Thursday, August 27, 2015

Justice in Aging: Analyzing Training of Workers Who Assist People with Dementia

Justice in Aging offers  a very interesting examination of training standards for the broad array of persons who assist or care for persons with dementia, including volunteers and professionals working in health care facilities or emergency services. The series of 5 papers is titled "Training to Serve People with Dementia: Is Our Health Care System Ready?" The Alzheimer's Association provided support for the study.

The papers include:  

To further whet your appetite for digging into the well written and organized papers, key findings indicate that "most dementia training requirements focus on facilities serving people with dementia," rather than recognizing care and services are frequently provided in the home.  Further there is "vast" variation from state to state regarding the extent of training required or available, and in any licensing standards.  The reports specifically address the need for training for first responders who work outside the traditional definition of "health care," including law enforcement, investigative and emergency personnel. 

If you need an example of why dementia-specific training is needed for law enforcement, including supervisors and staff at jails, see the facts contained in Goodman v. Kimbrough, reported earlier on this Blog.    

 

August 27, 2015 in Cognitive Impairment, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, August 24, 2015

20 Common Nursing Home Problems & How to Resolve Them

Justice In Aging has released an updated version of their guide, 20 Common Nursing Home Problems
and How to Resolve Them. Originally published in 2005, the guide has been updated and released in July, 2015. The guide is free and downloadable after registering your name, email address and indicating whether you are a professional or family member of a resident.  The guide is authored by Eric Carlson, a well-know leader in the field on representing residents of nursing homes. Eric is also the author of Long Term Care Advocacy, published by LexisNexis.

August 24, 2015 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Federal Court Applies "Doctrine of Reasonable Expectations" to Long-Term Care Insurance Policy

An interesting dispute is moving forward in federal court in California, involving interpretation of coverage under a long-term care insurance (LTCI) policy.   The case is Gutowitz v. Transamerica Life Insurance Company, (Case No. 2:14-cv-06656-MMM) in the Central District of California.   UPDATE: link to Order dated August 14, 2015. 

In 1991, plaintiff Erwin Gutowitz purchased a long-term care insurance policy, allegedly requesting the "highest level of long-term care coverage available," and presumably paying the annual premiums for more than 20 years.  Eventually, following a 2013 diagnosis of Alzheimer's, Erwin Gutowitz needed assistance, moving into an apartment at Aegis Living of Ventura, which was licensed in California as a "Residential Care Facility for the Elderly" (an RCFE).  With the help of his son as his designated health care agent, he then made a claim for long-term care benefits under his policy.  The claim was denied by Transamerica on the ground that the location was not a "nursing home" as defined in the LTCI policy.  

Insurers understandably prefer not to pay claims if they can avoid doing so.  In this case the insurer attempted to avoid the claim on the grounds that only certain types of facilities (or a higher level of care) were covered under this policy's "Daily Nursing Home Benefit." 

On August 14, 2015, United States District Judge Margaret Morrow issued a comprehensive (34 page) order, copy linked above, denying key arguments made by Transamerica in its summary judgment motions.

Continue reading

August 18, 2015 in Cognitive Impairment, Consumer Information, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Ethical Issues, Federal Cases, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, August 16, 2015

2015 National Aging & Law Conference

The National Aging & Law Conference is scheduled for October 29-30, 2015 at the Hilton Arlington, Arlington, VA. A number of ABA commissions and divisions are sponsors of this conference including the Commission on Legal Problems of the Elderly, the Coordinating Committee on Veterans Benefits & Services, the Senior Lawyers Division and the Real Property, Trust & Estate Law Section.  The website describes the conference

The 2015 National Aging and Law Conference (NALC) will bring together substantive law, policy, and legal service development and delivery practitioners from across the country.  The program will include sessions on Medicare, Medicaid, guardianship, elder abuse, legal ethics, legal service program development and delivery, consumer law, income security, and other issues.

The 2015 National Aging and Law Conference marks the second year that this conference has been hosted by the American Bar Association. This year’s agenda will include 24 workshops and 4 plenary sessions on key topics in health care, income security, elder abuse, alternatives to guardianship, consumer law, and  legal service development and delivery.  The focus of the agenda is on issues impacting law to moderate income Americans age 60 and over and the front line advocates that serve them. 

The agenda is available here. To register, click here.  Early bird registration ends August 28, 2015.

               

August 16, 2015 in Advance Directives/End-of-Life, Cognitive Impairment, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Discrimination, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Ethical Issues, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, Medicaid, Medicare, Programs/CLEs, Social Security, Veterans | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, August 13, 2015

North Carolina Appellate Court Ruling Permits "Membership Fee" in Condo-Continuing Care Contracts

Earlier this summer, a North Carolina appellate court reversed a trial court's finding that "membership fees" tied to condominium purchases in a retirement community were "unconscionable." In a class action suit filed by residents against Cedars of Chapel Hill LLC., this summer's ruling permits the defendant company to continue to market and sell its retirement condos as "fee simple" units  in combination with "continuing care member" contracts, although the court also remanded for a jury trial before the lower court.

In a highly technical ruling that examined state real estate transfer fee rules, the North Carolina's  marketable title act, and arguments under the common law about  unequal bargaining power, the appellate court rejected summary judgment in favor of the residents.  The court addressed allegations of both procedural and substantive unconscionability in the contracting process.  The court explained in part:

Substantive unconscionability “refers to harsh, one-sided, and oppressive contract terms.” … The terms must be “so oppressive that no reasonable person would make them on the one hand, and no honest and fair person would accept them on the other.” Brenner v. Little Red Sch. House Ltd., 302 N.C. 207, 213, 274 S.E.2d 206, 210 (1981). Plaintiffs, in raising this issue, contended that the fees in question were “exorbitantly high,” that the documents at issue were “decidedly one-sided in favor of the Company,” and that plaintiffs lacked “ability ... to negotiate any of the terms of the covenants and conditions in question in this case.” Plaintiffs further noted that the market for CCRCs in Chapel Hill is very small, leaving few alternatives.

 

…[W]e find plaintiffs' arguments unavailing. We recently held that “the times in which consumer contracts were anything other than adhesive are long past.” Torrence v. Nationwide Budget Fin., ––– N.C.App. ––––, ––––, 753 S.E.2d 802, 812 (quoting AT&T Mobility LLC v. Concepcion, –––U.S. ––––, ––––, 131 S.Ct. 1740, 1750, 179 L.Ed.2d 742, 755 (2011)), review denied, cert. denied, 367 N.C. 505, 759 S.E.2d 88 (2014). The mere fact that plaintiffs lacked the ability to negotiate contract terms does not create substantive unconscionability, nor does the fact that defendants were among the only providers of CCRC facilities. We hold that plaintiffs did not adequately demonstrate unconscionability as a matter of law, and that a genuine issue of material fact existed as to unconscionability, which precluded summary judgment.

For more of this ruling, see Wilner v. Cedars of Chapel Hill LLC., 773 S.E 2d. 333 (N.C. Ct. App., 2015).

For reactions from the parties' representatives, see NC Appeals Court Ruling Favors Cedars of Chapel Hill Condo Fees. 

For an additional, interesting discussion of business perspectives on retirement developer control, written prior to the most recent appellate court ruling, see Two Pitfalls of Leveraging Developer Influence, from a North Carolina law firm blog.

This case -- revealing the range of complexities in contracts for senior housing and services --  is another example of why I added "Contracts" law to my teaching package, with elder law!

August 13, 2015 in Consumer Information, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, Property Management, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Borchard Center Announces 2015-16 "Law and Aging Fellows"

Mary Jane Ciccarello, co-director of the Borchard  Center on Law and Aging, recently sent us the latest news on the fellowships announced for the 2015-16 grant year.  There is strong competition for these key sources of funding for recent law school graduates to engage in new or expanded initiatives in law and aging.  The new fellows include: 

  • Krista Granen, a 2015 University of California-Hastings graduate, who will partner with Bay Area Legal Aid in San Francisco to implement a multi-faceted project to provide direct services, establish a mobile “pop-up” clinic to accommodate seniors’ physical and capacity based impairments, and promulgate resource materials in the intersectional areas of consumer protection and Social Security. Her project will promote economic security for low-income seniors residing in Santa Clara County, a county that simultaneously experiences extreme class stratification and a dearth of necessary legal services. 
 
  • Jennifer Kye, a 2014 UVA graduate, at Community Legal Services of Philadelphia, who will implement a three-part project focused on increasing vulnerable seniors’ access to Medicaid home and community-based services. Her project will include: (1) systemic advocacy at the state level to expand the availability and improve the delivery of these critically needed home-based services; (2) development of a self-help manual that will allow seniors to advocate for themselves in accessing services in their own homes; and (3) direct representation of low-income older adults in obtaining and keeping home-based services and supports.

 

  • Stephanie Ridella Vittandsm, a 2014 Chicago-Kent graduate, who will continue her work at the Chicago Center for Disability and Elder Law, advocating for low-income seniors in housing matters, including eviction defense, public housing voucher termination defense, and representing seniors evicting tenants or family members from their homes. By prioritizing time-sensitive housing cases and conducting expedited intake interviews, she can continue to intervene in emergency housing cases.  She will continue to administer the Pro Se Guardianship Help Desk, which provides assistance to petitioners seeking guardianship over family members.   

 

  • Shana Wynn, a 22015 graduate of North Carolina Central Law School, who joins Justice in Aging (formerly the National Senior Citizens Law Center) and the Neighborhood Legal Services Program (NLSP) in Washington, DC.  Ms. Wynn will work closely with Justice in Aging attorneys to formulate policy recommendations to improve the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) representative payee program for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients and Social Security beneficiaries. Ms. Wynn will partner with NLSP to provide pro bono services to low-income seniors and secure access to healthcare and public benefits such as SSI. The primary goal of the project is to identify and address problems relating to SSA’s representative payee program as a means to better protect our most vulnerable seniors from misuse of their modest incomes.
Congratulations to these hard working Fellows.  For law students or recent graduates thinking about applying for a future Borchard Law and Aging Fellowship grant, a reminder that the annual deadline is in mid-April.  Start your planning now!

August 12, 2015 in Discrimination, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Grant Deadlines/Awards, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, Legal Practice/Practice Management | Permalink | Comments (1)

Monday, August 10, 2015

Will "Single Seniors" Change the Face of Long-Term Living and Supports?

The Public Policy Institute (PPI) of California recently profiled demographic changes likely to affect that state in coming decades, including the impact of a projected increase, to 20%, of the proportion of the population aged 65+.  One especially interesting component is the impact of seniors who are likely to be "single," especially those without the assistance of  children, spouses, or other close family members, a trend that seems likely to be true nationwide. From PPI's report (minus charts and footnotes):

Family structures in this age group will also change considerably—in particular, marital status will look quite different among seniors in 2030 than it does today.... The fastest projected rates of growth are among the divorced/separated and never married groups. Between 2012 and 2030, the number of married people over age 65 will increase by 75 percent—but the number who are divorced or separated will increase by 115 percent, and the number who are never married will increase by 210 percent....

 

Another significant change will be in the number of seniors who have children. Those who have never been married are much less likely to have children than those who have been married at some point. As a result, seniors in the future will be more likely to be childless than those today.... In 2012, just 12 percent of 75-year-old women had no children. We project that by 2030, nearly 20 percent will be childless. Since we know that adult children often provide care for their senior parents, these projections suggest that alternative non-family sources of care will become more common in the future.

Thus, just as we're making noise about supporting seniors' preference to "age at home," we may be over-assuming that family members will be available to provide key care without direct cost to the states.  Hmmm.  That's problematic, right?

More from the California PPI report, including some conclusions: 

California's senior population will grow rapidly over the next two decades, increasing by an estimated 87 percent, or four million people.  This population will be more diverse and less likely to be married or have children than senior are today.  The policy implications of an aging population are wide-ranging.  We estimate that about one million seniors will have some difficulties with self-care, and that more than 100,000 will require nursing home care. To ensure nursing home populations do not increase beyond this number, the state will need to pursue policies that provide resources to allow more people to age in their own homes....

 

The [California In-Home Service & Supports] IHSS program provides resources for seniors to hire workers, including family members, to provide support with personal care, household work, and errands. One benefit of hiring family members is that they may provide more culturally competent care. Medi-Cal is already the primary payer for nursing home residents, and the state could potentially save money by providing more home- and community-based services that support people as they age, helping to keep them out of institutions. Finally, the projected growth in nursing home residents and in seniors with self-care limitations will require a larger health care workforce. California’s community college system will be a critical resource in training qualified workers focused on the senior population.

The San Diego Union-Tribune follows up on this theme in California Will Have More Seniors Living Alone, by Joshua Stewart.

August 10, 2015 in Consumer Information, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Ethical Issues, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, Medicaid, Retirement, State Statutes/Regulations, Statistics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, August 7, 2015

Pennsylvania Names Nursing Home "Quality of Care" Task Force

In the wake of devastating reports about poor accountability following inspections of nursing homes in Pennsylvania under a previous governor, plus a new civil lawsuit filed by the Pennsylvania Attorney General's office, the current Pennsylvania Secretary of Health has announced a state task force to study certain issues. 

According to the state press release, the task force "will be charged with identifying ways the department can advance quality improvement in Pennsylvania's long-term care facilities. The goal is to review current regulations and identify areas that the department may improve to ensure that nursing homes are operating at the highest level regarding the quality and safety of their residents."'

The Secretary's office indicates that in addition to "members of the Governor's Office, the secretaries of the Pennsylvania departments of Aging, Human Services, and State," appointed task force members include:

Jaqueline Zinn, PhD - Temple University (Business School)
Mary Naylor, PhD, FAAN, RN - University of Pennsylvania (Nursing, Gerontology)
Steven Handler, MD - University of Pittsburgh (Medical School, Biometric Informatics)
Rachel Werner, MD, PhD - University of Pennsylvania (Medical School, Quality of Care)
Dana Mukamel, PhD – University of California, Irvine (Public Health, Quality of Care)
David Grabowski PhD - Harvard University (Medical School, Health Care Policy)
Barbara Bowers RN, PhD, FAAN - University of Wisconsin (Institute of Aging, Long Term Care)
Pennsylvania State Senator Pat Vance 
Pennsylvania State Representative Mathew Baker

On the positive side, it is good to see non-Pennsylvanians appointed to the team, all with excellent credentials.  Perhaps on the less positive side, it seems to be a very large team, made up mostly of very prominent but busy "volunteers," two factors which in my experience can reduce efficiency. 

For news accounts of the potential political factors that may be play in this recent history, see here and related articles linked below. 

August 7, 2015 in Consumer Information, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

PBS News Hour: Why Foreign Retirees Are Flocking to Mexico

In recent weeks, I've been doing background research on "cross-border retirement" issues and therefore I was interested to read that ElderLawGuy Jeffrey Marshall's brother has retired to Mexico and "loves it." 

For some, the reasons may include comparative costs for a range of services, including support for "independent" living, or more skilled care, as documented by the PBS News Hour program on "Why Foreign Retirees Are Flocking to Mexico." The program interviews retirees in central Mexican communities near Lake Chapala.  The program compares "average cost for independent living" in U.S. retirement communities of "about $2,500 per month, with one Mexican community's prices for "rent, all utilities, connections for internet, television ... plus three meals a day" at "just a little over $1,000 a month." 

But, as the program touches on (only briefly), Medicare benefits don't apply in Mexico (although, perhaps they should?).  And there are also important questions about reciprocity in care for Mexican retirees who may have spent many working years in the U.S.

August 5, 2015 in Consumer Information, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, International, Retirement | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

What is Your Neighborhood's Livability Index?

Ever wonder how your neighborhood would measure up as a "livable community"?  AARP has released an interactive tool.  The Livability Index: Great Neighborhoods for All Ages explains: this is "[a]n interactive, easily navigated website, the Livability Index allows users to compare communities, adjust scores based on personal preferences and learn how to take action to make their own communities move livable."  The tool is easy to use and gives results quickly. The index rates communities in seven categories, including environment, health, engagement, transportation, housing, neighborhoods and opportunity.  Try it!

July 29, 2015 in Housing | Permalink | Comments (0)

AARP & ABA Join Forces on "Checklist for Family Caregivers"

Sally Hurme, J.D., adds another useful book to her long list of consumer-friendly publications.  In Checklist for Family Caregivers, published and marketed jointly by AARP and the American Bar Association, offers "to do" and "action" checklists to guide family members as key providers of care and assistance for seniors.  Each topic is introduced by brief narratives of explanation, often with an emphasis on legal implications of decision-making.  For example Chapter 6 is on "Deciphering Contracts," and describes different components of family caregiver agreements, home care service agreements (whether directly or through an agency), assisted living agreements, and skilled nursing care contracts, plus a few points about long-term care insurance policies. 

Think of this book as the starting place -- and a wonderful opportunity to organize thoughts for meetings with doctors, agencies, social workers or lawyers.  More information about the book is available on the ABA webpages (with a member discount, and "bulk discounts are available"), on AARP's webpage, or directly through Amazon. 

July 29, 2015 in Books, Consumer Information, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, Property Management | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, July 20, 2015

Register for Webinar: Living Alone with Dementia

The Administration for Community Living (ACL)/Administration on Aging (AoA) announced an upcoming webinar, People Who Live Alone with Dementia. The webinar is offered by the National Alzheimer’s and Dementia Resource Center (formerly the ADSSP National Resource Center). The website describes this July 30th webinar as follows:

 The webinar will focus on the issue of Persons Living Alone with Dementia. Participants will learn about prevalence and characteristics of people with dementia who live alone, signs of self-neglect and intervention strategies, and the experiences of people with dementia who live alone. Dr. Penny Harris and Dr. Michael Lepore will present at this webinar.

The webinar starts at 3 p.m. edt and lasts for one hour. To register for this free webinar, click here.

July 20, 2015 in Cognitive Impairment, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Housing, Programs/CLEs, Webinars | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Webinar on Aging in Place In Manufactured Housing Communities

The National Consumer Law Center has announced a free upcoming webinar on July 23, 2015 on The Benefits and Challenges of Older Adults Aging in Place in Manufactured Housing Communities. Information about the webinar was provided in the announcement:

Thousands of older adults with modest financial resources live in manufactured housing communities.  These naturally occurring retirement communities provide a safe physical and socially active environment that enable older adults to successfully age in place. Elders, however, risk displacement when the community is closed or rents are increased beyond an affordable level.  This webinar will discuss the benefits and challenges that older adults face as residents of manufactured housing communities as well as policies and practices that can support their community.

Click here to register for the webinar.

July 16, 2015 in Consumer Information, Housing, Webinars | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Careless? Examining Regulators' Attitudes About Enforcement as Contributing to Resident Risk in LTC

Community Legal Services of Philadelphia (CLS) recently issued an important report, examining statistics on complaints and enforcement actions under the purview of Pennsylvania's Department of Health, the chief regulatory body for nursing homes.  To put it bluntly,  the regulators are getting a failing grade here, with a new Governor (and an uncooperative Legislature on funding issues) facing the need for action.  From the executive summary:   

The Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH) has been failing to protect elderly and disabled nursing home residents. Community Legal Services of Philadelphia (CLS) regularly advocates on behalf of nursing home residents, representing them in matters relating to the preservation and protection of their rights. Over the past several years, under the previous governor’s administration, CLS has witnessed DOH significantly decrease its enforcement of nursing home regulations and patient protections. In an analysis of DOH nursing home investigations and inspections that occurred in Philadelphia from 2012-2014, CLS has found that DOH’s conduct has put elderly and disabled Pennsylvanians at risk of physical harm or death.

 

During this time period, DOH dismissed an extraordinary number of complaints against nursing homes, failed to properly follow up when a violation was found, mischaracterized harm against patients, and dramatically decreased its penalties against nursing homes. Unfortunately, DOH’s failures have not only placed residents at risk, but they have also resulted in inaccurate publicly available information that forces potential residents and their families to make major life decisions without all of the important facts. Pennsylvania must fix this crisis and ensure the safety of elderly and disabled nursing home residents.

The CLS authors make recommendations for change, including a commitment to "better transparency to the public regarding investigations and characterization of harm."

For more details, read the press summaries and the full report on "Careless: How the Pennsylvania Department of Health has Risked the Lives of Elderly and Disabled Nursing Home Residents."

July 15, 2015 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations, Statistics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, July 13, 2015

Studying the Culture of Change in Nursing Home Settings

McKnight's News has an interesting essay reporting on the potential significance of a research project underway in Kansas: 

In 2002, Kansas created a pay-for-performance Medicaid program designed to improve residents' lives. Starting this month, the Center for Applied Research at LeadingAge and Kansas State University will delve into statistical evaluation of whether the program has helped resident health, resident quality of life and employee job satisfaction. The $149,776 grant was awarded by the Retirement Research Foundation.

 

The 18-month CFAR project will be one of a few large-scale analyses of the potential benefits of adopting culture change. Smaller-scale studies have shown, modestly, that resident quality of life improves with culture change, and larger studies have suggested some positive outcomes related to a decrease in physical restraints and feeding tubes, says researcher Linda Hermer, Ph.D.

 

“I am hoping one of the things we will be able to tell, with finer precision, is to be able to understand whether there are truly benefits from culture change to a resident's health and quality of life,” she told McKnight's.

See here for more details. 

July 13, 2015 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, Statistics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, July 12, 2015

NYT: Specialists with Team Skills May Help with Planning

From the New York Times, Making Decisions about Elder Housing May Take a Team Effort, by John Wasik:

But for elderly people like Ms. Renninger, now 83, deciding what to do next can be an almost overwhelming task. Is it time to move to a nursing home or some other type of assisted living? Or will home care with a variety of support services work?

 

It is an issue millions of people — especially baby boomers and their parents — are grappling with now. The choices are so complex that more and more people are finding they cannot make the decisions alone. As a result, with the number of Americans age 85 and older growing faster than any other age group, as the Congressional Budget Office reports, so is the demand for elder care specialists.

Detailing what many Elder Law Attorneys also provide, the article gives several examples of professionals with multi-disciplinary skills, such as a geriatric care manager, or a doctor who is also a certified financial planner.  Thanks to Professor Laurel Terry for sending this timely link.

July 12, 2015 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, Legal Practice/Practice Management, Property Management | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, July 10, 2015

Louisiana Governor Signs Amended "Lifetime Necessities" Law Obligating "Ascendants & Descendants"

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, one of (now many) candidates for the Republican nomination for President,  has been making a fair amount of press of late, for his positions on so-called medical marijuana, Common Core education standards, and how his state will handle same-sex marriage. Lower on the radar screen, however, was his signing of Act 260, an interesting package of legal changes affecting obligations between various family members.

One of these changes was to adopt a new provision affecting the obligations of "ascendants and descendants" to provide "basic necessities of life" for family members "in need."  In other words, filial support. 

Louisiana already had a provision, Section 229, providing that "children are bound to maintain their father and mother and other ascendants who are in need."  The new provision continues this statutory obligation, but makes enforcement "personal" only.  The substitute provision was signed into law on June 29 and becomes effective on January 1, 2016.  New Article 237 of Act 260 provides:

Descendants are bound to provide the basic necessities of life to their ascendants who are in need, upon proof of inability to obtain these necessities by other means or from other sources, and ascendants are likewise bound to provide for their needy descendants, this obligation being reciprocal.

 

This obligation is strictly personal and is limited to the basic necessities of food, clothing, shelter, and health care.

 

This obligation is owed by descendants and ascendants in the order of their degree of relationship to the obligee and is joint and divisible among obligors. Nevertheless, if the obligee is married, the obligation of support owed by his descendants and ascendants is secondary to the obligation owed by his spouse.

Official comments explaining the revisions emphasize that the necessities obligation kicks in only when the needy family member is unable to obtain necessities "by other means" or from "other sources," thus signaling any filial support obligation is secondary to the individual's eligibility for public assistance or other welfare benefits. Further "for the first time" Louisiana law "provides a ranking of those descendants and ascendants who owe this reciprocal, lifetime obligation."

The commentary explains that the revision makes the obligation "strictly personal," and there it precludes enforcement by "a third person."  Thus, it would appear that unlike in Pennsylvania (or Germany?) nursing homes and the state may not use these statutes in order to sue family members to collect necessities for indigent elders.

According to the comments, the obligation is also not "heritable."  This appears to reflect a Louisiana Court of Appeals decision from 2010, In re Succession of Elie,denying a mother's claims for funds from a deceased son's estate brought under former Section 229.     

July 10, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, Medicaid, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, July 6, 2015

California State Bar Offers On-Line Guide for "Seniors and the Law"

SeniorsEnglish2015COVERThe State Bar of California offers an on-line "guide for maturing Californians," available in PDF format.  This is an updated, 2015 version. At first I was a bit dubious, as the length is just 12 pages and the print is small. However, on closer look (and with the help of that little built-in magnifying class for reading PDF documents on line), I found it fairly comprehensive and a good starting place. It works not just for seniors but the whole family. 

Written in a logical Q & A format, often starting with "yes or no" answers before offering a more detailed explanation and suggested resources, the brochure covers topics such as:

 

  • What is Supplemental Security Income?
  • Can my landlord evict me for any reason at all?
  • Can I install grab bars, lower my counters or make other needed modifications over my landlord's objections?
  • How is Medi-Cal different from Medicare?
  • How can I help ensure that my affairs will be handled my way if I become incapacitated?
  • If my elderly mother gives away her assets, will Medi-Cal pay for a nursing home?

In addition, the brochure describes more subtle topics such as how "assisted living communities," may differ (and be covered by different regulations ) than "continuing care retirement communities," or why "living trust mills" are something to avoid.  It warns that insurance brokers and agents other investment advisors are prohibited in California from using "senior specific" certificates or designations to mislead consumers. 

According to the July 215 issue of the California Bar Journal, the senior guide is available in both Spanish and English, although I could only find the English version on-line.  Free print copies are available for order (although donations to offset costs are accepted!)  

Thank you to Professor Laurel Terry for sharing this resource! 

July 6, 2015 in Books, Consumer Information, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Estates and Trusts, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, Medicare, Programs/CLEs, Social Security, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, July 3, 2015

Pennsylvania AG Files Consumer Protection Suit Against Golden Living Nursing Homes

On July 1, 2015, Pennsylvania's Attorney General filed a complaint in the Commonwealth Court against Golden Gate National Senior Care LLC (GGNSC) which manages and operates Golden Living Centers nationally.  The AG's suit focuses on 14 facilities in Pennsylvania. From the AG's press statement:

The legal action asserts Golden Living violated the Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law by deceiving consumers through its marketing practices.

  

The company advertised it would keep its residents clean and comfortable while providing food and water at any time. But its facilities were understaffed, leaving residents thirsty, hungry, dirty, unkempt and sometimes unable to summon anyone to help meet their most basic needs, such as going to the bathroom, the legal action asserts.   

According to the AG's office, evidence comes from residents' family members and former employees of Golden Living, including certified nursing assistants.  The allegations focus on an alleged "widespread pattern of understaffing and omitted care."

Further, the AG makes the following specific allegations:  

  • Continent residents left in diapers because they were unable to obtain assistance going to the bathroom.    
  • Incontinent residents left in soiled diapers, in their own feces or urine, for extended periods of time.    
  • Residents at risk for bedsores from not being turned every two hours as required.   
  • Residents not receiving range of motion exercises.    
  • Residents not receiving showers or other hygiene services as required.     
  • Residents being woken at 5 a.m. or earlier to be washed and dressed for the day.    
  • Residents not being timely dressed in order to attend their meals.    
  • Residents not being escorted to the dining hall and sometimes missing meals entirely.   
  • Long waits for responses to call bells or no responses at all.   
  • Staff, under the direction of management or fear of management, falsifying records to indicate residents received services when in fact they did not.  
  • Improved staffing when state inspections occurred, leading to deceit about the true conditions at the facility.     
  • The investigation also included a review of staffing levels self-reported by Golden Living facilities and deficiencies cited in surveys conducted by the state Department of Health. 

According to one news source, Golden Living responded to the suit with a statement expressing the company's confidence that the "claims made by the Attorney General are baseless and wholly without merit," and further alleging the suit is the "unfortunate result of Kathleen Kane's inappropriate and questionable relationship with a Washington D.C.-based plaintiff's firm that preys on legitimate businesses and is paid by contingency fees."  (For those of you not privy to the local news on Pennsylvania politics generally and AG Kathleen Kane specifically, I think it is fair to say that the press frequently refers to her as the "embattled AG."  She first took office in January 2013).

The Pennsylvania AG's suit comes on the heels of a broader report released in June by Community Legal Services of Philadelphia, asserting that from 2012 through 2014 the Pennsylvania Department of Health under former Governor Corbett's administration, failed significantly to conduct proper investigation of complaints about a large number of nursing homes (not limited to Golden Living) and failed to enforce existing regulations designed to protect residents. 

For Golden Living, allegations are not limited to Pennsylvania. For example, in June 2015, claims about chronic understaffing of 12 Golden Living Center nursing homes in Arkansas were certified to be litigated as a class action. 

Hat tip to Douglas Roeder, Esq., for bringing the latest Pennsylvania AG's suit to my attention. Last month I reported on the A.G.'s suit for unfair trade practices filed against a law firm that was alleged to be improperly using Pennsylvania's filial support law as a basis for collection demands against family members of the debtor. 

July 3, 2015 in Cognitive Impairment, Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, Medicaid, Medicare, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, June 29, 2015

California Court Says Law Permitting Nursing Homes to "Make Routine Decisions for Incapacitated Residents" Is Unconstitutional

On June 24, 2015, the Superior Court for the State of California, County of Alameda, Judge Evelio Grillo presiding, issued a mandamus in a court suit filed in 2013 by California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform (CANHR).  Lots of interesting and important issues here, including:

  • the finding that CANHR, a nonprofit agency "dedicated to improving the quality of care for California's nursing home residents," has standing to bring a citizen action to challenge the reliance by nursing homes on California law to permit them to make decisions "for" incapacitated residents who do not have court appointed agents, family or other surrogate decision makers;
  • the conclusion that the California law in question, Calif. Health & Safety Code Section 1418.8,  is unconstitutional, both facially and as applied;
  • the recognition that the mandate is necessary, even though it will require major changes in how care facilities operate in the daily care of patients.

The 44 page opinion concludes:

"The court is aware that this statute was the Legislature's attempt to deal with a very difficult and significant problem of how to provide timely and effective medical treatment to patients in skilled nursing facilities without delays that were often happening when a petition had to be filed in probate court.  The court acknowledges that this order will likely create problems in how many skilled nursing facilities currently operate....  The court has considered this burden and weighed it against the due process concerns, and finds that the due process rights of these patients is more compelling.  The stakes are simply too high to hold otherwise. Any error in these situations has the possibility of depriving a patient of his or her right to make medical decisions about his or her own life that may result in significant consequences, including death.  A patient may not only lose the ability to make his or her health decisions, but also to manage his or her own finances, determine his or her visitors, and the ability to leave the facility."  

Congratulations to the hard-working advocates at CANHR, and particularly to Golden Gate Law Professor Mort P. Cohen,  who brought the action on behalf of CNHR and several nursing home residents.  Here is a link to the full opinion in CANHR v. Chapman, Case No. RG13700100. Here is a press release from CANHR.

June 29, 2015 in Cognitive Impairment, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, Medicaid, Property Management, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink