Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Choice and Customer Service in Senior Living

My sister and I have been interviewing locations for several weeks as possible residential settings for our mother, especially as she is no longer able to handle the stairs in her two-story home, but feels trapped by not being able to choose on her own where to walk.  We know that the best way to approach this task is in small doses, and to do it before there is an emergency that limits choices.  This is actually our second go-round, as we also did this with Mom when we were looking at a place for Dad almost 5  years ago.  But we have been very struck by the changes in the marketplace in just that short period of time:

  1. There are many new options, both large and small, that have come into being in just the last five or fewer years.  We have looked at "classic" versions of continuing care communities, as well as what I would call "ala carte" pricing options for communities that offer a wide range of care alternatives, but each for a separate, escalating price and with no assurances of a placement. We've looked at both modest settings and high end "assisted living centers" that are so new the paint has not quite dried. But most of all, what we have found ourselves focusing on are smaller group homes, licensed under that state's law for "assisted living," and under that law the care includes almost all necessary care, other than certain so-called skilled services (such as catheters, feeding tubes, or I.V. hydration).  We liked the small group setting because they often were in a neighborhood that would make our mother feel at home, while still offering a purposeful renovation that included carefully designed toilets, showers and flooring for easier movement.  The price range is stunningly broad between these options, too.
  2. Doctors are not always the best advisors on choices.  We have found that even though our mother has a wonderful primary care doctor, and even though that doctor makes it known that most of his patients are older, he did not seem to be aware that there are group home options.  He kept telling us we'd need a "skilled care nursing home."  But, as Mom has a pretty detailed end-of-live directive that rejects feeding tubes, and similar skilled care interventions, it seems clear to us that we can look at a well-run facility licensed for assisted living that will be able to provide appropriate care through her last days.  
  3. A lot of the smaller places are accessed through what I would call "brokers."  When you do internet research, the odds are that your first contacts will be with some kind of "finder."  Most of these are paid by the facilities, rather than the families conducting the searches.  As such, there is the clear potential for them to steer families to "their" facility clients.  I know from insiders in the industry that the fees are often the equivalent of one month's fee at the chosen location.  While not necessarily a negative, as a good broker is only successful if he or she really knows the available inventory of residential options, the fees are something that can dramatically impact smaller group homes that are operating on a narrower margin.

Additional trends we noticed? We discovered that a small group home that appears to be a  "family" operation,  may actually be part of a chain of homes with a single corporate owner.  On the other hand, at several of the places we visited, we learned the owner had recently purchased another house in the same neighborhood, and was in the process of a second renovation.  Also, as for staffing, we noticed that in certain parts of the city, all of the caregivers were immigrants from the same country, whether Poland or Pakistan or elsewhere.  Another reminder that realistic immigration policies are a key component to senior living. 

Finally, probably our strongest reaction was to differences in what can only be called old fashioned "customer service."  One "famous," established  CCRC completely lost our interest when the person at the front desk never made direct eye contact with us, instead keeping one hand on a cell phone and the other hand on a very dirty "wet wipe" she said she was using to clean surfaces because it was "flu season." It didn't help that we went through three different people to find one who could give us a tour during a scheduled visit (the first two were so new they didn't have knowledge of the full campus.) At the smaller group homes, we definitely noticed when the persons we met with greeted current residents by name as they gave us a tour.  Also, did they know the names of their own staff members  -- and did they introduce us to each other?  When a trip hazard was lying in wait on the floor, did they pick it up -- or merely avoid it?  

In addition to asking about staffing ratios and open visiting hours, we wanted to know about how long each of the staff members we met had worked at the particular place.   Finally, our whole family likes dogs and therefore it was a plus when we found a place that had a "house dog" that the residents clearly loved, but we recognize that not every place can handle the extra work it takes to maintain a pet on site.  

A sad irony is that it is unlikely our mother will live in the same care setting that was so perfect for our father.  That place is an assisted living center with four cottages, purpose built for Alzheimer's care, on a five acre setting.  But it has become clear to us that even though Mom was the one who chose it for Dad, and it is a wonderful place, with people we still love, our mother probably doesn't want it for herself.  In the last few months of our father's residence there before his death, she visited less and less often, and we came to realize she had "already" rejected it for herself.  It wasn't about memories of Dad; rather, it was about what it meant to "also" have the same cognitive impairment.  The director, who has become a good friend of mine, said that is not unusual -- that even successful residential settings are rarely chosen by families for second or third placements because the next loved one can be hypersensitive to the reality of that choice.  Senior care living -- a tough business in which to generate repeat business. 

January 16, 2018 in Advance Directives/End-of-Life, Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (1)

Monday, January 15, 2018

Filial Friday on Monday: PA Supreme Court Agrees to Hear Further Appeal of "Reverse" Filial Support Case

Regular readers of this Blog will remember that we have been following the case of Melmark Inc. v. Schutt, wherein a residential facility for disabled children and adults in Pennsylvania, has sought to hold 70+ year-old New Jersey parents liable for approximately 13 months of care the facility provided for their autistic adult son after New Jersey stopped public payments for his support.  The parents were successful at the trial and intermediate courts of appeal in Pennsylvania, arguing that New Jersey, not Pennsylvania law controlled the issue of any filial obligation.  Pennsylvania statutory law imposes liability on certain family members, without regard to age, to cover costs of care provided to "indigent" children or parents, while New Jersey's filial support statute limits obligations for older adults, for "any person 55 years or over," to support for minor children or spouses.  See N.J.S.A. Section 44:1-140(c) (Relatives Chargeable).   The unpaid costs in question totaled more than $200,000, before the Melmark took it upon itself to take the son back to New Jersey, dropping him off at a local hospital.

On December 26, 2017, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court granted the facility's request for further appeal on the following issues:

1. Whether the Superior Court erred as a matter of law in finding that New Jersey’s filial support statute, rather than Pennsylvania’s, applied
in this matter where there is no conflict between the New Jersey statute and Pennsylvania’s statute under the facts of this case?


2. Whether the Superior Court erred in finding that New Jersey has a greater interest in the application of its filial support statute where, inter alia, all of the relevant contacts, with the exception of the residency of Respondents Clarence and Barbara Schutt, are with Pennsylvania; where the Schutts took affirmative actions to keep their highly disabled son in a Pennsylvania nonprofit residential and therapeutic institution, Petitioner Melmark, Inc., with the avowed aim of Melmark funding his care for his “entire life,” including manipulating the Pennsylvania and New Jersey legal systems to prevent his return to New Jersey; and where the Superior Court’s decision results in Melmark being entirely uncompensated for providing an extended period of vital, intensive care for the Schutts’ son?


3. Whether the Superior Court erred in finding that the lower court properly denied relief on Melmark's claims for quantum meruit and unjust enrichment? 

I've been teaching Conflicts of Law for many years and I actually used a variation on this problem for the final exam in my Fall 2017 course.  As was true in the lower courts in the Melmark case, most of my students came to the conclusion that under the forum's choice of law rules, the state with the most substantial relationship to the issue of parental liability for statutory support was the state where the parents and son were residents, here New Jersey.  

My best guess is that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court may go more deeply into  the common law claims for "quantum meruit and unjust enrichment" (which in Pennsylvania are usually treated as alternative names for the same causes of action, sometimes termed "quasi-contract" claims). 

As I've been saying for months now, this is a tough case for everyone.  

January 15, 2018 in Current Affairs, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicaid, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

MN Concerns SNF Penalty Rollback Affects Efforts to Fight Elder Abuse

We reported recently that the administration has decided to take a step back from the imposition of penalties vs. nursing homes.  The StarTribune ran a story that Minnesota officials have concerns that this step back will harm their efforts to fight elder abuse. U.S. easing of nursing home penalties could imperil Minnesota's crackdown on elder abuse notes that "[t]he federal move also comes as Gov. Mark Dayton has pledged tougher action against elder abuse and has promised improvements to the state’s troubled system for investigating and responding to allegations of maltreatment in senior homes." The article reminds readers of a five-part series that the paper had run back in November of 2017 that focused on the state's handling of elder abuse cases. The series was the catalyst for the Minnesota Governor's creation of "a working group to review state oversight of senior care homes and transferred some enforcement authority from the Health Department to the Department of Human Services, which has more resources." The state's acting Commissioner of health has taken steps to attack the backlog of those elder abuse cases pending investigation by increasing staff and moving away from paper records.   The article also offers some comments from those who support the step back from the use of penalties.

 

January 9, 2018 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)

MN Concerns SNF Penalty Rollback Affects Efforts to Fight Elder Abuse

We reported recently that the administration has decided to take a step back from the imposition of penalties vs. nursing homes.  The StarTribune ran a story that Minnesota officials have concerns that this step back will harm their efforts to fight elder abuse. U.S. easing of nursing home penalties could imperil Minnesota's crackdown on elder abuse notes that "[t]he federal move also comes as Gov. Mark Dayton has pledged tougher action against elder abuse and has promised improvements to the state’s troubled system for investigating and responding to allegations of maltreatment in senior homes." The article reminds readers of a five-part series that the paper had run back in November of 2017 that focused on the state's handling of elder abuse cases. The series was the catalyst for the Minnesota Governor's creation of "a working group to review state oversight of senior care homes and transferred some enforcement authority from the Health Department to the Department of Human Services, which has more resources." The state's acting Commissioner of health has taken steps to attack the backlog of those elder abuse cases pending investigation by increasing staff and moving away from paper records.   The article also offers some comments from those who support the step back from the use of penalties.

 

January 9, 2018 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, January 8, 2018

Florida Nursing Homes and Emergency Generators

Here's an update on this issue in Florida.  The Florida legislature opens its 2018 session on January 9, 2018 and one of the issues on the legislative agenda is whether to legislatively require nursing homes to have generators and enough fuel to power them for a certain length of time during an emergency.  In addition, concerning the Florida administrative agency's proposed rules on requiring emergency generators (the Governor's emergency administrative order was struck by an ALJ): the ALJ has scheduled a hearing over three days (January 17, 19 and 24, 2018).

Although this issue Florida resulted from Hurricane Irma, it's worth watching.  Emergency generators can be important beyond just hurricane-prone states. Consider the recent winter storm Grayson that was described as a "bomb cyclone". The storm resulted in power outages for many, so it's not too far a stretch to recognize that emergency generators could come in handy beyond Florida. Stay warm!

January 8, 2018 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Health Care/Long Term Care, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (1)

The Challenge of Finding Safe & Effective Pain-Killers for Older Adults

Over the holidays, unfortunately I had the experience of learning more about how older consumers struggle to understand what safe and effective treatments are available.  In this instance, my mother, in her 90s, was experiencing overwhelming back pain.   She has a long-history of osteoporosis (and it runs in the family on the female side, so my sister and I pay particular attention to this issue!) and in the last few weeks without any known "accident," she had begun to find it almost impossible to walk without pain.  She's not the complaining type, and, having been raised by parents who were Christian Scientists, she tends to follow a "mind over matter" approach to this kind of problem.  But, by Sunday last week, it was no longer possible to pretend she wasn't deeply uncomfortable.

We began another health care odyssey.  Some of the steps we had already learned from past "holiday" experiences with my parents, including calling the "non-emergency" 911 number to get an experienced EMT evaluation of her status in the home, and, if necessary, a transport from her home to the emergency room.  Then, recognizing that New Year's Eve is probably not the best night (if such a thing even exists) to spend in the local hospital's ER, we decided to go early in the morning.  

Five hours after our arrival in the ER, we left with a new "LSO" back brace, instructions on how to use it, and prescriptions for a different walker and a new pain medication.  On the latter point, we informed the ER physician of the fact Mom had not done well on narcotic pain relievers in the past ("why are those ants crawling on the walls") but we were told the drug prescribed was like a very strong Ibuprofen, but in a formulation that would not interact with the blood thinner she was on or her pacemaker.

We duly stopped at the pharmacy on the way home, and I signed my life away in order to pick up her prescription as she was unable to walk in to get it herself.  When we got home,  there were two documents in the bag with the prescription, including what I would call a typical "product insert" that looks like a page from the Physician's Desk Reference and a second sheet entitled "Directions for Use."  The top of the instructions warned, "This is a narcotic drug and not recommended for the relief of pain in...."  And then the list of disqualifying conditions included at least 3 of my mother's age-related conditions.  Yikes!  

My sister and I are  not usually intimidated by product inserts, but here the instructions seemed directly at odds with our concerns about narcotics for mom.  Everything we found on the internet only made us more confused and worried.  

By this time it was late on New Year's Eve, her pain was increasing, and we knew we couldn't persuade her to go back to the ER and her primary care physician wasn't on call.  The bottle said "every 6 hours."  The ER physician had orally told us "every 6 to 8 hours," and finally we knew we had no choice -- her pain was real and we started using it at 12 hour intervals, gradually moving down to 8 hour intervals before she seemed to have real relief.  It was another 5 days before her very kind primary care physician could squeeze us in for an appointment to have a more complete conversation -- and the good news is that we are now more comfortable about a longer range plan.

So on the heels of that multi-day experience, I was very interested in an article I spotted for my airplane trip home to Pennsylvania from Arizona. Phoenix Magazine had a detailed feature story in their January 2018 issue on "Pharma Chameleon," reporting on the arrest for fraud and racketeering charges of INSYS  Therapeutics founder, a "billionaire executive" in Phoenix, well-known for his work on painkiller medicines.  The history of this executive has nothing to do with my mother's pain relief medicine, but it was definitely a reminder that the pharmaceutical industry is deeply involved in pursuit of the "next" generation of painkillers.  And, of course, this article contrasts with the recent news that a different drug company is dropping R & D for a dementia drug.  Pain-killers are still "in," and dementia drugs apparently are "out."  

So, I recommend the Phoenix Magazine article!  I was particularly struck by this paragraph:    

In November, Kapoor [the Phoenix-based INSYS executive arrested by the feds] pleaded not guilty to all charges and is currently awaiting trial, along with the six other former executives, who pleaded not guilty last January. All have severed ties with INSYS, which continues to do business. In July, it received FDA approval for a new drug, Syndros, a synthetic form of THC, the psychoactive component found in cannabis, to treat chemotherapy-induced nausea and loss of appetite in AIDS patients. As it did with Subsys, the company is looking into ways to manufacture the drug as a sublingual spray. Under Kapoor, the company donated $500,000 to the effort to defeat the measure to legalize marijuana for recreational use on Arizona’s 2016 general election ballot, paving the way for the synthetic substitute.

January 8, 2018 in Consumer Information, Crimes, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Ethical Issues, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Science, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Emergency Preparedness Legislation

The National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care sent an email that emergency preparedness legislation was introduced at the end of 2017.  According to the email the bill was introduced by Florida Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz and Michigan Congressman Walberg. The bill, H.R. 4704, available here, is intended to incorporate the "emergency preparedness final rule for skilled nursing facilities and nursing facilities as conditions of participation under the Medicare and Medicaid programs, and for other purposes" into the U.S. Code. The bill would amend the Medicare and Medicaid statutes to require SNFs  and NFs by requiring alternative energy sources (for example, generators and adequate fuel to power them) for 96 hours post-disaster. Sanctions for non-compliance are monetary penalties, including increased penalties if a resident dies as a result of the facility's non-compliance. The bill includes a loan provision and a prioritization plan.

In addition to this federal legislation, Florida is also going to take up the issue of making backup generators mandatory in its 2018legislation session.

Stay tuned.

 

The bill, H.R. 4704, the Nursing Home Comfortable Air Ready for Emergencies (CARE) Act, would:

  • Codify the federal Emergency Preparedness rule that went into effect November 15, 2017 for nursing homes.
  • Mandate that facilities have in place an alternate source of energy capable of powering heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems following a natural disaster for at least 96 hours.
  • Increase civil money penalties for facilities found out of compliance with CMS Requirements of Participation, including authorizing civil monetary penalties up to $100,000 for non-compliance resulting in a resident’s death.
  • Direct the Secretary of HHS to review facilities based on the Emergency Preparedness (EP) rule and publish the findings on the Nursing Home Compare website.
  • Create a loan fund for smaller facilities, or those serving more low-income residents, to come into compliance. Facilities must have a monthly rate of less than $6,000 for private rooms, or have fewer than 50 beds, to qualify.
  • Require states to prioritize nursing homes in the same manner as hospitals are prioritized in All-Hazards Public Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Plans, and to include in those plans information on how utilities plan to ensure that nursing homes return to functioning as soon as practicable following a disaster.

January 3, 2018 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicaid, Medicare, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink

Friday, December 22, 2017

Florida WINGS Project-Florida Guardianship Law

For those of you from Florida, The Florida Supreme Court’s Guardianship Workgroup and Florida’s Working Interdisciplinary Networks of Guardianship Stakeholders (WINGS) will be holding a public hearing on Thursday, February 1, 2018 at the Orange County Courthouse from 4-7 p.m.  The courthouse address is 425 North Orange Avenue, and the hearing will take place in  Suite 180.  According to the announcement

Members of the public will be able to share their concerns about guardianship and to identify possible solutions for those concerns. This event will help the Guardianship Workgroup and Florida’s WINGS advance guardianship reforms and increase the effectiveness of Florida’s guardianship systems.... Speakers are asked to address one of two questions: [1] If you could make one change in Florida’s guardianship system, what would it be? OR ... [2] How can courts improve their processes to better ensure protection of the person, property, and rights of individuals who are under guardianship or who need assistance making decisions? Comments should be succinct. A time limit will be imposed.

There are other ways to make your voice heard. Another public input event will take place in February in Central Florida. Comments may also be submitted through the WINGS website: https://flwings.flcourts.org/.

The website also has a link to a 29 question survey about Florida guardianship law.  Folks can also submit comments online from the link here.

 

 

 

December 22, 2017 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Health Care/Long Term Care, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Planning for Workshop on Physician-Aided Death

The National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine released information about planning for a workshop Physician-Assisted Death: Scanning the Landscape and Potential Approaches - A Workshop

The 2014 case of Brittany Maynard, a 29-year old woman suffering from terminal brain cancer who made public her desire to have an option to end her life through medication, brought to the forefront of the public eye the age-old question of whether terminally ill patients should have access to a physician's assistance to hasten death. To gain the option, Ms. Maynard relocated from California to Oregon, where a "death with dignity" law has been in effect for nearly 20 years. More recently, five jurisdictions (California, Colorado, District of Columbia, Vermont, and Washington) have legalized physician-assisted death, and physician-assisted death is also legal in one state (Montana) by virtue of a ruling of that state's Supreme Court. The question of whether and under what circumstances terminally ill patients can access life-ending medications with the aid of a physician is receiving increasing attention as a matter of public opinion and of public policy. Ethicists, clinicians, patients and their families debate whether physician-assisted death ought to be a legal option for patients. While public opinion is divided, and public policy debates include moral, ethical, and policy considerations, a demand for physician-assisted death still persists among some patients, and the inconsistent legal terrain leaves a number of questions and challenges for health care providers to navigate when presented with these patients. The Board on Health Sciences Policy of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine will convene an ad hoc committee to plan a workshop that will explore current practices and challenges associated with physician-assisted death, and highlight potential approaches for addressing those challenges.

Stay tuned for more info.

December 7, 2017 in Advance Directives/End-of-Life, Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Health Care/Long Term Care, Programs/CLEs, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

When a Tattoo is an Advance Directive?

I've told my students urban myths before about a tattooed advance directive and use that story to talk about the requirements for making a valid directive. So I was interested in reading the article about the DNR tattoo. Health News Florida ran the story, Did 'Do Not Resuscitate' Tattoo Reflect Patient's True Wish?  reports the story of a patient at Jackson Memorial in Miami with a DNR tattoo.  A tattoo presents some significant ethical questions for doctors. As this story reflects, the immediate questions are "is it legal and ... is it truly the man's wishes,"  In this case the patient presented at the ER alone with no ID  and no family were reachable. Taking this to the hospital ethics committee, the committee ultimately determined this was a valid expression of the patient's directions.  In this case, the tattoo contained the patient's signature. The Atlantic also ran a story, What to Do When a Patient Has a 'Do Not Resuscitate' Tattoo which reports a split of opinions from experts regarding whether the hospital should honor the tattoo. One expert offers

It’s the discussion that matters, not the words on the form (or the tattoo), says Joan Teno from the University of Washington, who studies end-of-life wishes. And in many cases, those discussions don’t happen, or aren’t respected. In a study of bereaved family members, she found that one in 10 say that something was done in the last month of a patient’s life that went against their wishes. “The fact that someone has to resort to a tattoo to have their wishes honored is a sad indictment of our medical system,” Teno says. “We need to create systems of care where patients have the trust and confidence that their wishes will be honored. That’s the important message from this case.”

 Note to readers: republished to correct typo. Note to self-don't post with head cold.

 

 

 

December 6, 2017 in Advance Directives/End-of-Life, Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Health Care/Long Term Care, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (1)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More on Nursing Home Issues

There have been a spate of articles of late regarding various issues surrounding nursing homes, and to some extent ALFs, arising from the hurricanes that hit Florida, Puerto Rico and Texas this past summer.  For example, Health News Florida reported that ALFs in Florida were facing a whopping $280 million for generators, Assisted Living Facilities Face $280 Million Tab For Generators     resulted from a cost estimate from Florida's Department of Elder Affairs, which "published a summary of the estimated regulatory costs on Wednesday after it received a three-page letter from the Joint Administrative Procedures Committee flagging potential problems with the proposed rule, initially published on Nov. 14. The estimated costs were published in the Florida Administrative Register."  The Florida Governor had issued an emergency rule shortly after Irma and the agency has now released a permanent rule to replace the emergency rule.  It looks as though there are over 4,500 ALFs in Florida, so it's understandable how the cost of compliance would reach that estimate. 

Meanwhile, Health News Florida was also reporting that the cost of generators for nursing homes is less than that estimate for ALFs but still high-$186 million high. Nursing Home Generator Costs Estimated At $186 Million     explains this figure, again an estimate, again resulted from the new rule with the total based on "estimates on information provided from the nursing home industry, which said the costs for a generator at a 120-bed facility would be $315,200. Using those figures, [the Florida Agency] estimated the average cost per bed at $2,626.66."

Then there's the story about the plan to recycle Rx meds from Pro Publica that Health News Florida picked up, More States Hatch Plans to Recycle Drugs Being Wasted in Nursing Homes     explains "how the nursing home industry dispenses medication a month at a time, but then is forced to destroy it after patients pass away, stop using it or move out. Some send the drugs to massive regional incinerators or flush them down the toilet, creating environmental concerns." Although there are a few programs to "recycle", most of the time leftover drugs are destroyed, some by flushing and others by incinerating.  Although in many states, donations of drugs is possible, the story explains "[m]any states ... don’t have programs that get the drugs safely from nursing homes to those who need them."

December 6, 2017 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicaid, Medicare, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (1)

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Your Digital Property

Our friend and colleague, Professor Naomi Cahn at GW Law, sent us a link to a story published in Slate. The Digital Afterlife Is a Mess recounts the tangle created by the number of accounts a person may have, knotted up by company policies and wrapped around various laws.

Today’s world is different. Many of us have chosen to go paperless, so all of our financial statements are delivered electronically; we even file digital tax returns. Our love letters may no longer be written in ink on paper, our reading and listening and viewing interests no longer documented by hardcover books and magazines, record albums, and VCR tapes, and our photos no longer stored in boxes under out beds.

So once the digital asset owner dies, how does the executor gain access to these digital assets and further, determine their value, if any?  The article explains the hurdles, including the potential for committing a crime unwittingly by using the decedent's account and password to access digital files.  The article turns to the Uniform Act designed to address this growing problem:  the Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act, Revised, which has been adopted by almost 2/3 of the states.  The Act "allows a fiduciary to manage much of a decedent’s digital property, giving access to many things other than the content of electronic communications (unless this access has been limited by the user or by a court order) and even permitting access to content in certain limited situations." The article explains the 4-tiered system the Act uses for prioritizing and offers practical suggestions such as starting with inventorying your own digital assets, subscribing to an online account management program,  and include coverage of digital assets in estate planning documents.

December 5, 2017 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Estates and Trusts, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Property Management, State Statutes/Regulations, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (1)

Monday, December 4, 2017

Growth of Mediation Programs in Orphans' and Probate Courts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 1, 2017

More on Nursing Homes and Disasters

We've been blogging about the fire at the SNF in Pennsylvania and the SNF in Florida during Irma.  Here's an update on the Florida SNF in South Florida. Health News Florida reports that 12 of the 14 deaths are being classified as homicides. 12 Of 14 Nursing Home Deaths After Irma Ruled Homicides  reports that

Authorities say the deaths of 12 of the 14 Florida nursing home patients who died after Hurricane Irma have been ruled homicides.

The Sun Sentinel reports that autopsy results from the Broward County medical examiner's office were released Wednesday.

No arrests have been made. Police spokeswoman Miranda Grossman says the investigation will continue and part of that will be determining who should be charged.

The article also notes that 2 deaths have been determined not to be related from the lack of air conditioning or electricity.

December 1, 2017 in Consumer Information, Crimes, Current Affairs, Federal Cases, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, November 30, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continue reading

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

Monday, November 20, 2017

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Philly Area Nursing Home Fire's First Lessons

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 17, 2017

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

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

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

From one early news account: 

https://youtu.be/8UhX3Bo93Og

 

 

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

Nursing Homes & Emergency Generators-Round One Goes to the SNFs

Recall that I had previously blogged about the impact of Irma on some nursing homes and how the Florida Governor had issued an emergency administrative rule requiring nursing homes to have emergency generators. The suit brought by facilities challenging the rule wasn't a particular surprise. The judge assigned the case ruled in late October in favor of the facilities. As reported in an article in the Wall Street Journal, the judge  "ruled against state efforts to force elder-care facilities to rapidly upgrade their generators by mid-November, siding with industry groups that argued the state’s time demands were unrealistic."  Florida Judge Rules Against Emergency Nursing-Home Generator Measures notes that in the lengthy opinion, the ALJ  explains “it is impossible for the vast majority of nursing homes” and assisted-living facilities to comply with the orders by the deadline."  The Governor's office indicated that it would appeal while also working with the Florida legislature regarding bills filed on this issue.  The article notes some facilities are already in compliance and that the objection was more about the timeline than the requirement.  Stay tuned....

 

 

November 17, 2017 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Health Care/Long Term Care, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)