Friday, October 9, 2020

Court Called Upon to Prevent Misuse of Law to Penalize Homeless People

As many of our regular readers know, I grew up in Phoenix, Arizona.  One of the developments I have followed over the years is the number of homeless residents of Phoenix.  I'm a cyclist in my spare time and one of my regular downtown bike routes in Phoenix takes me past an ever-growing encampment.  In addition, a large park near my parents' home now serves as a daytime gathering spot for many.  In the scorching heat of the summer, and the desert cold of the winter, there are more and more people without adequate shelter.  The New York Times recently pointed out that in contrast to historical statistics suggesting that nationwide, "elderly" persons make up a small percentage of the homeless population, in the last few years we are seeing a surge among older adults.  See Elderly and Homeless: America's Next Housing Crisis, a feature article published on September 30, 2020, that, in part, profiles the issues in Arizona.  


Stryker PhotoSo, it was with great interest that I read a report on a federal appellate decision, limiting the ability of municipalities to use criminal laws to penalize individuals, in an attempt to discourage or remove people who are living on the streets.  The report is by one of  Dickinson Law's third year law students, Jacqueline Stryker.  She writes in part:  

"The city of Boise, Idaho attempted to fight homelessness in the community through a combination of its public camping ordinance and its disorderly conduct ordinance.  In Martin v. City of Boise, 920 F.3d 584 (9th Cir. 2019), the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals considered whether the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment bars a city from criminally prosecuting people for sleeping outside on public property when those people have no shelter.  The Court concluded that it does.  A municipality cannot criminalize people who sleep outside when no sleeping space is practically available in any shelter. "

Ms. Stryker observes in her conclusion, "Whether the decision of the Ninth Circuit in Martin will gain traction a local governments grapple with the growing problem of homelessness and homeless encampments is yet to be seen."

For more of Ms. Stryker's timely, concise case analysis, see:  Municipal Efforts to Combat Homelessness.

October 9, 2020 in Crimes, Current Affairs, Discrimination, Ethical Issues, Federal Cases, Housing, Property Management, Statistics | Permalink

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

How Does Your State Rank in Providing Long Term Care Services?

Advancing Action, 2020: A State Scorecard on Long-Term Services and Supports for Older Adults, People with Physical Disabilities, and Family Caregivers ranks individual states on the available services, etc. Here's the introduction on this latest scorecard:

This report is a compilation of state data and analysis that is based on a vision of a high-performing system of long-term services and supports (LTSS). By using reliable, consistent, available data, it is designed to spark conversations that can result in actionable solutions at the local, state, and national levels—solutions that help older adults, people with physical disabilities, and their family caregivers live their best lives possible. Making that happen is the responsibility of both the public and private sectors, with advocates playing crucial roles. And consumers’ choices and actions ultimately affect a state’s LTSS system as well.

Of course, COVID changes everything and the introduction addresses that impact on the Scorecard.  The purpose of the scorecard

The 2020 Long-Term Services and Supports (LTSS) State Scorecard aims to empower state and federal policy makers, the private sector, and consumers with information they need to do the following:

  • Effectively assess their state’s performance across multiple dimensions and indicators.
  • Learn from other states.
  • Improve the lives of older adults, people with disabilities, and their families.

The Scorecard is guided by the belief that, in order to meaningfully manage and improve performance, one must measure it. Unlike many other rankings that focus on a particular aspect of LTSS system performance, the Scorecard compares state LTSS systems across multiple dimensions of performance, reflecting the importance and interconnectedness each has on the overall LTSS system. The goal is to spark conversations, galvanize broad-based coalitions, and focus stakeholders’ attention on the factors that most directly impact consumers and their families.

Info on how to use the scorecard is available here.  Check out your state here in the full report!

October 7, 2020 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Other, Statistics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

The Aging of the US

According to AARP, The United States is an Aging Nation.

Here are the population projections they offer

1.    The National Median Age is 38.2 Years Old

2.   The Number of Older Adults Will Soon Outnumber Children

3. The 65+ Population Increased During the Past Decade

4. The Population of Older Adults is Getting Larger — and Older

Each of this incudes an interactive graphic that links to a separate page that provides more info about the statistic. The landing page for the projections is here.

October 6, 2020 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Other, Statistics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 5, 2020

New GAO Report: Retirement Security for Women

The GAO has released a new report, RETIREMENT SECURITY: Older Women Report Facing a Financially Uncertain Future. Here are the highlights:

In all 14 focus groups GAO held with older women, women described some level of anxiety about financial security in retirement. Many expressed concerns about the future of Social Security and Medicare benefits, and the costs of health care and housing. Women in the groups also cited a range of experiences that hindered their retirement security, such as divorce or leaving the workforce before they planned to (see fig.). Women in all 14 focus groups said their lack of personal finance education negatively affected their ability to plan for retirement. Many shared ideas about personal finance education including the view that it should be incorporated into school curriculum starting in kindergarten and continuing through college, and should be available through all phases of life.

Individual women's financial security is also linked to their household where resources may be shared among household members. According to the 2016 Survey of Consumer Finances, among households with older women, about 23 percent of those with white respondents and 40 percent of those with African American respondents fell short of a measure of retirement confidence, indicating their income was not sufficient to maintain their standard of living. The likelihood of a household reporting high retirement confidence rose in certain cases. For example among households of similar wealth, those with greater liquidity in their portfolio and those with defined benefit plan income were more likely to report high retirement confidence.

The full report is available here.

October 5, 2020 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Retirement, Social Security, Statistics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 28, 2020

Guardianship Court Monitoring Survey

Two researchers are collecting data on court monitoring involving conservatorships and guardianships.

The National Center for State Courts would like to learn about your experiences with court monitoring practices of guardians and conservators.

This survey is part of the research that [two researchers] are conducting in preparation for the 4th National Guardianship Summit to be held in May 2021, at the Syracuse University Law School.

Please answer the questions with reference to the jurisdiction you are most familiar with. Responding to the survey will take less than 15 minutes of your time. You will not be identified in any manner, as findings from the study will be presented only in the aggregate.

The researchers acknowledge the assistance of the State Justice Institute in conducting this survey.

 

September 28, 2020 in Cognitive Impairment, Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations, Statistics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Assessing Your COVID Risk To Go Outside When You Are Older?

When I read the following New York Times article, all I could think of was the Clash song, "Should I Stay or Should  I Go?  The article, You’re a Senior. How Do You Calculate Coronavirus Risk Right Now? focuses on the decision to stay home or to venture out into the world (with precautions of course) when you are in a high risk group (or any group for that matter but this is the elderlawprof blog!)

"Early on in the pandemic, most public health officials warned older adults to simply stay at home, except to buy food or medicine or exercise outdoors apart from others. Now, with states and cities reopening (and some re-closing) at varying paces, the calculations grow steadily more complicated."

What to do? What to do? One study from MIT economists "in a recent paper suggesting age-targeted lockdowns ... proposed protecting people over 65 by having them isolate for an estimated 18 months until a vaccine becomes available; younger people, facing less health risk, would return to work."  As the article notes, that "approach also assumes that older adults’ only  interest lies in not dying."  Well, that is a big one, but still.....

There's so much info out there, what is one to do?  The article offers a couple of insights

calculator developed by researchers at the Cleveland Clinic may provide a clearer sense of individual risk.

Geography matters too. Older people in New Hampshire or Maine — where new cases were falling last week — may reasonably opt for less restrictive behavior than those in Florida and Arizona, where Covid has been surging. Pay attention to which counties are seeing cases rise and which are doing a good job at observing guidelines.)

 

July 19, 2020 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Health Care/Long Term Care, Statistics, Travel | Permalink

Monday, July 6, 2020

What Does It Mean to Do Contact Tracing for Communicable Diseases, Especially for Air Travelers?

Last month I made my first roundtrip, domestic airline flight following 90+ days of lockdown and gradual easing of travel restrictions.  I scheduled this quick trip cautiously, for family-related reasons, and with a goal of returning to my Pennsylvania home well in advance of any return to work with students in my law school. I'm not a timid flyer, but I did my best to try to minimize risk factors, including selection of an airline that advertised "vacant" middle seats, masking requirements, and updated standards for cleaning the airplane and social distancing. I am writing here because an individual on the return leg of my flight in my same row (but across the aisle) became seriously ill during the flight. This post is about my growing concern about what it means to respond to the potential for a communicable illness while traveling, especially but not exclusively in the time of COVID-19. 

When the individual became ill (seeming to lose consciousness and vomiting-- more ill than what I associate with "mere" air sickness), the flight attendants responded to his needs with plastic bags and napkins.  On the positive side, they kept everything low key and talked to the individual softly.  I think it was another, closer passenger who summoned them and everyone tried to respect the privacy of the individual.  Eventually, the ill passenger was moved to the rear of the plane.  Shortly after that, all passengers were informed the seatbelt signs had been activated and everyone should stay in their seats for the remainder of the flight.   There were no further announcements and nothing said about the ill passenger specifically. When the flight arrived at its regular destination, I did not see the individual leave the plane.

What does it mean for any state health department or CDC program official to say they will follow a plan for contact tracing?  Each step of the process needs clarity, including that first step of identifying the ill traveler and other potentially affected travelers, right?   

I received a traditional customer satisfaction "survey" form from the airline the morning of my return via email, asking me to describe the flight. This made me realize that I should be talking directly to the airline about this specific incident.  Was the individual in question experiencing a communicable illness, especially COVID-19?  I made a short, emailed report to the airline less than 12 hours after the end of the flight, and made a follow up inquiry and a second report by telephone and email.   The most I have learned is that the airline is "researching" whether there is any record of the incident or illness on board that flight.  Taking a week (or more?) to determine whether the crew made a report is not reassuring. At a minimum, shouldn't there be a record of that plane being taken out of service for some period of time for cleaning?  

The Pennsylvania governor, for reasons unrelated to my account above, has recently asked all residents returning from the departure state in question (and certain other states experiencing surges in COVID-19) to self-quarantine for 14 days. That makes sense.  Even though I had been exceptionally careful during my time out-of-state, the airline incident was a stark reminder that travel, even with the lessons learned during the last several months, involves factors that are completly outside the control of any of the passengers.  "Being careful" on an individual basis may not be enough and when something happens that involves risk to others, we need clear lines  for any investigation and communication.    

Everyday we are learning new things about how to deal with communicable illnesses, including ones that may be life-threatening. I think what I'm realizing is that as individuals and consumers, we cannot be passive about these steps.

I contacted the CDC and was told there is a process for "contact investigations" by the CDC, but that triggering such an investigation cannot be done easily, at least not if you are a mere passenger.  They recommended I contact the health department in the state where my plane landed.  Here is what CDC sent me by email:  https://www.cdc.gov/quarantine/contact-investigation.html

Weaknesses clearly exist in the protocols. The airline and CDC have been quick to warn me that they cannot give any information about the "patient."  I'm not asking to know the patient's identity in any way. But shouldn't any potentially affected traveler be entitled to know:

a. Whether there was a report of the illness made by the crew to the airline and/or other authorities.

b. The result of any investigation, especially in terms of public health implications.

c.  Whether a specific, communicable illness or disease was identified.

d.  Whether there are specific steps that should be taken by passengers in light of the history.

Shouldn't the CDC want to know whether others on that plane have experienced similar symptoms? (Thankfully, I have not, but although I was in the line of sight of his seat, there were others between us, and in front and behind him, who were much closer.)  I have realized that short of contacting every passenger on the plane, it might be difficult  for some airlines to help with "contact" tracing. They may be relying on a manifest rather than a chart for assigned seats.  Certainly, no one asked me or other, closer passengers on the flight for contact information. I hope the ill individual has recovered fully and quickly, and that for his sake this was a temporary illness.  I'm being calm, even as I'm frustrated.  I'm frustrated not just for myself, but for the larger public.  The  passengers on this plane included all ages, including older individuals.  Earlier during my trip, I overheard one older traveler say to another, "I just want to live long enough to see my grandchildren again."

July 6, 2020 in Consumer Information, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Science, Statistics, Travel | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Topics and Speakers Announced for AALS January 2021 Program on Intersectionality, Aging and the Law

Hard to believe we are scheduling for January 2021, isn't it!  Here's the scheduled speakers and topics for the co-hosted program during the AALS Annual Meeting in San Francisco on "Intersectionality, Aging and the Law:"

July 2, 2020 in Advance Directives/End-of-Life, Cognitive Impairment, Discrimination, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Ethical Issues, International, Programs/CLEs, Statistics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, June 8, 2020

Oklahoma Legal Aid Services Update: 3rd Annual Memorial Elder Abuse Symposium Goes Virtual, Starting June 15

This year, the Sonya L. Patterson Elder Abuse Symposium hosted annually by Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma, will take place over the course of several weeks, in bite-size programming, rather than in a single, all-day conference format.  In light of the online setting, the organizers are also able to open up registration and attendance to interested people outside of Oklahoma; however, there are limits on the number who can attend each session, so I recommend registering early. In past years, the symposium has drawn an audience of attorneys, law enforcement and social workers, with CLE credits available.

I'm very pleased for the opportunity to be a speaker this year. In addition to attorneys and judges, the speakers include health care professionals and bankers.  The program honors the life and advocacy of a young Oklahoma public interest attorney, Sonya L. Patterson, who passed away far too soon in 2015, as the result of an accident at the age of just 30. 

Here's the line up for the midday Symposium Webinar Series , with all sessions taking place on Central Daylight Savings Time:

Session 1: Monday, June 15th (11:00 am to 1:45 pm)

  1. The Psychic Effect on Victims of Elder Abuse by Family and/or Caregivers- Dr. Nancy Needell, M.D., Weill Cornell Medicine
  2. Attorney Responsibility to Client’s Ward or Principal- Rick Goralewicz, Staff Attorney, Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma

 

Session 2: Monday, June 22nd (11:00 am to 1:15 pm)

  1. Financial Exploitation of the Elderly- Justice Scott Roland, Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals with Elaine Dodd, Executive Vice President/ Fraud Division at Oklahoma Banker's Association and Jennifer Shaw, Oklahoma Securities Commission
  2. Extreme Home Takeover: Dealing with the “Concerned Relative”- Katherine C. Pearson, Professor of Law at Dickinson Law, Pennsylvania State University, Carlisle Pennsylvania

 

Session 3: Wednesday, June 24th (11:00 am to 1:15 pm)

  1. Elder Abuse General Topic- Stacey Morey, Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office, Chief of Consumer Protection Division
  2. Experts: Identifying and Utilizing in Elder Abuse Litigation- Kara Vincent, Attorney, Barber and Bartz

 

Session 4: Monday, June 29th (11:00 am to 1:15 pm)

  1. Domestic Violence and Seniors- Melissa Brooks, Staff Attorney at Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma and Gail Stricklin, Attorney at Law
  2. Abuse in Institutional Settings- William Whited, State Long Term Care Ombudsman and Nicole Snapp-Holloway, Attorney at Maples, Nix and Diesselhorst

 

Session 5: Wednesday, July 1st (11:00 am to 1:15 pm)

  1. Incompetency, Incapacity and Vulnerability- Mark Holmes, Attorney at Holmes, Holmes and Niesent, PLLC, Travis Smith, Attorney at Holmes, Holmes and Niesent, PLLC and Cathy Wood, Adult Protective Services
  2. Isolation and Loneliness- Laurel Dinkel, LCSW, Norman, Oklahoma

Click HERE for access to registration information for individual sessions or  the entire series. My thanks to Oklahoma Legal Aid Staff Attorney Rick Goralewicz for the invitation.  

June 8, 2020 in Advance Directives/End-of-Life, Cognitive Impairment, Consumer Information, Crimes, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Ethical Issues, Housing, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations, Statistics, Webinars | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, June 6, 2020

NYT: "Detecting" the Reasons for a Death in Nursing Home

From a sad, powerful story about one of many deaths at Isabella Geriatric Center, carried in the New York Times:

A little after 1 in the afternoon, Aida Pabey got the call from the nursing home: Her mother was not going to make it. It was April 6, nearly four weeks after the state had barred all visitors to nursing homes, and Aida and her sister, Haydee, had been struggling to get even the most basic information about their mother. Was she eating? Had the coronavirus reached her part of the home?

 

Now this dire call. Just the day before, the sisters had been assured by an aide that their mother was “fine.”

 

They were both detectives in the New York Police Department, 20-year veterans. They were used to getting information, even from people determined to withhold it. But the nursing home had been a black box.

 

They raced to the home. Haydee got there first and managed to get upstairs. Aida, arriving second, identified herself as a crime scene investigator and brought safety gear. “I had my face shield, my bootees, my mask, my gloves,” she said. The security guard refused to let her in. “No. It was, ‘No way.’”

For more read, When Their Mother Died at a Nursing Home, 2 Detectives Wanted Answer.  As one of our Blog's readers has commented recently, "we need to go a step deeper to the ROOT cause of these serious breaches of safe practices in care facilities."

June 6, 2020 in Cognitive Impairment, Consumer Information, Crimes, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations, Statistics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, June 5, 2020

Must Any Public "Right to Know" the Covid-19 Infection Status of LTC Facilities Depend on Legislation?

Under the best of circumstances, it is difficult to make a decision about whether to place a fragile loved one in a care community.  With COVID-19, such a decision can be even more difficult,  as some states states (and some facilities) have resisted making public the names of long-term care facilities where residents or staff have been diagnosed with COVID-19.

In Arizona, a "right to inspect public records" suit was filed on May 5, 2020 by news organizations, seeking to review "public records" that show the number of COVID-19 positive residents at nursing care institutions, as well as the number of transfers made between such facilities and Arizona hospitals.  They were not requesting the identity of the residents; however, disclosing records containing the numbers would disclose the names of the facilities. That state's Governor has reportedly taken the position that not disclosing the COVID-19 infection history of facilities by name is "in the best interest of public health." 

On May 29, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Christopher Coury ruled against the news organizations.  In the 23-page opinion in CV 2020-005385, Judge Coury concluded with these interesting paragraphs: 

72. Both Plaintiffs and Defendants have asserted legitimate positions in this action, particularly given that the underlying issues are important and weighty in the lives of Arizonans. It is beyond dispute that Arizonans who have parents, aunts, uncles, friends, neighbors, and loved ones living, or who may in the future be placed, in a Facility to care for them want, and justifiably deserve, to know how that Facility and its residents have fared during the Covid-19 public health emergency. As a son, nephew, friend, and neighbor, this judicial officer understands, respects, and empathizes with the need for Arizonans to have access to the information contained in the Records. Fortunately, this need of family and caregivers has been mitigated, if not eliminated, by EXECUTIVE ORDER 2020-35, which requires Facilities to provide Covid-19 information to residents, transferees, and applicants – and their guardians and next of kin – on a prompt basis.

 

73. It is not the position of the Judicial Branch to enact legislation or to create policy – that responsibility rests squarely with the other branches of government. The Legislature could consider the policy implications on all sides of this issue, and if desired, enact clarifying legislation and expressly protect records, or direct that records be released. If any frustration exists, it is that this has not happened. The Act – the legislation authorizing the actions at issue – lacks clarity. Rather than using model legislation with clearly defined terms, and rather than actually defining the terms used, the Legislature in 2002 created Arizona-specific legislation, apparently from whole cloth. Even though the subject matter of the Act relates to emergencies – instances when clear statutes are needed to permit critical, decisive and time-sensitive actions – the Act left critical terms undefined. Eighteen regular legislative sessions have passed, and the Act has not been amended or clarified. Perhaps this is the fortuitous result of not having to deal with a widespread health emergency during the intervening years. Nonetheless, if this decision illustrates nothing else, it highlights the need for the Legislature to revisit the Act and make it more workable for all concerned. In its present form, the ambiguous Act does a disservice to the media, to government leaders, to the courts, and to all Arizonans.

 

74. Arizona has been profoundly impacted by Covid-19. Lives have been lost. Women and men, old and young, have been sickened. The economy has been set back. Livelihoods of people have been compromised. Weddings and religious ceremonies have been delayed. Births and funerals have been isolated. Students have missed classes and graduations. Temptation exists to simply adopt jurisprudence that because Covid-19 has created such harm in our state and because Arizonans need information to battle Covid-19, sufficient justification exists to “look the other way” and require release of the Records. This judicial officer, however, will not and cannot do this. Indeed, were this judicial officer to ignore the law, Arizona’s Constitution – and its provisions of limited government and separation of powers – would be added to the list of Covid-19’s victims. The Court will neither countenance nor assist in this. Although difficult in the face of this devilish virus, fidelity to the Constitution and laws of the State of Arizona must prevail.

Therefore, Judge Coury entered judgment against the News Organizations as plaintiffs with respect to their request to produce records containing numerical information on COVID-19 infections at specific facilities, ruling that this was medical information that was "confidential and protected as a matter of law."  

The court found that a triable issue exists relating to other issues in the case, "specifically, Defendant's failure to produce  documents relating to information regarding the availability of PPE."  

Note:  I have not yet found a public website containing Judge Coury's decision, although it appears the order is not a restricted document.  If any of our readers come across such a site, feel free to let me know and I can amend this post to link to the full opinion.  

My thanks to Jon Dessaules, a  former Dickinson Law student, now a long-established Phoenix attorney, for assistance in tracking down information on this case.  

June 5, 2020 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, Science, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations, Statistics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

National Continuing Care Residents Association Joins Other Senior Living Advocates in Opposing COVID-19 Immunity

On June 1, 2020, the National Continuing Care Residents Association (NaCCRA) released its public statement detailing the organization's opposition to COVID-19 immunity or waivers of liability for nursing homes, adding to the growing chorus of opposition. They explain:  

CCRCs mainly provide three levels of care under one roof or on the same campus, normally comprised of independent living, assisted living, and skilled nursing care -- the latter two considered licensed long-term care facilities.  Our members can reside at various times in any of the three levels of care.  Fore example, one spouse can live independently while the other can live in assisted living or skilled nursing.  There are numerous variations of these living arrangements depending on the level of care required.

 

NaCCRA and its members are very sympathetic to the CCRC managers and front-line care/service workers as they labor during the coronavirus pandemic with its many challenges.  However, residents living and dying, many times alone, in nursing homes or assisted living apartments, should not be deprived of their legal rights or protections even in these most extraordinary times.

 

NaCCRA and its member residents living in continuing care settings are alarmed at the push to grant liability immunity to providers and operators of long-term care facilities in the face of the COVID019 epidemic.  Many states have acquiesced to provider association lobbyists at the expense of residents' legal protections.  NaCCRA believes that long term care providers must not be given a pass on negligence in any form simply due to a pandemic, which makes seniors in such congregate settings even more vulnerable.  

 

Therefore, we strongly oppose the liability waivers for COVID-19 legislated by some states.  WE urge that these be repealed and advocate on immediate moratorium on any future waivers for providers/operators of CCRCs and long-term care facilities.  It is our position that existing laws and negligence standards are more than adequate to protect long term care facilities that are sued if they have followed the proper standards of care and protocols.

My thanks to Jim Haynes, the current president of NaCCRA, for keeping us advised on their position.  

June 3, 2020 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Ethical Issues, Federal Cases, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, Retirement, Science, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations, Statistics | Permalink | Comments (2)

Thursday, May 28, 2020

The Most Important Coronavirus Death Statistic?

From Forbes, a deep dive into "The Most Important COVID-19 Statistic: 43% of U.S. Deaths Are From o.6% of the Population."  This will undoubtedly be an ongoing topic for examination for statisticians and analysts.  

May 28, 2020 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Ethical Issues, Federal Statutes/Regulations, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations, Statistics | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

When the Pandemic Comes to a NORC Near You...

In senior living, one of the more interesting phenomena are so-called "naturally occurring retirement communities," or NORCs.  This label, or a related "village" label, is often used to describe residential settings where a large proportion of the population is now over the age of 60, not by design or plan.  The citizenry has continued to live there as they age, and has attracted complementary local service industries, such as wellness programs, home health visitors, day care options, and adapted transportation modes.  Some of the early, well documented and often studied NORCc include Beacon Hill in Boston, and Upper Park Heights in northwestern Baltimore.  Residents in the area often take great pride in the trend, emphasizing it as a positive way to age in place, drawing upon appropriates supports that help to maintain individual dignity.  

But what happens when a new, highly infectious disease also finds its way into a NORC?  As is too often true in law, the answer is probably, "It depends."

One such place is Co-op City in the Bronx.  According to some reports  it is the largest residential development in the U.S., with 43,000 residents in 36 towers and seven townhouse clusters, plus larges grass fields, walking paths, a community garden, nearby schools, shopping, and its own Little League baseball field.  Development of the planned, cooperative housing projects that comprise Co-Op City occurred from approximately 1966 to 1976.  The 2000 census showed that  60.5% of the population of Co-op City was African American, about 27.7% were Hispanic or Latino and about 8.6% were white.  A corporation is in charge of management.  

Co-Op City has also become an unplanned NORC, with one of the largest populations of elderly in the country.   As early as 2007, public sources estimated that over 8,300 of the residents were over the age of 60.  See also 2016 statistics that indicate that 21% of the population in District 10 (where Co-Op City is located) is over age 65, in comparison to New York City's overall age 65+ population of 16%.  Co-Op City is recognized as a NORC-JASA community for age-related programming and services.  

In 2020, the Bronx generally and Co-Op City especially appear to have been hard hit by the corona virus. Public media sources, reporting here and  here, use statistics released by city health officials,  to reveal "that the virus has killed at least 155 people in the zip code" that covers Co-Op City. "That's roughly 1 in every 282 residents."  (Hmm.  I'm not sure about the numerators and denominators used in these articles).  

It may be tempting for some to dismiss negative statistics in any single statistical areas as due to a single factor, such as vulnerability tied to advanced age.  That can be dangerous as discussed in the  article by Barbara Pfeffer Billauer, linked in my May 26 post.  

Instead, take the time to consider other factors that may point to the deep risk of infectious disease in certain congregate settings and that appear to exist in Co-Op City:

  • a geographic community with physical constraints that mean residents depend on public transit -- at a higher risk -- for much of their connection to the working world, including non-family caregivers and service providers; 
  • confined locations to do necessary shopping for food and pharmacy supplies;
  • comparatively tightly packed living or working spaces; 
  • and, significantly, common ingress/egress for buildings via limited numbers of hallways and tall towers of elevators for all such comings and goings. 

In this instance, a NORC, usually considered a better space for aging in place, arguably may have become a large-scale version of a nursing home, with abundant opportunities for building-to-building, apartment-to-apartment transmission of infections.  At a minimum, perhaps this is another reason to think more aggressively about public health strategies and health policy priorities in light of the lessons we are learning from the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Special thanks to my Dickinson Law colleague, Professor Sarah Williams, for alerting me to what is happening with coronavirus in Co-Op City.  

 

May 27, 2020 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Discrimination, Ethical Issues, Housing, Statistics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Barbara Pfeffer Billauer: An International Perspective on Ageism in the Time of Corona

George Washington Law Professor Naomi Cahn recently shared a piece by Israel-based law and policy author Barbara Pfeffer Billauer on  "Al Tashlichaynu L'Et Zichna: Ageism in the Time of Corona."  This thoughtful piece begins with a theme I've been discussing with others, how close to dystopian science-fiction the last 10 weeks have seemed.  She makes the opening comparison of current policy-based decisions to the science-fiction movie Logan's Run, where the "acceptable" price paid for a civil society was a mandatory limit on life spans -- to just 30 years. Logans_run_movie_poster  Professor Pffeffer Billauer observes "In this world of COVID, the age of devitalization is a bit older. But us oldsters are subject to truncation just the same."

She continues:

It’s time to expose the flawed basis on which morbidly dystopic and discriminatory responses toward the aged have been become public health policy– both as a warning that initial and instinctive public health responses must be constantly re-evaluated and updated – and as an alert that discriminatory responses can be couched as public health concerns, even as their main purpose is to further political goals.

 

At first glance, “protection of the vulnerable” seems laudatory and compassionate. Nevertheless, this approach should trigger concerns of discrimination. In the case of age-related discrimination, the dangers are, perhaps, exacerbated, as those affected are more likely to just accept it. Others accept these pronouncements without delving into the “scientific” or epidemiological underpinnings of the pronouncements. Even worse, is that rationale that might, in actuality, be political can be camouflaged as nobly “helping the needy.” 

Professor Pfeffer Baillauer warns that even as governments begin to ease virus-related restrictions, in many instances "the 'vulnerable' (aka the elderly)" are still locked down, and that the "differential relaxation of lockdowns is problematic, both from legal and public health perspectives."

Based purely on early (and stagnant) reports, we bought into this protectivist age-related response: The elderly were — and are — to have their liberty disproportionately restricted –because they are considered “vulnerable”. It’s time to question this approach and unmask the rank discrimination behind it, or at the very least, reveal the dangers of blind acquiescence without serious inquiry into the scientific basis.

She questions the statistical basis for some governments' decisions to impose mandatory isolation:

The Italian debacle, notably lots of deaths, was attributed to their older population. But these pronouncements were based on gross, oversimplified statistical calculations. Germany, with a similar age distribution, suffered far fewer deaths. So did Japan, with a population even older than Italy’s . Compare the case-fatality in Italy of 14% (as of March 19) with that of Germany (at 4.5%), or the even older Japanese demographic with a similar case-fatality (4.7%). Basic tools of epidemiological assessment, such as standardized age-adjusted rates, appear not to have been performed to sustain the extrapolation of the Italian experience to other countries. Basic epidemiological constraints, such as the ecological fallacy, were never even considered.

 

But there is more to the misleading assertion that the elderly are at greater risk than just flawed statistics. The approach obscures the key question: greater risk of what? Of disease susceptibility, of spreading it to others – or of dying?

She is provocative.  She notes that if there is legitimacy to mandating isolation of the elderly based on nursing home statistics on infection and death, perhaps the same rule should be assigned to the "financially flush," such as those who make up the majority of cruise ship passenger rosters, whether or not they are embarked on an actual cruise.

For more, read the full blog post linked above.  For MUCH more, keep an eye on Barbara's SSRN account for her next piece. Thanks, Naomi, for another great share!

 

May 26, 2020 in Advance Directives/End-of-Life, Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Discrimination, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, International, Statistics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Is What CMS Doesn't Say as Important as What CMS Does Say in Recommendations for "Reopening" Nursing Homes?

On May 18, 2020, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released a ten-page Memorandum making recommendations to state and local officials for operation of "Medicare/Medicaid certified long term care facilities (hereafter 'nursing homes') to prevent the transmission of COVID-19." 

In some ways, nursing homes may be breathing a sigh of relief as the memo does not use any mandatory language directed at the operators.  In some instances CMS identifies "choices" for the states, such as whether to require all facilities in a state to go through reopening phases at the same time, by region, or on individual bases.  The memo says that facilities "should" have CDC-compliant testing plans, including "capacity" for all residents and staff members to have a single baseline test with retesting until all test negative. What does that mean?  You should be able to test everyone before you ease visiting restrictions, but you can choose not to do so?   On page 4, CMS cross-references ("cross-walk") to reopening phases for all "senior care facilities" under President Trump's Opening Up America Again plan.  The document describes "surveys that will be performed at each phase" of the reopening process, referring to the states' obligations to conduct surveys on prioritized timelines, although with no hard numbers for such oversight suggested.

CMS recommends that each nursing home "should spend a minimum of 14 days in a given phase, with no new nursing home onset of COVID-19 cases, prior to advancing to the next phase," and CMS says states "may choose to have a longer waiting period (e.g., 28 days) before relaxing restrictions for facilities that have had a significant outbreak of COVID-19 cases." 

Significantly, there is nothing in the latest CMS guidelines regarding staff members who work at more than one facility, thus posing a clear potential for cross-contamination.  That seems to me, at least, especially short-sighted.  

May 24, 2020 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Ethical Issues, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicaid, Medicare, State Statutes/Regulations, Statistics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, May 21, 2020

NYT: Homes with Significant Number of Black and Latino Residents Twice as Likely to Be Hit by Coronavirus

The New York Times offers deep analysis of the impact of race on coronavirus infection rates in nursing homes.  A lot to unpack, starting here:

The coronavirus pandemic has devastated the nation's nursing homes, sickening staff members, ravaging residents and contributing to at least 20 percent of the nation's Covid-19 death toll.  The impact has been felt in cities and suburbs, in large facilities and small, in poorly rated homes and in those with stellar marks.

 

But Covid-19 has been particularly virulent toward African-Americans and Latinos:  Nursing homes where those groups make up a significant portion of the residents -- no matter their location, no matter their size, no matter their government rating -- have been twice as likely to get hit by the coronavirus as those where the population is overwhelmingly white.

For more issue spotting, read The Striking Racial Divide in How Covid-19 Has Hit Nursing Homes.

 

 

May 21, 2020 in Consumer Information, Discrimination, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Statistics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Pennsylvania Releases Statistics on Covid-19 in Care Facilities

Under pressure from media and advocacy groups, Pennsylvania's Departments of Health and Human Services have recently published statistics about how many residents and employees at a large number of long-term care facilities have been diagnosed with Covid-19 and how many, if any, have died with the diagnosis.  The spreadsheet is interesting, even with redaction of certain information if there is "less than 5" individuals with positive reports, as indicated by an asterisk.  I'm linking here to a Spotlight PA  article (written by Rebecca Moss for an investigative group that draws from the Pittsburgh Post/Gazette, the Philadelphia Inquirer and PennLive/Patriot-News) that provides part of the backstory on the state's decision to provide public information, along with an embedded link to the State's spreadsheet.  

On the one hand, the data is sobering when you see the high numbers of deaths reported at some facilities.  On the other hand, I'm intrigued by the number of facilities, including my own county's public nursing home (one of the few such facilities remaining in Pennsylvania) that report either zero or  less than 5 total cases and no deaths.  

The release of this kind of transparency will be important in the long run -- and help all of us better understand risks of infection in congregate settings, including but not limited to Covid-19.  Additional questions focus focus on Pennsylvania's announced new "strategy" to promote universal testing of "all residents" and "all staff" and also to include "all types" of long-term care, regardless of regulatory designation.  For more on that, see a WITF-Radio Smart Talk interview pointing to "potential holes" in Pennsylvania state reporting on long-term care Covid-19 infections.

May 20, 2020 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, State Cases, Statistics | Permalink | Comments (2)

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Dispute over Statistics in Florida regarding Covid-19 Related Deaths

I've written about Pennsylvania's ongoing dispute between its Department of Health and some County Coroners regarding responsibilities for reporting Covid-19 related deaths and how to better assure accuracy of data.   It seems possible to me that part of the controversy in Pennsylvania may reflect the fact that the County Coroners are elected officials, and may not identify with the political views of the Governor.  Some Republicans vs. Democrat.  In contrast, disputes between Florida's 25 medical examiner district offices and the state's Department of Health are emerging news. 

I don't follow politics in Florida closely enough to know whether party-politics are involved, but there does appear to be concern from the regional officials that the State is inclined to discount Covid-19 related deaths in Florida, perhaps in an attempt to protect tourism into the state.  Should a "tourist" that dies in Florida be counted as a death in Florida?  From Florida Today, this opening account of one tourist death:

When a 66-year-old man was found dying on an Amtrak train passing through Okeechobee County on April 5, there was nothing to indicate that he had COVID-19. It was the local medical examiner's office that pieced it together. 

 

The examiner discovered the man had recently arrived with a fever at New Jersey's Newark Liberty International Airport from the United Kingdom. The Centers for Disease Control stopped him from boarding a flight to Florida and sent him to a local hospital for a coronavirus test. Released before the results came back, he got on a southbound train, went into cardiac arrest while traversing the Sunshine State, and was pronounced dead at a Florida hospital.

 
The district medical examiner collected the facts, swabbed the body, confirmed coronavirus and entered the man's death into the Medical Examiners Commission record as a COVID-19 fatality on April 13. . . . 
 
But since at least April 20, the Florida Department of Health has blocked the Medical Examiners Commission from releasing their own detailed spreadsheet of the COVID-19 dead. On Wednesday, the state released the medical examiners' spreadsheet but redacted the narratives and cause of death entries. 
 
For more, read "What's In the Censored Florida Medical Examiners Database of COVID-19 Deaths?" by reporters Alessandro Marazzi Sassoon and Jim Waymer.  

May 16, 2020 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Science, Statistics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, May 14, 2020

New Research: How Timing Affects Low-Income and Aged Bill Payers

New research described in the Bulletin on Retirement and Disability published by the National Bureau of Economic Research provides new support for thinking about ways to help maximize use of benefits to pay for core living expenses.  Researchers Lint Barrage (UC Santa Barbara), Ian Chin (Michigan), Eric Chin (Dartmouth),and Justine Hastings (Brown) examine how timing of receipt of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits affects a household's ability and success in paying for utilities, such as electric bills.  They observe:

Our results suggest that, for low income households, timing of income from government benefits and the timing of bills due may have long-run consequences. If bills are not received when income is received, households are more likely to miss payments, which may compound into disconnections which may further impact family financial and health outcomes.

 

These results add to a growing literature suggesting that government benefits programs and/or private industry innovate in ways to help low income households balance budgets throughout the month and avoid potential poverty traps. In the case of electricity bills, moving bill receipt to coincide with SNAP benefits receipt could improve repayment rates. This could help low income families avoid poverty traps, but also lower electricity rates for all rate payers in regulated markets, since collection and electricity service disruption are costly and must be covered by regulated electricity rates. Further research is needed to implement and measure the impact of changes in timing of bill receipt through, for example, a randomized controlled trial, and to expand the outcome measures of impact to include measures of financial well being such as credit scores. 

For more, read How Bill Timing Affects Low-Income and Aged Households, NBER RDRC Working Paper 19-09) and the Bulletin summary

Our thanks to George Washington Law Professor Naomi Cahn for this reference.  I suspect that the timing of core household bills and public receipt of pandemic-driven federal stimulus payments would make for another interesting study.  

May 14, 2020 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Housing, Retirement, Social Security, Statistics | Permalink | Comments (0)