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.
Elder financial abuse has been a growing problem of the past decade. The financial exploitation of older or vulnerable adults can take many different forms. This portion of the population can be exploited by strangers of professionals who deal with their assets, and even trusted family members and friends. It is a problem to which a solution has been difficult to find because many exploited people are ashamed that they were able to be taken advantage of and therein do not report the crimes. Unfortunately, this type of abuse not only affects the finances of the victim, but also their mental and physical well-being. Let’s take a look at the types of financial elder abuse and some measures that can be and are being taking to prevent this type of abuse.
Markets driven by the consumerism of the baby boom generation are changing senior living, and there are more options available than ever before. Medical and technological advancements and a shift to a more customized, individual lifestyle preference are leading the way for seniors to age more securely and comfortably. Senior communities are looking less like institutions and more like homes. Infusing technology with medical support in assisting seniors is a giant step forward in reshaping the way people provide care and when necessary intervention.
A letter of instruction can be a beneficial piece in estate planning. It is an informal document that will give your loved ones important information about personal and financial matters after your death. Letters of instruction are not legally binding and do not replace your need for a will or a living trust, however it can be a nice complement to those documents. The informal nature allows you to create the letter on your own and change it whenever necessary. It is important to keep the letter up to date, as life circumstances change over time. Let’s look at some of the information that may be included in a letter of instruction.
What if you found out that your elderly loved one was given a prescription drug not because they medically needed it, but instead to control “unruly” behavior? Are nursing homes drugging our elderly in order to suppress and control residents with dementia? Several recent reports may indicate that the prescription drug Neudexta is being used for such purpose.
There are demographic and cultural shifts occurring in the United States. The baby boomer generation continues to “gray” the country and is changing the way individual states set budgets and health care policies. More attention will be paid to the needs of the post age 50 generation(s) . Changing attitudes towards working past the age of 65 has taken root in this country and “retirement age” does not necessarily mean a senior is leaving the workforce.
These informal care providers are often referred to as the “sandwich generation” - those people who support their own children while at the same time care for aging parents. The stress of providing practical living and emotional care as well as financial support for two sets of generations, as well as themselves, can become overwhelming and have negative effects on the provider’s self-care and well being. It is a difficult decision to make but at some point formal LTC becomes a necessity for some parents.
In October 2017, President Trump signed into law the Elder Abuse Prevention and Prosecution Act. This bill was designed to combat the growing epidemic of the elderly being taken advantage of financially and abused physically. A study conducted by the National Council on Aging indicates that approximately 1 in 10 Americans aged 60 or older have experienced some form of elder abuse. Although, this number is likely higher according to another study which estimates only 1 in 14 elder abuse cases are reported. Financial abuse is more likely to be reported than emotional or physical abuse. The costs of elder abuse are steep. Elders who are victims of abuse have a 300% higher risk of death when compared to those who have not been abused. Elder financial abuse costs senior citizens an estimated $36.5 billion per year.
President Trump signed the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act into law on May 24, 2018. The Act contains a section that was once a stand-alone bill from Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) which is designed to encourage the reporting of elder (age 65 and older) financial abuse witnessed by financial institutions. The Act does not mandate that these institutions report financial abuse directed towards elders to avoid penalties, rather it gives them an incentive to do so. The Act provides immunity from any lawsuit alleging elder financial abuse if the financial institution reports it to state or federal law enforcement agents.
Quite recently, the U.S. Senate passed legislation to increase available health care to U.S. Veterans. The bill will expand long-term and post-acute care (LT/PAC) options. Known as S2373, the VA Mission Act of 2018, it includes a provision authorizing the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to enter into provider agreements with extended care providers. This would include nursing care centers. The bill, having passed both Houses of Congress, is expected to be signed into law by the President. Once enacted, the law will create the Veterans Community Care Program and a newly developed claims reimbursement process ready for use in 2019.
Going to the doctor is more than just casual small talk with a stranger. Often, you must explain your ailment quickly and succinctly, trust that your doctor has your best interests at heart and will keep your confidentiality; and make yourself vulnerable and talk about health issues that may be uncomfortable. Having a good relationship with your doctor can alleviate all these issues and can even increase the quality of your healthcare. So, you have a good relationship with a doctor you like, and you find out he is no longer in your health insurance network. Now what?
Hospice care can be very difficult for families to come to terms with, but can be a beneficial care option for those caring for a terminally ill loved one. The purpose of hospice care is to provide comfort and quality of life for a terminally ill person. Hospice care can allow the patient to remain at home and can provide ways to alleviate pain and make the person more comfortable. It is a great option for those who are seriously ill, who have exhausted their treatment possibilities, or who do not wish to continue treatment for a terminal illness.
Jane lived alone after her husband died and the kids moved away. She started to forget things, like putting the kettle on to boil and coming back to find the stove on fire. This, together with her diabetes and osteoporosis, seemed to Jane’s daughter Carolyn like a fast-approaching crisis. It was time to talk about Jane moving into a retirement community. But Carolyn shrank from starting that conversation. It was not going to be easy.
The number of sad stories of veterans’ benefits getting tied up in the system is not only sad but startling. A quick internet search can lead to story after story of veterans who have struggled to receive the benefits that are owed to them. Robert DiCicco spent his final years battling through the red tape to get his benefits and pay for the bills to his assisted living facility. The sad part is he didn’t live to see it. The benefits he was owed did come through ten days after his death, but they were taken back by the Veteran’s Administration. The DiCicco family had to begin again as his wife was left to fight for the benefits as his beneficiary.
Jack and Doris wanted to divide their property equally between their three children. The house should to go to daughter Mary who loved it, and the rest of their estate should be apportioned equally between sons Bob and Francis.
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.