Articles Posted in NY Elder Law

Elder care is not one-size-fits-all. There are a wide range of different needs for seniors, from simple help with travel to extensive, around-the-clock medical support. Fortunately, more and more experts are working to accommodate many different needs, providing the ideal fit for residents that preserves individuality and freedom as much as possible.

One particular strand of elder care that has received more focus in recent years is support for those with cognitive ailments–like dementia and Alzheimer’s. Residents with these memory challenges face particular vulnerabilities. Even the more all-encompassing caregiving options (like a move into a nursing home) may not provide the best fit for these residents. The need for solid elder care planning is particularly important for those at risk of dementia, to ensure that proper care is available if necessary. Unfortunately, many do not identify their condition until it is too late.

But how do you know if you are at risk of dementia?

The combined pressures of growing need, rising costs, and altered ideas of the best way to live one’s golden years is leading to a revolution in the look and feel of elder care. To be sure, changes in the way seniors in need receive support are still occurring far too slow for some advocates. But it is undeniable that many seniors now are cared for differently than their parents and the trend will only continue in the coming years and decades.

One common suggestion is that communal living spaces (like nursing homes) are closing and being replaced by a growth in at-home caregivers. While that change is occurring, it oversimplifies the new landscape of seniors care. There are different version of at-home support and even communal living.

Senior Villages

A somewhat bizarre story out of Europe is leading a few elder care experts in the United States to question whether “shipping away” seniors may be part of the future of long-term care for some families.

As reported by the BBC, one adult daughter in Switzerland ignited an ethical debate recently by deciding to send her mother to a long-term care home in Thailand for support. The daughter explained that her decision was based on both her mother’s specific condition and financial realities. The 91-year old mother apparently suffers from severe dementia, and is unable to remember much of anything about the present. In addition, the cost of care in Switzerland was incredibly high–similar to that in New York–while Thai care was far more affordable. The daughter felt that her mother could receive better services in Thailand where she now lives with a group of other Swiss and German seniors.

A Wave of the Future?

The aging process is never easy–for the senior or their family. Thoughts of mortality aside, the challenge of dealing with the day to day vulnerabilities of elderly friends and family is something that is impossible to fully appreciate until you experience it first-hand. From figuring out how to get groceries, doing to the laundry, emptying the dishwasher, and countless other tasks, seniors who are facing physical and mental decline connected to their age have a myriad of daily struggles.

One of the most acute challenges faced by aging New Yorkers relates to driving. It is easy to forget how much one relies on driving until the privilege is taken away. Considering the importance of driving, it is little wonder than most seniors do everything they can to keep their traveling options open, even when their frailties make it unsafe. Friends and family members of New York seniors must be prudent about monitoring this risk and stepping in when necessary.

Senior Driving Fact Sheet

The changing face of New York nursing home care continued this weekend as another county officially got out of the elder care business. As reported by Syracuse News, the Van Duyn Home and Hospital was transferred by Onondaga County to the “Upstate Services Group” — a private company that owns at least eleven other New York elder care facilities.

This transition was in the works for quite some. The news report explains how the facility has long-been plagued by accusations of poor care on top of acting as a huge financial burden for the county itself. In fact, Van Duyn was under intense scrutiny from federal regulators for its poor caregiving track record. That is on top of more than a dozen private civil lawsuits filed by former residents and their family members against the county alleging negligence.

The financial issue combined with care quality concerns led many to suspect that the 500-bed facility would be shuttered. However, with this transition to private ownership, it appears the the facility is safe–at least for now. Interestingly, one of the main concerns with sales of public facilities to private companies is the risk of a decrease in quality for residents. However, in this case, because of Van Duyn’s poor track record in the past, there were less complaints of that nature.

Not all long-term care facilities are alike. Quality varies considerably from home to home. Some facilities have an adequate number of caregivers, access to amenities and resources, and generally help residents enjoy their golden years. Other homes do not. Ensuring that you or a loved one has options to find the facility that best fits your needs, it is critical to plan ahead of time. That is where elder law attorneys come in.

Far too many families are forced to hastily chose a facility because of a sudden disability. When that happens, the chances greatly increase that the home will not provide the best environment for thriving, potentially risking neglect and abuse. Not only that, but in the rush to admit a loved one, many end up signing away legal rights to seek accountability via the civil justice system in the event of mistreatment.

Understanding Nursing Home Arbitration Agreements

Many of us can relate to growing concerns over loved ones as they continue to age and require more assistance. It can be challenging to meet these changing needs while still recognizing that our elderly loved ones are capable of performing some tasks on their own. It may seem obvious that legal remedies exist for those addressing extreme issues brought up by dementia and other forms of degenerative disease in elderly family members, who may entirely depend on a third party for assistance with daily life activities. What may not be as obvious is that those solutions are legally available to help address our elderly loved one’s needs without necessarily having them declared incompetent, while also enabling them to utilize a proper degree of autonomy.

New York Law

New York Mental Hygiene Law Article 81 was enacted to provide those seeking guardianship, and the Courts, the opportunity of using the least restrictive means of intervention in order to meet the specific personal or property management needs of the elderly individual while still maintaining an appropriate level of independence based on their capabilities. Specifically, Section 81.02(a)(2) of the Article provides that the Court may appoint a guardian to provide for the personal or financial needs of a person without having them declared incompetent, so long as that person agrees to the appointment. This becomes especially relevant in those situations where an individual is just starting to exhibit the first signs or symptoms of a degenerative disease affecting their mental capacity.

You may remember that on New Year’s Day of this year, a large piece of legislation was passed by Congress and signed by President Obama. The bill was the one that (temporarily) avoided the fiscal cliff. It was the measure that seemed to permanently set the estate tax rates among other things.

At the same time, the legislation also called for the creation of a Long-Term Care Commission. Comprised of 15 members, selected by both Republican and Democratic leaders, the group was given six months to hold hearings, debate, discuss, and create a report on various issues regarding long-term care nationwide. More specifically, the entity’s specific charge was to “develop recommendations for the establishment, implementation, and financing of a comprehensive, coordinated, and high-quality system that ensures the availability of long-term services and supports for individuals who depend on this system to live full and healthy lives.”

The Recommendations

Nursing homes have a reputation for being ‘behind the times.” New York in particular has a somewhat abysmal track record of providing high-quality care. One on hand, the problems are rooted in finances and personnel. Often operating on tight budgets, some facilities cut corners on staffing, leading many residents to languish without the hands-on care that they need to get by each day.

On top of that, however, there are innovation challenges. Rarely are nursing home lauded for being at the cutting edge of improvements which take advantage of new trends and caregiving approaches. You often read about hospitals or medical clinics that are using the newest and the latest tools to provide care to patients–nursing homes don’t often receive the same plaudits.

Behind the Records Curve

Advocating for better long-term care is not just a concern of NY elder law attorneys. Policymakers at all levels and of all political persuasions are also keenly aware of the impact that the growing need for long-term care will have on communities nationwide.

There are few challenges more acute than figuring out how to ensure adequate senior care for all community members. As most know, we are on the cusp of a “gray wave” with demographics changes requiring an increased commitment to skilled care and assistance for seniors. The need extends to all facets of elder care, from ensuring there are enough physical spaces for those in need to coming up with ways to pay for the care.

Federal LTC Commission

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