Tuesday, July 30, 2019
Have you ever used the Medicare Plan Finder? The GAO released a report a few days ago about it. Medicare Plan Finder: Usability Problems and Incomplete Information Create Challenges for Beneficiaries Comparing Coverage Options explains that the website isn't too user-friendly, with a redesign coming soon.
Medicare beneficiaries have many decisions to make when selecting their health and prescription drug coverage. Their choices affect their out-of-pocket costs and which providers they can see. The Medicare Plan Finder website is a primary source for comparing options.
Many officials who assist beneficiaries in selecting coverage—about three-quarters of those we surveyed—told us beneficiaries struggle with the website. They and others said it is difficult to navigate, contains complex terms, and lacks information needed to compare coverage options.
Medicare’s administrator plans to launch a redesigned website in August.
Here are the highlights from the GAO report:
The Medicare Plan Finder (MPF) website—a primary resource for comparing Medicare coverage options—is difficult for beneficiaries to use and provides incomplete information, according to stakeholders and research studies. These sources and directors of State Health Insurance Assistance Programs (SHIP) GAO surveyed—who assist beneficiaries with their Medicare coverage choices—reported that beneficiaries struggle with using MPF because it can be difficult to find information on the website and the information can be hard to understand. For example, MPF
requires navigation through multiple pages before displaying plan details,
lacks prominent instructions to help beneficiaries find information, and
contains complex terms that make it difficult for beneficiaries to understand information.
In response to GAO's survey, 73 percent of SHIP directors reported that beneficiaries experience difficulty finding information in MPF, while 18 percent reported that SHIP counselors experience difficulty.
Further, the results include "incomplete estimates of costs under original Medicare, making it difficult to compare original Medicare and Medicare Advantage (MA), the program's private heath plan alternative." Further, Medigap plan info isn't included in the results, with 75% "of the SHIP directors surveyed [reporting] that the lack of Medigap information in MPF limits the ability of beneficiaries to compare original Medicare to MA."
This is worrisome, given the emphasis on using the Medicare website for beneficiaries. So it will be important to examine the redesigned website to make sure it is more user-friendly, and contains complete and accurate info.
The full report is available here. Stay tuned.
Tuesday, April 30, 2019
Apparently researchers and gamers are collaborating -- on a "game" that could be used to "identify individuals who might have early and mild symptoms of dementia that medical test aren't able to detect." The game, developed in Germany, and called Sea Hero Quest, reportedly uses virtual reality technology to have a "player" manipulate a virtual boat on a game board. Players are "given a map and shown checkpoints, then the map is taken away and players must navigate to these checkpoints in the game world without the map."
Some of the data reported strike me as, hmmm, surprising. I suspect this game might have greater validity if the players have established, previous skills in using the gaming tools, as well as interest or patience with the technology. There might also be some serious ethical questions for how the "game" is employed as a diagnostic tool. For more details, read "A Video Game Developed to Detect Alzheimer's Disease Seems to Be Working."
Wednesday, February 6, 2019
AARP's research has an update on tech use among older adults. Older Americans’ Technology Usage Keeps Climbing shows adoption of technology by a fair number of older adults. "Today, 91 percent of those age 50+ report using a computer and 94 percent say technology helps them keep in touch with friends and family. And notably, the assumption that older individuals rely less on technology than others may be increasingly inaccurate. More than 80 percent of Americans age 50 to 64 have smartphones, which is about the same as the population at large. Grandparents are also spending a considerable amount on gifts — many likely tech-focused — for their grandkids." Perhaps, unsurprisingly, is the interest in technology's impact on cars and driving with almost 25% keen on "advanced driver assistance technology." As well, about 25% of those surveyed were atrracted to online learning.
One important note from the survey: lack of confidence in security. and privacy online. "Privacy and security issues remain a concern for many in the older age bracket, with Americans over 50 not placing much trust in institutions to keep their personal data safe. AARP finds fewer than 1 in 4 trust online retailers, the federal government, and telecom service providers, among others. A related finding, meanwhile, highlights an opportunity to provide more education to older adults specifically on safe tech practices: Nearly 1 in 5 indicates they have low confidence in their safety online."
Sunday, December 9, 2018
Well, I guess it was only a matter of time. I've blogged on numerous occasions about "elder tech" and now it seems Apple, at least its watch, is moving into that market. Kaiser Health News reported In Grandma’s Stocking: An Apple Watch To Monitor Falls, Track Heart Rhythms.
[W]hen Apple unveiled its latest model in September — the Series 4, which starts at $399 — it was clear it was expanding its target audience. This Apple Watch includes new features designed to detect falls and heart problems. With descriptions like “part guardian, part guru” and “designed to improve your health … and powerful enough to protect it,” the tech giant signaled its move toward preventive health and a much wider demographic.
One expert quoted in the article noted that the older generation is used to wearing watches and thus this would be a much easier wearable for them. Here's how the fall monitoring feature works. "The fall-monitoring app uses sensors in the watchband, which are automatically enabled for people 65 and older after they input their age. These sensors track and record the user’s movements, and note if the wearer’s gait becomes unsteady. ... If a fall is detected, the watch sends its wearer a notification. If the wearer doesn’t respond within a minute by tapping a button on the watch to deactivate this signal, emergency services will be alerted that the wearer needs help." We all know how falls can lead to devastating complications for older persons.
The heart monitor feature again using wristband sensors is used "to monitor a patient’s heartbeat and send alerts if it gets too fast or too slow. Specifically, the app is meant to detect atrial fibrillation, which is a type of arrhythmia, also described as a problem with the speed or rhythm of the heartbeat." The article notes some doctors have concerns that this feature will send folks needlessly to the ER.
The article notes that the FDA has "cleared" but not approved the feature, which means "that means they haven’t faced as much rigorous testing as something that has gained the agency’s formal OK."
More to come.
Friday, September 28, 2018
The Aging, Law and Society Collaborative Research Network (CRN) invites scholars to participate in a multi-event workshop as part of the Law and Society Association Annual Meeting scheduled for Washington D.C. from May 30 through June 2, 2019.
For this workshop, proposals for presentations should be submitted by October 22, 2018.
This year’s workshop will feature themed panels, roundtable discussions, and rapid fire presentations in which participants can share new ideas and research projects.
The CRN encourages paper proposals on a broad range of issues related to law and aging. For this event, organizers especially encourage proposals on the following topics:
- The concept of dignity as it relates to aging
- Interdisciplinary research on aging
- Old age policy, and historical perspectives on old age policy
- Sexual Intimacy in old age and the challenge of “consent” requirements
- Compulsion in care provision
- Disability perspectives on aging, and aging perspectives on disability
- Feminist perspectives on aging
- Approaches to elder law education
In addition to paper proposals, CRN also welcomes:
- Volunteers to serve as panel discussants and as commentators on works-in-progress.
- Ideas and proposals for themed panels, round-tables, or a session around a new book.
If you would like to present a paper as part of a the CRN’s programming, send a 100-250 word abstract, with your name, full contact information, and a paper title to Professor Nina Kohn at Syracuse Law, who, appropriately enough also now holds the title of "Associate Dean of Online Education!"
September 28, 2018 in Current Affairs, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, International, Programs/CLEs, Property Management, Retirement, Science, Social Security, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations, Statistics, Web/Tech, Webinars | Permalink | Comments (0)
Wednesday, August 29, 2018
Giving Caregivers (and Law Students!) an Opportunity to See Life through the Eyes of A Person with Dementia
Relias Learning developed an educational tool to promote empathy for individuals with dementia, in the form of a a video shot from the perspective of "Henry," a care facility resident.
Originally intended to help in training professionals, in June 2018 Relias released a version to the general public free of any charges. A second Virtual Reality version, is available for a modest price of $10. There are lots of good points for class discussion in the free on-line version of a Day in the Life of Henry, available here.
Monday, August 27, 2018
The title is somewhat tongue in cheek (I use the phrase in my class to be provocative) but it was only a matter of time until the potential of a micro-chip for elders was becoming a reality. This firm already microchips employees. Could your ailing relative be next? in the Washington Post, explains that a firm that already microchips employees is looking to develop "a more sophisticated microchip that is powered by human body heat and includes GPS tracking capabilities and voice activation [and]... [they] acknowledge that the chips will offer a convenient way to track people — especially those suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia." The chip the company has in mind will do more than just track whereabouts, according to the article. It will have a medical component that will track the wearer's vitals and notify the wearer's doctor if something is amiss. These "medical microchips" have proponents as well as detractors as the article explains.
The article offers that only about half of the company's employees opted for the microchip, and there are other companies using the technology with humans. One expert thinks using microchips with humans is going to be a done-deal, but not for a few decades. I'm all for the use of tech, but worry about privacy, informed consent and cyber security issues. Although it requires a chip to be inserted into the body, is it any less invasive than cameras or technology monitoring devices such as those used in a medical cottage or a gps tracker in a cane or shoes? I still hold out hope for privacy....even though it may be eroding.
Monday, July 9, 2018
Recently I was chatting with my always interesting California friend, Jack Cumming. We were commenting how lately we've been swamped with interesting new topics in aging. Jack had the best report of all.
It seems that a senior living community is working with a new company to serve as a testing ground for wearable exoskeltons. What's that? Remember how Bruce Wayne always had his Bat Suit ready to go in his Bat Cave?
How might this work? Watch the video at the "Discover" tab for a company called Seismic, that is developing what it rightly calls (and has trademarked) "powered clothing."
I suspect my health law colleague Matt Lawrence will like this too! We can call this a Sci Fi Monday post!
Friday, May 25, 2018
Of course, I'm supposed to be finishing my exam grading. Instead, while stopping by my office, I find a copy of a short story from one of my colleagues. The accompanying note says,"Not even my sci-fi 'escape' is untouched by elder care issues. Thought you'd get a kick out of this."
And indeed, I do. I definitely recommend "Today I Am Paul," by Martin L. Shoemaker. The author draws upon his personal experiences in visiting his mother-in-law in a nursing home to craft a true tale ... with a difference ... as the narrating caregiver is an android.
While my printed-page-loving self recommends reading the short story, I also found a great podcast of the story being read aloud by Kate Baker and I'm linking it here, from Clarkesworld Magazine.
I now plan to use this story to introduce my Elder Law course in the autumn. So much to talk about, including the roles of family, caregivers, technology, fear..... I suspect my co-blogger Becky Morgan, with her often expressed enthusiasm for tech including driverless cars, will appreciate this story too. Happy reading or listening for Memorial Day weekend!
Many thanks to Dickinson Law Professor Matthew Lawrence for this unique, caring experience.
Thursday, May 24, 2018
Believe it or not, there are those in the US who are not on the Internet. Although the numbers are growing, some still haven't gotten onto the information highway. We are seeing an increase in the use of the Internet by those we consider elders, but there are still others who don't use it.
Pew Research periodically releases a report on internet use. The last one, a Fact Tank from a couple of months ago, showed a gradual increase. 11% of Americans don’t use the internet. Who are they?explains that "[t]he size of this group has changed little over the past three years, despite ongoing government and social service programs to encourage internet adoption in underserved areas. But that 11% figure is substantially lower than in 2000, when the Center first began to study the social impact of technology. That year, nearly half (48%) of American adults did not use the internet."
The report looks at all age groups, but since this is the elderlawprof blog, I'm interested in the internet usage by elders. The report gives us that: "[s]eniors are the age group most likely to say they never go online. Although the share of non-internet users ages 65 and older decreased by 7 percentage points since 2016, about a third today do not use the internet, compared with only 2% of 18- to 29-year-olds."
So basically one-third of elders still are off the information highway. As more and more Boomers move past age 65, it will be interesting to see if that number drops or holds steady. Our students need to understand that figure, too, since so many of them are online non-stop.
Tuesday, March 13, 2018
There are amazing technologies out there, and I'm sure more are being invented as I write this. Kaiser Health News ran a story about technology designed to allow elders to age in place and to satay connected. New Technologies Help Seniors Age In Place — And Not Feel Alone opens by relating a story of one elder who agreed to the use of a long-distance monitoring system so her son across the country could keep track of her well-being. "For many, the technology offers not just the tools they need to continue to live at home, but newfound confidence and connectedness with faraway family and friends." One expert quoted in the article has named this trend as "'monitored independence,' and it is changing how older generations age in America. 'People want to be autonomous, irrespective of age,'" said this expert. The article notes that voice-assisted technologies are goign to play a large role in helping elders age in place as these devices can do a lot more than just play music. Pair those with apps designed to help elders and will become proactive in interactions rather than reactive. The article offers a forthcoming app as an example where it will ask the elder if the elder has remembered to take her medication. There are currently apps that remind the user to take medication and allows the user to designate a second party to get an alert if the user misses a dose of medication.
More fall detection devices are coming our way as well, some very soon and others before too long.
It's interesting to see tech moving into this market and hopefully more will be done to help us live independently longer. Is anyone thinking about the privacy aspects of using all this tech?
Wednesday, December 27, 2017
DOJ's office on Violence vs. Women (OVW) is offering a 5-part webinar series on Abuse in Later Life. The webinar series is free. The series will be presented jointly by the National Clearinghouse on Abuse in Later Life (NCALL) and The ABA Commission on Domestic and Sexual Violence. The 5 parts will cover
- January 25, 2018 Abuse in Later Life Overview
- February 8, 2018 Forming the Relationship with your Client
- February 22, 2018 Client Goal-setting and Non-litigation Responses
- March 8, 2018 Legal Resolutions and Remedies
- March 22, 2018 Bringing the Case-Trial Skills
All the webinars are offered at 1:30 est. To register click here
Tuesday, December 26, 2017
The DOJ Elder Justice Initiative is holding a free webinar on January 12, 2018 at 2 est on What Hotline Workers Need To Know About Elder Abuse. To register, click here. Here's the info about the webinar
Julie Childs, J.D., Consultant to the U.S. Department of Justice Elder Justice Initiative, hosts a discussion with Maria Shumar, Victim Specialist Consultant to the U.S. Department of Justice Elder Justice Initiative, and Keeley Frank, Senior Service Specialist from the National Center for Victims of Crime, on assessing and responding appropriately to calls from older adults who may have experienced elder abuse. We’ll discuss case examples to provide hotline workers tips on how to assist these callers and direct them to relevant resources and services.
Friday, December 15, 2017
Are you familiar with the National Center on Law and Elder Rights? If you are an academic teaching courses about any aspect of elder law, disability law, Medicare or Medicaid, you will want to know more about this resource. If you are working in a legal services organization that represents older clients or disabled adult clients, you will want to now about this resource. If you are a young lawyer and just handling your first case involving home-based or facility-based care for older persons who are can't afford private pay options, you will definitely want to know about this resource. In fact, if you are a long-time lawyer representing families who are struggling to find their way through an "elder care" scenario, you too might benefit from an educational "tune up" on available benefits. And the very good news? This is a free resource.
The National Center on Law and Elder Rights (NCLER) was established in 2016 by the federal Administration for Community Living. The new entity is, in essence, a partnership project, with the goal of providing a "one-stop resource for law and aging network professionals" who serve older adults who need economic and social care assistance. Justice in Aging (formerly the National Senior Citizens Law Center) which has primary offices on the east and west coast is a key partner, working with the American Bar Association's Commission on Law and Aging, the National Consumer Law Center (NCLC), and the Center for Social Gerontology (TCSG). Attorneys at these four NCLER partners provide substantive expertise, including preparation of materials available in a variety of formats, such as free webinars on a host of hot topics. The Directing Attorney is Jennifer Goldberg from Justice in Aging and the Project Manager is attorney Fay Gordon.
It strikes me that a very unique way in which NCLER will be a valuable resource is through what the offer as "case consultations" for attorneys and other professionals. Think about that -- you may have long-experience with one branch of "elder law" such as Medicaid applications, but you have never before handled an elder abuse case with a bankruptcy problem. Here is the way to potentially get experienced guidance!
The web platform for NCLER offers a deep menu of resources, including recordings of very recent webinars and information on future events. I recently signed up for a January 2018 webinar program on elder financial exploitation and even though it is a "basics" session I can tell I'll hear about a new tools and possible remedies, as the presenters are Charlie Sabatino and David Godfrey. I just watched a recording of another recent webinar and it was very clear and packed with useful information. There is a regular schedule for training sessions -- with "basics" on the second Tuesday of every month and more advanced training sessions on the third Wednesday every month.
I confess that somehow NCLER wasn't on my radar screen until recently (probably because my sabbatical last year put me about a year behind on emails -- seriously!) but I'm excited to know about it now.
December 15, 2017 in Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Ethical Issues, Federal Cases, Health Care/Long Term Care, Legal Practice/Practice Management, Medicaid, Medicare, Programs/CLEs, Social Security, Web/Tech, Webinars | Permalink | Comments (0)
Tuesday, December 5, 2017
Our friend and colleague, Professor Naomi Cahn at GW Law, sent us a link to a story published in Slate. The Digital Afterlife Is a Mess recounts the tangle created by the number of accounts a person may have, knotted up by company policies and wrapped around various laws.
Today’s world is different. Many of us have chosen to go paperless, so all of our financial statements are delivered electronically; we even file digital tax returns. Our love letters may no longer be written in ink on paper, our reading and listening and viewing interests no longer documented by hardcover books and magazines, record albums, and VCR tapes, and our photos no longer stored in boxes under out beds.
So once the digital asset owner dies, how does the executor gain access to these digital assets and further, determine their value, if any? The article explains the hurdles, including the potential for committing a crime unwittingly by using the decedent's account and password to access digital files. The article turns to the Uniform Act designed to address this growing problem: the Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act, Revised, which has been adopted by almost 2/3 of the states. The Act "allows a fiduciary to manage much of a decedent’s digital property, giving access to many things other than the content of electronic communications (unless this access has been limited by the user or by a court order) and even permitting access to content in certain limited situations." The article explains the 4-tiered system the Act uses for prioritizing and offers practical suggestions such as starting with inventorying your own digital assets, subscribing to an online account management program, and include coverage of digital assets in estate planning documents.
Monday, November 27, 2017
A Frameworks Institute initiative, Reframing Aging, now includes a free video on reframing aging and ageism. The video can be ordered here. (Although free, you still need to enter your contact information and then receive an email with login info to start the course. The course info explains that the "lecture series, [provides] a guided tour of how to use new, evidence-based framing strategies to communicate more powerfully about aging as a social policy issue." The sponsors of the lecture series are Grantmakers in Aging and the Leaders of Aging Organizations. Topics include “What's in a Name?,” “The Swamp of Cultural Models,” “Rethinking Narrative,” “Stories to Stop Telling,” “Embracing the Dynamic” and “Confronting Injustice.
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.
Wednesday, September 27, 2017
This is not an elder law specific topic so if that doesn't interest you, stop reading now (we have plenty of elder law specific posts in the archives). It seems like every week (if not more often) we read about a data breach. The one gathering all the headlines right now is the Equifax breach, which I'm sure you all have heard about (unless you are one of the ones without power Post-Irma). Having been a victim of ID theft and the Equifax breach, I'm a little wound up about these issues so forgive me if I get a little too "enthused" discussing this. Within 11 minutes today I got two agency emails warning me about ID theft. Social Security sent out a note about Protecting Your Social Security. Here are some suggestions from SSA:
- Open your personal my Social Security account....
- If you already have a my Social Security account, but haven’t signed in lately, take a moment to login to easily take advantage of our second method to identify you each time you log in. This is in addition to our first layer of security, a username and password....
- If you know your Social Security information has been compromised, and if you don’t want to do business with Social Security online, you can use our Block Electronic Access You can block any automated telephone and electronic access to your Social Security record...
The second email I got was a consumer alert from NAIC. Identity Theft: Protect Yourself in wake of breaches, hacks and cyber stalkers explains
Big data is big business. But it can also lead to bigger headaches when large-scale breaches expose personal information. Large companies including insurers and credit bureaus have been the victims of cyber thieves who accessed private customer information. Most recently, the Equifax breach of could affect 143 million Americans.
Identity theft occurs when a person uses your personal information to commit fraud or unlawful activity. Using your social security number or date of birth, someone may open new credit card or bank account in your name, and even take out a loan using your personal information. Affected consumers can help protect themselves with identity theft insurance—or by using safeguards provided by the impacted company. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) offers these consumer protection tips.
The tips include what not to carry in your wallet, what to do if your identity has been stolen, not to proactively protect yourself against identity theft and the pros and cons of purchasing identity theft insurance.
I'm just saying now... this isn't going to be the last time I write you about this. Hopefully none of you will be in my boat. Safe travels through cyber space.
Tuesday, August 1, 2017
Over the weekend, I caught an interesting episode of "On Being," with public radio host Krista Tippett. While the nominal topic was "the good, bad and the ugly" of the internet, and especially of internet-based social media sites, I found the conversation with her guest relevant on a number of levels, including questions about the importance of healthy relationships and intellectual stimulation for individuals as they age.
The guest speaker, Danah Boyd, a researcher, book author and pro-technology blogger, especially internet technology, talked about concerns that many parents may have, that their children are negatively affected by the amount of time they spend on the internet, whether in the form of Facebook, emails, chatrooms or simply surfing. "Why don't they just go outside and play together like we did as children, especially in the summer?"
In response, Boyd pointed out that there is a "tremendous amount of fearmongering that emerged in light of 24/7 news...." She continued:
We created this concern that public spaces like the park were a terrible, terrible place. We were worried about latchkey children. We were worried about school buses. We clamped down on young people, and we started, especially in middle to upper class environments, structuring every day of their lives.
She drew upon examples, including some from Eric Klinenberg, a sociologist who wrote Going Solo to examine the implications of living a "single life," to suggest a possible explanation for young people retreating into the internet is the need to escape the pressures of overly structured daily lives.
If true, wouldn't the need to escape increase as you get older and encounter more pressure to work, be on time, succeed, and to multi-task? The need to detach from one-on-one relationships might be greater.
While the program did not talk directly about the upper ages of such a trajectory, as I listened to the program I couldn't help but think there is some greater truth here. I see some people continue to want to stay engaged in one-on-one social relationships as they move into the "older" of older ages, but I also see many, including some of my own family members, do the exact opposite. No, they aren't retreating into the internet, but they are retreating from what they might see as pressures to communicate, to be articulate, to "chat" with long time friends or family members. Perhaps for some it is the television, rather than a cell phone or iPad that serves as the protective shield.
But, for future generations of elders will the internet still be intriguing and continue to offer escape routes?
One of the things that I liked about the "On Being" discussion was the discussion of the importance of striving for balance in the midst of technological changes. Boyd said:
From my perspective, it’s about stepping back and not assuming that just the technology is transformative, and saying, okay, what are we trying to achieve here? What does balance look like? What does happiness look like? What does success look like? What are these core tenets or values that we’re aiming for, and how do we achieve them holistically across our lives? And certainly, when parents are navigating this, I think one of the difficulties is to recognize that this is what your values are, and they may be different from your child’s values. And so how do you learn to sit and have a conversation of “Here’s what I want for you. What do you want? And how do we balance that?” And that’s that negotiation that’s really hard. And so I think about it in terms of all of us — how do you find your own sense of grounding?
She concludes, suggesting internet technology is an important tool for making connections and having relationships, but "reflection" about life goals is also important. Or as Boyd says, "There are so many opportunities out there to connect, to communicate, to get information. We need to be more thoughtful about what we want to achieve and how to articulate that in our lives and how to achieve it collectively, individually, and as a community."
Tuesday, July 11, 2017
Kiplinger ran a story for elders about staying cyber-safe online. Beware Fraudsters When You Go Online discusses cybersecurity safety. The tips include a strong password (I know we've heard this before, but it's so important) ,using tw0-factor authentication and even fingerprint ID to log on. Do this for every one of your online interfaces: for your email, your financial accounts and your social media. Keep your software and anti-virus updated (include your smart phone-update those apps!). Backup critical data (even a hard copy), don't share your passwords, don't use the same password for everything, keep a hard copy of your passwords, don't click on links in emails and remember your bank, Social Security and the IRS will not email you. You didn't really win a foreign country's lottery. Don't open attachments. Be mindful when on your computer. Think before you click!