Sunday, September 30, 2018
Some time ago we wrote about a new " town square" opening in San Diego that would allow visitors with dementia to experience the 1950s again. The idea is now spreading, City Lab published a story a few weeks ago about this trend. Why a ‘Memory Town’ Is Coming to Your Local Strip Mallexplains:
[The builder] has partnered with the home health-care giant Senior Helpers, which employs some 25,000 caregivers around the U.S., to build Town Squares around the country. Version 2.0 is under construction near Baltimore, in a former Rite Aid in White Marsh, Maryland. Seniors Helpers will own and run that facility, expected to open in early 2019. But franchise sales are under way, and Peter Ross, the company’s CEO, is bullish.
We know the number of elders in the U.S. is continuing to increase and with the decliner in mall space, the article notes, can become perfect locations for these expanded types of adult day care facilities. I was intrigued by the information in the article about our memories.
Our strongest, most enduring memories tend to be the those formed in adolescence and early adulthood, from roughly the ages of 10 to 30. Reminiscence therapy targets this age range, and for those Silent Generation members now in their 70s and 80s, that means the 1950s. (A person who is 80 in 2018 would have been 12 in 1950.) So the design of Town Square is intended to evoke the years between 1953 and 1961. It’s decked out with touches like a rotary phones, a 1959 Ford Thunderbird, a classic jukebox, portraits of period Hollywood stars, and vintage books and magazines. As the years go by, these will be replaced by more recent, period-appropriate prompts.
Those visiting the San Diego "town hall" for the most part "have early-to-moderate-stage Alzheimer’s disease, and they’re assessed in advance to determine whether they’re likely to benefit from the experience." As I mentioned earlier, this project is a type of adult day care, but it's more like an adult day care +. "The service that Glenner provides at Town Square—and that its franchisees will offer—is a form of adult day care, but in an unusually elaborate, cheerful, and spacious setting. Part of the sales pitch is that family members of people with dementia can feel good about leaving their loved ones for the day to give themselves a needed respite. (Not surprisingly, the extra reassurance comes at a premium; Town Square costs $95 a day, while the average rate for adult day-care centers is $61.)"
The article discusses another trend, that of the lure of nostalgia, even describing "nostalgiaville" as "places ....[that] remind [folks] of their youth." "The onward march of private or semi-public “nostalgiavilles” (retiree-only communities such as the Villages, Florida, are similarly engineered to evoke vanished small-town life) raises the question: Do people respond to these places ... because [of that reminder], or does their form matter, too? After all, millions of Boomers grew up in postwar sprawl, but Town Square isn’t designed to mimic that."
When you can, spend some time reflecting on the author's closing thoughts:
It’s a sad commentary on our real, full-scale communities that they are so anti-urban by comparison, and so unsafe for the old and frail. Most of the elderly participants strolling these franchised memory lanes will have to be driven to the suburban shopping centers that host them. The recipe for age-friendly cities is not that difficult: walkability, accessibility, plenty of outdoor space, good transit, opportunities for social connection. We shouldn’t have to dodge traffic on an eight-lane road just to get to a simulacrum of an inclusive urban place. The problem is not too much Disneyland thinking—it’s not enough.
My thanks to my colleague Mark Bauer for sending me the link to this article.
Friday, September 28, 2018
The Aging, Law and Society Collaborative Research Network (CRN) invites scholars to participate in a multi-event workshop as part of the Law and Society Association Annual Meeting scheduled for Washington D.C. from May 30 through June 2, 2019.
For this workshop, proposals for presentations should be submitted by October 22, 2018.
This year’s workshop will feature themed panels, roundtable discussions, and rapid fire presentations in which participants can share new ideas and research projects.
The CRN encourages paper proposals on a broad range of issues related to law and aging. For this event, organizers especially encourage proposals on the following topics:
- The concept of dignity as it relates to aging
- Interdisciplinary research on aging
- Old age policy, and historical perspectives on old age policy
- Sexual Intimacy in old age and the challenge of “consent” requirements
- Compulsion in care provision
- Disability perspectives on aging, and aging perspectives on disability
- Feminist perspectives on aging
- Approaches to elder law education
In addition to paper proposals, CRN also welcomes:
- Volunteers to serve as panel discussants and as commentators on works-in-progress.
- Ideas and proposals for themed panels, round-tables, or a session around a new book.
If you would like to present a paper as part of a the CRN’s programming, send a 100-250 word abstract, with your name, full contact information, and a paper title to Professor Nina Kohn at Syracuse Law, who, appropriately enough also now holds the title of "Associate Dean of Online Education!"
September 28, 2018 in Current Affairs, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, International, Programs/CLEs, Property Management, Retirement, Science, Social Security, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations, Statistics, Web/Tech, Webinars | Permalink | Comments (0)
Thursday, September 27, 2018
The FTC has announced that effective September 21, 2018, financial caregivers can now request security freezes for those for whom they manage money. Managing someone else’s money: New protection from ID theft and fraud explains that "[a] security freeze restricts access to your credit reports and makes it hard for identity thieves to open new accounts in your name. Under the new law, it’s free to freeze and unfreeze your credit file at all three of the nationwide consumer reporting agencies – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion." The law extends the ability to those who have "certain legal authority [to] act on someone else’s behalf to freeze and unfreeze their credit file. The new law defines a “protected consumer” as an incapacitated person, someone with an appointed guardian or conservator, or a child under the age of 16." The article explains that the law does require proof of legal authority, which the article notes includes a DPOA or guardianship order. This is a great idea! Make sure you tell your clients about this.
September 27, 2018 in Cognitive Impairment, Consumer Information, Crimes, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Property Management | Permalink
First the bad -- or at least frustrating -- news. On Thursday, September 27, we received word that Senate Bill 884, the long-awaited legislation providing key reforms of guardianship laws in Pennsylvania, was now "dead" in the water and will not move forward this year. Apparently one legislator raised strong objections to proposed amendments to SB 884, amendments influenced by recent high-profile reports of abuse by a so-called professional guardian who had been appointed by courts in multiple cases in eastern Pennsylvania.
The objections reportedly focused on one portion of the bill that would have required both law guardians (typically family members) and professional guardians to undergo a criminal background check before being appointed to serve. The amendment did not condition appointment on the absence of a criminal record, except where proposed "professional guardians" had been convicted of specific crimes. For other crimes or for lay guardians, the record information was deemed important to permit all interested parties and the court to make informed decisions about who best to appoint.
What is next? Pennsylvanians will look to new leadership in the 2019-20 session in the hope for a new bill that resolves differences and that can make it through both houses. In the meantime, the courts are already moving forward with procedural reforms, adopted in 2018 at the direction of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
And that leads us to a more positive note about guardianship reform in Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania Common Pleas Judge Lois Murphy testified this week during a Senate Judiciary Committee meeting about the Pennsylvania Courts' new Guardianship Tracking System (GTS). It is now operational in 19 counties (out of 67 total counties) in Pennsylvania, including coming online in the major urban counties for Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Judge Murphy reported that GTS is "already paying dividends," and she gave the example of a case in which the reporting system triggered a red flag for an estate worth more than $1 million, much higher than originally predicted, making appointment of different guardian more appropriate.
Judge Murphy predicts that as the tracking system becomes operational statewide, it should generate valuable answers, such as how many persons are subject to guardianships at any point in time, how much in assets are under management, what percentages of the pointed guardians are family members (as opposed to professionals), and what percentages of those served are over or under age 60. The hope is that GTS will also permit coordination of information about appointed guardians in state courts with information in the federal system on those appointed as Social Security representative payees, thus, again, providing more comprehensive information about trustworthiness of such fiduciaries.
You can see Judge Murphy's testimony, and hear her reasons for criminal background checks and appointment of counsel to represent alleged incapacitated persons, along with the views of retiring Senator Greenleaf and Senator Art Haywood, in the recording of the September 24 hearing recording below.
Judge Murphy testifies from approximately the 35 minute mark to the 43 minute mark, and again from 1 hour 33, to one hour 44.
Bottom line for the week -- and perhaps the session? You can certainly grow old just waiting for guardianship reform in Pennsylvania.
September 27, 2018 in Consumer Information, Crimes, Current Affairs, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, Property Management, Social Security | Permalink | Comments (0)
Recommended reading! The Rhode Island Providence Tribute published a series of in August and September 2018 that flow from a student journalism project at Brown University in Rhode Island. The team of students conducted an investigation over the course of a year, looking for the outcome of elder abuse allegations in the state. What they found were plenty of arrests but very few successful prosecutions.
Over two semesters, four student reporters pulled hundreds of court files and police reports of people charged with elder abuse to explore the scope of the problem and the way law enforcement and prosecutors handle such cases. In addition, the reporters used computer data purchased from the Rhode Island judiciary to track every elder-abuse case prosecuted in Rhode Island’s District and Superior courts over the last 17 years.
The student project, sponsored by a new journalism nonprofit, The Community Tribune, was overseen by Tracy Breton, a Brown University journalism professor and Pulitzer Prize winner who worked for 40 years as an investigative and courts reporter for The Providence Journal.
As part of the year-long investigation, the students analyzed state court data to evaluate how effective Rhode Island has been at prosecuting individuals charged with elder abuse. This had never been done before — not even the state tracks the outcomes of its elder-abuse cases. The data, based on arrests made statewide by local and state police, was sorted and analyzed by a Brown University graduate who majored in computer science.
The investigation found that 87 percent of those charged with elder-abuse offenses in Rhode Island over the 17-year period did not go to prison for those crimes. Moreover, fewer than half of those charged were convicted of elder abuse. This left victims in danger and allowed their abusers to strike again and again.
The above excerpt is from the first article documenting the students' amazing investigation. I definitely recommend reading the following articles. Caution: there is a paywall that appears after you open some number of articles on the Providence Tribune website, so if you aren't in the position of being able to pay for all the articles, you may want to prioritize the order in which you "open" the individual parts.
Part 6 is somewhat different, as it tracks the "successful" prosecution of a court-appointed guardian who pled "no contest" in 2015 to charges of embezzling money from an 80-year old elderly client. The embezzlement scheme allegedly involved false claims for services and double-billing. According to other news sources, the guardian, an attorney who was eventually disbarred in connection with her plea, was required to pay more than $130k in restitution and serve 30 months of home confinement in lieu of a "suspended" sentence of seven years in prison.
September 27, 2018 in Consumer Information, Crimes, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Legal Practice/Practice Management, Property Management, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)
Wednesday, September 26, 2018
Latest News on Pennsylvania's Adult Guardianship Reform Legislation - SB 884 is still lingering in the Senate
I was hoping to be able to report by today, the last of a three-day working session for the Pennsylvania Senate, that Senate Bill 884 on adult guardianship law reforms had passed the state's Senate, allowing the bill to move on to the House of Representatives. But no vote yet on the floor of the Senate. The next opportunity for movement is Monday, October 1.
For more on the history of the bill presenting several key items of reform for Pennsylvania's Adult Guardianship Laws and process, see our posts from last week, here, here, and here, or a memo I prepared earlier last week, here.
Will the Pennsylvania Legislature take action before the November elections? Stay tuned!
September 26, 2018 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)
Tuesday, September 25, 2018
The Elder Law Review is an independent refereed e-journal produced by Western Sydney University. The Review is multi-disciplinary, bringing together professionals working, researching and writing in the aged care area. It is designed to be of interest to academics, practitioners and those involved in the provision of aged care.
We received word via Nina Kohn at Syracuse Law and Guest Editor Margaret Hall of Thompson Rivers University in Canada about plans for a special volume of the Elder Law Review on the theme of "Relational Autonomy, Vulnerability Theory, Older Adults and the Law: Making It Real." Publication is planned for mid 2019.
The topic was developed at a March 2018 workshop held at Macquarie University in Australia.
Original, unpublished contributions are invited for any of the following sections of the Review:
- the Refereed section containing scholarly articles exploring different aspects of relational autonomy and vulnerability theory in relation to older adults and the law. While we will consider articles of any length, we prefer them to be between 3000 and 8000 words.
- the Comments section, which consists of contributions from government, lawyers and aged care representatives, commenting on issues which the contributor perceives to be of contemporary significance within elder law.
- News and Current Issues – including legislative changes and case notes.
- Elder Law in Practice which profiles legal practices, community projects, social justice initiatives and pro-bono schemes from all over the world that specifically target the legal needs of older people.
Submissions are due by March 1, 2019. For more information, see Call for Submissions, here.
Iowa Supreme Court Case Demonstrates Significance of "Vulnerable Person" Standards in Elder Abuse Cases
Protection laws may be predicated on proof that victims were unable to protect themselves because of a "mental or physical condition." Or sometimes the laws define a right to protection as arising when the person is of a certain age and "because of that age" is unable to protect him- or herself.
The Iowa Supreme Court explained Iowa's vulnerable person exploitation standard in a recent case arising from a request for an order protecting a 69 year-old woman from her son:
We find the following elements need to be proved by a person claiming elder abuse to qualify as a vulnerable elder as defined in [Iowa Code] section 235.F.1(17): (1) The person must be sixty years or older, and (2) is unable to protect himself or herself from elder abuse as a result of one of the following: (a) age, (b) a mental condition, or (c) a physical condition. Id. The statute makes it clear that if a person is sixty years or older and age alone, without a mental or physical condition, makes someone unable to protect himself or herself from elder abuse, then that person is a vulnerable elder as defined in section 235F.1(17). . . .
The district court viewed the testimony and concluded Chapman's age alone made her a vulnerable elder. In our de novo review, we give weight to the district court's finding and find Chapman's age made her unable to protect herself from elder abuse. She gave all her assets to her children. She was unemployed with a fixed income. [Appellant son] demanded $35,000 from her to stay in the mobile home [she had originally owned]. At her age, she was unable to pay him. She voice a concern that she was to old to handle the eviction notices [he] was giving her.
In summary, [the son] took advantage of Chapman due to her age and financial condition. The evidence supports a finding Chapman was a vulnerable elder. The purpose of the elder abuse statute was to allow our elderly population to seek relief from actions such as Wilkinson's without the expense of a more costly and time consuming action that others argue are appropriate under the circumstances.
For the full opinion, see In re Petition of Chapman, 890 N.W. 2d 853 (Iowa 2017).
Last weekend, Penn State's Dickinson Law held our annual alumni weekend, combined with a convocation ceremony for first year law students. I also happened to attend a non-law school function. In breaks during scheduled events, I had time to chat with alums and friends and by the end of the weekend, I realized there was a bit of theme to my conversations the last few days. In several of the conversations, someone described to me scenarios where an older individual had become involved with a new friend or a new caregiver, or a long-lost family member and was "allowing" that third person to take advantage of them, usually in the form of monetary gifts or "loans," that would never be repaid.
As we talked, I think we mostly agreed that one possible motivating factor for the older person was some level of fear, and not fear of the third person, but fear of being alone. The exploitive behavior was tolerated because it was apparently preferable to being alone, or worse, being compelled to living in the dreaded nursing home.
Another analysis I heard, but was less willing to agree with, was the lament, "what can you do, because X is competent and he has a right to give away his money if he wants to do so?"
In one example, the elderly person removed all of his life savings from a long-time professional money manager and placed the assets with a "new" manager, all because the new manager promised to charge "no" management fees. The new manager held no licenses or professional qualifications. A few months later, the client passed away -- and the new manager turned out to be the sole beneficiary of the estate.
In another instance, the observation about competency or capacity was made about an older person over the course of several months, even as that person became more and more entangled with seemingly opportunistic "befrienders" who were viewed as untrustworthy by others. Several weeks after the man seemed to disappear, his body was found in a shallow grave, while someone was still accessing his Social Security income. A pretty dramatic end to that story of misplaced trust.
My question: How is it that we all tend to emphasize that the older person was competent -- or appeared to have capacity -- even as there is also evidence he or she is trusting the wrong persons?
What I have learned from working with neuropsychologists is that so-called mini-mental exams used by primary care physicians do not necessarily evaluate an important, core component of capacity, a person's ability to exercise judgment in a sound way. Some screening tools tend to focus on cognitive components that are more easily evaluated through a brief exercise, such as asking the individual to perform exercises that tend to focus on short-term memory or even delayed-recall abilities. This is important because one aspect of judgment is the ability or inability to evaluate risk. Impaired judgment is viewed as an executive dysfunction or impairment, but it can exist without (or with only modest) memory impairment. Plus, impaired executive function can also be associated with lack of awareness or denial that there is a problem.
The significance of loss of executive function has been tracked by legal practitioners, such as Patterns in Cases Involving Financial Exploitation of Vulnerable Adults (2014 Michigan Bar Journal). On the important differences in screening tests used, see also Assessing Executive Dysfunction in Neurodegenerative Disorders: A Critical Review of Brief Neuropsychological Tools, published November 2017 in Frontiers in Aging: Neuroscience.
September 25, 2018 in Cognitive Impairment, Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Ethical Issues, Legal Practice/Practice Management | Permalink | Comments (0)
Monday, September 24, 2018
From The New York Times, a well-told tale from siblings who recently "joined the ranks of the 15 million or so unpaid and untrained family caregivers for older adults in this country," calling them the nation's invisible work force. As one son admits:
The work takes its toll. These sons, daughters, husbands and wives are at increased risk of developing depression, as well as physical and financial difficulties, including loss of job productivity. Being sick and elderly in this country can be terrifying. Having a sick and elderly loved one is often a full-time job.
As the workload increased, we hired help, as much for ourselves as for our parents. But after some items were stolen, we realized we had to be more careful about whom we allowed into our parents’ home. Older adults in this country lose almost $3 billion a year to theft and financial fraud. Nearly every week my father instructed us to donate money to someone who had sent him a generic email appeal. It fell on us to keep our parents from being exploited.
With millions of elderly adults requiring assistance with daily living, physicians should make it routine practice to ask family members whether they can provide the requisite care. Many of these potential caregivers, ill or stressed themselves, simply cannot.
For the full article, read When Family Members Care for Aging Parents.
My thanks to colleague Laurel Terry at Dickinson Law for sending the link to this article!
Sunday, September 23, 2018
My colleague and dear friend, Professor Mark Bauer, sent me this story from CNN. Kicked out of assisted living: What you can do focuses on the situation where "[a]cross the country, assisted living facilities are evicting residents who have grown older and frail, essentially saying that 'we can't take care of you any longer.'" This happens more often than you think. The article cites 2016 statistics thath show "[e]victions top the list of grievances about assisted living received by long-term care ombudsmen across the U.S. In 2016, the most recent year for which data are available, 2,867 complaints of this kind were recorded -- a number that experts believe is almost surely an undercount."
The article notes often there is little recourse, especially with regulations at state levels varying. The reality?
While state regulations vary, evictions are usually allowed when a resident fails to pay facility charges, doesn't follow a facility's rules or becomes a danger to self or others; when a facility converts to another use or closes; and when management decides a resident's needs exceed its ability to provide care -- a catchall category that allows for considerable discretion.
Unlike nursing homes, assisted living facilities generally don't have to document their efforts to provide care or demonstrate why they can't provide an adequate level of assistance. In most states, there isn't a clear path to appeal facilities' decisions or a requirement that a safe discharge to another setting be arranged -- rights that nursing home residents have under federal legislation.
Then there are situations where the ALF takes the position they can't care for the resident any longer, or transfers the person to the hospital and refuses to allow them to return on discharge. As is often the case, the article notes the ALFs offer justifications for the evictions.
The article suggests these tips for prospective residents and families: "ask careful questions about what the facility will and won't do... What will happen if Mom falls or her dementia continues to get worse? What if her incontinence worsens or she needs someone to help her take medication?... Review the facility's admissions agreement carefully, ideally with the help of an elder law attorney or experienced geriatric care manager. Carefully check the section on involuntary transfers and ask about staffing levels. Have facility managers put any promises they've made ... in writing." Get a doctor's evaluation when the ALF says it can't provide the care, contact the long-term care ombudsman, file suit, seek relief under the ADA and look at adjusting expectations.
The article is accompanied by a video. Check it out. Thanks for Professor Bauer!
Friday, September 21, 2018
This is the third of three postings about adult guardianship reform, with an eye on legislation in Pennsylvania under consideration in the waning days of the 2017-18 Session.
Senate Bill 884, as proposed in Printer's No. 1147, makes basic improvements in several aspects of the law governing guardianships as I describe here. A key amendment is now under consideration, in the form of AO9253. These amendments:
- Require counsel to be appointed for all allegedly incapacitated persons;
- Require all guardians to undergo a criminal background check;
- Require professional guardians to be certified;
- Require court approval for all settlements and attorney fees that a guardian pays through an estate (reflecting recommendations of the Joint State Government Commission's Decedents’ Estates Advisory Committee).
Most of these amendments respond directly to the concerns identified in the alleged "bad apple" appointment cases in eastern Pennsylvania, where no counsel represented the alleged incapacitated person, where there was no criminal background check for the proposed guardian, and where the guardian was handling many -- too many -- guardianship estates.
A key proponent of the additional safeguarding language of AO 9253, Pennsylvania Senator Art Haywood, has been working with the key sponsor for SB 884, retiring Senator Steward Greenleaf. His office recently offered an explanation of the subtle issues connected to mandating a criminal background check:
The PA State Police needed to fix some technical issues for us regarding national criminal history record checks only to make sure that when we send the legislation to the FBI for approval, they won’t have anything with which to take issue. The FBI requires an authorized agency to receive these national background checks; DHS is an authorized agency, but the 67 Orphans’ Courts in PA are not. Further, the FBI prohibits us from requiring recipients of national background checks to turn them over to a third party for this purpose, so we can’t require DHS or receiving individuals to send the national background check to the court.
As such, we had to develop a procedure that would still get courts information about whether someone under this bill has a criminal background from another state that would otherwise prohibit them from serving as a guardian. We switched the language around a bit to require DHS to send a statement to the individual that verifies one of 3 things, either: (1) no criminal record; (2) a criminal record that would not prohibit the individual from serving as guardian; or (3) a criminal record that would prohibit the individual from serving as guardian. The individual would then have to bring this statement from DHS to the court when seeking to become a guardian. As in previous versions, the individual has an opportunity to respond to the court if there is a criminal record that would prohibit the individual from serving, and the response should assist the court in determining whether that person nevertheless is appropriate (for example, a person can voluntarily provide their own copy of their national background check – or other types of evidence – for the court to review).
The devil is in the details for any legislative reforms. It is often an "all hands on deck" effort to secure passage, especially in an election year.
Will the Pennsylvania Legislature pass Senate Bill 884 to make changes appropriate for safeguarding of vulnerable adults?
September 21, 2018 in Cognitive Impairment, Consumer Information, Crimes, Current Affairs, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Property Management, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)
Thursday, September 20, 2018
Florence has moved on, the California wildfires are under containment, and there is still that volcano in Hawaii... so it's only a matter of time until the next natural disaster. So the National Center on Law & Elder Rights recent issue brief from Fay Gordon at Justice in Aging, Legal Services and Disaster Assistance, is so timely. As the issue brief notes, "Legal aid organizations are quickly mobilizing to help older adults impacted by recent hurricanes,
wildfires, and volcanoes. Older adults are at increased risk of disease and death during disasters due to a higher prevalence of chronic conditions, physical disability, cognitive impairment, and other functional limitations.1 Potential limitations in mobility, access to transportation or limitations can further exacerbate the challenges older adults face during emergencies." (citations omitted) The brief offers resources from several agencies, offers a quick summary of the toolkit for state Medicaid agencies and consumer protection advice. This is all very useful information for us, regardless of where we live. Bookmark this issue brief!
Continuing with the analysis from yesterday for why many jurisdictions are finally confronting the need to make changes in their adult guardianship policies and laws, here is my take on additional reasons. Will Pennsylvania enact Senate Bill 884 this session to get the ball rolling on reform?
Troubled histories have emerged across the nation. Public concern has grown around the need for more careful consideration of the roles played by guardians. For example, events in recent years have highlighted the following problems:
- In Las Vegas, Nevada, uncritical reliance on a few individuals to serve as appointed “professional” guardians was linked to manipulation and abuse of the incapacitated wards and misuse of the wards’ financial resources. Concerned family members alleged corruption and their advocacy drove a reluctant system to examine the history of appointments, leading to the indictment and arrests of a frequently appointed guardian, members of her staff and a police officer in February 2018.
- In New Mexico, two nonprofit agencies used for guardianship services were investigated; principals were indicted by the U.S. Attorney for thousands of dollars in theft from the estates of incapacitated individuals. This in turn triggered a massive call for emergency reform of New Mexico guardianship law, with the new laws coming into effect in July 2018.
- In Florida, complaints by family members and others presented to the Florida Legislature over several years, resulted in three successive years of reforms to Florida guardianship law. One dramatic example was a particular court’s uncritical reliance on “friends” of the court to be appointed as guardians and paid out of the wards’ estates. In some instances the court rejected appointment of available family members. In 2017, a jury awarded a verdict of $16.4 million against lawyers for breaching their fiduciary duties and charging unnecessary and excessive fees.
The New Yorker magazine published a feature article in October 2017 on the Las Vegas history, criticizing the state’s reluctance to investigate and make timely changes in its systems for appointment and monitoring of so-called professional guardians. The title of the article is eye catching: How the Elderly Lose Their Rights, by Rachael Aviv.
While location-specific news stories of scandals come and go, the persistence of guardianship problems points to systemic weaknesses that require modern, uniform standards. Thirty years ago, the Associated Press published a six-part national investigative series entitled Guardians of the Elderly: An Ailing System. The series revealed frequent failures to appoint counsel to represent an alleged incapacitated person and the lack of clear standards for guardians who serve as fiduciaries.
September 20, 2018 in Cognitive Impairment, Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)
Wednesday, September 19, 2018
The National Consumer Voice for Quality Long Term Care has released a new issue brief, Sexual Abuse in Nursing Homes: What You Need to Know. The brief discusses the types of sexual abuse, those more likely to be victims, and information about the perpetrator. The brief notes the residents rights to have consensual sex. It also offers a checklist of steps to take if sexual abuse is suspected as well as a list of helpful resources.
Will Pennsylvania Pass Long-Awaited Adult-Guardianship Law Reforms Before End of 2017-18 Session? (Part 1)
For the last few years, I've been quietly observing draft bills addressing needed reforms of Pennsylvania's adult guardianship system as they circulate in the Pennsylvania legislature. Over the next few days, drawing upon a detailed update memorandum I prepared recently for interested parties, I will post reasons why the legislature can and, many would argue, should move forward in 2018.
Today, let's begin with background. First, here is the status of pending legislation and the timetable that could lead to passage:
Pennsylvania Senate Bill 884 (Printer’s No. 1147) presents an important opportunity to enact key reforms of Pennsylvania’s Guardianship Laws. The bill is based on long-standing recommendations from the Pennsylvania Joint State Government Commission. The Senate unanimously passed an earlier identical measure, S.B. 568, during the last legislative session (2015-16). The current bill was approved and voted out of Senate committee in June 2018, but then tabled. Although the schedule is tight, there is still time for action by both house before the end of the session in November. If not fully passed and signed this year, a new bill must be introduced in the next legislative session.
The Pennsylvania Senate has scheduled session days before the November election on September 24, 25, and 26 and October 1, 2, 3, 15, 16, and 17. The Pennsylvania House of Representatives also has scheduled session days for September 24, 25 and 25, and October 9, 10, 15, 16 and 17. If S.B. 884 is passed by the Senate in September, it appears there may be adequate opportunity for the House to move the legislation through the House Judiciary Committee and to the floor for final passage.
Second, let's review the steps taken most recently towards reform of existing Pennsylvania law:
In 2013-14, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court formed an Elder Law Task Force to study law-related matters relevant to the growing population of older persons in Pennsylvania. The team included members of all levels of courts in the Commonwealth, plus private attorneys, criminal law specialists, and perhaps most importantly, members of organizations who work directly with vulnerable adults, including but not limited to seniors. Guardianship reform quickly became a major focus of the study. I was a member of that Task Force.
Statistics available to the Task Force in 2014 show that some 3,000 new guardianship petitions are filed with the Pennsylvania Courts each year, of which approximately 65% are for alleged incapacitated persons over the age of 60. The number of new petitions can be expected to increase in the very near future. During the last six years, the cohort of Pennsylvania’s population between the ages 64 and 70 grew by a record 31.9%. Soon, that aging cohort will reach the years of greatest vulnerability with the increased potential for age-related cognitive impairments or physical frailty. Appointment of a guardian is usually a choice of last resort, sometimes necessary because of an emergency illness or because individuals have delayed using other means, such as execution of a power of attorney or trust, to designate personally-chosen surrogate decision-makers.
When a determination is made that an individual is incapacitated (as defined by statute) and in need of certain assistance (again, as defined by law), courts have the duty and power to appoint a person or an entity as the “guardian.” Once appointed by a court, guardians can be given significant powers, such as the power to determine all health care treatment, to decide where the individual lives, and to allocate how money can be spent. While Pennsylvania law states a preference for “limited guardianships,” in reality, especially if no legal counsel is appointed to represent the individual to advocate for limited authority, it is more typical to see a guardian be given extensive powers over both the “person” and the “estate.”
The Task Force began its work by undertaking a candid self-assessment of existing guardianship processes. Based on its review of the history of guardianships in Pennsylvania, the Task Force issued detailed findings as part of its final Report released in November 2014, including the following:
- Guardianship monitoring is weak, if it occurs at all.
- Training is not mandated for professional or non-professional guardians.
- Non-professional guardians are not adequately advised as to the duties and responsibilities of managing the affairs of an IP [incapacitated person].
- The quality of guardianship services varies widely, placing our most vulnerable citizens at great risk.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court identified a need for better information about the actions of appointed guardians; such information would be central to all recommended reforms. The Task Force recommended a new system enabling statewide accountability and consistent oversight.
Following the Task Force Report and Recommendations, and under the leadership of the Supreme Court, the Administrative Office of the Pennsylvania Courts began working on procedural reforms, beginning with creation of an Office of Elder Justice in the Courts. The Courts developed a new, online Guardianship Tracking System, and in June 2018 the Supreme Court adopted new Orphans Court rules (14.1 through 14.14) that establish certain procedural safeguards for guardianships and require use of uniform, state-wide forms and reporting standards for all guardians. These rules are scheduled to become fully effective by July 2019.
Pursuant to a Judicial Administration Rule adopted August 31, 2018, the Supreme Court mandated a phased implementation of the tracking system, with workshops offering training for guardians on how to use the system to file inventory and annual reports. See Guardianship Tracking System Workshop.
Not all recommended reforms, however, can be accomplished by the Courts adopting procedural rules. Key substantive reforms require legislative action. Senator Stewart Greenleaf, the chair of the Senate’s Judiciary Committee and a frequent sponsor of child and adult protective measures, introduced Senate Bill 884 (and its predecessor). After many years of service and leadership in the Capitol, Senator Greenleaf is retiring this year; therefore, any necessary renewal of the legislation must attract new leadership.
September 19, 2018 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Property Management, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations, Statistics | Permalink | Comments (1)
Tuesday, September 18, 2018
Do you read Robert Fleming's elder law newsletter? Tim Takacs' blog? I wanted to point out two recent blog posts I thought very useful. First is Tim's blog post, What To Do With Your Estate Planning Documents.Tim, in his blog post, discusses with whom to share your documents, discuss your plans with those affected by them, review joint ownerships and beneficiary designations, review your papers organize them and make sure they are current. Then comes Robert Fleming's newsletter where he writes in inspired response, What NOT to do With Your Estate Planning Documents..Here Robert offers these not to dos, such as: client, do not hide your documents, or write on them, or sign other documents, fail to take the documents to your next attorney, or fail to recall what you've done. I'd also like to suggest don't use your estate planning documents as a coaster or a napkin-in other words, keep them secure and in a safe place.
Monday, September 17, 2018
The Tampa Bay Times ran this story recently, In Florida and everywhere, a big shift is underway. It’s changing the way we go to the doctor. "Hospitals are getting into the insurance end of the business. Insurers, along with drug stores, are delivering front-line health care...And consumers, confronted with blurring lines and a host of new options, may need a scorecard to keep up. The shifting ground continues to change where and how they go to the doctor." The article notes the trend of insurers buying doctors' practices with the result of a coordinated group of medical offices providing health care under the company's name. The article also notes the drug stores' offerings of health care services, so you can get more than just a prescription filled.
What is driving this evolution? The article offers "[d]riving many of the changes is the Affordable Care Act, which helped usher in a shift in thinking about the cost of health care. Hospitals are penalized more often by insurance companies and the government when patients have more frequent stays. The focus now ... is keeping patients out of the emergency room... population growth, new technology, government rules and evolving patient preferences."
This is a significant shift in the role of insurance companies in the provision of health care. Just think about the ramifications.
Jack Cumming, a California CCRC resident, frequently comments on Elder Law Prof Blog posts, bringing to bear his deep expertise in financial planning matters and his equally engaged commitment to historical accuracy in a wide variety of issues. Jack is a Fellow of the Society of Actuaries, and a Certified Aging Services Professional by Examination. During what I might call Jack’s “official career” as a professional actuary, he served as an independent consulting actuary for life and health insurance operations, and before that as a corporate officer and chief actuary for insurance companies.
I first came to know Jack during what I’ll call his “second” career. Jack helped many, including me, understand concerns about actuarial soundness issues in Continuing Care Retirement Communities. He came to his specialized expertise in CCRCs in a unique way, by moving to a California CCRC with his wife and discovering issues that can benefit from actuarial analysis. Over the last 12 years, Jack has advised CCRC residents and providers, as well as their organizations across the nation.
Jack recently commented on an item I posted on September 12, that described a particular history of poor actuarial decisions contributing to failure of a large Pennsylvania long-term care insurance company. In that post, I also reported on a new hybrid type of long-term care product, announced by New York Life Insurance Company. Jack’s response was, as usual, so insightful that, with Jack’s permission, I am posting his commentary here, elaborated by him, as a blog post in its own right.
A number of thoughts come to mind when reading the recent Elder Law Prof Blog post on long term care insurance (LTCi). The Elder Law post lists a perfect storm of what turned out to be foolhardy expectations. Morbidity was underestimated, so were contract lapse rates and mortality. Anticipated investment returns turned out to be overstated, medical and care costs escalated, and efforts to raise premiums without triggering shock lapses proved insufficient. The result for the industry has been devastating, as anyone who has been close to LTCi, is well aware. Fortunately, LTCi was a small part of the business of many insurers offering the product, so losses were absorbed. Penn Treaty, an LTCi specialist company, was not so lucky.
Now, with the benefit of hindsight, it thus appears that there were significant and material optimistic misjudgments made in bringing LTCi to the market. First, the data used for the initial pricing were not sufficiently vetted. Pricing actuaries used what data they could find but, for the most part, they failed to take into account the fact that the very existence of such insurance, then being introduced for the first time, would make it more likely that people would use the benefits.
Moreover, the opportunity for LTC providers to receive payments promoted the growth of the provider industry to deliver services that the insurance would cover. Thus, historical data from the time before there was insurance was misleading. Since the products lacked incentives for policyholders, or those offering services to them, to restrain their use, it was predictable that people would seek to make the most of their coverage. And they did and continue to do so.
Long Term Care Insurance developed originally to give the sales agents of the large life insurance companies a product that they could sell as part of a product portfolio centered on the sale of life insurance. Such a portfolio, in addition to life and long term care insurance, often included disability income and health insurance. Most of the pricing actuaries who were involved in the early development of LTCi products were life insurance specialists influenced by life insurance concepts. There’s little discretion or volunteerism about dying, so mortality data used in setting life insurance premiums tend to be relatively stable and predictable. The consequence is that underwriting and claims in large life insurance companies are principally administrative, e.g. for claims, confirm the death and send a check. More subjective risks, such as disability income (DI) insurance and LTCi, require active management over the duration of a claim by highly skilled executives experienced and specialized in those particular undertakings.
September 17, 2018 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Property Management, State Statutes/Regulations, Statistics | Permalink | Comments (0)
As anyone who has a loved on in a care setting can probably attest, the individuals who work there have tough jobs.
I was interested to read a McKnight's Senior Living commentary that focuses on a problem that may not be easy for the public to identify, the intentional use of "part-time" help to avoid an obligation to pay benefits for full time workers.
The author describes one woman who works 30 hours per week for each of two different employers -- that is 60 hours per week of hard work without benefits such as employer-sponsored health insurance. John O'Connor writes in an important column (with a title that could perhaps, unfortunately, be misunderstood because of the reference to a Hispanic name), Senior Living Has Way Too Many Marias:
We often hear about the labor challenge in senior living. To be sure, it's very real. There is a lot of competition, and conditions are especially difficult these days. It's not easy to find and keep people willing to work for the wages that are available.
But if we are going to be honest, at least part of the problem has little to do with unforgiving external conditions and more to do with conditions some operators have decided to put in place.
To get more to the point, many communities simply refuse to hire full-time workers. From an economics standpoint, that is understandable. But it doesn't do much for the Marias of the world. And there are a lot more of them out there than many operators would like to admit.