Thursday, May 12, 2016
The latest issue of Biofocal from the American Bar Association Commission on Law & Aging is out, and the cover story is an article by Erica Wood on Evaluating the Capacity to Drive. Ms. Wood explores the question of what is the needed capacity to drive, and notes the skills one needs to be a safe driver.
[E]valuating capacity to drive is of course different from evaluating capacity to make decisions or execute legal transactions. First, driving involves a mix of mental, physical, and sensory abilities. Second, driving has serious risk not only for oneself but also for others as well. And third, the determination of capacity to drive initially rests not with a judge but with the commissioner of the state department of motor vehicles—although judges may well be involved in decisions about drivers licenses, as described in the “View from the Bench” by Judge Lyle. While state laws vary, the Uniform Vehicle Code provides that a license may be denied if the state commissioner finds that a person “by reason of physical or mental disability would not be able to operate a motor vehicle with safety upon the highways” (National Committee on Uniform Traffic Laws and Ordinances).
Using the ABA/APA handbook for psychologists "general capacity evaluation framework," Ms. Wood breaks down the assessment elements for capacity to drive: the legal element, the functional component, diagnosis, values, mental health assessment, risk assessment, and clinical judgment that is needed in order "to integrate all of the evidence from the previous steps on supports, conditions, risks, abilities and limitations." The article underscores the need to examine the driver's values, consider emotional factors such as hallucinations and whether the person has capacity with support. Capacity with support is explained as "supports and accommodations that might enhance ability."
In the driving context, this might mean a change of eyeglasses, a higher seat or pillow, a revolving seat, or pedal modifications. With such supports, a functional assessment will test for visual acuity; flexibility to look behind and check blind spots on the road; and strength for control of the steering wheel, brakes, accelerator, and clutch. An assessment also will test the driver’s knowledge about driving rules and what to do in emergency or unexpected situations.
A pdf of the article is available here.
Wednesday, May 4, 2016
The Wall Street Journal ran an article on May 2, 2016 that working past 65 may be good for the worker's longevity. Retiring After 65 May Help People Live Longer covers a recent study published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. "The risk of dying from any cause over the study period was 11% lower among people who delayed retirement for one year—until age 66—and fell further among people who retired between the ages of 66 and 72, the study found." One limit on the study-individuals studied were limited to those born between 1931-1941. The study noted "[postponing retirement may delay the natural age-related decline in physical, cognitive and mental functioning, reducing the risk of chronic illness...."
Here is an excerpt from the abstract:
Background Retirement is an important transitional process in later life. Despite a large body of research examining the impacts of health on retirement, questions still remain regarding the association of retirement age with survival. We aimed to examine the association between retirement age and mortality among healthy and unhealthy retirees and to investigate whether sociodemographic factors modified this association. .....
Conclusions Early retirement may be a risk factor for mortality and prolonged working life may provide survival benefits among US adults.
The full article is available for purchase here.
Thanks to Professor Dick Kaplan for sending us the link to the article.
Sunday, May 1, 2016
We've all been reading the articles about global warming and the impact on the planet, and on us. Although Earth Day is a couple of weeks past us, there's even more reason to think about the future of the planet. The Washington Post ran the article Why living around nature could make you live longer. The article highlights a recent study that indicates that not only is living near nature good for your health, it may help you live longer! The study was published on April 14, 2016 in the journal, Environmental Health Perspectives (EHP), Exposure to Greenness and Mortality in a Nationwide Prospective Cohort Study of Women. Here are some excerpts from abstract from the EHP article: "Objectives: We aimed to examine the prospective association between residential greenness and mortality... Conclusions: Higher levels of green vegetation were associated with decreased mortality. Policies to increase vegetation may provide opportunities for physical activity, reduce harmful exposures, increase social engagement, and improve mental health. While planting vegetation may mitigate effects of climate change, evidence of an association between vegetation and lower mortality rates suggests it also might be used to improve health."
Now, back to the Washington Post story, which tells us "[t]his is all in line with the ways previous research has suggested greenness can affect health. Places with more vegetation are generally thought to be less polluted, and the presence of vegetation, itself, can help keep air cleaner. And green spaces like parks can help encourage people to get outside, exercise and engage with other people — all factors that can improve overall health. The effects on mental health may be somewhat less straightforward, but nonetheless important, as this study suggested." As far as mental health, the article notes that social engagement and human's long term connection with nature is rejuvenating.
The article quotes one of the authors that more study is needed on the "finer details" of our interacting with nature. But for now, go outside and take a walk (and maybe buy some houseplants, too).
Thursday, April 28, 2016
We have heard about green cemeteries. Environmentally sensitive deaths have expanded beyond green cemeteries. According to the New York Times article from April 22, 2016 (Earth Day to those of you reading this closely), others are thinking about lowering the environmental impact a traditional burial may cause. Mushroom Suits, Biodegradable Urns and Death’s Green Frontier starts the story explaining one person's idea, a mushroom suit, or more specifically "the Infinity Burial Suit. It’s a $1,500 outfit that incorporates mushrooms meant to break down a human corpse, cleanse it of toxins and distribute nutrients back into the soil. No one has been buried in it yet, but ... a man who suffers from a chronic illness has agreed to be the first."
In addition to green burials, "[a]t Western Carolina University, researchers with the Urban Death Project are learning how best to turn corpses into compost. In Los Angeles, Undertaking LA operates a “do-your-own-death” workshop to give people the tools to plan home funerals."
What do these new businesses have in common (other than death)? "Design and innovative technology seem to be an important component of these new death products. Roger Moliné, the 24-year-old co-founder of Bios Urn, began a Kickstarter campaign after customers asked for better ways to monitor the health of the trees growing from biodegradable urns. The company raised over $83,000 to design an incubator that, through a sensor embedded in the soil, will send updates to a custom phone app. Around 60,000 urns have been ordered and 200 incubators pre-ordered."
So how do you know if burial products are truly green? Well, there is (you thought I was going to say app for that, didn't you)... there is a council that oversees this. The Green Burial Council grants certification to products that are actually earth-friendly. The list of certified products is available here.
Monday, April 25, 2016
Last week 12 lawyers who are deaf or hard of hearing were sworn into the Supreme Court Bar. That in and of itself is very special. It was made more so by the actions of Chief Justice Roberts. Chief Justice Roberts learned some sign language for the occasion; "[a]fter they were presented to the court for admission, Roberts signed in American Sign Language: 'Your motion is granted.'” Well done Chief Justice.
Wednesday, April 13, 2016
I ran across a couple of articles recently about hoarding. We all have "stuff" and the older we get, the more "stuff" we may have as we accumulate a lifetime of memories. Does that mean we are hoarders? According to the article in the Washington Post, Hoarding is a serious disorder — and it’s only getting worse in the U.S.,
While the stockpiling of stuff is often pinned on America’s culture of mass consumption, hoarding is nothing new. But it’s only in recent years that the subject has received the attention of researchers, social workers, psychologists, fire marshals and public-health officials.
They call it an emerging issue that is certain to grow with an aging population. That’s because, while the first signs often arise in adolescence, they typically worsen with age, usually after a divorce, the death of a spouse or another crisis.
So you have a lot of stuff. And maybe you are disorganized (I once had someone tell me people do two kinds of organizing, some are "pilers" and others are "filers"). Does that mean you are a hoarder? Not necessarily, according to the article, because "[h]oarding is different from merely living amid clutter, experts note. It’s possible to have a messy house and be a pack rat without qualifying for a diagnosis of hoarding behavior. The difference is one of degree. Hoarding disorder is present when the behavior causes distress to the individual or interferes with emotional, physical, social, financial or legal well-being."
The article offers some interesting insights into hoarding and the research (such as it runs in families) but it isn't until recently that it's been thought of as a brain disorder. Not only may hoarding have lacked attention in the past, it's one of those situations where the person may not know to seek treatment and the response requires a multi-disciplinary approach. The article has a lot of good information and is insightful in covering the issues.
Then look at this article in Huffington Post's Post 50, 5 Signs That Someone You Love May Be A Hoarder where one expert is quoted as predicting about 4 million people in the U.S. are hoarders. "Hoarding ... is associated with a number of things including difficulty processing information, the inability to make decisions when confronted with a large amount of information and a failure to categorize things — meaning you can’t see the commonality of objects and they instead all look unique to you." This article offers 5 signs that someone is a hoarder, including constant attendance at garage sales and swap meets, never inviting visitors to the person's home, never giving anything away, keeping every scrap of paper and getting upset at the suggestion of discarding possessions. Sound like anyone you may know?
Tuesday, April 12, 2016
Huffington Post's Huff/Post 50 ran a story with an accompanying video, Millennials Show The World What They Believe ‘Old’ Looks Like. Not unexpectedly, their initial impressions involved some stereotypical perceptions of those who are older. Then watch the video to see what they have learned and how their views changed. Show the video to your class!
As law profs, that title doesn't surprise us. Learning is something we continually do (and so too, hopefully, our students). The Pew Research Center released a new report, Lifelong Learning and Technology. The report looks at learning from a variety of points, including learners who learn for employment and learners who learn for personal reasons.
As far as age for the personal learners, the report provides a breakdown for the percentage "of adults in each group who participated in at least one of a variety of activities in the past 12 months related to personal growth and enrichment...." for those age 65 and older, the percentage engaged in personal learning was 72%. For professional learners ("[a]mong employed adults, % of those who took a course or got extra training in the past 12 months for job-related reasons...") the percentage for those 65 and older was 47%.
The study doesn't just look at age of the learner, but looks at a number of variables, including education, income, ethnicity, race, access to and ownership of tech devices and internet, etc. A pdf of the report is available here.
Wednesday, April 6, 2016
American Society on Aging (ASA) recently posted about 5 TED talks on Aging. 5 TED Talks on Aging to Inspire You range from curing Alzheimer's to a grandson's invention to help his grandfather with dementia from wandering. There's a talk from Diana Nyad about her historic swim ("In the pitch-black night, stung by jellyfish, choking on salt water, singing to herself, hallucinating ... Diana Nyad just kept on swimming. And that's how she finally achieved her lifetime goal as an athlete: an extreme 100-mile swim from Cuba to Florida") and a chat between Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda where they "discuss longevity, feminism, the differences between male and female friendship, what it means to live well and women's role in future of our planet. 'I don't even know what I would do without my women friends," Fonda says. "I exist because I have my women friends.'"
Check them out!
Thursday, March 24, 2016
We don't use this blog to promote a specific product, so please don't read the following as that. There is some educational value in learning about efforts of world-renowned corporations to provide products for people with special needs. I'd heard Nike had shoes in the works for people with special needs so I wanted to share this article regarding their availability. Nike Expands Shoe Line For People With Special Needs was published in the March 16, 2016 issue of Disability Scoop. "The company was inspired to develop the unique system after hearing from then-16-year-old Matthew Walzer in 2012. Walzer, who has cerebral palsy, requested more accessible footwear so that he would be able to go off to college without needing assistance tying his shoes." According to the story, there are several models of the shoe from which to choose.
There was an article in Motherboard last week that intrigued me. Companies Want to Replicate Your Dead Loved Ones With Robot Clones explains how many struggle with grief and moving on after the death of someone well-loved.
Many grieving people feel n emotional connection to things that represent dead loved ones, such as headstones, urns and shrines, according to grief counselors. In the future, people may take that phenomenon to stunning new heights: Artificial intelligence experts predict that humans will replace dead relatives with synthetic robot clones, complete with a digital copy of that person's brain.
According to the article, one research company has taken the first step down this path, with the goal " to 'transfer human consciousness to computers and robots.' The firm has already created thousands of highly detailed “mind clones” to log the memories, values and attitudes of specific people. Using the data, scientists created one of the world's most socially advanced robots, a replica of [the wife of the] ... founder...."
According to the article, creating these "mind clones" achieves "[t]he goal ... to capture a person’s attitudes, beliefs and memories and create a database that one day will be analogged and uploaded to a robot or holograph, according to the Lifenaut website. Everything down to a person’s mannerisms and quirks can be recreated."
Why you might ask, would one want a have a robot clone of oneself? According to the article, there are several reasons. "Some users simply like the idea of living forever. Others want to document themselves as a part of human history. Some hope to pass on an artistic project or genealogical information to offspring. Fewer will use it to “memorialize” and “communicate with” the dead...."
Google has also filed a patent, according to the article, that focuses on duplicating a personality and would use, the article notes " a cloud-based system in which a digital “personality” can be downloaded like an app." The article continues, discussing the pros and cons of moving forward with this technology and debates whether humans can really be replicated.
To reference Aldous Huxley, it's a "brave new world."
Sunday, January 24, 2016
It seems that no matter the season, there is some type of natural disaster that occurs (example-tornados the week before last in Florida, a major snow storm in the Northeast a few days ago). We all need to be prepared for natural disasters, and it is important to realize that elders may be disproportionally affected in some cases. The New York Times on January 8, 2016 ran an article on the importance of being prepared. "Natural disasters, which appear to be on the rise in part because of climate change, are especially hard for older adults. They are particularly vulnerable because many have chronic illnesses that are worsened during the heat of a fire or the high water of a flood. And many are understandably reluctant to leave homes that hold so much history." The article references studies that reveal a disproportionate number of some natural disasters have been elders.
One key to survival, as the article notes, is advance planning. A number of resources, state specific or national, are available online to help prepare. Every year in Florida, the media alerts us to the approach of hurricane season and we purchase our hurricane supplies and prepare. Friends in California have told me about their earthquake kits. The article notes that local governments may have registries for those with special needs or may need assistance in an evacuation. Preparing in advance for shelter for pets in emergency evacuations is important, since not all emergency shelters take 4-footed family members. The article notes there is even an app for help when disaster strikes!
The article has some good ideas that are valuable to all of us. Here are just a few of my favorite websites for information.
Red Cross Disaster Preparedness for Seniors by Seniors.
Thursday, January 14, 2016
How close do you live to your mom? If you are within 20 minutes, then you are a typical American. The New York Times ran a story on December 23, 2015 that discusses how many miles away adult kids live from their moms. The Typical American Lives Only 18 Miles From Mom explains that "[t]he typical adult lives only 18 miles from his or her mother, according to an Upshot analysis of data from a comprehensive survey of older Americans. Over the last few decades, Americans have become less mobile, and most adults – especially those with less education or lower incomes — do not venture far from their hometowns." The article discusses the importance of physical proximity of families when an elder needs caregiving. "Over all, the median distance Americans live from their mother is 18 miles, and only 20 percent live more than a couple hours’ drive from their parents. (Researchers often study the distance from mothers because they are more likely to be caregivers and to live longer than men.)"
The article discusses the factors that impact the distance the kids live from mom, including education, geographic location, marital status and culture. The article notes that caregiving goes both ways, with elders providing child care for their grandchildren. The article also covers the challenges of caregiving, and the future needs for caregiving.
Tuesday, January 12, 2016
We all know how important it is to get the appropriate amount of sleep. But it may be more important than we realize. According to an NPR story on January 4, 2016, Lack Of Deep Sleep May Set The Stage For Alzheimer's, we need that deep sleep to help us fend off Alzheimer's. The story focuses on the work of the Oregon Health & Science University scientists. One of the scientists explains why this deep sleep is so important to us: "[t]he brain appears to clear out toxins linked to Alzheimer's during sleep, [the scientist] explains. And, at least among research animals that don't get enough solid shut-eye, those toxins can build up and damage the brain." The story notes that there is definitely a link between sleep and Alzheimer's since many of those with Alzheimer's have some kind of sleep disorder. The OHSU scientists are about to start a study of "that should clarify the link between sleep problems and Alzheimer's disease in humans." The study described is fascinating (let's just say it involves sleeping in an MRI) and will be so important. Read more about the study here. Now, take a nap!
Monday, January 11, 2016
It's time for the new semester!!! Always such an exciting time for all of us. I wanted to see if anyone is doing anything new or innovative in your classes that you wanted to share. Are you assigning any movies or books (other than law school books) to your students? One of the books I'm considering suggesting is On Pluto: Inside the Mind of Alzheimer's. I'm also thinking of an assignment where the students research various technologies that are designed to help an elder age in place or stay safe. I'm happy to share results with those of you interested. Let us know your ideas and suggestions!
Thursday, January 7, 2016
NPR ran an interesting story on December 22, 2015 on how our internal clocks may begin to lose time, but we have backup clocks ready to start ticking! As Aging Brain's Internal Clock Fades, A New Timekeeper May Kick In notes that
We all have a set of so-called clock genes that keep us on a 24-hour cycle. In the morning they wind us up, and at night they help us wind down. A study out Monday in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that those genes might beat to a different rhythm in older folks.
One of the authors of the study refers to the genes as the conductors of a person's orchestra and somehow for elders, "[t]heir orchestras seem to go off the beat, but it isn't known why." Before worrying about being "out of tune", take heart that the study found that elders have a back-up clock that starts keeping time when the main internal clock begins to get out of tune. The researchers are particularly interested in how this affects individuals who sundown because of dementia. The NPR story includes an audio version of the story in addition to the print version.
Wednesday, January 6, 2016
SI 01130.740 Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Accounts was released December 18, 2015. The POMS has six sections, including an explanation of ABLE accounts, definitions, what is excluded, what is countable, and verification/documentation of the account balances and of the distributions. Check it out! Oh and by the way, it's a good time to explain the POMS to your students. Check out SSA's explanation of the POMS on the POMS home page here.
Wednesday, December 30, 2015
I was reading recently about microaggressions and was interested in this article in Huffington Post/ Post 50 on microaggressions as it pertains to elders. 10 Microaggressions Older People Will Recognize Immediately explains that microaggressions are "the small everyday slights (intended or otherwise) that harbor an underlying attitude of racism, sexism or homophobia -- have been making the rounds of college campuses and workplaces." The article explains that microaggressions also occur against elders and need to be included in the national discussion. The article provides 10 examples of microaggressions, including tone of voice, unflattering language and commercials, jokes about elders' lack of technology skills, and professionals talking to the child instead of the elder.
Having students list examples of such microaggressions could be an interesting exercise for a discussion about ageism.
Tuesday, December 29, 2015
An article in the Washington Post shortly before Christmas had me shaking my head at the cluelessness of some employees of nursing homes regarding resident privacy. Nursing home workers have been posting abusive photos of elderly on social media gave me one of those "you have got to be kidding me moments." Maybe it's an age-gap thing, but I just can't fathom why it would be appropriate to post intimate photos of individuals with whose care one is entrusted. The article indicates that this is not a geographically isolated problem:
Nursing home workers across the country are posting embarrassing and dehumanizing photos of elderly residents on social media networks such as Snapchat, violating their privacy, dignity and, sometimes, the law.
ProPublica has identified 35 instances since 2012 in which workers at nursing homes and assisted-living centers have surreptitiously shared photos or videos of residents, some of whom were partially or completely naked. At least 16 cases involved Snapchat, a social media service in which photos appear for a few seconds and then disappear with no lasting record.
The article offers some illustrations of these photos and the remedies available against the perpetrators. The article also notes that not only are those photos invading resident privacy, they serve as evidence of the violations.
The incidents illustrate the emerging threat that social media poses to patient privacy and, at the same time, its powerful potential for capturing transgressions that previously might have gone unrecorded. Abusive treatment is not new at nursing homes. Workers have been accused of sexually assaulting residents, sedating them with antipsychotic drugs and failing to change urine-soaked bedsheets. But the posting of explicit photos is a new type of mistreatment — one that sometimes leaves its own digital trail.
How often is this violation of resident privacy occurring? The article notes that "ProPublica identified incidents by searching government inspection reports, court cases and media reports. [A district attorney in Massachusetts] said she suspects such incidents are underreported, in part because many of the victims have dementia and do not realize what has happened." So far HHS' Office of Civil Rights hasn't sanctioned any nursing homes "for violations involving social media or issued any recommendations to health providers on the topic." The article notes that CMS, in the process of revising the regs dealing with nursing homes, plans to deal with the issue when revising the definitions of various types of elder abuse. Even one of the social media sites referenced in the article expressed concern about the actions of those nursing home employees.
The article summarizes some cases where charges have been filed. Read the story and assign it to your students.
December 29, 2015 in Consumer Information, Crimes, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Other | Permalink | Comments (0)
Monday, December 28, 2015
It's about an elder whose family can't make it home for Christmas and what he does to gather his family. You can watch it here. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V6-0kYhqoRo
The Washington Post ran a story about it. This heartbreaking holiday ad is a powerful reminder of old people’s loneliness.
What do you think of the ad?