State News for February 2015

Former MA Health and Human Services Sec. John Polanowicz backed the end-of-life counseling measure.
Former MA Health and Human Services Sec. John Polanowicz backed the end-of-life counseling measure.

PLAINS/MOUNTAINS

Home care funds sought 

COLORADO — In-home care may be less costly than nursing home care, but it's getting more expensive for public agencies to provide. That has prompted the state Department of Human Services to seek a $4 million boost in funding to provide expanded services for a rapidly aging population.

The agency claims it needs the additional money to provide essential services like meals, transportation and nutrition counseling for a rapidly aging population. The state's over-60 population is expected to more than double by 2030 and represent a quarter of the total population. Currently, wait times can exceed two months for residents seeking home care, handyman help or meals-on-wheels, according to the Denver Post.

MIDWEST

New aging panel formed

MINNESOTA — A newly minted legislative committee on aging issues vows to address workforce challenges and funding issues for the state's nursing homes and assisted living communities.

Rep. Joe Schomacker (R-22A), chair of the new House Committee on Aging and Long-Term Care Policy, has promised to pursue legislation on these and other matters over the next two years to reverse what he termed “just getting by” efforts of his fellow lawmakers.

NORTHEAST

State mandates end-of-life care counseling

MASSACHUSETTS — Thanks in part to the Affordable Care Act, the concept of palliative care has become more prominent in the national conversation about the end of life. Now these conversations are mandated for Bay State nursing homes, hospitals and other providers.

Nursing homes are required to offer end-of-life counseling to terminally ill patients. The rule will require providers to identify patients who are in their last six months of life and ask them if they want to discuss care alternatives, according to WNPR News. Patients will not be required to make any choices while they pursue current treatments — a provision meant to deflect earlier so-called “death panels” criticism. Patients can refuse the discussions for religious reasons.

Regulators are said to be amenable to easing into the new rule in 2015, but compliance issues could later become a factor in licensing reviews, according to the news report.

The new requirement is the first of its kind in the country, but palliative care is beginning to take hold in other states. The Louisiana Legislature last fall approved a measure to officially incorporate an often used end-of-life planning document into the Minimum Data Set assessment used in skilled nursing facilities. And a 2014 study found that South Dakota's nursing homes have the best palliative care resources in a state that's otherwise plagued by geographical disparities that play a significant role in access to hospice care. 


Video camera law eyed

NEW JERSEY — Nursing homes and union workers have vowed to fight a proposed law that would allow nursing home residents to install and operate audio and video equipment in their rooms.

AARP and the American Health Care Association support such measures, as long as their intent is to improve care delivery. But unions and some facility operators in the state claim the measure would violate patient privacy and erode trust, according to New Jersey Spotlight.

The bill, A-3883, introduced by Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-32) in December, would allow such devices to be hidden but require the resident to consent to being recorded and the facility to be informed.

‘Stripper suit' to proceed

NEW YORK — A Suffolk County judge recently ruled against a Long Island nursing home's motion to dismiss a civil lawsuit that claims that a resident suffered emotional distress from attending a party featuring a male stripper at the facility last spring.

The 85-year-old woman, who was photographed attending the event, suffers from advanced dementia and could not consent to attending, according to the complaint filed by her son.

Justice Paul Baisley noted that the woman could make a claim for “conversion” because of funds allegedly taken from her commissary account to help fund the event, according to the New York Law Journal

The nursing home says the woman was able to give her consent to attend the event, which was sanctioned by a resident activities committee.

SOUTHWEST

Terror charges dropped

OKLAHOMA — Terrorism hoax charges have been dropped against a former Bellevue Nursing Home employee accused of threatening to behead a former colleague.

Prosecutors told The Oklahoman newspaper they decided to withdraw charges against Jacob Mugambi Muriithi after the “credibility” of the colleague filing the original complaint came into question. Other nursing home employees also had confirmed the man was “joking.”

Muriithi was arrested September 26, the day after a fired worker at nearby Vaughan Foods allegedly beheaded a co-worker. Police reported there was no connection between the two incidents. Muriithi was terminated from his job at the nursing home.