "that conversation should include a discussion about futile treatments vs. making sure the last days on earth are comfortable...." and that "discussions with our trusted physicians should evolve from how to die later to how to die better, including with an exit strategy."

September 5, 2016 in Advance Directives/End-of-Life, Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Health Care/Long Term Care | Permalink | Comments (0)