Family Elder Law Expert Blog
Family Elder Law is pleased to offer the legal blog entitled “The Family Elder Law Expert Blog,” authored by Jason A. Penrod, B.C.S., CELA. Jason is board certified as an Elder Law Expert by the Florida Bar and the National Elder Law Foundation. He is also the founder of Family Elder Law with offices in Lake Wales, Lakeland, and Sebring, Florida. The blog addresses legal issues of particular interest to our readers. In addition, the blog will answer individual questions from the readership on a wide range of topics.
May is National Elder Law Month, as designated by the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys. It is a way to acknowledge the profession that supports seniors and their families with all of their planning needs. And while that sounds interesting, many people still ask, “What do elder law attorneys do?” In Part 2 of this series, “Why May is Special for Elder Law Attorneys,” we will discuss additional ways elder law attorneys help seniors and their families.
As Americans age, living options can become a concern. Available options are tied to the resources a senior has to cover living costs, and vary widely in cost, assistance, and care provided. In addition to budget considerations, seniors must also realistically consider the needs they have and what senior living option best fits those needs.
May is National Elder Law Month, as designated by the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys. It is a way to acknowledge the profession that supports seniors and their families with all of their planning needs. And while that sounds great, many people still ask, “What do elder law attorneys do?” Part 1 of this series, “Why May is Special for Elder Law Attorneys” will explore several ways elder law attorneys help seniors and their loved ones.
Roughly half of all Americans don’t have a will, so if you’ve already taken this vital step to protect your assets and successors then congratulations are in order - you’re already ahead of the curve. While a will is a necessary document that every person who owns assets should have, it is still a relatively simple document that may not cover everything you want it to. You may want to consider creating an estate plan that involves the use of a living trust, plus other important documents like a power of attorney for finances and health care directives.
For some seniors in the baby boomer generation aging brings with it new challenges in the form of solo aging. Solo aging is a senior who has no children and no younger (or healthier) family members to assist them as they age. As in generations before, baby boomers are living longer and healthier lives but for some there is no escaping the eventualities of disease like heart disease, arthritis, diabetes or dementia. Others may require extensive care following a fall that results in a broken hip or other serious injury.
Respite care is substitute care when a caregiver needs a break. If possible, these breaks should be scheduled regularly, giving the caregiver time to rest. It can be for a short period like a day or a few hours or for the purpose of giving the caregiver a vacation. Respite care is often overlooked. However, this type of care should be carefully considered when a family member makes the decision to become a caregiver for a loved one or when hiring a full-time caregiver for a senior. The emotional and physical stress of caregiving can cause illness, depression, and burnout. Many families focus only the details of caregiving and respite care is forgotten. Let’s look at some options for respite care that may help your family better plan for the caregiver and ultimately your loved one.
Senior living faces many issues. Solutions to these problems are consistently being discussed by the government and other stakeholders. However, many of these issues are difficult and costly to solve. For example, staffing and regulation of facilities are problems consistently faced by senior living. Fraud and abuse are also issues that seem to plague this industry. Let’s take a closer look at these issues.
Despite the fact there are increased numbers of insured Americans, fewer are going to the doctor’s office. Why is this happening? The answer is lack of affordability. Even with the benefits of health insurance many are struggling to afford medical costs. Kaiser Health Foundation polls since 2015 show continued rising costs. 37% of those polled report having trouble paying their health insurance premiums, 43% had trouble paying their deductibles and 31% had trouble affording co pays for doctor visits and prescription drugs.
Traveling with disabilities or accessible traveling can seem, for some, like an overwhelming task with so many extra considerations. However, it doesn’t have to be if the right research, planning, and preparations are done ahead of time. There are even travel agencies that specialize in disabled travel. The most important thing is to be prepared.
The largest coordinated sweep of identity fraud involving US seniors has recently been conducted. The US Department of Justice has reported that more than one million elderly people have collectively lost hundreds of millions of dollars because of this targeted financial abuse. The Department has criminally charged 200 out of 250 defendants identified in the sweep. These third party scam artists account for 27% of seniors who are financially exploited.
The United States veteran population is some 20 million strong, many of whom face health challenges separate from non-Veterans. Due to their military training, Veterans have a well-defined culture that is strong on values, codes of conduct, respect of superiors, and customs to name a few. Due to this culture, Veterans face different health challenges that family, friends, and health professionals need to be aware of. Advances in medicine have allowed many more Veterans to survive once-fatal injuries. However, this often comes at the cost of mental health. A successful transition from the battlefield to civilian life rests on being able to spot the many health issues Veterans face and assisting them in getting the help they need.
Medicare is expanding telehealth benefits for its members. Telehealth is defined by the Health Resources and Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as the use of electronic information and telecommunications technologies to support and promote long distance health care, patient and profession health-related education, public health and health administration. Through telehealth services, Medicare beneficiaries can save money and the time of running back and forth to the doctor. A variety of telehealth benefits will be more readily available to Medicare beneficiaries, especially for chronic medical issues, but these can be dependent on qualifications for the services as outlined by the Creating High-Quality Results and Outcomes Necessary to Improve Chronic (CHRONIC) Care Act.
There is a growing need for affordable senior housing that is only starting to be addressed by businesses that build for this market. If you have a lot of money you typically have a lot of options. At the other end of the spectrum if you have nothing you can qualify for government assistance though these programs, but most often include wait times, years of wait times, due to lack of available housing. The truth is many seniors, nearly 40%, have less than $50,000 in savings, not including the value of their homes, according to a study by the Joint Center for Housing Studies and Harvard University. That doesn’t make them poor but it doesn’t make them rich either. Middle income seniors are stuck in the middle and the statistics are indicative of a looming senior housing crisis. By 2035 one in three households will be headed by someone aged sixty-five or more years and the population aged eighty or more years will have doubled to 24 million.
Medicare and Medicaid have long been a mystery to many consumers. In fact, it can baffle and confuse even some of the smartest citizens. Like me, you might have thought, “I don’t need to worry about this right now.” However, it is never too early to gain a little understanding and awareness that just might help you help an aging loved one or yourself down the road. As the saying goes, “Time flies.”, and you will be there sooner than you think. Let’s break it down and learn some of the differences and basics of Medicare and Medicaid to unlock the mystery.
Long term care insurance was sold aggressively in the 1980s, 90s and thereafter to offset the costs of seniors needing to live in a nursing home, assisted living or needing at home health care. Now, however, the business of long term care insurance has dramatically changed. What was once over 100 insurers providing LTC policy for sale has shrunk to a pool of less than twenty insurers who continue to sell the health care product. The big financial problem was that the majority of insurers had badly underestimated the longevity of these long term care policy holders and how many claims would be filed during their lifetime. The model became unsustainable from a business perspective.
Estate planning is important for people of all ages, but as we age, the need for planning becomes even more critical. Many people avoid estate planning, because they do not want to think about the end of life, failing health or disability. Others believe that an estate plan is only for rich people. However, an estate plan is helpful for the senior adult and their families regardless of overall wealth.
Most of us don’t like to think about the possibility of something harmful happening to us or a loved one. Because of this, we rarely think about how to protect ourselves and our loved ones if the worst were to happen. However, just as it is important to buy home insurance to protect your home and auto insurance to protect your vehicle, every individual should have an advanced care directive to protect themselves if they were no longer able to make decisions for their health care, end of life, living arrangements, and various other personal matters.
Congress passed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act in December of 2017 which is aimed at cutting taxes for corporations and all Americans. While the bulk of the legislation went into effect January 2018, most taxpayers will not see much of a difference in their taxes until 2019, when they file their 2018 taxes. However, there are several important changes seniors need to be aware of now that could affect not only their tax bill, but other items such as their health care premiums. Legislation as complicated as a new tax code can be difficult to dissect, and certainly requires the help of a tax professional. Please feel free to contact our office with any questions you may have while reading through the points below:
Senior adults can be more susceptible to identity theft than others. Identity theft is a crime that is on the rise. It involves a criminal stealing personal identifying information to create a new identity or to steal money from the victim. Senior adults are targeted for a few reasons. One reason is that they often have more money saved after a lifetime of working than younger people. Another factor is that personal information for elderly adults often passes through more hands, especially those in hospitals and nursing homes. Senior adults can be more trusting of people and often do not pick up on warning signs. Finally, aging adults are far less likely to report identity theft crimes. They fear that their independence might be taken away by their loved ones. It is important for senior adults and their caregivers to know how to protect themselves against identity theft.