Wednesday, August 12, 2015
The Pew Research Center released a map showing the aging of America by county. Where do the oldest Americans live? provides a map of the U.S. that shows the percentage of a county's population 65 and older. As the website explains, due to the aging of the Boomers and increased longevity,
more counties across America are graying. A new Pew Research Center analysis of the Census Bureau’s 2014 population estimates finds that 97% of counties saw an increase in their 65-and-older population since 2010.
On average, a U.S. county’s 65-and-older population grew by 12.4% from 2010 to 2014. (Our analysis of population change over time included only counties or county equivalents with a population of 1,000 or more adults ages 65 and older in 2014.)
And yes, Florida is still one of the "grayest" states, with 3 Florida counties ranking in the top 4 of the grayest counties. The report notes as well that some states are getting "younger" with
a tiny share of counties (3%) saw a drop in the 65-and-older demographic since 2010. Oklahoma’s small Alfalfa County, on the Kansas border, had the highest rate of decrease in the 65-and-older population, at 9.5%... North Dakota ... had two counties, Williams and Wells, rank among the top five for rate of decrease of adults 65 and older. Three counties experienced no change since 2010... Alaska is the “youngest” state based on its share that is 65 and older (9.4%). Fully 26 of 29 Alaska counties have percentages of people 65 and older that fall below the U.S. average.
Monday, August 10, 2015
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)
Monday, July 27, 2015
Law Reform: A Proposed Remedy for "Deeply Toxic" Damage to Higher Ed Caused by Abolition of Mandatory Retirement
Bentley University Professors Beverley Earle and Marianne Delbo Kulow have a nicely provocative article in the Spring 2015 issue of the Southern California Interdisciplinary Law Journal, titled The "Deeply Toxic" Damage Caused by the Abolition of Mandatory Retirement and its Collision with Tenure in Higher Education: A Proposal for Statutory Repair. From the introduction:
There are very few positions that offer the level of protection that tenure does. One such position is a federal judgeship, which is distinguishable because of the very public nature of the work. If a judge performs inadequately, community backlash may quickly develop that could usher in a publicly coerced retirement. For example, a state judge, who recently gave a lenient sentence to a convicted rapist of a minor who committed suicide, has announced his retirement following pubic outrage.Tenured faculty members, unlike judges, labor in the relative isolation of the classroom, where feedback comes at the end of the semester and then only via student evaluations. This creates the first of two problems for higher education in the United States stemming from the abolition of mandatory retirement: the difficulty of removing a tenured professor for poor performance.
In most universities, only egregiously poor performance by a tenured professor is flagged for termination; outdated, boring, or barely adequate, teaching may not sufficiently stand out to warrant a more intense review. There is also a slow feedback loopdue to minimal, if any, post-tenure peer classroom evaluations and skepticism about student evaluations of teaching. Therefore, often many semesters pass before there is sufficient evidence to persuade a professor or her superiors that the tenured professor's employment status should be reevaluated. Inadequacies in scholarship can be even more difficult to discern, given the common time lag between research and publication, as well as the variations between disciplines in frequency, length, and format of publications.
The second distinct challenge faced by higher education caused by the coupling of the abolition of mandatory retirement with the institution of tenure is the prospect of stagnant departments: no new faculty may be hired because there are no vacancies....
The authors' proposed reforms include "expiration" of tenure for professors reaching age 70, while permitting continued employment opportunities on the same evaluative standards as non-tenured faculty.
Wednesday, July 22, 2015
The Associated Press and the NORC Center for Public Affairs Research are doing a series of polls on Americans' experiences and views of long-term care. As described on the website, the AP-NORC "is undertaking a series of major studies on the public’s experiences with, and opinions and attitudes about, long-term care in the United States."
Demographic projections show the population age 65 and over nearly doubling by the time the last baby boomers have reached 65. Specifically, while seniors made up only 12 percent of the U.S. population in 2000, they are expected to comprise about 22 percent by 2040, with roughly 82 million Americans over the age of 65. How to plan for and finance high quality long-term care will remain a key policy question for lawmakers in the years to come.
The AP-NORC Center, with funding from the SCAN Foundation, is conducting annual nationally representative surveys of Americans age 40 and older to monitor a series of long-term care issues. Future studies will continue to examine awareness of older Americans' understanding of the long-term care system, their perceptions and misperceptions regarding the likelihood of needing long-term care services and the cost of those services, and their attitudes and behaviors regarding planning for long-term care.
The results from 5 polls, ranging from 2013 to 2015 can be accessed here. The most recent poll, conducted in April-May, 2015, focuses on Long-Term Care in America: Americans’ Outlook and Planning for Future Care which "explores new issues, including person-centered care experiences, the role of private health insurance plans in financing long-term care, and the special challenges faced by those who provide ongoing living assistance to elderly loved ones while also providing financial support to children. At the same time, the survey continues to track long-term care attitudes and planning behaviors." A quick take away summary from this
Five Things You Should Know From The AP-NORC Center’s Long-Term Care Poll Among adults age 40 and older:
- Nearly 1 in 10 are both supporting a child and providing ongoing living assistance for a loved one.
- Only a third say they are very or extremely confident in their ability to pay for ongoing living assistance they may need in the future.
- 54 percent report doing little or no planning for these needs.
- 1 in 5 do not know if private health insurance plans cover ongoing care in a nursing home, and over a quarter do not know if Medicare does.
- Majorities support a variety of policy options that would help Americans finance long-term care.
Wednesday, July 15, 2015
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."
Monday, July 13, 2015
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.
Thursday, July 9, 2015
In Alzheimer's Spurs the Fearful to Change Their Lives to Delay It, Washington Post writer Fredrick Kunklen details various ways that individuals and groups are working to buy more time from genetic profiles or family histories that suggest a greater likelihood of dementia:
When Jamie Tyrone found out that she carries a gene that gives her a 91 percent chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease beginning around age 65, she sank into a depression so deep that at times she wanted to end her life.
Then she decided to fight back. She exercised. She changed her diet. She began taking nutritional supplements, including fish oil, vitamin D, vitamin B12, curcumin, turmeric and an antioxidant called CoQ10. She started meditating and working mind-bending puzzles, such as Brain HQ. She joined a health clinic whose regimen is shaped by a UCLA medical study on lifestyle changes that can reverse memory loss in people with symptoms of dementia. She started a nonprofit group, Beating Alzheimer’s By Embracing Science (BABES), to raise money and awareness about dementia.
“I found my voice,” said Tyrone, 54, a registered nurse who lives in San Diego.
Here is the link to "BABES" for those who want to read more about that group.
Friday, June 19, 2015
The Spring 2015 issue of the ABA publication Law & Social Inquiry has a great symposium review section offering a broad array of essays, commenting on Hendrik Hartog's important book Someday All this Will Be Yours: A History of Inheritance and Old Age (Harvard University Press: 2012).
The impressive list of contributors includes:
- Naomi Cahn (George Washington Law), Continuity and Caregiving: Comments on Someday All This Will Be Yours
- Mary Anne Case (University of Chicago Law), When Someday is Today: Carrying Forward the History of Old Age and Inheritance into the Age of Medicaid
- Nina A. Kohn (Syracuse Law), The Nasty Business of Aging
- Dorothy E. Roberts (University of Pennsylvania Law), Race, Care Work, and the Private Law of Inheritance
Plus, historian Hendrik Hartog provides his own commentary and response!
- Hendrik Hartog (Princeton), Somedays I Have Second Thoughts.
Suffice it to say if you appreciated Hartog's book, you will thoroughly enjoy his additional musings on how he came to write it and what it might mean for the future.
The comments are engaging and relatively brief -- but should still keep you busy on a summer weekend.
June 19, 2015 in Books, Cognitive Impairment, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Discrimination, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Property Management, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations, Statistics | Permalink | Comments (0)
Tuesday, June 16, 2015
During the last two years I have had the fascinating opportunity to work on two major studies of laws and government policies affecting older persons and their families in Northern Ireland, studies initiated by the Commissioner for Older People for Northern Ireland (COPNI). The earlier study looked at safeguarding systems. Now the second study has been made public, with Northern Ireland Commissioner Claire Keatinge using the work to recommend major reforms of Adult Social Care laws in her country. The formal launch of her "call for change" occurred on June 16 in Belfast.
Two of my four research colleagues, Dr. Joe Duffy (far left, who led the research team) and Dr. Gavin Davidson, (far right) both of Queens University Belfast, were present for the launch, with Joe giving introductory remarks to the audience of government officials and community stakeholders. The fourth member of our team is Dr. Subhajit Basu of the University of Leeds in England. Our research evaluated government policies and law in more than ten nations, looking for legal trends, best practices and cutting edge social care programs.
Significantly, in addition to recommending a comprehensive legislative framework and funding structure to coordinate services for all adults in need of assistance, one key recommendation announced by Commissioner Keatinge (left center above) and highlighted in our investigative report, is to implement a "Support Visit" for any interested person age 75 years or older, by an appropriately trained health and social care worker. This recommendation, which draws upon Denmark's successful experience with a "preventative home visitor" program, would create an opportunity for a psychosocial dialogue aimed at advance planning. The goal is to help individuals and family members anticipate needs in the event of functional impairment, thus reducing the need for crisis planning.
I've become a big fan of Commissioner Keatinge; she is clear, creative, realistic, and determined to see Northern Ireland become a world leader in recognizing not just the needs but the contributions made by older adults. She does so from a platform of respecting older persons' contributions, citing research to demonstrate that over the next several decades, older adults will contribute more than £25 billion to the Northern Ireland economy through formal work, volunteering, and their roles as caretakers for both adults and children.
It had been an honor for me to work on this social care reform project. The work has given me -- and Dickinson Law students serving as research assistants, Ryan Givens and Tucker Anderson (who used his ability to speak and translate Danish to help in our field research) -- important new perspectives on proactive ways to identify and address potential needs triggered by age-related changes in demographics. Frankly, in the U.S. we spend far more time (and arguably too much time) on issues of medical care. This report is a reminder that many health-care crises could be avoided or mitigated through more proactive implementation of social care networks.For more on the Duffy, Davidson, Basu, Pearson report (June 2015), see Review of Legislation & Policy Guidance Relating to Adult Social Care in Northern Ireland.
For more on Commissioner Claire Keatinge's call for reform, see Commissioner Calls for Overhaul of Adult Social Care.
See here, for more on Denmark's approaches to services, communication and programming for older people.
Special thanks to Ryan and Tucker for their research, proofreading, editing and translation skills!
June 16, 2015 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, International, Retirement, Science, Social Security, Statistics | Permalink | Comments (0)
Wednesday, June 3, 2015
The Employee Benefits Research Institute (EBRI) has released the results of their annual retirement confidence survey. The 2015 Retirement Confidence Survey is available here. There are also 7 fact sheets that highlight specific findings, including caregivers, retirement confidence, changing expectations, preparing for retirement, age comparisons, gender & marital status, and attitudes about Social Security & Medicare.
Friday, May 29, 2015
Light blogging ahead for me, as I will be leaving in a couple of days for my first visit to Cuba, as part of a small Penn State University faculty group. I'm confident I will have plenty of things to do with my time other than searching for an elusive internet café!
Seriously, I'm excited, on a number of levels. First, I lived for several years in a Cuban-immigrant neighborhood in Miami at the end of law school, and many of my fellow judicial clerks and friends were the first generation sons and daughters of Cuban refugees. Second, I've been educated by my Irish friend, Dr. Una Lynch, to appreciate the world-wide significance of the Cuban health care system, and I'm eager to see how they accomplish much with comparatively few resources. Third, my Elder Law colleague, Amos Goodall Esq., State College, PA, has shared great suggestions for art and food. Plus, Attorney Karen Miller (NY and Florida) has shared her contacts with me from her travels and studies about law in Cuba. ¡Gracias a todos!
Here are a couple of items from some of my background reading on Cuba, including health care and aging statistics:
Turning to Cuba, let us examine the possible consequences of the tendency towards population aging that we have described. In the economic field, the consequences include an accelerated demand for the funds to cover social security expenditures. In fact, since 1970 funds budgeted for old-age, disability and death benefits have quintupled. National budget expenditures for social security are higher than those of any other sector (e.g. education, health, defense, etc.) (Cuban National Statistics Office, 1999 "c").
At the same time, as the average age of Cuba's workforce increases over the coming years, we will see a deficit of workers for labor requiring greater physical effort, especially for agriculture, construction and industry, among others. Consequently, the main economic difficulty Cuba faces today-as it did during the colonial period and at the beginning of the 20th century-is an insufficient workforce.
From Aging in Cuba, Realities and Challenges, byAlberta Duran Gondar and Ernesto Chavez Negrin.
During her recent visit to Havana in July of 2014, Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), impressed by the country's achievements in this field, praised the Cuban health care system: "Cuba is the only country that has a health care system closely linked to research and development. This is the way to go, because human health can only improve through innovation," She also praised "the efforts of the country's leadership for having made health an essential pillar of development."
Thursday, May 28, 2015
In the PBS documentary airing in May and June, Caring for Mom & Dad, the second half of the program focuses on policy initiatives to support services for older adults. One interesting highlight is Ohio's use of local property tax levies that directly supplement senior services. Begun in the early 1980s as a referendum initiative in just one county, similar programs have been adopted by voters in counties or municipalities in more than 70 of Ohio's 88 counties. That is an amazing history, especially given the usual hostilities about "new" taxes. Voters appear to recognize that the levies permit unique flexibility to design programs that meet the needs of their community's seniors, whether in rural or urban areas, such as transportation services or home care subsidies. The revenue now generated in Ohio, more than $125 million per year, exceeds federal grant funding under the Older Americans Act nationally.
Ohio's inspiring "Lady of the Levy," Lois Dale Brown, is mentioned in the PBS documentary, and she's profiled, along with additional details about the senior service levies, on the Ohio Department of Aging's website.
As a reminder, WPSU-TV is airing Caring for Mom & Dad at 8 p.m. this evening in Pennsylvania, followed by a one hour "Conversations Live" open to incoming calls, texts and emails. Details available here.
May 28, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Film, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, State Statutes/Regulations, Statistics | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Wednesday, May 27, 2015
In my preparation for an upcoming talk show on WPSU on "Caring for Mom & Dad," I had the incentive to get to my stack of "must read" books to focus on The Aging of Dignity: Preparing for the Elder Boom in a Changing America, by Ai-Jen Poo (New Press 2015). What I very much like about this book is the broad lens it brings to aging demographics, focusing not on "burdens" but on "opportunities" to be a more productive, healthy society by dealing realistically with the need for both professional caregivers and family caregivers. Ai-Jen Poo writes:
Aging at home necessitates home care workers. Yet the 3 million people currently in the home care workforce cannot meet even the current need, let alone the demand for care that will accompany the elder boom. We will need at least 1.8 million additional home care workers in the next decade. As a result, care giving, specifically home care, is the fastest growing of all occupations in the nation....
With some course corrections in our culture and in our institutions, we can have the care infrastructure that will enable us to live our full potential. . . . The moral of this story is that a caring America is entirely within reach.
Not surprisingly, given her inspiring call for action, Ai-Jen Poo was a MacArthur "genius" grant recipient in 2014. She is one of the commentators on Caring for Mom & Dad, and in Pennsylvania, she will be part of our panel for WPSU's Conversations Live following the airing of the documentary on Thursday, May 28. The documentary is at 8 p.m., and the audience can "call-in, e-mail or text-in"beginning at 9 p.m. More details and links available here about the documentary and schedules here.
May 27, 2015 in Consumer Information, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Ethical Issues, Grant Deadlines/Awards, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicaid, Medicare, Statistics, Television | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Tuesday, May 26, 2015
Here is an interesting item from a recent Senior Care Investor News, published by Irving Levin & Associates:
"The rise in acuity in post-acute care is certainly having its impact in the skilled nursing M&A market. Historically, the range in price per bed for skilled nursing facilities has been approximately $100,00 to $125,000 per bed, according to the 2015 Senior Care Acquisition Report. Every year, there are always sales between $10,000 and $20,000 per bed, with the occasional sale below $10,000 per bed. And there have always been sales above $100,000. But in 2014, while the low price was a typical $9,000 per bed, the high was an astounding $268,500 per bed, resulting in a spread of $259,500. There was also a record number of deals valued over $100,000 per bed, with 19 transactions, which just goes to show the rise in acuity is pushing up prices across the board."
What would be driving the market for "skilled" beds to a higher figure, especially given the continued dependence on Medicaid as the primary payer for skilled care, combined with the fact that Medicaid pays below (and arguably significantly below) actual costs of skilled care? This market data seems illogical to me, and I'm sure I'm missing something.
Monday, May 18, 2015
Publically-traded Brookdale Senior Living, founded in 1978, has grown to become the largest owner and operator of "senior living" communities in the U.S., including for-profit continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs). Thus, it is good to keep an eye on the finances of Brookdale for those of us interested in the long-term financial health of CCRCs and other senior housing options.
Steve Monroe at Irving Levin Associates notes that Brookdale "was no different than the rest of the market, posting sharp drops in first quarter occupancy" for 2015:
"The legacy Emeritus [a component of Brookdale, following a 2014 merger] properties posted a 110 basis point decline from the fourth quarter of 2014, and a whopping 200 basis point decline from a year ago. The legacy Brookdale properties dropped 80 basis points sequentially and 110 basis points from a year ago. This was not good news, but not unexpected. Oddly enough, the legacy Brookdale properties had a 250 basis point increase in community operating margin to 35.2% despite the occupancy declines. The Emeritus properties had a 90 basis point sequential drop in margin, which makes more sense."
How do you achieve a significant increase in "operating margin" despite "occupancy declines?" A good question to ponder. Steve Monroe continues: "The reasons for the legacy Brookdale improvement were a combination of cost controls and more pricing flexibility. Move-ins have been increasing, which is great, but 'cost controls' always make me nervous, especially with the current acuity creep. Stay tuned."
The reference to "acuity creep" is to the increase in average age and frailty of new residents, compared with past years (especially before the financial crisis of 2008-10). This trend impacts CCRCs in several ways, both in terms of market appeal to healthier potential residents, and operating costs tied to an earlier need for higher levels of care. An additional question may be whether low interest rates have supported a bubble in certain segments of senior housing despite the softer occupancy rates, and whether an eventual return to higher capitalization rates will result in lower values and additional consequences.
Along that same line, the Philadelphia Inquirer published a recent article in their "retirement" news edition, noting "Continuing-Care Retirement Community Choice Requires Diligence," by Harold Brubaker, with tips on what to ask if you are a consumer considering a CCRC option.
Monday, May 4, 2015
The Employee Benefits Research Institute (EBRI) recently published an interesting examination of financial situations of older Americans at the end of their lives. The report documents:
- the percentage of households with a member who recently died "with few or no assets,"
- the continued importance of Social Security for older households,
- the potential importance of "big data" analytics "to determine how people behave when it comes to health and retirement plans," including the potential to "get better results at lower cost," and
- the fact that the "health sector is considerably farther down the road than the retirement sector in using data analytics in benefits plan design and management."
Wednesday, April 29, 2015
After my blog piece earlier this week about "elder guardianship" concerns in Florida, I've received communications about similar concerns in other states, including Nevada.
According to a report by Contact 13 (ABC affiliate), on April 21 Commissioners in Clark County (Las Vegas area) conducted a "first-of-its-kind" hearing on alleged guardianship abuses that were described by some as "appalling, frightening and plagued by problems." At the heart of the complaints by individuals and family members was frequent court appointment of "private guardians" rather than family members, and an alleged absence of notice to family members about court hearings. A "blue ribbon" panel or expert may be appointed to audit Clark County's court-supervised guardianships. A recent statement by the Chief Judge for the district court, set forth in full on the Contact 13 website, pledges the court's commitment to "ensuring clarity and instilling public trust in the process of handling guardianship cases.
According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the Chief Judge's response follows a series of stories by the Review-Journal about "thousands of elderly and mentally ill in Clark County open to exploitation."
As reported by the Las Vegas media, the problems reported in Nevada are not unique to one county or even to one state, as demonstrated by an Associated Press series of articles in 1987 titled "Guardianships of the Elderly: An Ailing System." See also the national Center for Elders and the Courts for more information on guardianship reforms in state courts.
April 29, 2015 in Cognitive Impairment, Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Legal Practice/Practice Management, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations, Statistics | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Friday, April 24, 2015
For me, a chilling moment in the trial of State of Iowa v. Henry Rayhons came during the prosecution's case-in-chief, with the reported testimony of a physician at Mrs. Rayhons' nursing home. According to the coverage of the trial, the doctor testified that based on her decreasing score on the BIMS (Brief Interview for Mental Status), he determined Donna Rayhons lacked the cognitive ability to give consent to sex. In contrast, a defense expert was reported to have testified it was a "medical mistake" to have used such minimal evaluations of capacity to draw an arbitrary line between permission to kiss or hug, as opposed to engaging in more intimate relations.
The contrasting testimony put a spotlight on the very serious questions of who makes decisions -- and how decisions are made -- about "capacity" to engage in essential behaviors such as sex for persons with dementia. This topic is further explored, with great prescience, by a law student at the University of Illinois in the current issue of the Elder Law Journal, written well before the Rayhons trial. Stephanie Tang, who was also the managing editor for the journal in 2014-15, writes:
To best balance the interests of the elderly with those of the states, states should develop and adopt a model assessment tool that employs a clinical perspective to evaluate a person’s capacity to consent to sexual activity. Model assessment tools provide courts with a clear and objective standard, which would increase predictability and uniformity of court decisions.
Moreover, identifying specific cognitive functions that need to be assessed would constitute a major step forward in those states that have not yet done so.This Note advocates for the use of two tests: 1) the Socio-Sexual Knowledge and Attitudes Test (SSKAT) and 2) Cognisat. Authors have previously argued for the adoption of the SSKAT to assess sexual capacity to consent among mentally retarded patients. The American Bar Association and American Psychological Association cited use of Cognistat to assess cognitive capacity to consent to sexual activity among hypothetical patients with diminished capacity.
To put this simply, in her article,When "Yes" Might Mean "No": Standardizing State Criteria to Validate The Capacity to Consent to Sexual Activity for Elderly with Neurocognitive Disorders, Ms. Tang is arguing that far more sophisticated and appropriate tools are available and should be used to assist in evaluating capacity to participate in sex. Brava, Ms. Tang!
Ms. Tang's article draws in major part on the detailed factual reporting of Bryan Gruley for Bloomberg News, in his important series on rights of the elderly with dementia. Mr. Gruley's articles began to appear as early as 2013, and became even more relevant with his investigation of the events underlying the 2014 charges against Mr. Rayhons.
Thursday, April 23, 2015
As outlined by The Washington Post, AARP Public Policy Institute has a new "Livability Index" offered as a way to evaluate factors such as safety, security, ease of getting around, access to health care, and housing affordability.
More intangible factors are also assessed, such as WiFi, farmers' markets and "public policies that promote successful aging."
(After following the trauma of the trial in Iowa, I wonder whether "criminal laws on sexual relations between husband and wives if one has dementia" should be added as an express factor?)
Thursday, April 16, 2015
From the New York Times on April 14, an article from the business section, As Nursing Homes Chase Lucrative Patients, Quality of Care is Said to Lag.
Promises of “decadent” hot baths on demand, putting greens and gurgling waterfalls to calm the mind: These luxurious touches rarely conjure images of a stay in a nursing home.
But in a cutthroat race for Medicare dollars, nursing homes are turning to amenities like those to lure patients who are leaving a hospital and need short-term rehabilitation after an injury or illness, rather than long-term care at the end of life.
Even as nursing homes are busily investing in luxury living quarters, however, the quality of care is strikingly uneven. And it is clear that many of the homes are not up to the challenge of providing the intensive medical care that rehabilitation requires. Many are often short on nurses and aides and do not have doctors on staff.
Some colorful quotes here ("patients are leaving the hospital half-cooked"), but a lot of this well-written article nonetheless seems like old news to me (okay, perhaps that's because of my chosen research focus), with reporting on trends influenced by operating margins on the "nonprofit" side of care, and "return on investment" for shareholders on the for-profit side. Perhaps "intensity" of the pressures is the theme here?
Tip of the hat to George Washington University Law student Sarah Elizabeth Gelfand ('16) and GW Professor Naomi Cahn for making sure we saw this article!