Thursday, November 1, 2018
The National Consumer Law Center sent out an email listing resources for attorneys and others helping elders recover from natural disasters. The email described the situation:
Older adults living in communities hit by natural disasters disproportionately suffer emotional trauma and financial hardship after the event. Age-related changes, including decreases in mobility and cognitive abilities make it harder for older adults to navigate the recovery process and access resources to repair or rebuild their homes. Once the immediate danger has passed, older adults will need assistance from insurance, government, and nonprofit organizations or other aid agencies to rebuild their home and community support system. In the days and weeks after the disaster older adults are forced to deal with a wide variety of issues, including home repair, reconnecting utilities, and making payments, including mortgage, credit cards, and student loans. Unlike many others affected by disasters, older adults may have fewer private assets to aid in recovery making the process to rebuild financially more difficult. Here are some resources the National Consumer Law Center (NCLC) has compiled to help guide advocates in advising older adults.
Issue Brief: Assisting Homeowners with Reverse Mortgages after a Natural Disaster: A Guide for Advocates, October 2018
Webinar: Assisting Older Homeowners after a Natural Disaster (National Center on Law and Elder Rights), June 20, 2018:
Free Webcast: Assisting Older Homeowners After a Natural Disaster, June 2018
Issue Brief: Helping Older Homeowners Recover from Natural Disasters, June 2018
Monday, October 29, 2018
Law students from Penn State's Dickinson Law attended sessions hosted by LeadingAge and National Continuing Care Residents Association (NaCCRA) on October 28 in Philadelphia. It was my pleasure to share this experience with students. I see these opportunities as a great way to think about the wider world of business and law opportunities, and to consider how law and aging can intersect.
In the morning, we heard from A.V. Powell about best practices for actuarial evaluations to promote greater understanding of financial issues for continuing care and life plan communities across the country. At lunch we met Parker Life's CEO Roberto Muñiz, shown here on the right with Dickinson Law student Mark Lingousky, and discussed Roberto's ongoing projects such as working to established coordinated care options not just in Parker's center of operations in New Jersey, but also in Roberto's family home in Puerto Rico.
After lunch we attended a LeadingAge educational program on "Legal Perspectives on Provider Operational Issues," presented by four attorneys from around the country. Afterwards the students commented that they were surprised by how many of the topics had come up in one of Dickinson Law's unique 1L courses, on Problem Solving and Lawyering Skills. It is great to see such correspondence between real life and law school life. Of particular interest was hearing how residential communities are coping with issues connected to legalization of marijuana, including medical marijuana and so-called recreational marijuana, both from the context of resident use and potential use by employees.
On the drive home from Philadelphia, I had the chance to debrief with the students about what most interested them at the conferences. They quickly said they appreciated the opportunity to talk with engaged seniors about what matters concerned them. Indeed, after the attorneys leading the afternoon program took a quick poll at the outset to ask how many of the members of the audience were attorneys (outside or inside counsel), operational staff, or board members, one student leaned into me and said, "They forgot to ask how many people in the audience were residents or consumers of their services!"
Music to our ears, right Jack Cumming?
October 29, 2018 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, International, Legal Practice/Practice Management, Programs/CLEs, Property Management | Permalink | Comments (0)
Sunday, October 28, 2018
The latest issue of the Hastings Center Report is devoted to examining what gives a good life to someone in later life. Volume 48, Issue S3 is titled What Makes a Good Life in Late Life? Citizenship and Justice in Aging Societies. All 15 of the articles are available for free. The topics run the gamut from social policies to age-friendly initiatives to housing to communities to advance directives for people with dementia, to name a few. Be sure to read the introduction before reading any of the individual articles, so you have the context of the volume. Here's the abstract for the introduction
The ethical dimensions of an aging society are larger than the experience of chronic illness, the moral concerns of health care professionals, or the allocation of health care resources. What, then, is the role of bioethics in an aging society, beyond calling attention to these problems? Once we’ve agreed that aging is morally important and that population‐level aging across wealthy nations raises ethical concerns that cannot be fixed through transhumanism or other appeals to transcend aging and mortality through technology, what is our field’s contribution? We argue that it is time for bioethics to turn toward social justice and problems of injustice and that part of doing so is articulating a concept of good citizenship in an aging society that goes beyond health care relationships.
October 28, 2018 in Advance Directives/End-of-Life, Cognitive Impairment, Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, Science | Permalink | Comments (0)
Thursday, October 25, 2018
The Long Term Care Community Coalition has released a report on promising practices for ALFs. Assisted Living: Promising Policies and Practices runs 52 pages and is divided into 13 sections, 4 of which focus on staffing. The introduction makes the case for why residents of ALFs are in need of stronger protections:
Assisted living facilities (ALFs) are increasingly viewed by seniors and their families as a desirable option for residential care, including for those in need of a nursing home level of care but who wish to avoid the institutional environment that typically defines life in a nursing home... Despite the billions of dollars in public funding every year, there are no federal rules governing the standards of care in ALFs. This lack of federal oversight not only means that care in ALFs is completely regulated by individual states, but also that, even when their needs and vulnerability are similar, ALF residents do not have a comparable right to quality care and quality of life that nursing home residents are entitled to under federal law.
In the absence of federal standards, ALF residents are only protected to the extent that individual states have developed regulatory requirements to ensure the safety and dignity of their residents. Unfortunately, according to a 2018 GAO report, Medicaid Assisted Living Services: Improved Federal Oversight of Beneficiary Health and Welfare is Needed, all too often states fail to protect ALF residents or even keep track of when they are harmed. The GAO found that there were an astonishing 23,000 reported cases of “critical incidents,” including abuse, neglect, exploitation, and death, in ALFs across just 22 states in 2014. While this number is significant, there is little doubt that the extent to which critical incidents and other problems occur is, actually, far greater, since only 22 of the 48 states surveyed by the GAO tracked and reported critical incidents. Moreover, the review only included Medicaid assisted living, which covers a small minority of ALF residents (most Americans pay privately for assisted living services). (citations omitted)
Each section includes best practices and recommendations with state specific examples. Check it out!
After you finish reading the report, check out the accompanying Assisted Living State Requirements Chart. Handy!
Wednesday, October 24, 2018
A notice about an upcoming continuing legal education program struck me as an apt sign of the times in elder law planning. The Pennsylvania Bar Institute explains:
Many clients are members of "modern family" structures. Our experienced faculty — with different legal perspectives — will explore the issues and opportunities available when planning for the long term care needs of clients in blended and non-traditional families. At the intersection of family law and elder law, they will examine various techniques, including long term care planning for clients with children from previous marriages and planning for unmarried partners.
Receive practical guidance on counseling clients
• Representation and conflict issues
• Information gathering tips
Examine issues at the intersection of family law and elder law
• Pre and post nuptial agreements
• Cohabitation agreements
• Gifts to divorced or separated children, alimony & child support issues
Explore long term care planning tools and techniques
• To marry or not to marry for long-term care
• Use of irrevocable trusts
• High assets/income: private pay, life insurance, and long term care insurance
• Spousal refusal
• Transfers by the community spouse after Medicaid eligibility
• To gift or not to gift: single individual vs. community spouse
For more, see Long Term Care Planning for Blended and Non-traditional Families, scheduled for first airing on November 27, 2018.
October 24, 2018 in Current Affairs, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, Legal Practice/Practice Management, Programs/CLEs, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)
Monday, October 15, 2018
The New York Times ran an article on the demand for nursing home beds. In the Nursing Home, Empty Beds and Quiet Halls opens by explaining that a once vibrant facility now stands closed due to a drop in demand. According to the article, "[t]he most recent quarterly survey from the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing and Care reported that nearly one nursing home bed in five now goes unused. ... Occupancy has reached 81.7 percent, the lowest level since the research organization began tracking this data in 2011, when it was nearly 87 percent." The occupancy rate has been trending downward; concomitantly facilities close, and according to the article, somewhere between 200-300 annually close. The article points out what you are likely thinking-with the number of baby boomers wouldn't the demand be increasing rather than decreasing?
The article hypothesizes as to why this may be occurring and suggests:
Increased regulations and more financial belt-tightening
Hospitals' use of observation status,which thus affects Medicare coverage for subsequent SNF care.
More surgeries on an out-patient basis
Increasing number of Medicare Advantage plans.
- Increased competition through other housing options
- The shift to Medicaid covering care in the community, with "Money Follows the Person [having] moved more than 75,000 residents out of nursing homes and back into community settings."
The article speculates whether this trend will reverse itself once the boomers start reaching 80 and beyond. The article also discusses whether the lower demand provides more options for those in need of nursing home care.
Sunday, October 14, 2018
A couple of weeks ago I blogged about "reminiscence therapy" used for people with dementia. The New Yorker has added to the literature on this topic with the recent article, The Comforting Fictions of Dementia Care.
The article describes different efforts by facilities, from common rooms designed to resemble eras gone by giving residents baby dolls that simulate real babies. For those who ask routinely to go home, "many nursing homes and hospitals have installed fake bus stops. When a person asks to go home, an aide takes them to the bus stop, where they sit and wait for a bus that never comes. At some point, when they are tired, and have forgotten what they are doing there, they are persuaded to go back." One company based in Boston used technology to simulate conversations. Known as "Simulated Presence Therapy" this system "mak[es] a prerecorded audiotape to simulate one side of a phone conversation. A relative or someone close to the patient would put together an “asset inventory” of the patient’s cherished memories, anecdotes, and subjects of special interest; a chatty script was developed from the inventory, and a tape was recorded according to the script, with pauses every now and then to allow time for replies. When the tape was ready, the patient was given headphones to listen to it and told that they were talking to the person over the phone." The article notes that those with short term memory loss can listen to the tape routinely. Technology has made simulations even more realistic and interactive, down to "footage of a passing scene [giving] the impression of movements."
The article features details of various enterprises and highlights at least one facility's efforts. It's definitely worth reading.
Thanks to my colleague, Professor Bauer, for sending me the link.
Wednesday, October 10, 2018
Pennsylvania's Legislature Stalls Guardianship Reform But Moves Forward on Controversial "Protection" Bill
As recent readers of the Elder Law Prof Blog will know, the Pennsylvania legislature is in the waning days of the 2018 legislative year. Despite strong support for basic reforms of adult guardianship laws, the legislature has once again stalled action on Senator Greenleaf's guardianship reform package, Senate Bill 884. Apparently the latest delay arose when one senator objected to a provision requiring criminal background checks for proposed new guardians, because of his own experiences as a guardian for an adult child.
Guardianship reform has been on the legislative docket since at least 2014 when the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's Elder Law Task Force issued its comprehensive report recommending much needed changes, including higher standards for appointed guardians. But this one senator's late-breaking concerns triggered another delay. Similar legislation was approved by the Senate in the previous legislative term, only to be stalled that time in the House.
Thus, the contrast with another bill affecting seniors, one that is rushing through the Pennsylvania Legislature in 6 months, is particularly dramatic. House Bill 2291, as most recently amended in Printer's Version No. 3917, was introduced for the first time in April 2018 and cleared the Pennsylvania House with a unanimous vote on October 9, 2018.
The bill has been cast as "protection" of seniors against unwanted intrusions on their privacy by government investigators. Sounds like a commendable purpose. But the much larger purpose seems to be about protecting "providers" of certain types of housing for seniors, including "independent living units" in continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs, also called Life Plan Communities) and publically-funded "senior multifamily housing units," from investigation by Pennsylvania authorities where there are potential concerns about suitability of that type of unit for the needs of particular seniors, especially those at risk of self-neglect or third-party exploitation because of dementia. One member of the House, a legislator from Westmoreland County where a CCRC has been investigated (apparently the only such investigation in the state), has been quite successful in attracting support for his bill to prevent such investigations from happening in the future.
Now the Pennsylvania Senate will have all of three days -- its last three working days in 2018 -- to consider HB 2291 for the first time.
Has HB 2291 been carefully considered by all the stakeholders, including seniors and their families? It may not matter when the train is running at full steam.
October 10, 2018 in Cognitive Impairment, Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, Retirement, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)
Friday, October 5, 2018
Dwindling Numbers in Traditional Skilled Care Facilities Have Implications for Other Forms of Senior Living
The New York Times tracks more demographic information about occupancy in skilled care facilities:
For more than 40 years, Morningside Ministries operated a nursing home in San Antonio, caring for as many as 113 elderly residents. The facility, called Chandler Estate, added a small independent living building in the 1980s and an even smaller assisted living center in the 90s, all on the same four-acre campus.
The whole complex stands empty now. Like many skilled nursing facilities in recent years, Chandler Estate had seen its occupancy rate drop.
“Every year, it seemed a little worse,” said Patrick Crump, chief executive of the nonprofit organization, supported by several Protestant groups. “We were running at about 80 percent.”
Staff at the Chandler Estate took pride in its five-star rating on Medicare’s Nursing Home Compare website. But by the time the board of directors decided it had to close the property, only 80 of its beds were occupied, about 70 percent.
Revenue from independent and assisted living couldn’t compensate for the losses incurred by the nursing home.
As seniors elect to stay "at home" and as families struggle to make that happen, we are seeing ever evolving concepts in how to provide appropriate care and companionship. For more read, In the Nursing Home, Empty Beds and Quiet Halls.
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
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)
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!
Thursday, September 20, 2018
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)
Monday, September 17, 2018
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.
Thursday, September 13, 2018
State Regulators Seek to Revoke Licenses of California Facilities for Failures During Fire Emergency Response
Flying into California for Labor Day weekend was a vivid reminder for me as an East Coast resident of the devastation being wrought by wildfires on the West Coast.
News articles also call attention to the need for careful advance planning and training by senior care communities -- however labeled or regulated, and wherever located -- for emergencies such as fires. Reading recent articles also demonstrates that just because you are in a "high-end" facility, administrators may not have a functional plan.
As detailed in a written complaint filed the first week of September 2018, California regulators are seeking to revoke the licenses of two Santa Rosa facilities operated under the umbrella of Oakmont Senior Living endangered by wildfires on October 8-9, 2017. The complaint also seeks lifetime bans for individual administrators. While there were no deaths of residents or staff at either location, one location, Villa Capri, was completely destroyed in the fire.
The state's complaint alleges inadequate staffing to handle nighttime evacuations, plus failure to comply with emergency and evacuation procedures, either because of inadequate knowledge or training on the plans for the administrators and staff that were present. The complaint describes a bus that could have been used to facilitate evacuation, but the on-duty staff did not have keys. It is alleged that because of these failures, "no staff were at Villa Capri to assist with the evacuation of more than 20 remaining elderly and infirm facility residents." Family members of the residents and emergency responders conducted the remaining evacuations at both locations.
The facilities, described in news articles by various labels ranging from "nursing homes" (the label used in the first line of a New York Times article) to "luxury retirement communities" (as described in the Mercury News), were licensed under California law as "residential care facilities for the elderly." As such, they were subject to regulations requiring appropriate emergency plans, including evacuation plans. It appears that Villa Capri had 62 units devoted to "memory (dementia) care" and assisted living. The second community, Varenna at Fountaingrove, is reported to have had 228 residents, including many who lived in individual "casitas," and 14 residents who needed "care and supervision" or "hospice."
The state's suit comes a few days after news of a reported settlement of a civil suit for undisclosed terms, filed on behalf of 17 residents of Villa Capri.
September 13, 2018 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, Property Management, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)
Tuesday, September 11, 2018
I'm preparing for an upcoming program in North Carolina and residents of senior living communities have sent me questions in advance. The questions I've received are a reminder that "transparency" is a big issue. As one resident candidly explained, "No population is more vulnerable than seniors living in managed care.... I consider myself among the vulnerable." I've come to believe that lack of transparency impacts virtually all of the options for financing of senior living, including long-term care insurance and continuing care communities. The problem is that many prospective clients do not know who they can trust, and many end up trusting no one. They end up not making any advance plan.
For example, this week there is industry-sourced news that 33 facilities operated under the umbrella of Atrium Health and Senior Living, a New Jersey-based company, are going into receivership. These include 9 "senior living communities" and 23 "skilled nursing facilities" in Wisconsin, plus a skilled nursing facility in Michigan. Atrium is also reported as operating 3 senior living communities and 9 skilled nursing facilities in New Jersey that "are not part of the receivership." If you look at the company's website today, however, it won't be easy to find news that insolvency is already impacting this company's sites. At least as of the time of my writing this blog post, there's only "good news" on the company's website.
The public tends not to distinguish between different types of senior living options, at least not until individuals get fairly close to needing to make choices about moving out of their own homes. I can easily imagine anyone who has done enough advance research to know about troubled companies to simply make a decision to steer clear of all facilities operated under a particular company name. But, I suspect there is also a much larger population of prospective residents who view reports of troubled senior living companies or facilities as a reason to reject all of the options.
Some providers will say that the problem is that "bad news" is over-reported. I don't think that is actually true. Rather, I think that there in most states is it hard to distinguish between financially sound or unsound options. Certainly, I've known state regulators who decline to talk about troubled properties on a theory that bad news may make it harder for struggling operations to work out their problems as they cannot attract new customers. Lack of transparency is argued as an explanation for giving operators a fair chance to recover, and recovery helps everyone.
States, however, have unique opportunities to learn from their roles as receivers for troubled operations. Wouldn't it be helpful for states to publish accurate information about what factors they have discovered that contribute to success or lack of financial success? And if not the regulators, why not have the industry itself publish standards of financial health.
September 11, 2018 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, Legal Practice/Practice Management, Property Management, Retirement, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations, Statistics | Permalink | Comments (0)
I've been reading articles for several weeks about a "troubled" nursing home in Connecticut where staff members were reportedly being paid late, and not receiving payments on related benefit claims (including health care and pensions).
The reports sound unusually mysterious, with indications of an executive's "loan" to a related charity from operating reserves. Suddenly more than $4 million was apparently restored to a key pension account:
As News 12 has reported, federal agents raided the center back in May. When the raid happened, that account was down to $800. For years, workers have complained about missing retirement money. In a lawsuit, the Labor Department claims the facility's owner illegally funneled their money into his own private charity.
Now, according to new court documents, the $4 million was unexpectedly deposited into the pension account last week. It's unclear where the money came from, and even the bankruptcy trustee running the facility was unsure.
"I don't truly know the source, but I do know that there's $4.1 million in this bank," bankruptcy trustee Jon Newton said at a court hearing yesterday.
But in a recent court hearing, owner Chaim Stern's lawyer said the money "was meant to represent the $3.6 million transferred from the (retirement) plan to Em Kol Chai." That's the charity authorities say Stern controls.
Workers may not get as much of that money as they think. Bridgeport Health Care has a long list of creditors, and they could potentially get a share.
News 12 reported back in July that part of the facility, called Bridgeport Manor, is shutting down. Lawyers say they hope to wrap that process up within a month.
September 11, 2018 in Consumer Information, Crimes, Current Affairs, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Federal Cases, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, Medicaid, Medicare | Permalink | Comments (0)
Thursday, August 30, 2018
In my 1L Contracts course, I often discuss binding arbitration agreements, including those used as part of a package of admission documents in long-term care settings. I find that students tend to approach the subject from strong personal viewpoints. Some express their assumptions that arbitration is faster and less expensive than court-based litigation. Others, upon hearing the possible costs of arbitration and the rights that may be waived as a result of signing these agreements without careful thought or legal advice, ask whether they are "void" as unconscionable. We discuss the history of litigation in the nursing home realm, which has made the latter "contract law" challenge to be mostly unavailing.
On Tuesday, I sat in on an interesting "arbitration" discussion in an upper division Business Entities course that began with a unit on the law of agency. The springboard was the Pennsylvania Superior Court case of Wisler v. Manor Care of Lancaster, decided in September 2015. In the case history, the son had helped his father be admitted to a care facility for rehabilitation following a health crisis. The son signed the paperwork for his father, including an Arbitration Agreement. The son advised the facility he had a POA for his father, but the facility "did not obtain a copy of the power of attorney, nor could [the son] produce a copy at the time of his deposition." These facts became important after the family brought a personal injury suit against the facility; the defendant sought to compel arbitration.
The appellate court addressed this fact pattern as one of validity of an agency relationship between the son and father. The court concluded that without a written document or other evidence to establish the scope of authority granted to the agent, the alleged arbitration document signed only by the son was invalid to compel arbitration. The court found there was inadequate evidence of express, implied, or apparent authority for the son to waive his father's rights to a court-based trial, including any jury. Further, based on the facts, the court found no grounds to conclude the son had "authority by estoppel."
The court concludes that it is up to nursing homes to seek appropriate confirmation of the agent's authority. Reliance on oral representations was at their peril. "If a third party relies on an agent's authority, it must ascertain the scope of that authority at the time of reliance. . . . In other words, our decision should encourage parties seeking an agreement to arbitrate to ascertain the source of an agent's authority before allowing the agent to sign an arbitration agreement on the principal's behalf."
Perhaps the most interesting part of the class was the fact that the author of the appellate opinion, Pennsylvania Superior Court Judge Victor Stabile, was the guest lecturer for the discussion. He brought to bear not just his judicial experience but his commercial litigation experience to enliven the discussion. My thanks to Dickinson Law Professor Samantha Prince for inviting me to sit in on the interesting class.
Monday, August 27, 2018
New Jersey Governor Signs New Law Helping CCRC Residents Get More Timely Refunds of "Refundable" Fees
Back in April, I posted here about legislation pending in New Jersey, inspired in part by litigation. Residents of Continuing Care Retirement Communities in New Jersey were advocating for mandatory limits on how long a CCRC could hold "refundable" entrance fees after the death or departure of a resident from a facility. New Jersey CCRC residents are well-organized and they have earned the ear of legislators. Final passage on an amended version of Assembly Bills 2747/880 occurred on July 1.
On August 17, 2018, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed Public Law 2018, c.98 into law. The old New Jersey Law required CCRCs to repay refundable fees, but the refunds were not mandated until 60 days of "the unit" being resold. Data collected by residents and disclosed during litigation revealed that some facilities were holding refundable fees for more than a year after the vacating of the particular unit, while marketing and selling "other" units first. In essence, the companies preferred to sell new units or other units unencumbered by a refund obligation, to maximize their income and asset picture.
The new law creates a preference list for the 60-day refunds, a type of "first out, first repaid" system. Key language of the new law provides:
"In the case of a continuing care agreement that provides for a refundable entrance fee, the facility shall assign the vacated unit a sequential 'refund' number among all available units with refundable entrance fees. Any balance [due on refundable fees] shall be payable based on the sequential 'refund' number assigned to the unit. . . . "
A compromise among facility owners and residents in the drafting of the legislation permits a facility to apply to the New Jersey regulatory body for CCRCs for permission to use an alternative methodology for making refunds, but "approval shall not be granted unless the facility can demonstrate that the use of the alternative methodology is resident-focused and provides for a more equitable and timely payment of refundable fees."
This final language appears to be more resident-friendly than an earlier proposed exception, which would have expressly recognized the possibility of conditioning refunds on the resale of "similar" units. Resident councils will probably need to be careful to review any alternative proposals submitted by their own CCRCs.
The act takes effect in 90 days from date of enactment. For more on the history of the legislation, see Signed: Bateman Law to Stop Retirement Communities From Taking Advantage of Seniors and Surviving Estate Holders.
Current residents did not get a clear win, as the new rules for refunds are mandatory only for CCRC agreements entered into on or after the effective date of the new law. Nonetheless, congratulations to CCRCs and residents in New Jersey on making changes that better respect the expectations of customers and their families about the use of funds that function, in essence, as an interest fee loan to the CCRC during the residents' tenure in the facilities.