Tag: Elder Law
Jennifer Philpott’s blog post on the Initial Recommendations from Ontario’s Long-Term Care COVID-19 Commission explains that the mandate of the Ontario Long-Term Care COVID-19 Commission (the “Commission”) is “to investigate how and why COVID-19 spread in long-term care (“LTC”) homes, what was done to prevent the spread, and the impact of key elements of the existing system on the spread.”
As noted in our previous blog post, Hull & Hull LLP recognizes and commends the Commission, led by the Honourable Justice Frank N. Marrocco, with John E. Callaghan and Kate McGrann as Commission Co-Lead Counsel, for their hard work and efforts towards protecting some of the most vulnerable citizens in our province.
Since the Commission’s First Interim Letter dated October 23, 2020, over 100 homes are experiencing an outbreak and more than 300 residents have died. On December 4, 2020, the Commission released their Second Interim Letter which focuses on resident care and on in-home leadership, and provides the Ministry of Long-Term Care (the “Ministry”) with various the following recommendations:
- Leadership and Accountability in Long-Term Care Homes
The Commission notes that the fundamental principle in the Long-Term Care Home Act states that
“A home is primarily the home of its residents and is to be operated so that it is a place where they may live with dignity and in security, safety, and comfort and have their physical, psychological, social, spiritual and cultural needs adequately met.”
The Commission emphasized that leadership matters. They found that in homes where leaders were visible and provided clarity around staff roles and responsibilities fared better than those where the leadership was less engaged.
Amongst other things, the Commission found that there was confusion around who was responsible for maintaining resident quality of care in LTC homes during the pandemic and that it was unclear as to whose responsibility it was in the LTC home’s leadership team of the Executive Director, Director of Nursing and Personal Care and Medical Director. The Commission also found that these leaders were not always accessible or on-site.
The Commission recommended that there should be a clear lead for quality of care amongst the leadership team of the Executive Director, Director of Nursing and Personal Care and Medical Care in each LTC home, and that this individual must be on-site each day in a full-time position and should be held accountable for resident quality of care. Further, the Commission noted that the Province should provide the financial resources necessary to effectively support the lead for quality of care in carrying of their role and responsibilities.
- Performance Indicators
The Commission recommended using performance indicators to assess each home’s readiness to prevent and manage COVID-19 outbreaks. Specifically, the Commission found that while the current six clinical indicators tracked in the LTC home performance reports are a good first step in advancing transparency and flagging issues in LTC homes, this data does not provide other important insight on the quality of care received by residents and their experience in the home.
The Commission noted that indicators in areas of staffing (such as staffing mix, ration of residents to staff and ration of residents to staff with clinical expertise, level of staff engagement, etc.), PPE supplies and resident and family satisfaction with care at the home should be monitored and publically reported.
The Commission recommended that the LTC home performance reports should include performance metrics such as resident and family satisfaction, staff engagement, staging levels, and supply of PPE, as well as recommended that the home performance reports be publically posted in a single and centralized location and be updated more frequently, so that the public and other homes can assess and compare homes to one another as well as search and access a comprehensive picture of each home’s performance.
The Commission also recommended focused inspections to assess compliance with measures known to reduce the impact of the virus. Specifically, several issues have surfaced that the Commission believes require urgent attention, including:
1. The discontinuance of Resident Quality Inspections (“RQIs”) in all LTC homes
Although in 2013, the Ministry of Labour, Training, Skills and Developed (“MLTSD”) recognized that comprehensive inspections would help identify systemic issues and committed to completing an RQI in every home by the end of 2014, in response to the Auditor General’s 2015 recommendation “to prioritize comprehensive inspections based on LTC homes’ complaints and critical incidents and other risk factors”, in order to clear a backlog of almost 3,000 complaints and critical incident inspections, the Ministry introduced a risk-based approach to inspection. Although all LTC homes were still to be inspected every year, 329 LTC homes received an RQI in 2018, 27 homes received an RQI in 2019 and from March 1 to October 15, 2020 only 11 LTC homes received a proactive inspection. This reduction in RQIs, which are intended to provide a holistic review of operations in the homes, left the Ministry with an incomplete picture of the state of Infection Prevention and Control (“IPAC”) and emergency preparedness.
The Commission recommended to reintroduce annual Resident Quality Inspections for all LTC homes and require all reactive inspections occurring during the pandemic to include an IPAC Program review. The Commission also recommended that the Ministry request an appropriate funding in the upcoming 2021 provincial budget to hire and train inspectors to implement annual RQIs.
The Commission was also concerned with the lack of enforcement and follow-up verification of compliance with Orders issued by the Ministry. From 2018 to 2020, Plan of Care has been identified as the top area of non-compliance identified from complaint inspections. The Commission noted that IPAC issues rarely made it to the list of the top ten areas of non-compliances, showing that it was rarely a focus of any inspections.
The Commission recommended that the Ministry improve enforcement by prioritizing timely responses to non-compliance with IPAC and Plan of Care Orders.
3. Coordination of Inspections
The commission noted that there was an absence of a cohesive approach to inspections completed by the MLTC, MLTSD and Public Health Units, which likely occurred because inspectors from all three organizations tend to carry out their duties independently. This disjointed approached proved detrimental for IPAC in LTC homes and with the near elimination of RQIs and minimal inspections initiated by IPAC complaints or critical incidents, LTC inspections provided little help in proactively identifying and dressing aps in infection control inside homes.
The Commission recommended that steps be taken to eliminate the siloed approach to MLTC, MLTSD and Public Health inspections through cross-training, the establishment of a centralized system of report sharing and inspector teams to address specific cross-cutting issues.
Thank you for reading.
Ontario’s Long-Term Care COVID-19 Commission (the “Commission”) was formed in July 2020. The Commission’s mandate is “to investigate how and why COVID-19 spread in long-term care homes, what was done to prevent the spread, and the impact of key elements of the existing system on the spread.”
The Commission’s work is unique as it is conducting inquiries and providing recommendations to the Government of Ontario on an ongoing basis. Led by The Honourable Justice Frank N. Marrocco and Commission Counsel, John E. Callaghan and Kate McGrann, the Commission has met with over 200 individuals including experts, associations, unions, long-term care home operators, residents, families, and government officials. The Commission’s final report is due in April 2021.
The Commission’s First Interim Letter was released on October 23, 2020 and provided the following recommendations for the Ministry of Long-Term Care (the “Ministry”) to consider:
(1) Increase Staffing
Prior to the COVID-19 Pandemic, staffing challenges in long-term care facilities were well documented (for instance, in The Honourable Justice Eileen Gillese’s 2019 report of the Public Inquiry into the Safety and Security of Residents in the Long-Term Care System). The Commission recommends that the Ministry ensure that recruitment of long-term care staff focuses on diverse hiring practices to meet it’s residents’ acuity and complex care needs.
Further, the Commission recommends that more full-time care positions are created to increase stability amongst and retention of staff, which would further the continuity of care for residents. The Commission suggests that the Ministry implement the findings of its Long-Term Care Staffing Study, which was released in July 2020. These findings include providing at least four hours of direct care per resident per day and increasing funding to hire more nurses and PSWs to increase the staff to resident ration in long-term care facilities.
The Commission acknowledged that family members and caregivers play an essential role and provide “not just physical care needs but the psycho-social well-being of residents.” In that regard, the Commission recommends that long-term care facilities provide family members and caregivers “ongoing, safe and managed access to long-term care residents.”
(2) Strengthen Healthcare Sector Relationships and Collaboration
From its inquiries, the Commission uncovered that communities where long-term care facilities had pre-existing relationships with hospitals and public health units were better equipped to prevent or control COVID-19 outbreaks. On this basis, the Commission recommends that long-term care facilities likely to encounter difficulties (i.e. high infection rates in the community; past outbreaks; etc.) should implement a “collaboration model” between the facility, local hospital(s), and public health unit(s). The Commission’s letter urges the Ministry and the Ministry of Health to take a proactive approach and facilitate the collaboration model through defined supports and surge capacity for each long-term care home.
(3) Improve Infection Prevention and Control (“IPAC”) Measures
The Commission’s investigation revealed that adherence to IPAC measures is key in order to prevent community spread of COVID-19 into long-term care facilities and between staff and residents. The Commission recommends that long-term care facilities designate an IPAC lead. The IPAC lead would be responsible for monitoring, evaluating, and ensuring compliance with protocols. The IPAC lead would provide training to staff and access the local IPAC centre of expertise as necessary. The Commission strongly recommends that in the short term, inspectors from the Ministry, local public health unit(s), and others who can be trained should be sent into long-term care homes to ensure that proper IPAC protocols are being followed.
Residents of long-term care facilities are at a greater risk of contracting severe illness and death from COVID-19 than other populations. Consequently, the Commission suggests that residents and staff receive priority access to testing and faster results. If residents test positive for COVID-19, the Commission recommends that long-term care homes, hospitals, and public health units formulate plans to allow residents to transfer to an alternative setting in order to isolate from others and recover from the virus.
Hull & Hull LLP commends the efforts of the Commission for its proactive efforts towards protecting the most vulnerable citizens of our province. A follow-up blog will be released in the coming weeks summarizing the Commission’s recommendations from its Second Interim Letter.
Thank you for reading.
Last week, we blogged on serious deficiencies recently observed in long-term care facilities in Ontario and elsewhere in the country as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Improvement of conditions in long-term care homes has long been on the radar for many Canadian provinces even prior to Covid-19. The recent pandemic has highlighted many of the shortcomings of long-term care and provided the much-needed impetus for all levels of government to rethink ways to improve living conditions for residents.
One of the key issues highlighted by the pandemic is the reliance many residents have on family and friends to supply necessities such as food, clothing, and personal care items. Thinking about this led me to consider another important supply chain that may be suspended for residents of long-term care facilities; the supply of medical and recreational marijuana.
Prior to the Cannabis Act, S.C. 2018, c. 16, which came into effect on October 17, 2018, it was illegal to possess, obtain, produce, traffic, and import or export cannabis, except for cannabis for medical consumption. The new regime decriminalized the recreational use of cannabis, while regulations dealing with medical cannabis remained in place. The Cannabis Act was introduced for a number of reasons, one of which was to protect public health and safety to allow adults legal access to marijuana.
With the decriminalization of recreational marijuana came the loosening of stigmas surrounding marijuana consumption. A growing body of scientific studies suggest that marijuana presents a number of health benefits when used appropriately, such as relief of chronic pain, improved lung capacity, and the alleviation of feelings of anxiety and/or depression. The number of seniors using cannabis since 2012 has increased tenfold, with 52% of seniors reporting using cannabis exclusively for medical reasons, 24% for non-medical reasons, and 24% for both medical and non-medical. Unfortunately, accessing and storing marijuana is not as easy for seniors in long-term care as it is for most adults.
Notwithstanding the new regime, medical cannabis is still required to be purchased from a federally licensed producer by doctor’s order. For many residents, their primary care physician is the resident physician in their long-term care home. Naturally, not all practitioners are comfortable prescribing medical marijuana, meaning residents who prefer to consume marijuana must travel offsite to obtain such prescriptions. Even if a resident is able to obtain medical marijuana, individual long-term care facilities may have different policies in place regarding the delivery and storage of marijuana.
For some, the introduction of the Cannabis Act alleviated some of the above-noted issues by making it easier for family members and friends to purchase and deliver cannabis to residents. Given that OHIP does not cover medical marijuana, there is no financial downside to purchasing recreational cannabis (that is supplied by the Ontario Cannabis Store) rather than medical marijuana. Irrespective of their intention for use, residents in long-term care facilities should enjoy the same accessibility to marijuana as others.
Perhaps this is yet another issue that the government will consider when revitalizing and improving living standards for residents in long-term care facilities.
Thank you for reading!
A special thanks to Jane Meadus and Professor Lorian Hardcastle for their presentation on Marijuana Use in Assisted Living and Long-Term Care Facilities through the Canadian Bar Association on March 12, 2020.
There’s a really good chance that if you live anywhere in the world that is not completely disconnected from the rest of society, you would have heard about COVID-19, and the fact that it has officially reached every single continent (except for Antarctica). The World Health Organization (WHO) has maintained that the containment of COVID-19 must be the top priority for all countries, given the impact it may have on public health, the economy and social and political issues.
Around 1 out of every 6 people who gets COVID-19 becomes seriously ill and develops difficulty breathing. Older people, and those with underlying medical problems like high blood pressure, heart problems or diabetes, are more likely to develop serious illness.
In a statement released on March 4, 2020, the WHO indicated “although COVID-19 presents an acute threat now, it is absolutely essential that countries do not lose this opportunity to strengthen their preparedness systems.”
The value of preparedness is being played out in a Seattle suburb, where COVID-19 has spread to a local nursing home, resulting in a quarantine of residents and staff. In the US, nursing homes are being criticized for being incubators of epidemics, with relaxed infection-control practices and low staffing rates, among other issues. Friends and family of residents in this Seattle facility are in an unenviable position, worrying about the health and safety of their loved ones and considering the gut-wrenching possibility that their loved ones might die alone. To read more about this issue, click here.
With the number of confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 on the rise in Ontario, I wonder how our long-term facilities are preparing to deal with an outbreak should one occur?
In the spirit of prevention, it is important to consider reducing the frequency of visits with our elderly loved ones, and spreading knowledge and information about hand-washing and other preventative measures.
For more information about COVID-19, click the links below:
Government of Ontario: https://www.ontario.ca/page/2019-novel-coronavirus
World Health Organization: https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019
Thanks for reading!
In a recent story entitled, “What can happen when seniors appoint the wrong power of attorney”, CBC News sheds light on a problem that may be on the rise in Canada: attorneys for property preying on elderly incapable people.
The story focuses upon Christine Fisher, a widow and World War Two veteran, and Theresa Gardiner, who became Ms. Fisher’s attorney and then defrauded her of at least $78,000 over the course of three months. The attorney was charged, but after agreeing to pay $20,000 in restitution, the charges were dropped, the police citing an insufficient chance of conviction. The difficulty in convicting predator attorneys, in fact, is all too common, for the key witnesses in such cases often suffer from dementia and other impairments, and therefore struggle to recall or recite the requisite facts in their testimony.
Placing one’s trust in a family member may be safer, but it is not bullet-proof, as evidenced by the case of Royale Klimitz, whose eldest son, David Klimitz, used the power of attorney to drain his mother’s retirement savings from $557,000 to a mere $83. When Ms. Klimitz died shortly after, her other two children alleged it was of a broken heart. Before she died, however, she provided the Crown with two video-taped victim impact statements which contributed to her son’s conviction.
Not all predator attorneys are necessarily evil and insidious. As we have blogged in the past, some predator attorneys are otherwise good people who fall into temptation. This often occurs because being an attorney allows for opportunity to do wrong with little chance of detection; predator attorneys also often rationalize that in doing the work, they are entitled to more desserts; and financial need can be a burden too heavy for some people’s moralities to withstand.
So then, what can elderly people, in arranging their affairs, do to protect themselves? Sections 32, 33, and 35 of the Substitute Decisions Act impose obligations on attorneys to consult with the incapable person’s family members, keep detailed records of the incapable person’s finances, and review the incapable person’s will to ensure that testamentary assets are preserved.
Most importantly, just like picking spouses, business partners, or sports teams, the happiest results flow from the selection of trustworthy people. Similarly, it is best to avoid those with selfish and dishonest tendencies, or who would sway like aspens rather than stand like oaks under economic pressure. So when your sibling cheats on board game night, or your friend constantly “forgets” to bring wine or a dessert to dinner parties, or your child’s favourite conversational topic becomes “my inheritance” – it may be wise to steer well clear and choose another attorney!
Thank you for reading. Have a wonderful day,
Suzana Popovic-Montag and Devin McMurtry
A few months ago, I blogged about a New Yorker article that discussed the challenges of living well now that people are living longer than ever, and what is being done about it. One of the topics addressed was the difficulty of marketing certain products that are aimed at older adults, mainly because we do not want to buy something that will remind us that we are aging or old.
A recent article in MIT Technology Review asked an interesting, and related, question: Why are products for older people so ugly?
One quote in particular, I think, sums up the issue quite well:
Presented with products that are ‘brown, beige, and boring,’ many older people will forgo convenience for dignity.
Unfortunately, most individuals and companies who design products for older people seem to make assumptions about what older people are looking for in a product. For instance, they may assume that an older person cares more about functionality than aesthetics. In many cases this is not necessarily true, and the older person in question will likely end up feeling that the product ultimately draws unwanted attention to their age and particular needs.
The article discusses the idea that older people should be more directly involved in conversations about how to design the products that they need, or that are aimed at them. This would, of course, be helpful to those designing and using the products, but would also allow older people who may feel that they are no longer seen as contributing to society, do something that they may find useful and fulfilling.
The “Longevity Explorers” consulting group was created around this concept. It started with a group of older people meeting to discuss aging in order to pinpoint the areas that product developers should focus on. Participants can suggest topics they want to cover, and there is also a moderator who will introduce a main discussion topic. In 2017, a separate branch of the group was introduced to serve as paid focus groups for companies. Each “Explorer” receives a fee for participating in the focus group, and in exchange, the company gets feedback from their targeted customers (namely, seniors) about a product that they are designing.
This seems like a much-needed shift in how we think about products for older people. If we can focus on creating products that not only address the needs of older people, but are designed in a way that will make seniors want to use the product, both the companies selling the products, and importantly, the older people using them, will benefit.
Thanks for reading,
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Financial elder abuse can take many forms. We have previously blogged about elder abuse by family members, as well as the role technology plays in the increase in phone and email scams affected seniors.
This Global News article tells the story of an elderly couple who claim they were pressured into selling their house.
The couple had lived in their home in Woodbridge, Ontario, for over 20 years, and had no plans to move or sell their home. Although the house was not for sale, in February 2012, a real estate agent showed up at the couple’s door with an offer to purchase the home. There is some dispute about the subsequent interactions between the couple and the agent, but ultimately, a contract was signed for the sale of the couple’s home. After seeking advice from a lawyer, the couple refused to close on the sale of the home. The buyer brought a claim against the couple to enforce the contract, and it appears from the article that, as of October 2018, the litigation remained ongoing.
The couple say that, initially they ignored the offer to purchase that had been delivered by the real estate agent. The husband told his daughter that he had asked the agent several times to give him a few days to consult with his children before finalizing any deal. On the other hand, the agent says that negotiations occurred over a three-day period, and the couple had several days to consider the offer and consult with their children.
There is also a question of whether the couple was capable of entering into the sale transaction. The couple’s daughter says that the wife was 84 years old at the time and suffering from early onset dementia, and that the husband was not fluent in English.
The couple’s daughter believes that her parents were pressured into agreeing to sell their home by the agent. The article mentions that a similar situation could come up with any door-to-door salesperson, as elderly people are generally home during the day, and will typically open their door and talk to people. Unfortunately, there isn’t really a simple solution if an older adult is pressured into an agreement. If the other party to the agreement is intent on enforcing it, the senior may need to resort to failing to comply with the terms of the contract, which is likely to lead to litigation. That can be a stressful and time-consuming endeavour—the couple in the article are apparently still involved in litigation years after the contract was entered into.
Incidents like these are an unfortunate reminder that elder abuse continues to be an issue, and that it can take many forms. That being said, with increased attention will come increased awareness, which, I hope, will lead to the prevention or avoidance of similar issues in the future.
Thanks for reading,
Other blog posts that may be of interest:
On today’s podcast, Natalia Angelini and Rebecca Rauws discuss elder law issues, including the increasing prevalence of such issues in our practice, the different viewpoints on damages, and the need for more case law in this area.
Should you have any questions, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment on our blog.
These days, life expectancy is longer than ever. We have previously blogged (for instance, here and here) about some considerations and consequences of having a longer life expectancy. A recent article in The New Yorker considers aging, and in particular, anti-aging now that people are generally living longer. The online version can be found here: Can We Live Longer but Stay Younger?
One of the problems with living longer, as highlighted in the New Yorker article, is that we still must deal with the challenges and realities of aging. What we really want is not eternal life but rather, eternal youth.
The article discusses several efforts to address or counteract the types of issues that we face as we age. For instance, a geneticist at Harvard has successfully extended the life of yeast, and is moving on to human trials. A Harvard molecular biologist, George Church, has had success reprogramming embryonic stem cells to essentially turn an old cell into a young cell. Church’s work has been done so far on mice and dogs, but there are plans to commence human clinical trials within the next five years.
The goal of the work being done by Church is to live better, not necessarily longer: “The goal is youthful wellness rather than an extended long period of age-related decline.” The article discusses the nature of this age-related decline, through the illustration of a “sudden aging” suit that allows the wearer to experience the physical challenges of aging, including boots with foam padding to produce a loss of tactile feedback, and bands around the elbows, wrists, and knees to simulate stiffness. The point of the aging suit is to help create empathy and understanding about how difficult each and every task (an example was reaching up to a top shelf and picking up a mug) can be for older adults, both physically and mentally. So the question becomes, if we are living so much longer, but with age, every day and every task becomes much more difficult, what can we do to counteract that?
The work being done related to anti-aging and the creation of products to make older people’s lives easier is interesting and seems to be moving in new directions. For instance, the article mentions the difficulty of marketing certain products aimed at older people, because we do not like the idea of buying something that reminds us that we are old. So instead of selling a personal-emergency-response system to send an alert and seek assistance in the event of a fall, or some other physical emergency, in the form of a pendant worn around the neck, it is suggested that the most effective such device would be an iPhone or Apple Watch app.
Unfortunately, the issue of dementia is still a concern. There still does not appear to be a cure in sight for Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia. The causes remain unclear. The effects, however, are evident. One of the individuals mentioned in the article was Professor Patrick Hof, who studies brains. On the physical effects of dementia on our actual brains, Professor Hof notes that “[y]ou can’t tell any difference, even under extreme magnification, between an aging non-demented brain and a younger human one…But, holding an Alzheimer’s brain in your hand, you can see the atrophy.” It appears that there is still a lot of work to be done in this area, in particular.
Thanks for reading,
Other blog posts that you may find interesting:
In the last couple of decades we have seen a rise in estate, capacity and trust litigation due in large part to the aging demographic. One would think that elder law disputes – disputes involving retirement residences, nursing homes and/or long-term care facilities – would similarly be on the rise. What was highlighted for the attendees at a recent Personal Injury and Elder Law CLE presentation, however, is that there is limited case law in the elder law area. Although the knee-jerk reaction may be to see few cases litigated through to a final hearing as a positive state of affairs, that is not so. Rather, it seems that there are an insufficient number of claims being made, and an even fewer number that are pursued all the way to trial.
The panel sees ageism as contributing to this set of circumstances. Damage awards are typically lower for the elderly, the rationale seemingly that they have already lived most of their lives and are going to die anyway. The converse “Golden Years Doctrine” was cited as a means to argue for the better protection of elderly plaintiffs, grounded in the argument that the elderly suffer more and are more severely impacted from an injury than their younger counterparts.
Taking such cases to trial and increasing awareness (e.g. media coverage) is a way to create progress and change in this area of the law. The panel advocated for this approach, as well as stressed the importance of electing to have such cases heard in front of a jury, who may be more willing to award larger sums to litigants.
If this advice is followed, we can hope to see more decisions that can build upon the few noted cases in the area (this article references some of them), and more just outcomes for the elderly, their families and/or their estates.
Thanks for reading and have a great day,