Friday, August 30, 2019
A local news station recently ran an article about the impact of a broken elevator on the residents who live on top floors in 8 On Your Side gets results for seniors in building with broken elevator. Knowing my colleague and dear friend, Professor Bauer, had written an article on 55+ housing that included a discussion of accessibility issues, I asked him if he'd write a guest post for us on this topic. Here it is:
Would You Please Just Fix It?
Mark D. Bauer
Stetson University College of Law
A recent news story in Tampa Bay reported that the single elevator in a mid-rise apartment building stopped working in late May and would not be repaired until October. That alone is surprising and seems wrong. But what makes this story particularly shocking is it occurred in an age 62 and older HUD subsidized building. Even more shocking: there are no federal laws regulating elevator repairs in federally managed or sponsored elder housing.
The story was made for television. A local news station interviewed numerous tenants with disabilities incapable of walking down staircases. One elder tenant interviewed said she had not been able to leave her home in two months and she found it very depressing. I have little doubt that most anyone would feel the same way.
The good news is that by airing this story and providing publicity to the tenants, the company managing the apartment complex arranged for free hotel rooms for any resident desiring one. The elevator still will not be repaired until October because a part needs to be manufactured abroad. But at least the elder tenants now have an alternative to remaining prisoners in their own homes.
The bad news is that while this particular situation may be extreme, elder residents of multi-story apartment buildings are often trapped in their homes with little warning and no real alternative. The fact that most elevator repairs take less than six months is little comfort.
Department of Housing and Urban Development regulations require only the most basic life safety features in elder housing, such as smoke detectors. Most state and local laws covering elevators require that they be inspected and remain in good repair. It is always hard to search for the absence of a law or a case, but I have found nothing in the United States that regulates how long a repair may take. Unfortunately, I suspect the answer is “as long as needed.”
I did find one relevant case in Indiana where residents of elder housing suffered without elevators for over a month and then sued. On procedural grounds, the federal court held that the residents might have a viable argument under the Americans with Disabilities Act but could not sue under traditional landlord-tenant law (here the residents claimed that the broken elevator “constructively evicted” them). And as you might imagine, once the judge opened the door just a crack for possible litigation, the owners of the elder housing complex immediately fixed the elevator and settled with the residents.
It is ironic that the government sponsors or subsidizes elder housing without ensuring the physical safety of the residents, particularly when private entities often profit through participation in these programs. In researching this issue, a simple Google search produced literally hundreds of news stories about elders all over the country being trapped in multi-story buildings during lengthy elevator repairs. Like the situation here in Tampa Bay, the elevators were often repaired quickly after a local news story.
Even elevators in good repair cannot function without electricity. After many elders were killed or injured in Florida after a major hurricane in 2005 made their apartments inaccessible, a state law was passed requiring all 55 and older housing to add emergency generators for elevators. The real estate lobby was particularly effective here and got the state legislature to repeal the law a short time later.
Subsidized or government-owned congregate housing for elders is aging; few units have been added since the 1980s, and certainly not enough to replace housing demolished or converted to other uses. Five elevator companies remain after industry consolidation, and only one is located in the United States. It is no surprise then that elevators installed in the last century are difficult to repair. Cities and counties with large elder populations often spend extraordinary amounts of money responding to emergency calls requiring firefighters to carry elders down staircases.
It is easy to ignore a problem like stranded elders in high-rises because any single building has these problems infrequently, and with no publicity. But nationally we are putting lives in danger and wasting precious public funds by ignoring the problem. Currently it is very unlikely that HUD will take any corrective action. But in the long-run, it would be much cheaper to plan for broken elevators by requiring elder communities to provide for temporary accessible housing, or coordinate services necessary for daily living, or require emergency generators in mid- or high-rise buildings with only one elevator.
Professor Bauer's law review article on 55+ housing is available here. Thanks Professor Bauer!
Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Bryan Devore, an engaging realtor in California, recently wrote to me to report on his latest venture, a cable television program devoted to showing folks how to consider options for senior living. After I reviewed the first promotional trailer, I joked with Bryan about whether his target channel was HGTV, a favorite in my own family (resulting in the fact that now we know all too much about shiplap and sliding barn doors). Bryan responded by joking that perhaps the Lifetime network was the better target.
In any event, the concept is now "reality" and the first episode of Senior Savers TV is available. You can catch the 30 minute episode (with surprisingly interesting commercials for those of us who track senior living marketing topics) here:
Friday, June 8, 2018
John Oliver, the star of Last Week Tonight focused on guardianship on the June 3, 2018 show. The segment focused quite a bit on some of the abuses that have been reported recently in the press. But, to Mr. Oliver's credit, he notes that sometimes, despite a person's efforts, a guardianship is needed. He provides suggestions for improving the system and for individuals on planning to minimize the chances of a guardianship going wrong. There is some good info in the segment, and he makes several important points, but in a comedic and satirical format.
The link to the segment is here. Be sure to watch through to the end, to see cameos from several celebrities offering advice on planning for incapacity (although they do get off track quite a bit) including health care powers of attorney and DPOAs. And who wouldn't want Tom Hanks to be their health care agent! (You have to watch the last bit to get that reference). Caveat: there is some "salty" language used throughout the segment.
June 8, 2018 in Advance Directives/End-of-Life, Cognitive Impairment, Consumer Information, Crimes, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations, Television | Permalink | Comments (1)
Monday, November 6, 2017
PBS NewsHour has been running a series of interviews, Brief but Spectacular, where the subject opines on the question: what vital things make life spectacular. They recently aired their 100th episode, which featured a person who is 92 years old and who has begun to have memory problems. You can read the transcript here or listen to the audio of the interview here. Another interviewee, a 91 year old author, opines on aging with grace. That transcript can be accessed here. You can access the full series here.
Monday, January 11, 2016
It's time for the new semester!!! Always such an exciting time for all of us. I wanted to see if anyone is doing anything new or innovative in your classes that you wanted to share. Are you assigning any movies or books (other than law school books) to your students? One of the books I'm considering suggesting is On Pluto: Inside the Mind of Alzheimer's. I'm also thinking of an assignment where the students research various technologies that are designed to help an elder age in place or stay safe. I'm happy to share results with those of you interested. Let us know your ideas and suggestions!
Monday, December 28, 2015
It's about an elder whose family can't make it home for Christmas and what he does to gather his family. You can watch it here. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V6-0kYhqoRo
The Washington Post ran a story about it. This heartbreaking holiday ad is a powerful reminder of old people’s loneliness.
What do you think of the ad?
Tuesday, July 28, 2015
Professor Cynthia Bond at John Marshall Law is doing a survey on how law profs use pop culture in their classrooms. Here is her email providing more info and requesting responses to her survey:
Greetings Law Teacher Colleagues:
I am working on an article this summer on uses of popular culture in the law school classroom. I am defining popular culture broadly to include mass culture texts like movies, TV shows, popular music, images which circulate on the internet, etc, and also any current events that you may reference in the classroom which are not purely legal in nature (i.e. not simply a recent court decision).
To support this article, I am doing a rather unscientific survey to get a sense of what law professors are doing in this area. If you are a law professor and you use popular culture in your class, I would be most grateful if you could answer this quick, anonymous survey I have put together:
Thanks in advance for your time and have a wonderful rest of summer!
The John Marshall Law School
Wednesday, May 27, 2015
In my preparation for an upcoming talk show on WPSU on "Caring for Mom & Dad," I had the incentive to get to my stack of "must read" books to focus on The Aging of Dignity: Preparing for the Elder Boom in a Changing America, by Ai-Jen Poo (New Press 2015). What I very much like about this book is the broad lens it brings to aging demographics, focusing not on "burdens" but on "opportunities" to be a more productive, healthy society by dealing realistically with the need for both professional caregivers and family caregivers. Ai-Jen Poo writes:
Aging at home necessitates home care workers. Yet the 3 million people currently in the home care workforce cannot meet even the current need, let alone the demand for care that will accompany the elder boom. We will need at least 1.8 million additional home care workers in the next decade. As a result, care giving, specifically home care, is the fastest growing of all occupations in the nation....
With some course corrections in our culture and in our institutions, we can have the care infrastructure that will enable us to live our full potential. . . . The moral of this story is that a caring America is entirely within reach.
Not surprisingly, given her inspiring call for action, Ai-Jen Poo was a MacArthur "genius" grant recipient in 2014. She is one of the commentators on Caring for Mom & Dad, and in Pennsylvania, she will be part of our panel for WPSU's Conversations Live following the airing of the documentary on Thursday, May 28. The documentary is at 8 p.m., and the audience can "call-in, e-mail or text-in"beginning at 9 p.m. More details and links available here about the documentary and schedules here.
May 27, 2015 in Consumer Information, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Ethical Issues, Grant Deadlines/Awards, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicaid, Medicare, Statistics, Television | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Thursday, May 21, 2015
St. Louis Elder Law Attorney Martha Brown recently recommended a 2013 documentary, writing: "It is called 'Moving with Grace.' It is played a lot in St. Louis on the local PBS station as reporter Stone Phillips and his parents lived in St. Louis. It is a wonderful documentary about the trials and tribulations of aging parents without the drama of a dysfunctional family." That is an important message, right? The challenges associated with "growing older" can hit everyone, even the "best" of families.
American Public Television, that distributes the program, previews it and offers a link to scheduling in your area here, explaining:
Like many baby boomers, former NBC anchor Stone Phillips and his siblings found themselves caring for their aging parents. Ninety-two-year-old Vic, a World War II veteran, copes with chronic heart issues, although his mind and memory remain "as reliable as a Bob Gibson fastball." Grace, his wife of 66 years, suffers from dementia, which robs the once-gregarious former teacher of her short-term memory. MOVING WITH GRACE, an intimate documentary Phillips produced and shot, follows this charming couple as they move out of the family home in Missouri and adapt to life first in a retirement community and later in an assisted-living facility. This honest and, at times, poignant story highlights the common struggles associated with elder care and its consequences.
Thank you, Martha, for sharing this resource!
May 21, 2015 in Cognitive Impairment, Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, Television | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Tuesday, March 10, 2015
Researchers Amelia Karraker, Department of Human Development and Family Studies at Iowa State University and Kenzie Latham, Department of Sociology at Indiana University and Purdue University, recently published "In Sickness and in Health? Physical Illness as a Risk Factor for Marital Dissolution in Later Life" in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior. From the abstract:
"The health consequences of marital dissolution are well known, but little work has examined the impact of health on the risk of marital dissolution. In this study we use a sample of 2,701 marriages from the Health and Retirement Study (1992–2010) to examine the role of serious physical illness onset (i.e., cancer, heart problems, lung disease, and/or stroke) in subsequent marital dissolution due to either divorce or widowhood. We use a series of discrete-time event history models with competing risks to estimate the impact of husband’s and wife’s physical illness onset on risk of divorce and widowhood.
We find that only wife’s illness onset is associated with elevated risk of divorce, while either husband’s or wife’s illness onset is associated with elevated risk of widowhood. These findings suggest the importance of health as a determinant of marital dissolution in later life via both biological and gendered social pathways."
The highlighted finding is generating lots of coverage in the popular press. Thanks to Naomi Cahn, who is also a co-author of the similarly relevant book, Marriage Markets: How Inequality is Remaking the American Family, for sharing the study link.
Friday, February 6, 2015
I recently watched the movie, The Judge, starring Robert Downey, Jr. and Robert Duvall, among others. The premise of the movie is interesting and there's even a good thread about ethics (especially Rule 1.1) running through the movie. What caught my eye toward the end of the movie is (spoiler alert) the use of compassionate release. Although we may cover this in our classes, I don't know that I've seen that crop up in movies. So, I'm thinking of adding this movie to my list for my elder law class. Any movies you think should be on the list?
Tuesday, February 11, 2014
Via the BBC:
Former Hollywood child star Shirley Temple has died at the age of 85. With her adorable charm and blonde curls, she was one of the most popular stars of the 1930s, in hit movies like Bright Eyes and Stand Up and Cheer. After retiring from films in 1950 at the age of 21, Temple returned to the spotlight as a politician and diplomat. She died on Monday at home in Woodside, California, from natural causes. "She was surrounded by her family and caregivers," a statement said. Born in 1928, Temple soon became a major star after getting her first film role at the age of three.
Thursday, September 5, 2013
Over the Labor Day weekend, I happened to catch a great public radio interview with author Will Schwable about the book inspired by his two-year conversation with his mother about books. The End of Your Life Book Club describes how their mutual love of reading provided opportunities for the two to discuss life and death, both directly and indirectly. Why was this important? The conversations took place while his mother was receiving chemotherapy for pancreatic cancer. He said they never had "the big talk" you might expect when confronted with mortality -- rather, they had dozens and dozens of small talks.
It made me think about conversations with my own family members. We live far apart and while I try to make it home frequently (at this point, I'm the only family member who flies), I know I don't make it home often enough. But we talk a lot on the phone and I think we have also developed ways of speaking directly and indirectly about the present and the future. Lately, with my parents that has often been through funny conversations about Dancing with the Stars. (Thank goodness for on-demand television access, since I rarely catch the show on first airing.) We talk about who is "doing well for their age" or who isn't. We suggest who we would like to see on the show (Julie Andrews?), and who makes us cringe (sorry, Cloris Leachman). It has become shorthand for talking about memory, mobility, capacity, and our own aches and pains.
What works for your family? Or are you part of a (rare?) family who talks about such topics directly? (Comments open below)