Articles Posted in Senior Health Care

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

As noted several weeks ago, October is officially known as “Residents’ Rights Month” — a time to share information about the rights of seniors living in all forms of senior housing facilities. Many New York residents have heard horror stories from friends, family members, and acquaintances about inadequate care at nursing homes. This is actually a spur that leads many to take matters into their own hands, crafting an elder law estate plan to protect themselves and their loved ones.

Regardless, we can all agree that abuse of seniors is never acceptable, no matter what the setting. In the spirit of raising awareness of this problem, it is worth taking a look at an Elder Abuse Fact Sheet that was released as part of Resident’s Rights Month. With even a cursory glance it is clear that this abuse affects millions of seniors and the problem is only due to rise in the coming years.

Widespread Mistreatment

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.

Seniors in Continuing Care Communities in neighboring New Jersey are about to have many new ways to protect their rights and obtain better care. On Thursday, October 17, 2013, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed the “Bill of Rights for Continuing Care Retirement Community Residents in Independent Living (CCRC).” The bill covers a wide range of issues facing residents in CCRCs, including a resident’s entry into a facility, communication between the facility and the resident, financial issues, and termination of services. The bill also provides for penalties ranging from $250 to $50,000 for violations of the provisions of the bill.

The bill includes the following rights:

· Each resident will be treated with respect, courtesy, consideration, and dignity;

The face of long-term care in New York continues to change. In the past, when seniors were in need of close, around-the-clock care their main option was to move into a skilled nursing home in their community, usually owned by the county itself. These public facilities long acted as the main source of institutional support for ailing seniors.

But things are changing. For one thing, many more seniors are being proactive about their long-term care, creating elder law estate plans that ensure they have more options, including at-home care that allows them to age in place.

On top of that, more and more county owned and operated nursing homes are being sold off to private investors. Finances are at the center of the switch, as tight local budgets are making it very difficult for local policymakers to justify losing significant funds year over year on this care. Recent reports have underscored the situation, noting that virtually all of the county-run nursing homes in New York are operating in the red.

A new study from researchers out of Rochester, New York took a look at quality of care trends from 11,500 nursing home and compared them with the racial make-up of residents in those homes. The summary finding from the project which is making headlines is that long-term care facilities with a higher percentage of black residents provide lower quality care.

First published this summer is a publication known as Health Services Research, the investigation involved analysis of data related to quality of care as well as financial performance over a five year period (1999-2004). Most information was culled from reports provided by the Medicare and Medicaid programs. Those facilities with zero residents on those programs were not included in the research.

The Connection Between Revenue and Nursing Home Care

Yesterday we touched on changes in exemption rules from the U.S. Labor Department which will affect the federal employment rights of home care workers. As discussed, observers on both sides have made predictions on how the changes will affect home care nationwide. Some argue that better treated employees will provide better care to seniors. Others suggest that the home care industry cannot absorb the increased costs and the total number of full-time caregivers will be cut as a result.

But a more important question for New York residents and their families is more preliminary: Is home care right for us?

Making Careful Choices

A growing number of New York seniors in need of caregiving support are opting to stay in their homes, instead of moving into nursing facilities. This is partially a result of Medicaid programs changing to accommodate more at-home caregiving, often saving money and better meeting elderly preferences at the same time.

As a result, more and more attention is being paid to home caregivers. In particular, some are voicing concern about potential negligent care. Obviously, caregivers can fall far short of standards no matter what the setting, from nursing homes to traveling support. One particular concern with home caregiving aides is that, unknown to many, they actually fall under an exempted category in the Fair Labor Standards Act–the federal law which includes issues like the minimum wage, overtime pay, and more.

At least that was the case. According to new rules released today by the U.S. Labor Department, the specific definition of the “companionship exemption” under which these caregivers previously fell will be narrowed. Beginning in 2015, home caregivers will no longer be exempt, leading to significant changes in their employment status and, some hope, the quality of their work.

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

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