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.
Record unemployment rates related to COVID-19 business closures have hurt business owners and their workers, many of whom are 50 years and older. Though workers of all ages have felt the effects of unemployment or reduced working hours, older workers will fare worse upon re-entering the workforce. Research shows the recession of 2008 found that those adults age 62 or more were the least likely group to re-enter the workforce, and it is most likely as the employment situation stabilizes the same will hold in 2020. Ageism plays a role when employers have huge swaths of potential employees from which to choose.
Most parents choose to treat their children equally when it comes to inheriting property or money. But sometimes, parents intentionally choose to not leave anything to a child, and the reasons for doing so may vary. One reason could be that a child who is more financially successful than the others and the parent doesn’t feel it’s necessary to leave anything. Another reason may be a desire to prevent a child with special needs from losing government benefits. Or a parent may not want to leave an inheritance to an irresponsible or drug-dependent child for fear the inheritance will be wasted.
Dementia, in particular, the prevalence of Alzheimer's Disease in the American population, is creating difficult caregiving experiences for the family members who are primarily responsible for providing care. Even though you understand your loved one's dementia behaviors are a symptom of the disease and not intentional or personally targeted to you, coping with them is often emotionally, financially, and physically challenging. Psychology Today reports caregivers routinely say, "Nobody really understands how hard caring for a loved one with dementia is!"
Polling shows that the number one worry for Americans as they age is memory loss, outpacing fears of insufficient monies, and loneliness. The most prevalent among all dementia is Alzheimer's disease. According to the Alzheimer's Association Facts and Figures Report, Alzheimer's accounts for an estimated 60 to 80 percent of diagnosed dementia cases. Projections for increasing numbers of Alzheimer's patients in the coming decades is cause for concern. However, in this digital age where disinformation is in abundance, Right At Home has identified ten persistent myths about Alzheimer's that should be dispelled for clarity's sake and because worry increases stress levels, which is bad for the brain.
Nursing homes, one of the smallest population sets in the US, account for the largest demographic percentage of COVID-19 deaths. Statistics vary, but most accept that elder Americans in nursing homes account for at least 40 percent of all US coronavirus deaths. This tragic statistic is, in part, attributed to older peoples' less robust immune systems and to nursing home environments that are not aggressively addressing concerns that will reduce residents' exposure to COVID-19.
Because of the coronavirus, our elder population is experiencing isolation from their family and extended community interaction, increasing the likelihood of neglect. With the flu season fast on approach this isolation and the possibility of a resurgence of COVID-19, older Americans will likely continue living 2020 in mostly solitary circumstances. Rising instances of loneliness can give way to clinical depression and foster feelings of hopelessness.
Telemedicine is the digital information distribution of healthcare-related services. Not long-ago telemedicine was an innovative practice, primarily a supplement to hospitals' information strategy managing patient care and their data more efficiently. During the coronavirus pandemic and its associated urgent healthcare needs, hospitals and medical offices are making telehealth capabilities more available than ever before. Long-distance patient and clinician contact, advice, reminders, care, education, intervention, monitoring, and remote admissions have become the norm.
Rightathome.net cites there is an increase in what is known as “the loneliness epidemic” which, aside from the context of heartbreaking emotional sadness, has real physical consequences as well. People struggling with loneliness tend to live shorter lives because being lonely increases the risk of heart disease, hypertension, depression, obesity, digestive problems, sleep problems, anxiety, dementia, and other health conditions. Right at home, reports studies show loneliness is as bad as morbid obesity or smoking 15 cigarettes a day with some experts estimating loneliness can shorten a life span by 50 percent.
Mistakes can be made when it comes to inheritances and Medicaid. Those mistakes can be costly.
Living arrangements for aging Americans are decidedly leaning towards aging in place. Nearly all older adults prefer to age in the comfort of their long time homes and familiar community surroundings. Aging in place often means living alone. Pew Research findings show that older people are more likely to live alone in the United States than in any other country worldwide. This preference of living solo, however, comes with hidden danger. Research from Science Times reports that living alone in your fifties and sixties increases the likelihood of dementia by thirty percent.
The advent of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has given rise to many new internet and telephone, text, and even in-person scams. Many of the scam artists will pose as well-known and trusted sources of authority using malicious links that may look or sound like they are official. To be clear, the World Health Organization’s uniform resource locater (URL) is WHO.int, and the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention URL is CDC.gov. When looking for local information, be sure to search online for official government offices and websites to ensure you are getting valid data. No government agency is going to phone or text your number to ask for bank account information, nor will they come to your door, ostensibly providing testing kits and cures for a fee. If you feel you have been a victim or nearly a victim of fraud, contact the US Department of Justice web page or the US Department of Justice’s National Center for Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721 to relate your experience.
Good news on the health front is so welcome these days. Now there is some, for the huge numbers of people suffering from Alzheimer’s dementia and ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease). Researchers have found links between those two dread illnesses, and the new understanding is showing promising results in the laboratory using drugs and genetic alteration.
Continuing care retirement communities (CCRC) are gaining in popularity across the United States. Sometimes referred to as life plan communities, the goal is to provide a long-term care option for older residents. These residents prefer to live in the same community, though in different phase locations, during their aging process. In essence, it is a continuum of care that will see you through your pre-planned stages of older life.
Older Americans, the most at risk of COVID-19, are the least likely demographic to respond well to a vaccine. A vaccine shot works by fooling the body into believing it has been infected with a virus, thereby prompting its immune system to fight the intruding pathogen by making antibodies. Unfortunately, as we age, antibody production weakens, part of the process known as immunosenescence. A compromised immune system makes older adults more susceptible to viral and bacterial infections. The Wall Street Journal reports that 90 percent of flu deaths in the US every year are people over the age of 65.
Americans are becoming more apt to travel by plane as new and better protocols addressing safety in the prevention of coronavirus transmission are put into place. Airports, airline personnel, and TSA agents are handling a huge increase in the number of airline passengers, according to the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA). Numbers have risen from 80,000 passengers a day in mid-April to nearly 755,000 on July 12 though this is still substantially below the 2.6 million in the previous year. While some airlines are still limiting the number of travelers per flight to maintain social distancing, others like United Airlines and American Airlines have recently lifted their passenger capacity constraints.
You should check your estate planning documents every so often, to make sure they’re still good, especially with big life changes like births, marriages, divorces, and moving to another state. Children grow up, marriages dissolve, property gets sold, residences change. That’s why we recommend that you consult us for an estate-plan check-up every five years or so.
The COVID-19 virus is not going away as many had hoped. And studies have shown it is deadlier for those over the age of 65. Individuals living in senior living communities, such as independent living, assisted living, memory care, and nursing homes have the highest risk of becoming infected and possibly dying from the virus or a secondary illness, such as pneumonia, after being weakened from the virus. For many families, providing long term care for a loved one in the home has become an even bigger priority than normal. In-home care can be costly, which makes the Aid and Attendance Benefit provided by the Department of Veteran’s Affairs of critical importance to help pay for such care.
In the best of circumstances, adults in senior living communities and long-term care facilities combat loneliness and some degree of isolation, which is linked to anxiety, depression, cardiovascular disease, and other ailments. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) senior facility guidelines have increased problems of isolation for the more than one million American adults who live in assisted living facilities and nursing homes. These seniors and those in private homes who are sheltering-in-place are experiencing the absence of direct connection to family and friends. Today it is more important than ever to provide mechanisms for their health and happiness while practicing social distancing during the coronavirus quarantine.
Care.com’s annual estate planning survey for 2019 found that 57% of U.S. adults do not have a Last Will & Testament (a “Will”). The survey found that participants were more likely or less likely to have a Will depending on issues such as age, race, and education. For example, when broken down generationally, 66% of people aged 65 and older, comprising the Baby Boomer generation and The Greatest Generation, have a Will, better than the overall average. Only 39% of the participants that fell into Generation X and 18% of the Millennial participants have a Will, well below the overall average.
Nursing homes by their very communal nature and frequent movement by staff among rooms create conditions where disease can spread easily. Before the coronavirus pandemic, a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report in 2019 found that 82 percent of the 13,000 nursing home facilities in America were cited for problems related to the control of infection. It comes as no surprise then that when the pandemic reached the US, many of these nursing homes were prime breeding grounds for the spread of coronavirus with devastating consequences.