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CA End of Life Option Act 2018 Data Report

As an internist who has entered my 41st year in private practice, I have followed our state's experience with this act hoping like many of my colleagues that those accessing this option would only do so after much thought, council, and access to good palliative care.  

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New Changes in the CMS Nursing Home Compare Five-Star Quality Rating System

Five-Star Quality Rating System (QRS) has been developed by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to assist consumers compare nursing homes more easily based on their performance on health inspection(s), staffing and quality measures (QM) domains. Over the years, CMS has updated and enhanced the five-star QRS methodology numerous times to improve the accuracy of the rating system. The nursing facilities and medical directors need to stay up-to-date with all the changes in the 5-star QRS.  

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The Shortage Of Tuberculin Antigens; Can Anything Be Done?

For as long as most of us can remember, we have been subject to regulatory oversight regarding testing for tuberculosis in our residents. For most of us, this equates to a “mandatory” skin test upon admission (as well as mandatory tests for our employees!) to check for possible “exposure” to TB. The efficacy of these tests, or even the accuracy of chest x-rays, in diagnosis of the disease is tenuous at best, but we still must comply with the regulation.

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Should You Be Concerned About the “Integrity” of Your Facility’s POLST Forms?

In 2008, I attended the UCLA LMG (Leadership and Management in Geriatrics) course that has continued under the leadership of CALTCM.  I was paired with a nursing professor at Sacramento State who was quite helpful as a mentor for my project which was the implementation of the new POLST Form in Sonoma County.  I teamed with Susan Keller, who energetically partnered with many people and provided detailed trainings in many settings of care. Sadly, despite our efforts, I still find POLST forms initiated by frontline SNF admitting nurses that don’t have choices congruent with the ones I find on my assessments.  In addition, many of the forms fail to record basic information like care contacts, presence of AHCDs/DPOAs, and who assisted with completion of the form.  

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The Protect Sleep Initiative

CALTCM has partnered with CAHF to address common care processes that may interfere with our patient’s sleep preferences.  The focus of the CAHF Quality Subcommittee’s initiative has been the timing of medications and administration of beverages (see attachments below).  These model policies and procedures provide a flexible and safe way to modify incoming orders, including medication orders and timing, for both new admissions and also serve as a tool for adjusting these care plans for long-stay residents.  

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Membership Perks: Why being a CALTCM member is worthwhile!

CALTCM has had a busy 2019, Summer is near and the Leadership and Management in Geriatrics (LMG) course and the Fall Conference will be upon us in no time at all.  We would like to give you a quick update on our current programs and an update on two membership benefits you will not want to overlook – if you are not a member yet, take a few moments and join CALTCM today to be eligible for these opportunities.

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The Problem of the Good Samaritan

Parables were told to alert the reader to profound truths.  This parable has been time tested as witnessed by our Good Samaritan laws and by its influence on medical ethics.  This parable (Good Samaritan Parable) was told in response to the question, “and who is my neighbor”.  In this story, the neighbor is never clearly defined, but only as someone who was robbed, beaten, and left half-dead.  His plight was deemed less important than the immediate agenda and safety of the first 2 highly respected persons who saw him from afar and passed on.  Shockingly, a despised foreigner saw the need, provided emergent care, and then paid for acute and post-hospital care.  

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Taste of AMDA Annual Meeting

As an in-the-trenches clinician, I have come away from each CALTCM and AMDA annual meeting with my “batteries” recharged and with new ideas for improving patient and facility care. Going to these meetings has introduced me to many thought leaders in our setting who gladly rub shoulders with attendees and make time for curbside consults.  These are truly “family” events.

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Are Weighted Blankets Worth Trying in Your Facility?

Recently, the American Geriatrics Society’s MyAGSOnline member forum posted a question about the use of weighted blankets for a dementia unit with patients who had poor judgment, impulsiveness, poor safety recall, and frequent falls.  Dr. Maureen Nash, Board Certified in Internal Medicine & Psychiatry (Portland, Oregon) wrote they can have a positive impact in some older patients offering comfort as long as they are not too heavy. They are not considered a restraint by CMS unless they are inappropriately heavy.  They provide gentle tactile stimulation to people who usually are not touched except in a clinical situation. She gave several references:

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Congratulations to Dr. Rebecca Ferrini: 2019 CALTCM Leadership Award

It is a pleasure to boast about the recipient of the 2019 CALTCM Leadership Award, Rebecca Ferrini, MD, MPH, CMD.  CALTCM received three separate submissions nominating Rebecca for this award – a true testament to the high regard the PALTC community holds for Rebecca.  She is full of energy and has an inspiring dedication and passion for improving the quality of care in post-acute and long-term care. She actively contributes to the CALTCM Education Committee, dedicating her time and energy to the planning of educational events, peer reviews, and selflessly assisting presenters to improve their presentations. She has five children, plays competitive soccer, her facility is 5 stars (CMS 20/20), and has been named a top nursing home in the country for seven years by US News and World Report.  

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PDPM and Geriatrics

“I know geriatrics, because I’ve taken care of a lot of old people.” As a geriatrician, I’ve heard this refrain my whole career from other physicians who are trying to rationalize the care they deliver to older adults.  The scope of this refrain is about to expand, and we shouldn’t be surprised to find nursing home administrators opining on clinical care delivery approaches.

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Medical Director Billing

In 2001 I co-founded Senior Care of Colorado.  We were a small group of six geriatricians and a couple of physician assistants working out of two clinics who provided primary care geriatrics in local nursing homes. We immediately had offers from several local nursing homes to take positions as medical directors.  Naively, we thought that these offers reflected a desire for these facilities to gain expertise in geriatrics. Realistically, they probably thought that hiring us would bring them more patients. Within a year we were under investigation from the OIG. They interviewed several nursing home administrators.

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Diabetes Update from CALTCM 2019 Summit

For many reasons, our education committee chose to focus this year on reducing the risk of hypoglycemia in persons with diabetes.  CMS has data from April 2016-March 2017 showing this is a major reason for a higher first 30 day all-cause SNF Readmissions rate. As of Jan 1, 2019, the CMS “SNF Readmission Measure” (SNF-RM) adjusts payments to facilities based on this measure. From multiple randomized controlled studies, we know that serious hypoglycemia increases mortality. For this reason, in high risk patients, AGS and ADA have recommended higher A1C targets in those with higher hypoglycemic risk.  

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Is your Facility Prepared for Advance Directives for Stopping Eating and Drinking?

At the March 2019 annual AMDA meeting, Dr. Karl Steinberg (our incoming AMDA VP) and I were part of a panel debating whether the United States should adopt the Dutch policy of legalizing Advance Directives for Euthanasia.  In 2014, 4.4% of deaths in the Netherlands were by euthanasia and 20% were by palliative sedation. Dr. Cees Hertogh, a Dutch physician and bioethicist, gave a wonderful presentation on the history of euthanasia in the Netherlands and the criteria for euthanasia, which have been modified to include euthanasia by advance directive (AD) for persons with dementia.  In contrast, the 20-year experience of Oregon with the Death with Dignity Act (reported in the September 2017 Annals of Internal Medicine) had 0.2% of their deaths via medical aid in dying. California has had a similar frequency who died by lethal ingestion via the End of Life Option Act.

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Two Interesting International Meetings

This year I planned to go to the AMDA meeting. I registered and made hotel reservations. Then something came up – I found out about a meeting that occurred at roughly the same time, but instead of emphasizing nursing home care, it specifically was organized to highlight alternative solutions to long-term care needs that allowed people to remain in their homes. I work in a PACE program, and both our mission and our financial success involve keeping people out of nursing homes whenever possible. I fully believe sometimes nursing homes are a necessary solution to meet the needs of individuals, but I also see people with dementia or other conditions requiring long-term care who end up in nursing homes because of lack of viable alternatives. The AMDA meeting was in Atlanta this year. This other meeting was in Florence, Italy. Not to denigrate Atlanta, but based on criteria of food, wine, art and gelato, Florence has advantages.

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CALTCM BOD Meeting Summary - April 2019

During our annual summit, the board of directors met in person to review the past year and plan the future. It has been a huge effort by the Education Committee in bringing together the annual program. Our goal is to work together with other organizations in the state to increase collaboration and improve quality of care. We plan to continue creating programs that benefit our SNF system. We are doing great work from CALTCM SNF 2.0® to LMG (Leadership and Management in Geriatrics) courses throughout the year.

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Benefit of Statins for Primary Prevention in Older Adults – The Gaps

The two questions I can absolutely count on being asked, as the geriatrician in a crowd of healthcare providers, are “should I start statins?” and “should I continue in those who are over 80?” I usually offer the uncomfortable answer, mirroring the conclusion of this 2018 JAGS review article, which is that we still do not have enough well-designed, rigorous studies to guide definitive best practice.

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Cannabis Use in LTC: We Need To Be Prepared!

There was a time not long ago when the use of marijuana was deemed completely illegal, and judged morally reprehensible by a large proportion of the population. In fact, marijuana is even now a Schedule I controlled substance per the DEA, a category that includes heroin, LSD and mescaline!  The DEA defines Schedule I drugs as having these characteristics: The drug or other substance has a high potential for abuse, it has no currently accepted medical treatment use in the U.S., and it has a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision.  For comparison, methamphetamine, morphine and fentanyl are Schedule II.

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A Review: Psychological First Aid

Second Edition: Field Operations Guide for Nursing Homes
by Patricia Bach, PsyD, RN
 

In 2017, responding to impending Medicare and Medicaid guidelines for disaster preparedness, AARP posed the very real question, "Are nursing homes ready for the next natural disaster"? Given the recent devastating fires which ravaged northern and southern California, as well as the impact of other disasters occurring around the country, this question demands even greater attention and introspection on a systemic level at this time.  

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A Little-Acknowledged Danger of Sliding Scale Insulin…

Let’s face it: sliding scale insulin (or “rescue dose”) is still very common. This is in spite of the practice being actively discouraged for years, and being listed in the “Beers Criteria” (for years) as a treatment modality to “avoid.” The reasons for this are many, but the main reasons are:
 

1.    Prescribers want an “intervention” for high blood glucose readings (>150) that doesn’t involve a phone call.

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