Monday, January 14, 2019

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Relearning Basic Skills When Suffering with Dementia

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

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

This is important research-read this article!

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

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Medical Marijuana for Treatment of Dementia Agitation

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

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

Medical Marijuana Gummies

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, January 7, 2019

What Boomers Value as Employee Benefits

According to AARP, employee benefits most valued by Boomers are  Health Insurance, Retirement Benefits Most Attractive to Boomer Workers

Boomer workers tend to place great importance on health insurance benefits and 401(k) matching contributions from their employers, according to a newly released Harris poll of 2,026 U.S. adults.

Gen Xers and younger adults also value these benefits but are somewhat more inclined than boomers to put a priority on paid time off and flexible work schedules, according to the poll, conducted for the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). 

The statistics in the article are interesting. For example, as far as what employee benefits are important: for the Boomers, 71% said health insurance and 67% said 401(k), 54% pensions while the millennials and Xers placed less importance on pensions, 16% and 34% respectively.  Millennials placed more importance on workplace flexibility compared to Boomers.  How long do the Boomers surveyed intend to continue working?  According to the article, 22% may retire within a year, 22% are considering cutting back on the amount they work and 13% are looking at a job change with only 14% likely to work more.

 

January 7, 2019 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Other, Retirement, Statistics | Permalink | Comments (0)

States Adopt "Work & Save" Programs to Promote Retirement Savings on the Job

I was chatting recently with Bill Johnston-Walsh, director of Pennsylvania's chapter of AARP.  I always enjoy catching up with Bill, as he gets involved in cutting edge issues and projects under development.

One of the hot topics he relayed to me are programs at the state level to support better on-the-job savings for retirement.  Almost gone are the days of defined benefit retirement plans and employers may not offer defined contribution plans either.  States are beginning to adopt laws that make it possible for employers to offer alternative, low-cost, voluntary approaches for employees, sometimes known as "Work & Save" programs, such as "OregonSaves."  Here's a summary from an AARP report in July 2018:

Oregon was the first-in-the-nation to launch this innovative solution with OregonSaves in 2017, and as of July 2018 they already have over 58,000 workers enrolled and nearly $4.6 million saved. Of those eligible at this time, 73% have enrolled, and participants are saving $46.42 per paycheck on average. Check out how OregonSaves is helping workers save here.



Elsewhere, this year, Washington opened the first ever marketplace version of Work & Save, Washington’s Retirement Marketplace, and Illinois started a pilot of their Work & Save program, Illinois Secure Choice, with their official launch coming this fall.

 

These states are not alone – across the nation, states are recognizing the need to help all workers grow savings so they can take control of their futures and deal with the rising cost of health care and living expenses. In the past 6 years, 40 states have acted to implement, study or consider legislation to create Work & Save programs.

Convenience and portability for the employees seem to be two key components of the new approaches.

 

January 7, 2019 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Retirement, State Statutes/Regulations, Statistics | Permalink

Friday, January 4, 2019

A Curious Motivation for "Oldest Ever" Fraud

Recent news reports are focusing on the history of Frenchwoman Jeanne Calment, who died in 1997 at the purported age of 122 years and 164 days, a record that is still unsurpassed.

Some are convinced that she was not that old, and the possible motivation for the fraud is interesting.  Did a daughter assume the identity of her mother, rather earlier in the history, to avoid paying inheritance taxes?  One researcher notes the lack of any evidence of dementia as a clue.  

For more, see  "Researchers Claim  World Record for Longest Life a Case of ID Fraud" from CBS News. 

January 4, 2019 in Crimes, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, International, Statistics | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

The Importance of Guardianship Tracking Systems (and a related CLE Program!)

I've been a bit busier than usual lately and haven't felt I could take the time to Blog regularly even though I'm constantly seeing intriguing topics to discuss.  I'm buried in a manuscript with a looming deadline!  Fortunately, I'm seeing that Becky Morgan is keeping everyone updated and I've been benefiting from her regular reports.  I hope to get back to daily posts of my own by January.  

In the meantime, I can report on a smaller, interim task of  serving as a co-presenter for a half-day Continuing Legal Education program at the Pennsylvania Bar Institute on  new developments in Guardianship Practice and Procedure on Friday, December 7.   Among the important developments, the Pennsylvania Courts is nearing completion on its statewide implementation of a Guardian Tracking System or GTS.  In 2014, the Supreme Court's Elder Law Task Force strongly recommended adoption of such a system, having determined just how little was actually known across the state about open guardian cases.  Implementation of the new system began with a pilot in Allegheny County in July 2018.  As of today, 60 counties are "live" in the system.  The remaining 7 counties are scheduled to be included by the end of this month.

With the help of the new tracking system, I learned that we currently have more than 14,000 active guardianships in Pennsylvania.

Key features of the GTS system include:

  • Automation:  a means of automatically running a process to check specific aspects of guardianship reports for missing information or other concerns;
  • Flagging:  when a concern is detected, the item is automatically flagged, allowing court personnel to review and respond to the potential problem;
  • State-wide Court Communications: providing the court system with a means of immediate and cost-effective state-wide communications whenever a judge in one case is alerted to suspicion of neglect or other improper conduct by a guardian; and
  • Alerts on Specific Guardians:  when an "alert" is triggered on a specific guardian in one case, the system will generate notices to all of the other courts in the state, alerting them to the potential need for action on that individual in their cases.  

Such a system required entirely new software, new reporting forms, and new court rules to make implementation effective.  We will be talking extensively about the new rules and forms on Friday.  The migration  from the older system of record-keeping imposes a huge learning curve on many involved in guardianship matters, including lawyers.

The need for better systems in Pennsylvania has been highlighted during the last year of controversies surrounding appointment of one particular individual as guardian for alleged incapacitated persons in three Pennsylvania counties.  She is accused of mismanaging cases, plus it turned out she had a criminal history for fraud in another state. 

See also the recent news reports about another Pennsylvania guardianship matter that asks the troubling question "Where's Grandma?" The  reporter on this case, Cherri Gregg, who also happens to be a lawyer, opines that everyone in the case, including the lawyer appointed as guardian, and the family members of the person subject to the guardianship, needed better education about their roles after the grandmother's own children passed away, as the grandmother became more vulnerable, and especially when it became necessary to place her in a nursing home.  

My special thanks to Karen Buck, Executive Director of the SeniorLAW Center in Philadelphia, and the good folks at Pennsylvania Courts' Office of Elder Justice for helping me with my part of the presentation for Friday!

December 5, 2018 in Cognitive Impairment, Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Legal Practice/Practice Management, Programs/CLEs, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations, Statistics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, December 3, 2018

Decline in US Life Expectancy

U.S. life expectancy has declined. What's up with that? According to an article in the Washington Post, this is not good news for us. U.S. life expectancy declines again, a dismal trend not seen since World War I emphasizes the impact of the opioid and suicide crises.

The data continued the longest sustained decline in expected life span at birth in a century, an appalling performance not seen in the United States since 1915 through 1918. That four-year period included World War I and a flu pandemic that killed 675,000 people in the United States and perhaps 50 million worldwide.

The U.S. trend seems to be opposite of what is happening in other countries, and although the decline may not seem very large, it is still part of an overall concerning trend. The numbers re: opioid deaths cited in the article are shocking. Read the article to absorb the data and look at the geographical info detailing where opioid deaths are highest and lowest.  It's just not drug deaths attributing to the decline. "Other factors in the life expectancy decline include a spike in deaths from flu last winter and increases in deaths from chronic lower respiratory diseases, Alz­heimer’s disease, strokes and suicide. Deaths from heart disease, the No. 1 killer of Americans, which had been declining until 2011, continued to level off. Deaths from cancer continued their long, steady, downward trend."

December 3, 2018 in Cognitive Impairment, Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Other, State Cases, Statistics | Permalink

Friday, October 26, 2018

Filial Friday: "Elternunterhalt" -- An Update on Germany's Approach to Filial Support Law

GermanyMy first close look at filial support law in Germany arose in 2015, when I met a German-born, naturalized U.S. citizen living in Pennsylvania who had received a series of demand letters from Germany authorities asking her to submit detailed financial information for the authorities to analyze in order to determine how much she would be compelled to pay towards care for her biological father in German.  Her father had become seriously ill and did not have inadequate financial resources of his own.  As I've come to learn, the name for Germany's applicable legal theory is elternunterhalt, which translates into English as "parental maintenance."   

Since 2015, I've heard from other adult children living in the U.S.,  but also in Canada and England, about additional cross-border claims originating in Germany.  They write in hopes of getting objective information and to share their own stories, which I appreciate. In some instances, such as the first case I saw in Pennsylvania, a statutory defense becomes relevant because of past "serious misconduct" on the part of  the indigent parent towards the child.  The misconduct has to be more than mere alienation or gaps in communication. Sometimes misconduct such as abuse or neglect is the very reason the child left Germany, searching for a safer place.  

Most of the adult children who reach out to me report they had never heard of elternunterhalt.  Their years of estrangement are often not just from the parent but from the country of their birth.  Even those who still have a relationship with the parent in Germany often learn of the potential support obligation only after their parent is admitted to a nursing home or other form of care.  They face unexpected demands for foreign payments, while they are often still looking to fund college for children or their own retirement needs.  

National German authorities began to mandate enforcement of elternunterhalt in 2010 in response to increasing public welfare costs for their "boomer" generation of aging citizens.  Enforcement seems to have been phased in slowly among the 16 states in the country.  I've read news stories from Germany about confusion and anger in entirely domestic cases.

A claim typically begins with letters from a social welfare agency in the area where the needy parent is living.  The first letters usually do not state the amount of any requested maintenance payment, but enclose forms that seek detailed, documented information about the "obligated child's" income and certain personal expenses or obligations (such as care for minor children). The authorities also seeks information about any marital property and for income for any spouse of "life partner." 

Whether or not the information is supplied, at some point in a wholly domestic German case the social welfare office may initiate a request for a specific amount of  back pay as well as current "maintenance." Such a request cannot be enforced unless the child either agrees to pay or a court of law decrees that payment must be made.  The latter requires a formal suit to be initiated by the agency and litigated in the family divisions of the German courts.  The amount of any compelled payment is determined by a host of factors, including the amount of the parent's pension, savings, and any long-term care insurance, and the child's own financial circumstances.

Cross border cases have been pursued within the EU with some reported results.  As for parental maintenance claims presented to U.S. children, enforceability is less clear.  According to some of the letters sent by German authorities, Germany takes the position that a German court ruling in a cross border elternunterhalt claim can be enforced in the United States under "international law."  The letters do not explain what legal authorities are the basis for such enforcement. 

The Hague Convention on International Recovery of Child Support and Other Forms of Family Maintenance was approved by the European Union, thereby affecting Germany, in 2014.  The treaty is mostly directed to the mechanics of international child support claims and is built on past international agreements on child support; however the treaty also provides that the Convention shall apply to any contracting state that has declared that it will extend the application "in whole or in part" to "any maintenance obligation arising from a family relationship, parentage, marriage or affinity, including in particular obligations in respect of vulnerable persons."  See Article 2(3). 

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October 26, 2018 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Ethical Issues, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, International, Legal Practice/Practice Management, Property Management, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations, Statistics | Permalink | Comments (1)

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's Courage

My father and Sandra Day O'Connor happen to have many moments in common.  My father and Sandra both grew up in the deserts of Arizona.  They both practiced law in Phoenix.  Indeed, they even shared the same birthday, although my father was a few years older and passed away in 2017.  They socialized in the same circles and their spouses were friends with each other as well.  

Now they share one more event, and that is the personal experience of dementia.  My father, who had already stepped down as a federal judge at the district court level before he was diagnosed, never really accepted the diagnosis.  I think the disease sometimes robs the individual of understanding.  I admire Justice O'Connor and her family for the public announcement they made this week, disclosing her diagnosis of dementia, most likely of an Alzheimer's type.  

All best wishes, to the whole O'Connor family.   As one news story reminds us, there are an estimated 5.7 million Americans with Alzheimer's Disease and almost two-thirds of them are women.  

October 23, 2018 in Cognitive Impairment, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Health Care/Long Term Care, Statistics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 28, 2018

Aging, Law and Society CRN Call for Papers in Advance of 2019 Annual Meeting in D.C.

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)

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Will Pennsylvania Pass Long-Awaited Adult-Guardianship Law Reforms Before End of 2017-18 Session? (Part 1)

Pa State CapitolFor the last few years, I've been quietly observing draft bills addressing needed reforms of Pennsylvania's adult guardianship system as they circulate in the Pennsylvania legislature.  Over the next few days, drawing upon a detailed update memorandum I prepared recently for interested parties, I will post reasons why the legislature can and, many would argue, should move forward in 2018. 

 

Today, let's begin with background.  First, here is the status of pending legislation and the timetable that could lead to passage:

 

Pennsylvania Senate Bill 884 (Printer’s No. 1147) presents an important opportunity to enact key reforms of Pennsylvania’s Guardianship Laws.  The bill is based on long-standing recommendations from the Pennsylvania Joint State Government Commission.  The Senate unanimously passed an earlier identical measure, S.B. 568, during the last legislative session (2015-16).  The current bill was approved and voted out of Senate committee in June 2018, but then tabled.  Although the schedule is tight, there is still time for action by both house before the end of the session in November.   If not fully passed and signed this year, a new bill must be introduced in the next legislative session.

 

The Pennsylvania Senate has scheduled session days before the November election on September 24, 25, and 26 and October 1, 2, 3, 15, 16, and 17. The Pennsylvania House of Representatives also has  scheduled session days for September 24, 25 and 25, and October 9, 10, 15, 16 and 17. If S.B. 884 is passed by the Senate in September, it appears there may be adequate opportunity for the House to move the legislation through the House Judiciary Committee and to the floor for final passage.

Second, let's review the steps taken most recently towards reform of existing Pennsylvania law:

In 2013-14, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court formed an Elder Law Task Force to study law-related matters relevant to the growing population of older persons in Pennsylvania. The team included members of all levels of courts in the Commonwealth, plus private attorneys, criminal law specialists, and perhaps most importantly, members of organizations who work directly with vulnerable adults, including but not limited to seniors. Guardianship reform quickly became a major focus of the study. I was a member of that Task Force. 

 

Statistics available to the Task Force in 2014 show that some 3,000 new guardianship petitions are filed with the Pennsylvania Courts each year, of which approximately 65% are for alleged incapacitated persons over the age of 60.  The number of new petitions can be expected to increase in the very near future. During the last six years, the cohort of Pennsylvania’s population between the ages 64 and 70 grew by a record 31.9%.  Soon, that aging cohort will reach the years of greatest vulnerability with the increased potential for age-related cognitive impairments or physical frailty. Appointment of a guardian is usually a choice of last resort, sometimes necessary because of an emergency illness or because individuals have delayed using other means, such as execution of a power of attorney or trust, to designate personally-chosen surrogate decision-makers.

 

When a determination is made that an individual is incapacitated (as defined by statute) and in need of certain assistance (again, as defined by law), courts have the duty and power to appoint a person or an entity as the “guardian.” Once appointed by a court, guardians can be given significant powers, such as the power to determine all health care treatment, to decide where the individual lives, and to allocate how money can be spent. While Pennsylvania law states a preference for “limited guardianships,” in reality, especially if no legal counsel is appointed to represent the individual to advocate for limited authority, it is more typical to see a guardian be given extensive powers over both the “person” and the “estate.”  

 

The Task Force began its work by undertaking a candid self-assessment of existing guardianship processes.  Based on its review of the history of guardianships in Pennsylvania, the Task Force issued detailed findings as part of its final Report released in November 2014, including the following:

  • Guardianship monitoring is weak, if it occurs at all.
  • Training is not mandated for professional or non-professional guardians.
  • Non-professional guardians are not adequately advised as to the duties and responsibilities of managing the affairs of an IP [incapacitated person].
  • The quality of guardianship services varies widely, placing our most vulnerable citizens at great risk.

 

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court identified a need for better information about the actions of appointed guardians; such information would be central to all recommended reforms. The Task Force recommended a new system enabling statewide accountability and consistent oversight.

 

Following the Task Force Report and Recommendations, and under the leadership of the Supreme Court, the Administrative Office of the Pennsylvania Courts began working on procedural reforms, beginning with creation of an Office of Elder Justice in the Courts.  The Courts developed a new, online Guardianship Tracking System, and in June 2018 the Supreme Court adopted new Orphans Court rules (14.1 through 14.14) that establish certain procedural safeguards for guardianships and require use of uniform, state-wide forms and reporting standards for all guardians.  These rules are scheduled to become fully effective by July 2019. 

    

Pursuant to a Judicial Administration Rule adopted August 31, 2018, the Supreme Court mandated a phased implementation of the tracking system, with workshops offering training for guardians on how to use the system to file inventory and annual reports. See Guardianship Tracking System Workshop

 

Not all recommended reforms, however, can be accomplished by the Courts adopting procedural rules.  Key substantive reforms require legislative action.  Senator Stewart Greenleaf, the chair of the Senate’s Judiciary Committee and a frequent sponsor of child and adult protective measures, introduced Senate Bill 884 (and its predecessor).  After many years of service and leadership in the Capitol, Senator Greenleaf is retiring this year; therefore, any necessary renewal of the legislation must attract new leadership.

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September 19, 2018 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Property Management, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations, Statistics | Permalink | Comments (1)

Monday, September 17, 2018

A Closer Look -- through the eyes of an experienced actuary -- At Long-Term Care Insurance

Jack Cumming, a California CCRC resident, frequently comments on Elder Law Prof Blog posts, bringing to bear his deep expertise in financial planning matters and his equally engaged commitment to historical accuracy in a wide variety of issues. Jack is a Fellow of the Society of Actuaries, and a Certified Aging Services Professional by Examination. During what I might call Jack’s “official career” as a professional actuary, he served as an independent consulting actuary for life and health insurance operations, and before that as a corporate officer and chief actuary for insurance companies. 

I first came to know Jack during what I’ll call his “second” career.  Jack helped many, including me, understand concerns about actuarial soundness issues in Continuing Care Retirement Communities. He came to his specialized expertise in CCRCs in a unique way, by moving to a California CCRC with his wife and discovering issues that can benefit from actuarial analysis. Over the last 12 years, Jack has advised CCRC residents and providers, as well as their organizations across the nation.

Jack recently commented on an item I posted on September 12, that described a particular history of poor actuarial decisions contributing to failure of a large Pennsylvania long-term care insurance company. In that post, I also reported on a new hybrid type of long-term care product, announced by New York Life Insurance Company.  Jack’s response was, as usual, so insightful that, with Jack’s permission, I am posting his commentary here, elaborated by him, as a blog post in its own right. 

Jack writes:

A number of thoughts come to mind when reading the recent Elder Law Prof Blog post on long term care insurance (LTCi).  The Elder Law post lists a perfect storm of what turned out to be foolhardy expectations.  Morbidity was underestimated, so were contract lapse rates and mortality.  Anticipated investment returns turned out to be overstated, medical and care costs escalated, and efforts to raise premiums without triggering shock lapses proved insufficient.  The result for the industry has been devastating, as anyone who has been close to LTCi, is well aware.  Fortunately, LTCi was a small part of the business of many insurers offering the product, so losses were absorbed.  Penn Treaty, an LTCi specialist company, was not so lucky.

 

Now, with the benefit of hindsight, it thus appears that there were significant and material optimistic misjudgments made in bringing LTCi to the market.  First, the data used for the initial pricing were not sufficiently vetted. Pricing actuaries used what data they could find but, for the most part, they failed to take into account the fact that the very existence of such insurance, then being introduced for the first time, would make it more likely that people would use the benefits.

 

Moreover, the opportunity for LTC providers to receive payments promoted the growth of the provider industry to deliver services that the insurance would cover. Thus, historical data from the time before there was insurance was misleading.   Since the products lacked incentives for policyholders, or those offering services to them, to restrain their use, it was predictable that people would seek to make the most of their coverage.  And they did and continue to do so.

 

Long Term Care Insurance developed originally to give the sales agents of the large life insurance companies a product that they could sell as part of a product portfolio centered on the sale of life insurance.  Such a portfolio, in addition to life and long term care insurance, often included disability income and health insurance.  Most of the pricing actuaries who were involved in the early development of LTCi products were life insurance specialists influenced by life insurance concepts. There’s little discretion or volunteerism about dying, so mortality data used in setting life insurance premiums tend to be relatively stable and predictable. The consequence is that underwriting and claims in large life insurance companies are principally administrative, e.g. for claims, confirm the death and send a check. More subjective risks, such as disability income (DI) insurance and LTCi, require active management over the duration of a claim by highly skilled executives experienced and specialized in those particular undertakings.

 

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

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

How Lack of Transparency Harms "Senior Living" as an Industry

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)

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

More on Family Caregivers

On several occasions I've written about the issues of caregivers (the shortage of family caregivers, the financial impact on care giving) so i was interested in this article by Kaiser Health News,    A Late-Life Surprise: Taking Care Of Frail, Aging Parents notes the failure of adult children to plan for their roles of caregivers-a role that may last a number of years and even cause the adult child to stop working. The KHN story focuses the profile of a "typical family caregiver, "“When we think of an adult child caring for a parent, what comes to mind is a woman in her late 40s or early 50s,” said Lynn Friss Feinberg, senior strategic policy adviser for AARP’s Public Policy Institute. “But it’s now common for people 20 years older than that to be caring for a parent in their 90s or older.”  The story cites a new study from "the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College [which] is the first to document how often this happens. It found that 10 percent of adults ages 60 to 69 whose parents are alive serve as caregivers, as do 12 percent of adults age 70 and older."

The study shows that "about 17 percent of adult children care for their parents at some point in their lives, and the likelihood of doing so rises with age ... because parents who’ve reached their 80s, 90s or higher are more likely to have chronic illnesses and related disabilities and to require assistance, said Alice Zulkarnain, co-author of the study."

So consider the implications, some of which I mentioned in the above parenthetical in the opening sentence.  The article lists the physical wear and tear "on older [caregiver] bodies, which are more vulnerable and less able to recover from physical strain" the potential for psychological stressors which can exacerbate any health issues the older caregiver may have, and social isolation of caregivers.  There's also the financial toll that may come, with "hard-earned savings at risk with no possibility of replacing them by re-entering the workforce."  

The article mentions a number of caregiver resources.  The report from the Center for Retirement Research is available here.

August 28, 2018 in Cognitive Impairment, Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Health Care/Long Term Care, Other, Statistics | Permalink

Friday, August 17, 2018

Weighing Costs & Need for LTC Insurance

I'm teaching a "short course" on long-term care insurance for my law students this semester.  Therefore I'm collecting as much current information on policies and costs as possible to share with my students.  Along that line, WTOP-News in the D.C. area recently posted a two part discussion on "Weighing the Costs and Need for Long Term Care Insurance."

From the first part of the series:  

Based on a 2016 Department of Health and Human Services study, about half of Americans turning 65 today will require long-term care services during their lifetimes (47 percent for men and 58 percent for women) with most needing assistance for an average of two years. About 12 percent will need between two and five years of long-term care, and nearly one in seven adults will require five or more years. . . . 

 

Now let’s turn to the potential costs of long-term care services which varies by state and type of care. Genworth, a provider of long-term care insurance, released its 2017 Cost of Care Survey stating the national average annual cost of a private room in a nursing home is $97,452 which is an increase of 5.5 percent from one year ago and a five-year annual inflation increase of 3.5 percent. Interestingly, the biggest increase in long-term care costs was for a home health aide, which increased 6 percent from 2016 to 2017, to $49,162 per year for 44 hours per week.

 

Summary of Genworth’s median annual 2017 long-term care costs are below:

 

Adult Day Care (5 days/week)              $18,200
Assisted Living (one-bedroom)        $45,000
Homemaker Services (44 hours/week)  $47,934
In-Home Health Aide (44 hours/week)  $49,192
Nursing Home (semi-private room)$85,775
Nursing Home (private room)          $97,455

 

Source: Genworth 2017 Cost of Care Study

The article also has a good summary of key features of LTCI, including inflation riders, elimination periods, maximum daily benefits vs. maximum benefit period, lifetime maximums, guarantees on renewability, nonforfeiture options and shared care.

The writer, Nina Mitchell, who is a advisor for The Colony Group, says that she plans to focus on "alternative long-term care solutions, such as hybrid policies that combine life insurance with long-term care insurance" in Part 2.  

August 17, 2018 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Health Care/Long Term Care, Property Management, State Statutes/Regulations, Statistics | Permalink | Comments (1)

Monday, August 13, 2018

Elders in Bankruptcy On the Rise

A recent article, ‘Too little too late’: bankruptcy booms among older Americans published in The Business Times opens with a sobering thought: "[f]or a rapidly growing share of older Americans, traditional ideas about life in retirement are being upended by a dismal reality: bankruptcy." A new study featured in the article paints a foreboding picture for many elder Americans "'[t]he rate of people 65 and older filing for bankruptcy is three times what it was in 1991, the study found, and the same group accounts for a far greater share of all filers." What is causing this increase? According to the article, many factors, including changes in pension plans, health care out of pocket costs, declining incomes, to name a few.  It notes as well that elder Americans may have more challenges in recovering from financial setbacks than others.  The study is done by the Consumer Bankruptcy Project, which "is a long-running effort now led by Thorne; Lawless; Pamela Foohey, a law professor at Indiana University; and Katherine Porter, a law professor at the University of California, Irvine. The project — which is financed by their universities — collects and analyzes court records on a continuing basis and follows up with written questionnaires. ... Their latest study —which was posted online Sunday and has been submitted to an academic journal for peer review — is based on a sample of personal bankruptcy cases and questionnaires completed by 895 filers ages 19 to 92."

The paper by the study authors, Graying of U.S. Bankruptcy: Fallout from Life in a Risk Society has been placed on SSRN.

The abstract offers this

The social safety net for older Americans has been shrinking for the past couple decades. The risks associated with aging, reduced income, and increased healthcare costs, have been off-loaded onto older individuals. At the same time, older Americans are increasingly likely to file consumer bankruptcy, and their representation among those in bankruptcy has never been higher. Using data from the Consumer Bankruptcy Project, we find more than a two-fold increase in the rate at which older Americans (age 65 and over) file for bankruptcy and an almost five-fold increase in the percentage of older persons in the U.S. bankruptcy system. The magnitude of growth in older Americans in bankruptcy is so large that the broader trend of an aging U.S. population can explain only a small portion of the effect. In our data, older Americans report they are struggling with increased financial risks, namely inadequate income and unmanageable costs of healthcare, as they try to deal with reductions to their social safety net. As a result of these increased financial burdens, the median senior bankruptcy filer enters bankruptcy with negative wealth of $17,390 as compared to more than $250,000 for their non-bankrupt peers. For an increasing number of older Americans, their golden years are fraught with economic risks, the result of which is often bankruptcy.

August 13, 2018 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Other, Retirement, Statistics | Permalink

Monday, July 30, 2018

SNF Staffing and Resident Care

Yesterday I blogged about a story in Kaiser Health News on the payroll reporting by SNFs that Medicare uses to determine staffing levels. KHN also has examined the data to see if there is a correlation between staffing and a resident's care. Mining A New Data Set To Pinpoint Critical Staffing Issues In Skilled Nursing Facilities notes that "[i]n April, Medicare began using [the payroll records, known as the payroll-based journal or PBJ] to rate staffing for more than 14,000 skilled nursing facilities (SNFs). The PBJ data gives a much better look at the how staffing relates to quality of care than the less precise — and too easy to inflate — staffing data Medicare had been using since 2008, which were based on two-week snapshots of staffing homes provided to inspectors. The data show staffing and occupancy on every day — an unprecedented degree of granularity that allows for new levels of inquiry."

The author offers

Low staffing is a root cause of many injuries in nursing homes. As I wrote in the article published in The New York Times based on the data: “When nursing homes are short of staff, nurses and aides scramble to deliver meals, ferry bedbound residents to the bathroom and answer calls for pain medication. Essential medical tasks such as repositioning a patient to avert bedsores can be overlooked when workers are overburdened, sometimes leading to avoidable hospitalizations.”

The author describes in detail the decisions that were made in crunching the data, using "two intersecting principles: to reflect residents’ lived experience as accurately as possible, and to be fair to the facilities. When in doubt, [the author] erred on the side of caution."

As an aside, the author notes the acronym for Payroll-Based Journal is PBJ!

 

July 30, 2018 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicare, Statistics | Permalink

Friday, July 27, 2018

Cautious Optimism (and, perhaps, Controversy) Follows Results on New Alzheimer's Drug

I've learned to be skeptical about reports on new medications for Alzheimer's dementia.  The reports from drug companies come and go, often fading into obscurity.  

Nonetheless, results of a large clinical trial as reported at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference in Chicago this week seem to offer more promise.  From the New York Times' article:

The trial involved 856 patients from the United States, Europe and Japan with early symptoms of cognitive decline. They were diagnosed with either mild cognitive impairment or mild Alzheimer’s dementia, and all had significant accumulations of the amyloid protein that clumps into plaques in people with the disease, said Dr. Lynn Kramer, chief medical officer of Eisai, a Japan-based company that developed the drug, known as BAN2401, along with Biogen, based in Cambridge, Mass.

 

Many other drugs have managed to reduce amyloid levels but they did not ease memory decline or other cognitive difficulties. In the data presented Wednesday, the highest of the five doses of the new drug — an injection every two weeks of 10 milligrams per kilogram of a patient’s weight — both reduced amyloid levels and slowed cognitive decline when compared to patients who received placebo.

 

Of the 161 patients in the group taking the highest dose, 81 percent showed such significant drops in amyloid levels that they “converted from amyloid positive to amyloid negative,” Dr. Kramer said in an interview, meaning that the patients’ amyloid levels dropped from being considered high enough to correlate to dementia to a level below that dementia threshold.

The results discussed above apparently arise out of Phase II of the drug's testing.  An earlier report, in 2017, was more equivocal, as captured on the ALZforum website here.  

Further, as reported on Endpoints News, an "independent news organization reporting and analyzing the top global biotech and pharmaceutical R & D News of the day," a critical response is emerging since this week's public announcement:

But instead of cheering on evidence of success [for BAN2401], a large group of analysts last night zeroed in on a crucial change in the study that could have confounded the data presented — and now we have a brand new controversy to add to the literature of Alzheimer’s.

For more of the critique, read Eisai, Biogen Battered by Controversy over PhII Alzheimer's Study After Posting Positive Results.

July 27, 2018 in Cognitive Impairment, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Ethical Issues, Science, Statistics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Pennsylvania Adopts Emeritus Status for Retired Attorneys to do Pro Bono Work

On May 9, 2018, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court approved Pennsylvania Rule of Disciplinary Enforcement 403, recognizing an emeritus status for attorneys who retire from the practice of law and seek to provide pro bono services to legal aid organizations. 

Emeritus programs serve as a pool of qualified volunteer attorneys to provide services to those in need. Emeritus attorneys can perform valuable roles in the community by bolstering legal aid and other nonprofit programs to help close the gap between the need for and the availability of free legal services.  

In order to transfer to emeritus status in Pennsylvania, an attorney must be on retired status. The retired attorney must complete six hours of continuing legal education within one year prior to the application date as a prerequisite to transferring to emeritus status. The emeritus applicant must verify that he or she is authorized solely to provide pro bono services, is not permitted to handle client funds, and is not permitted to ask for or receive compensation. At the time of application, the applicant must pay a registration fee of $35. 

Emeritus attorneys can renew their status on an annual basis, paying an annual fee, or can "transfer back" to retired status.  While on emeritus status, they are subject to annual continuing legal education requirements.  

Pennsylvania doesn't tend to rush to adopt "new" ideas, and thus it is relatively late among the states to approve such a program.  Emeritus programs have existed for quite some time.  For more on them, see the white paper on "Best Practices and Lessons Learned,"  authored for the ABA in 2010 by David Godfrey and Erica Wood.  See also the 2016 updated report by David Godfrey and April Faith-Slaker.  

 

July 26, 2018 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Ethical Issues, Legal Practice/Practice Management, Programs/CLEs, Statistics | Permalink | Comments (0)