Thursday, January 17, 2019

Student Fellowship Opportunity

My dear friend and executive director of the ABA Commission on Law and Aging sent me a notice about a part-time employment opportunity for two students. The Coalition to Transform Advanced Care (C-TAC) ("an alliance of 140 organizations whose sole purpose is to ensure that all Americans with advanced illness, especially the sickest and most vulnerable, receive comprehensive, high-quality, person- and family-centered care that is consistent with their goals and values and honors their dignity") has announced two student fellowship opportunities for a project, "two part-time, temporary positions as C-TAC Changemaker Fellows.  Fellows will primarily undertake research for programs that align with their interests (policy, family caregiving, health disparities, data/metrics) and will be assigned a C-TAC mentor.  Supporting program staff will also be an important opportunity for the Fellows to learn and support projects." Students need to be at least seeking a bachelor's or master's degree and have relevant interests in advocacy, public policy and the political realm.  More information-contact Allan Malievsky (AMalievsky@thectac.org) with “C-TAC Changemaker” in the subject line.

 

January 17, 2019 in Advance Directives/End-of-Life, Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Health Care/Long Term Care, Other | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

More on Merit-Based ALJ Hiring

Health & Human Services has posted information on their blog about how they are implementing the new hiring process for ALJs. Establishing a New Merit-Based Process for Appointing Administrative Law Judges at HHS explains the new process, the reasons for it, and when it became effective.

HHS is announcing how the department will implement a new ALJ selection and appointment process. The department’s ALJs work for the Office of Medicare Hearings and Appeals (101) and the Departmental Appeals Board (13). The DAB also has seven administrative appeals judges and five Departmental Appeals Board members, and the new ALJ selection and appointment process will apply to these “comparable officials” as well.

The new HHS ALJ selection and appointment process - PDF is effective immediately and is described on the websites of the OMHA and the DAB.

This process is described in the post as merit-based and does not require consultation with anyone outside of the process.  The process is described in detail in a 4 page document from November, 2018, available here.

To understand the significance of this change, read my blog post from October 26, 2018 here.

January 15, 2019 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Cases, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicaid, Medicare | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, January 14, 2019

Hebrew Home at Riverdale New York: Site for New Report on Medical Marijuana

Last week, I wrote about the possible use of medical marijuana for treatment of anxiety in patients with dementia, pointing to the importance of peer-reviewed studies.  This week, I learned of a new study on the use of medical marijuana at a nursing home, and when I read the study I was not surprised to learn the study had occurred at Hebrew Home at Riverdale in New York, a location I have come to associate with both research and thoughtful innovation.  Studies of medical marijuana are complicated by the disjunction in federal and state laws governing purchase and use.

From a study published in JAMDA, the official journal for the Society of Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine, this description in a press release:  

In “Medical Cannabis in the Skilled Nursing Facility: A Novel Approach to Improving Symptom Management and Quality of Life,” the authors described a medical policy and procedure (P&P) they implemented at their New York-based SNF for the safe use and administration of cannabis for residents with a qualifying diagnosis. To be compliant with state and federal statutes, policy requires that residents must purchase their own cannabis product directly from a state-certified dispensary.

 

After the program started in 2016, the facility provided educational sessions for residents and distributed a medical cannabis fact sheet that was also made available to family members. To date, 10 residents have participated in the program and seven have been receiving medical cannabis for over a year. Participants range in age from 62 to 100. Of the 10 participants, six qualified for the program due to a chronic pain diagnosis, two due to Parkinson’s disease, and one due to both diagnoses. One resident is participating in the program for a seizure disorder.

 

Most residents who use cannabis for pain management said that it has lessened the severity of their chronic pain. This, in turn, has resulted in opioid dosage reductions and an improved sense of well-being. Those individuals receiving cannabis for Parkinson’s reported mild improvement with rigidity complaints. The patient with seizure disorder has experienced a marked reduction in seizure activity with the cannabis therapy.

This study did not address cannabis as a treatment for symptoms of dementia-related anxiety.  For more, see Medical Cannabis in the Skilled Nursing Facility:  A Novel Approach to Improving Symptom Management and Quality of Life, published January 2019.  Interestingly, the authors are a medical doctor, Zachary J. Palace, and Daniel Reingold, who lists both a Masters of Social Work and a J.D. for his background. 

January 14, 2019 in Cognitive Impairment, Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Ethical Issues, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, State Statutes/Regulations, Statistics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Hearing Loss: The Impact is More Than Loss of Hearing

Know anyone who has hearing loss?  Maybe you yourself suffer from hearing loss-and if not now, you may in the future. Hearing loss has ramifications beyond the loss of hearing. As the article in the New York Times explains in Hearing Loss Threatens Mind, Life and Limb "[n]ot only is poor hearing annoying and inconvenient for millions of people, especially the elderly. It is also an unmistakable health hazard, threatening mind, life and limb, that could cost Medicare much more than it would to provide hearing aids and services for every older American with hearing loss." Oh and the news doesn't get any better: "[t]wo huge new studies have demonstrated a clear association between untreated hearing loss and an increased risk of dementia, depression, falls and even cardiovascular diseases. In a significant number of people, the studies indicate, uncorrected hearing loss itself appears to be the cause of the associated health problem."

Those with age-related hearing loss can tell you it doesn't happen overnight.  In fact, because it "comes on really slowly, [it makes] it harder for people to know when to take it seriously...."  The article explains the correlation between hearing loss and the impact on the brain (fascinating yet scary). And in case you didn't know "hearing aids and accompanying services are typically not covered by medical insurance, Medicare included. Such coverage was specifically excluded when the Medicare law was passed in 1965, a time when hearing loss was not generally recognized as a medical issue and hearing aids were not very effective...." 

So, do a few things now: 1.  write your Congressperson about Medicare's coverage of hearing aids, 2. schedule an appointment to have your hearing testing and 3. turn down the volume on your devices.

January 13, 2019 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicare | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Is Hospital Care "Elder-Friendly"?

This article is a couple of months old, but I don't think the subject is at all dated.   Stat ran an opinion piece, U.S. hospitals ignore improving elder care. That’s a mistake explaining that hospitals aren't designed to be elder-friendly 

In the 21st century, health care is to elderhood as education is to childhood. But we don’t see bond measures for the “construction, expansion, renovation, and equipping” of hospitals to optimize care of old people, an investment that would surely benefit Americans of all ages.

People age 65 and older make up just 16 percent of the U.S. population but nearly 40 percent of hospitalized adults. In 2014, Americans over age 74 had the highest rate of hospital stays, followed by those in their late 60s and early 70s.

Remarkably, hospitals aren’t designed with elders in mind. Walk through one and you’ll almost invariably find cheerful decor for children, services and facilities aimed at adults, and a gauntlet of obstacles and insults to elders.

Thinking about the design of the hospitals, consider these notes from the article' "[o]ld people end up in old buildings. That usually means long walks down halls without railings or chairs with arms for rest stops. It means signs that are hard to read until you are right under them. It means a one-size-fits-all approach to both facilities and care that doesn’t acknowledge that the needs, preferences, and realities of a 75- or 95-year-old with a medical condition might differ from those of a 35- or 55-year-old with the same thing."

Noticing the volume of business from this demographic, the article highlights some efforts 

A collaboration of industry leaders, including the American Hospital Association, the John A. Hartford Foundation, and the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, has launched an age-friendly health system initiative. While its purview is limited to a few geriatric conditions, it’s a step in the right direction. (And the field of geriatrics is finally beginning to model itself after pediatrics, taking a more whole health, life stage approach to elderhood.)

Some of the best ideas for hospital design come from outside health care. Innovations developed for aging-in-place homes or continuing care communities offer prototypes of “silver architecture.” Businesses like Microsoft are investing in structural and people-flow design that meets needs across the lifespan. They are adopting the position that if you design for the mythical “average human” you create barriers, whereas if you design for those with disabilities you create systems that benefit everyone.

January 10, 2019 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicare, Other | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Relearning Basic Skills When Suffering with Dementia

There's no cure for Alzheimer's but according to a recent article in the New York TimesDementia May Never Improve, but Many Patients Still Can Learn individuals with dementia can be taught certain forgotten skills. Known as "cognitive rehabilitation", "[t]he practice brings occupational and other therapists into the homes of dementia patients to learn which everyday activities they’re struggling with and which abilities they want to preserve or improve upon."  It's important to realize that this training won't reverse the decline from the disease, but instead "the therapists devise individual strategies that can help, at least in the early and moderate stages of the disease. The therapists show patients how to compensate for memory problems and to practice new techniques."  But, and this is important, the therapy can make a huge difference for folks with dementia---the "researchers have demonstrated that people with dementia can significantly improve their ability to do the tasks they’ve opted to tackle, their chosen priorities. Those improvements persist over months, perhaps up to a year, even as participants’ cognition declines in other ways."

Another approach being used in the U.S., the "T.A.P. program includes more patients with serious cognitive loss than cognitive rehab does. And it takes a somewhat different tack: T.A.P. aims to reduce the troubling behaviors that can accompany dementia: repeated questions, wandering, rejecting assistance, verbal or physical aggression" with the study showing "the frequency of such behaviors decreased compared to a control group, allowing family members to spend fewer daily hours caring for patients."

This is important research-read this article!

January 9, 2019 in Cognitive Impairment, Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Health Care/Long Term Care, Other, Statistics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Medical Marijuana for Treatment of Dementia Agitation

Months ago, when my family was considering alternatives for care of my mother as her health deteriorated and her home became increasingly unsafe, I was talking with different providers about the challenges of care when the individual is a heavy smoker (as my mother, at age 92, still was at the time).  There are few options, and most licensed facilities bar smoking completely or limit it to locations that are not workable for someone with impaired movement.  I joked with one provider that smoking cigarettes was prohibited but that Arizona had recently authorized medical marijuana.  Arizona Statutes Section 36-2801 permits medical marijuana for those with debilitating medical conditions, including "agitation of  alzheimer's disease." 

The provider laughed and said, "oh, we don't permit smoking of marijuana either." I wasn't up-to-date on the technology!  Apparently the preferred dispensation at that location was via "gummies."  If you google "marijuana gummies" you get a remarkable range of products.

Medical Marijuana Gummies

In this brave new world of medical marijuana, I can see reasons for the interest, especially in the search for safe and effective ways to help individuals whose form of dementia is marked by severe agitation.  Can marijuana "take the edge off" in a safe way?  Can doses be monitored and evaluated appropriately?  Do "gummies" provide reliable or consistent doses of the active ingredient, most likely THC?  Can there be an associated positive effect -- improved appetite (the proverbial "munchies")?  Are there reporting mechanisms on the effects of use, especially in facilities that provide dementia care, that will help capture success rates and any risks?  What about individuals with dementia who suffer from both agitation and delusional thinking -- could medical marijuana potentially reduce one symptom but increase another?  Is the CDC tracking medical marijuana gummies or other products in the context of dementia care?  

The National Conference for State Legislatures (NCSL) maintains a website on state medical marijuana laws.  NCSL reported that as of 11/8/18, 33 states, plus D.C., Guam and Puerto Rico, have approved "comprehensive" public medical marijuana programs, with additional states allowing limited use of "low THC, high CBD" products in limited situations that are not deemed comprehensive medical marijuana programs.

In January 2017, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine released a report based on review of "over 10,000 scientific abstracts" for marijuana health research, offering 100 conclusions related to health and ways to improve research. The conclusions are organized according to whether there is "conclusive or substantial" evidence, moderate evidence, or limited evidence about effectiveness or ineffectiveness of medical marijuana in a variety of contexts.  One conclusion suggests there is limited evidence that cannabis or cannabinoids are effective for "improving anxiety symptoms," while a separate conclusion states there is limited evidence that such substances are ineffective for "improving symptoms associated with dementia."  

I'm relatively new to review of literature associated with medical marijuana for dementia care/treatment, and welcome hearing from others who are aware of authoritative sources of information. (And just to be clear, this isn't a product we're considering for my mother!) I can see this topic becoming more important with time in our aging world, especially as additional sources of dementia-treatment evidence may become available. 

January 8, 2019 in Cognitive Impairment, Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Ethical Issues, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Food and Drink, Health Care/Long Term Care, Science, State Statutes/Regulations, Statistics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, January 6, 2019

What is Dead?

The Hastings Center addressed this in its latest special report, Defining Death: Organ Transplantation and the Fifty-Year Legacy of the Harvard Report on Brain Death. The abstract for the introduction explains:

This special report is published in commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of the “Report of the Ad Hoc Committee of the Harvard Medical School to Examine the Definition of Brain Death,” a landmark document that proposed a new way to define death, with implications that advanced the field of organ transplantation. This remarkable success notwithstanding, the concept has raised lasting questions about what it means to be dead. Is death defined in terms of the biological failure of the organism to maintain integrated functioning? Can death be declared on the basis of severe neurological injury even when biological functions remain intact? Is death essentially a social construct that can be defined in different ways, based on human judgment? These issues, and more, are discussed and debated in this report by leading experts in the field, many of whom have been engaged with this topic for decades.

 

January 6, 2019 in Advance Directives/End-of-Life, Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Do You Know Your Medicare Coverage?

As elderlaw profs, it's likely that we cover Medicare in our courses every semester. Whether you teach the subject or your are a beneficiary, how well do you know Medicare coverage basics? Kiplinger offers a short quiz on Medicare that allows you to test your Medicare IQ. The quiz, Does Medicare Cover That? is easy to complete and each question includes an explanation accompanying the answer.  And once you have finished this quiz, take the next one, True or False: Test Yourself on Social Security Claiming Strategies.

Check them out!

January 3, 2019 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicare, Retirement, Social Security | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

President Signs BOLD Infrastructure for Alzheimer's Act -- $100M Funding

On December 31, 2018, the President signed S. 2076.  The bill, with the somewhat unwieldy title of "Building Our Largest Dementia Infrastructure for Alzheimer's Act" or "BOLD Infrastructure for Alzheimer's Act," was approved in the Senate by a voice vote on December 12  and by the House on a vote of 361 to 3.  The law amends portions of the Public Health Code (at 42 U.S.C. Section 280c) to increase funding and restate priorities related to Alzheimer's and related dementias.  The funding authorized in the last provision of the law if for "$20,000,000 for each of fiscal years 2020 through 2024."  As one of my colleagues, administrative law guru Professor Matthew Lawrence reminds me, implementation of the new law will also likely require Congressional approval with an appropriations bill (or bills).  

The scope of this bill is, shall we say, broad.  It is not necessarily about funding research into causes or cures for dementias.  New language in the bill directs the Secretary of Health and Human Services to award grants, contracts or cooperative agreements with eligible entities (which includes "institutions of higher education") for the establishment or support of regional centers to "address" Alzheimer's and related dementias by:

    (A) advancing awareness of public health officials, health care professionals and the public on current information and research related to dementias,

    (B) identifying and translating promising research finding into evidence-based programmatic interventions for both those with dementia and their caregivers,

    (C) expanding activities related to Alzheimer's disease, related dementias and associated health disparities.

Other portions of the legislation seek to improve state and federal reporting and analysis of data on the incidence and prevalence of dementias; in addition, a section of the bill is directed to programming by state public health officials or agencies, with a 30% state matching fund requirement (unless the matching would cause "serious hardship").  

Senators Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Susan Collins (R-ME) were two of the primary sponsors of the legislation, which reportedly received support from "183 organizations and individuals, including the Alzheimer's Association, Alzheimer's Impact Movement and Maria Shriver, founder of The Women's Alzheimer's Movement."

 

January 2, 2019 in Cognitive Impairment, Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Ethical Issues, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Grant Deadlines/Awards, Health Care/Long Term Care | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

For Nursing Homes Trapped in A Cycle of Failure -- What Solutions Are Available?

Recently I had a chat with a lawyer I've known for years who does a very good job representing large nursing home chains. We found ourselves shaking our heads about a series of news stories reported by central Pennsylvania's Patriot News focusing on care facilities formerly operating as part of the Golden Living chain. See the investigatory report, Still Failing the Frail.

Apparently, even after pressured transfers of the facilities to different companies, presumably companies with better management and better financial resources, many of them "continue to rack up citations with the state Health Department" for substandard practices.    I asked the lawyer whether he knew of any nursing home chain that has been able to pull out of death spiral?  He couldn't remember one.   

There is very little margin when low-income residents depend on Medicaid for payments.  Once a facility is affected by fines and pressures to increase staffing, the margin becomes even tighter.   Few states want to assume the roles of trustee or receivers for such properties.  The article concludes that one necessary step is to increase Medicaid funding.   

Although researchers recommend that nursing homes provide at least 4.1 hours of care per resident per day, it remains an open question whether all nursing homes can afford to do that. 

State and federal governments are the primary payers for the vast majority of nursing home residents. Residents receiving short-term rehabilitation are generally covered by Medicare, administered by the federal government. Long-term residents are generally covered by Medicaid, administered by state governments.

 

The problem is that state Medicaid programs, as in Pennsylvania, pay nursing homes far less than federal Medicare – sometimes as much as a third.

 

Although nursing home advocates and some researchers believe for-profit nursing homes routinely skimp on care in order to paid their profits, there are also genuine concerns about whether Pennsylvania’s Medicaid funding is adequate.

 

Researchers recommend how much of existing Medicaid and Medicare dollars are going to profit and administrative costs in homes. That would help determine whether Medicaid rates need to be raised and, if staffing standards are also raised, how much additional funding they need to provide those levels.

For some states, such as Pennsylvania, the Medicaid funding formula is part of the challenge.  As discussed in the series, other states have been able to create direct payment models to assure better accountability for patient care.  

December 19, 2018 in Consumer Information, Ethical Issues, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, Medicaid, Medicare | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

ALFs Too Popular for Resident Safety?

Kaiser Health News recently ran a story about ALFs that focuses on resident safety. Assisted Living’s Breakneck Growth Leaves Patient Safety Behind opens with a story about one resident and then points out

Assisted living facilities were originally designed for people who were largely independent but required help bathing, eating or with other daily tasks. Unlike nursing homes, the facilities generally do not provide skilled medical care or therapy, and stays are not paid for by Medicare or Medicaid.

Dementia care is the fastest-growing segment of assisted living. As these residences market themselves to people with Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia, facilities across the country are straining to deliver on their promises of security and attentive care, according to a Kaiser Health News analysis of inspection records in the three most populous states.

We know that ALFs are regulated at the state level and thus regulations from one state may vary from another. We also know that residents of ALFs are going to need assistance with ADLs. What more do we know?

[Residents] are older and frailer than assisted living residents were a generation ago. Within a year, 1 in 5 experience a fall, 1 in 8 visit an emergency room and 1 in 12 have an overnight hospital stay, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Half are 85 or older.

“Assisted living was created to be an alternative to nursing homes, but if you walk into some of the big assisted living facilities, they sure feel like a nursing home,” said [one expert who is] director for mission partnerships with the Alzheimer’s Association.

There is a tension between viewpoints-regulation vs. the environment the facilities market for residents. Residents with dementia may pose a challenge for the ALFs.

Nearly a quarter of the nation’s 30,000 assisted living facilities either house only people with dementia or have special areas known as memory care units. These wings have locked doors and other safeguards to prevent residents from leaving. The facilities often train staff members in techniques to manage behavior related to these diseases and provide activities to keep the residents engaged and stimulated.

These units usually are more expensive, with monthly costs averaging $6,472, compared with $4,835 for regular assisted living, according to a survey by the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care, a group that analyzes elder care market trends. Senior housing investors earned nearly 15 percent in annual returns over the past five years, higher than for apartment, hotel, office and retail properties, according to the center. Beth Burnham Mace, chief economist at the center, said memory care unit construction was outpacing all other types of senior housing.

Aggressive behavior, a hallmark of dementia, is a major problem in assisted living facilities. One national study, published in 2016, found that 8 percent of assisted living residents were physically aggressive or abusive toward residents or staff.

As noted earlier, regulation varies amongst the states. According to one study cited in the article, "only seven states required facilities to have a registered nurse. States required anywhere from two to 30 hours of training for dementia unit workers. A handful of states required no specialized training ... [and]  19 states set minimum staff-to-resident ratios for dementia units, while the others left it to the facilities."

December 18, 2018 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Health Care/Long Term Care, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Webinar-Recognizing Elder Abuse

Mark your calendars now for a free webinar from the National Center on Law & Elder Rights on Signs of Elder Abuse, Neglect, and Exploitation. The webcast is scheduled for 2 p.m. on January 16, 2019.  Here is a description of the webinar

Lawyers and others who work with older adults should be aware of potential signs of abuse, neglect, and exploitation. This awareness requires an understanding of abuse signs, as well as the questions to ask when abuse is suspected. As the first part in the forthcoming National Center on Law and Elder Rights (NCLER) Elder Justice Toolkit, this webinar will help lawyers tune in to potential warning signals and train the audience on key questions to ask when elder abuse is suspected. The fast paced one-hour program will include checklists of physical, behavioral, and emotional signs of abuse, sexual abuse, self-neglect, caregiver neglect, and exploitation. 

To register, click here.

December 18, 2018 in Consumer Information, Crimes, Current Affairs, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Health Care/Long Term Care, Programs/CLEs, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations, Webinars | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, December 17, 2018

Ohio Supreme Court Addresses Liability of a Surviving Spouse for Nursing Home Debt

University of Cincinnati College of Law Professor of Practice Emerita Marianna Brown Bettman has a very interesting and well-written Blog report on the Ohio Supreme Court's December 12th decision in Embassy Healthcare v. Bell.  The issue is under what circumstances a surviving spouse can be held liable for her deceased husband's nursing home costs under a statutory theory of "necessaries." Lots to unpack here.   

December 17, 2018 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Property Management, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Rob Lowe, Actor & Rob Lowe, Caregiver

The November 30, 2018  print issue of Newsweek ran an essay published earlier in  November by actor Rob Lowe, Who Cares for the Carer. The article explains the juggling required by caraegivers who work and the legislative efforts at both the federal and state levels. Mr. Lowe, in his essay, does acknowledge that his family has financial resources to hire others, and recognizes that many caregivers may not have that same option. Here are some excerpts from his opinion piece:

There are so many little ways a dedicated caregiver can be a game changer—someone who can dramatically increase the chances of a successful outcome for your loved one. It is critical, for example, for patients with a serious illness to have a third party with them at doctor’s appointments. When I was helping to promote an awareness campaign for a new chemotherapy drug in 2002, I came across a startling number: Patients often retain just 10 percent of the information they are being given. Ten percent!

He offers some heartfelt advice to the caregivers:

The people we are talking about—the friends and family members who are out there doing crucial work—are unpaid. Watching a loved one go through an illness, possibly ending in death, is stressful and depressing. Add financial and scheduling burdens, and the load for caregivers is enormous. To them I say, Don’t forget about yourself. When you get on an airplane, the crew says, “Secure your own mask first before helping others.” Why? Because without you taking care of yourself, you can’t take care of anybody else.

He closes with some final recommendations  to caregivers,  "don’t hesitate to get help. That’s why I’ve partnered with EMD Serono and EmbracingCarers.com, where you’ll find invaluable information regarding everything you’ll be, or are, going through."

I like to use real world examples in my classes and when I can use an example of someone my students know, I think it helps them understand the depth and breadth of elder law.

 

December 17, 2018 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Health Care/Long Term Care | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Psychiatric Advance Directives Gain Prominence

The New York Times reported last week on psychiatric advance directives in  Now Mental Health Patients Can Specify Their Care Before Hallucinations and Voices Overwhelm Them

"[A]  psychiatric advance directive, a legal document declaring what treatment he does and doesn’t want. Increasingly, patients, advocates and doctors believe such directives (called PADs) could help transform the mental health system by allowing patients to shape their care even when they lose touch with reality. Hospitals must put them in patients’ medical records and doctors are expected to follow them unless they document that specific preferences aren’t in the patients’ best medical interest."

The article notes that not everyone is in favor of these. For example, "some doctors and hospitals are wary that the documents could tie their hands and discourage treatment they consider warranted. Some worry the directives won’t be updated to reflect medical advances. Others question whether people with serious psychiatric conditions are ever capable of lucidly completing such directives."  The article notes that at least 27 states allow for the use of psychiatric advance directives-others may do so as part of the more traditional health care advance directive.  The document is seen as an alternative to involuntary commitment.

CMS now requires health care providers to include in their inquiry about health care directives any psychiatric advance directive (see here requirements that hospitals ask if patients have a directive).  The directive also allows advance permission by the patient for the health care providers to engage with friends or family, particularly important because during a crisis, the person  may "be too unstable or paranoid to give permission."  The article gives examples of what might be authorized by the directive, offers suggestions regarding drafting and signing and shares stories of some individuals who have created these directives.

On a side note, the article notes that the directives are referred to as PAD.  On an unrelated topic, physician-aided dying is also sometimes shortened to PAD. Make sure your students understand the differences.

December 13, 2018 in Advance Directives/End-of-Life, Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Health Care/Long Term Care, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

High Number GA Nursing Homes Receive Medicare Penalties

Yesterday I blogged about a SNF chain in Texas filing bankruptcy.  Today, it's about Georgia's nursing homes. Georgia Health News reported last week that Medicare penalties hit most Ga. nursing homes. According to the article 75% of the SNFs in Ga have been hit with penalties regarding unnecessary hospital readmissions. Twenty-three percent received bonuses for avoiding such a problem.  "Kaiser Health News reported that hospitalizations of nursing home residents, while decreasing in recent years, remain a problem, with nearly 11 percent of patients in 2016 being sent to hospitals for conditions that might have been avoided with better medical oversight. ... The program of bonuses and penalties is intended to discourage nursing homes from discharging patients too quickly. That’s something that is financially tempting, because Medicare fully covers only the first 20 days of a stay and generally stops paying anything after 100 days...." The article includes a link to the bonuses/penalties list, which can be found here.

December 12, 2018 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicare | Permalink | Comments (0)

High Number GA Nursing Homes Receive Medicare Penalties

Yesterday I blogged about a SNF chain in Texas filing bankruptcy.  Today, it's about Georgia's nursing homes. Georgia Health News reported last week that Medicare penalties hit most Ga. nursing homes. According to the article 75% of the SNFs in Ga have been hit with penalties regarding unnecessary hospital readmissions. Twenty-three percent received bonuses for avoiding such a problem.  "Kaiser Health News reported that hospitalizations of nursing home residents, while decreasing in recent years, remain a problem, with nearly 11 percent of patients in 2016 being sent to hospitals for conditions that might have been avoided with better medical oversight. ... The program of bonuses and penalties is intended to discourage nursing homes from discharging patients too quickly. That’s something that is financially tempting, because Medicare fully covers only the first 20 days of a stay and generally stops paying anything after 100 days...." The article includes a link to the bonuses/penalties list, which can be found here.

December 12, 2018 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicare | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Texas SNF Chain Files Bankruptcy

The Dallas Morning News ran a story about the largest SNF chain in Texas filing bankruptcy. Texas' largest nursing home operator files for bankruptcy, sparking concerns about patients, jobs explains that "Senior Care Centers, which operates more than 100 facilities in Texas, filed for reorganization in U.S. bankruptcy court for the Northern District of Texas on Tuesday, reporting more than $100 million in debt. It's at least the second troubled nursing care giant in the Dallas area to file for bankruptcy since late last year." What's happening? According to the chain's press release, "high rents and 'burdensome debts'" are to blame.  The chain puts as positive a spin as possible on their situation but others see cause for concern.  A Texas advocacy organization for the long-term care facilities points to the low Medicaid reimbursements. Two facilities owned by the chain were hit last year with violations stemming from Hurricane Harvey. The article notes that the bankruptcy judge has the ability to name a "patient-care ombudsmen to monitor care" as the bankruptcy moves forward, but one has not yet been appointed.

One interesting point in the article-in discussing steps taken by the chain to improve its bottom line, it sought a reduction in rent and now is in debt to one landlord for more than $31 million.

 

December 11, 2018 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicaid | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, December 10, 2018

Thinking about New York Time's Article on Guardianships and One Woman's Personal Story

For anyone working in legal fields where adult guardianships may be an option, for anyone teaching elder law, health care law, constitutional law or even landlord-tenant law, a recent New York Times article, "I'm Petitioning . . . for the Return of My Life," is an important read.

On a threshold level, this is a well-told tale of one woman, Ms. Funke, who becomes subject to an intervention under New York adult protective services law, and, eventually, to a full-blown guardianship proceeding.   It can be easy to become enraged on behalf of Ms. Funke as you read details about her past life as a freelance journalist and world traveler, and compare it to the limitations placed on her essential existence under a guardianship. 

The article is a rather classic example of using one tragic story, a human story, to paint a picture of a government process gone wrong.  At several points in the article, the writer, John Leland, offers questions that suggest some conclusions about how unfair the process has been to Ms. Funke.  The writer asks, for example, 

"If you were Ms. Funke, shouldn't you be allowed to withdraw into the covers [of your bed] if you wanted to?  And the clutter in your apartment -- couldn't people understand that a writer needs materials around?  Even if she were evicted, she had money to start somewhere else.  Courts evict people with lots less [than she appears to have]. " 

It's implied that the answers to those questions may outweigh the fact that the protective services intervention prevented the landlord from completing an eviction of Ms. Funke, an eviction that would have forced her out of her apartment of 40+ years.    

Other, less dramatic details in the article suggest that for every Ms. Funke, there may be other people -- an unknown number of people in New York -- who are also very alone and who have also lost control over their lives because of physical frailty, mental decline, depression or other facts, and who are rescued with the help of a protective services intervention. Sometimes the intervention interrupts the decline, usually with the help of family member or friend who volunteers to help, sometimes acting with a measure of authority under a power of attorney, making a guardianship unnecessary. 

The challenge, of course, is knowing when to help (and how far to go), and when to preserve the  individual's right  to make choices that appear unsafe.  Some of the most complex cases involve people who have spent a lifetime on a unique and often solo path, and now have few family members or friends to help them as that path becomes rockier with age or illness, especially when they have no plan for the future.  In the face of such facts, as one person interviewed in the article observes, guardianships are a "blunt instrument."

Something I wrote about last week also figures into the New York situation -- the apparent absence of a guardianship case tracking or monitoring system.  

But another issue I'm concerned with is also suggested.  At one point, an interview with one of Ms. Funke's guardians, a so-called professional (in other words, not a family member or a public guardian) discloses he does not know how far his authority as guardian extends.  For example, would he be allowed to prevent her from marrying?  He responded, he did not know.

It would seem that guardians and other agents, alleged incapacitated persons, -- and family members -- could all benefit from greater information, and to ongoing education on their rights, duties and options.  That was also a theme emerging from article asking the question  "Where's Grandma?" that I linked to last week and that I link to again here.    

My thanks to the several folks who suggested this New York Times article for discussion on our Blog, including my Dickinson Law colleague, international human rights expert, Dermot Groome.    

December 10, 2018 in Cognitive Impairment, Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (2)