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.
The medically recommended protocols for social distancing and government mandates that restrict large gatherings of Americans to slow the spread of the coronavirus are minimizing our abilities to interact with each other. This isolation holds especially true for those seniors who live alone or in long term health care facilities. Human beings are, by nature, designed for close contact and social interaction. Maintaining human connection, whether it be family or casual acquaintances, can help boost immunity, combat anxiety and stress, and can even lower health risks that are exacerbated by stress like heart attacks and hypertension.
When people marry for the second time (or more), losing assets to pay for their new spouse’s serious illness is probably the last thing on their minds when they say “I do.” But that could happen. Current costs for long-term care facilities can run between $70,000 – $150,000 annually. Studies show that 70% of Americans will need that kind of care, perhaps for three years or longer.
The Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act was signed into law in December of 2014. The purpose of the Act was to provide individuals and families the ability to finance disability needs tax-free. The savings vehicle provided by the ABLE Act is similar to the 529 education savings plan. The ABLE Act allows families to save up to $100,000 in a special account to pay for disability-related care without risking eligibility for benefits such as Medicaid or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) because these assets aren’t counted towards the need-based asset thresholds for these programs. To be eligible for an ABLE account, the beneficiary must be someone who had an onset of a disability before age 26, and either receives Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or files a disability certification under IRS rules. (The beneficiary doesn’t have to be under age 26 at the time the ABLE account is set up, but rather have had the disability onset before 26 years of age.)
The findings from a 10 year study by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) have reported a link between hearing loss and health risks. The risks include a 50% greater risk of dementia, a 40% greater risk of developing depression and a nearly 30% higher risk of accidental falls. While hearing loss is becoming more prevalent in younger people due to the use of earbuds and noise pollution, it is the elderly population who are more quickly and significantly affected by adverse health risks because of their hearing loss.
As you have probably heard by now, keeping physical distance between us is crucial to stop this virus. Call or email us to find out how we can help you complete your estate plan without taking a single step outside your safe home.
It is essential that as your parents' age, you have conversations with them about their finances. To broach the topic, you might bring up current events like the coronavirus pandemic, its effect on economic conditions, and how it relates to the security of their financial future. The conversation should come from a calming place of love and concern. Speak to them respectfully about how the coronavirus pandemic has you thinking about the importance of their planning and preparedness.
Receiving your social security benefits at an earlier age will not reduce the overall amount of your benefit over time. Because you will be taking it at a younger age, your monthly payment will be smaller than if you had waited but the aggregate payout overtime will be the same amount. To see how the numbers work out use the Social Security table or Social Security detailed calculator to understand how your monthly benefit payout amount differentiates depending on when you claim your benefits.
Choosing a nursing home for a loved one is an important decision and should be carefully considered. It is important for families to take the time to explore nursing home options and to carefully assess the nursing home facilities in order to choose the best care for the loved one. Below are some steps designed to assist families in choosing a nursing home.
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.
Now especially, it is crucial to be prepared if you or someone in your family gets so sick they can’t make decisions about health care or finances. Banks, insurance companies, and medical providers will not listen to what another person says about what you need, not without up-to-date legal documents.
There has been an explosion in the numbers of Americans rushing to make their will online. Understandably, the coronavirus pandemic has created the scramble to set up wills and end-of-life-directives. However, online do it yourself (DIY) wills are often deemed invalid as they do not comply with all of the legal requirements of your state. According to Caring.com, the prevalence of will and estate planning has been on the decline since 2017 but this trend is quickly reversing itself with the advent of the coronavirus pandemic. So, who needs a will? Ask yourself if you care who gets your property or money if you die? If you have minor children, do you care who will act as their legal guardian? The answer is anyone married, anyone with children or anyone with assets needs a properly executed will. Wills are governed by state law. Your will should reflect your wishes in the language and format required by the state in which you live for it to be valid.
Alzheimer's disease is becoming more prevalent among aging Americans, and there are more aging Americans than ever before. Alzheimer’s disease has three typical biomarkers: plaques of beta-amyloid protein, tangles of tau protein, and loss of connections in the synapses that communicate information between brain cells. Now a simple blood test may be able to detect early signs of Alzheimer’s years before any symptoms, like memory and thinking decline, become apparent. The test involves the identification of changes in levels of NfL a neurofilament light chain protein found in the brain. This protein is part of the internal skeleton and resides inside neurons and brain cells, but when damaged or dying NfL leaks into the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), it becomes circulated into the bloodstream. CSF provides essential mechanical and immunological protection to the brain inside of the skull.
Life Care Planning is an innovative approach to comprehensively address health, legal, and financial issues for Seniors. This approach differs from traditional Elder Law focuses because Elder Law typically manages the legal and financial affairs of Seniors. In other words, Elder Law often has an asset centered approach to planning such as Medicaid planning to qualify for assistance with paying for long-term care. Meanwhile, Life Care Planning combines the traditional Elder Law elements such as protecting a Senior's assets while qualifying for long-term care assistance with the health care challenges that face our Seniors.
For care providers and aging seniors in the information age, the future is now. While still with some challenges, adoption of virtual care as a standard in senior living and aging services has become a fully integrated and accepted practice to overcome obstacles in senior healthcare. This is especially true now as we battle the obstacles of the Corona Virus.
When it comes to establishing wills and estate plans, older Americans outpace their younger counterparts. Still, a significant number — 19 percent of those over age 72 and 42 percent of those between 53 and 71, according to survey data — lack any type of estate plan.
All Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) Regional Offices are closed to the public for veteran walk-in claim assistance, counseling, scheduled appointments, and other in-person services in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The offices will remain open to essential personnel as services will be provided to veterans through the Veterans Administration website (VA). Specific claim question information can be addressed through the Inquiry Routing & Information System (IRIS) or via telephone at 1-800-827-1000. The VBA also has a presence on Facebook and Twitter that you can follow for updates. This social distancing effort will protect veterans who are older, who have underlying health conditions, or both, as well as on-site VA personnel. Though the delivery mechanisms to provide benefits and services are now focused via online services, veterans, families, and survivors will continue to receive assistance during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Through the use of videoconferencing over wireless devices and remote health tech monitoring, telehealth can connect patients to vital health care services. According to the American Hospital Association (AHA), fully 76 percent of US hospitals are using some form of telehealth for their patient groups.
Fears that provisions in a coronavirus-related relief action by the US government could have severely curtailed the workforce in senior assisted living, independent living, memory care, and continuing care retirement communities provide a cautionary tale. The bill, HR 6201, is a multi-billion dollar aid package known as Families First Coronavirus Response Act. The bill has recently been signed into law by the US President. Influential leaders, CEOs, and corporate Presidents in the senior care and housing industry addressed facility workforce concerns directly to the House Speaker Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Majority Leader McConnell (R-KY) before the passing of H.R.6201.
Technology is a rapidly changing industry. Advances in technology bring are constantly changing the way we live our lives and seniors are no different. There are variety of new options emerging in security technology that can improve resident security in senior living. Many things that have long been used in security for senior living facilities are still relevant, such as locks and alarms, but more personal devices are being developed and have started emerging on the security scene.
By now, many of us have witnessed the slow and dehumanizing death by Alzheimer’s of friends and loved ones. In the final stages of this and other dementia diseases, there comes a time when the person can no longer speak, recognize loved ones, or move purposefully.