Thursday, July 27, 2023
More than 300 lawyers and other professionals attended the recent Pennsylvania Elder Law Institute (July 25-26, 2023) held in Harrisburg. It was good to be back among long-time friends as well as new colleagues -- our first time together in "real time" since 2019. The programming began with a tribute to Jeffrey A Marshall, recently retired as a Williamsport, Pennsylvania attorney, who has been a guiding figure for the development of speciaized knowledge and skills for lawyers committed to helping older persons and their family members with practical concerns about care, financing, capacity, agency and more.
This year the program once again began with a comprehensive "Year in Review" that focuses on recent and proposed legislation or rulemaking, demographic trends, and case law. Deep appreciation to Marielle Hazen and Rebecca Hobbs for all of their hard work on this key presentation. Important "keynote"speakers included David Lipschutz, Associate Director for the Center for Medicare Advocacy and legendary Tennessee Elder Law attorney Timothy Takacs.
I had the pleasure of teaming with Katie Dang and A.V. Powell for a 90-minute session about "What Happens When Living Isn't Easy in Senior Living?" Central topics included concerns about contract rights and obligations in nursing homes, plus we made a deep dive into factors that can affect financial soundness of continuing care retirement communities (also known as CCRCs or life plan communities).
Katie reported on successful efforts to avoid a one-sided contract of adhesion and help a family negotiate fair payment terms for a parent's admission to a nursing home. She demonstrated key language to strike or modify to reduce the potential for unintended consequences of signing such agreements.
We also reported on a recent Ohio appellate case that rejected a nursing home's attempt to argue a family members was contractually obiligated to personally pay for care.
A.V. brought to the conversation his dry wit and 40+ years of experience as a professional actuary. He has analyzed the fiinancial viability of hundreds of CCRCs around the country. He noted that Pennsylvania is the birthplace of the CCRC concept and he emphasized the significance of current residents who seek accountabiity by making requests to governing boards for timely evaluations of financial conditions. A.V. also provided us as lawyers with ways to guide clients who are prospective residents in identifying how an enterprise can provide long-range reassurances about sound finances. Trust is essential for a model that offers, on the one hand, a holistic approach to purpose-buldt housing, great food (and nutrition), activity and, if needed, nursing or dementia care, but, on the other hand also expects people to pay thousands of upfront dollars in the form of admission fees plus significant monthly maintenance fees.
Photos used here are by my summer research assistant, the great Noah Yeagley. Thank you, Noah! One of the fun aspects of this conference is being able to introduce current students to practitoners and getting to catch up with so many of my former Penn State Dickinson Law students, including Jared Childers, the incoming Chair of the Pennsylvania Bar's Elder Law Section, and who recently became an adjunct professor at Dickinson Law. Congratuatlions, Jared!