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.
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.
The US Department of Education is providing details about how states, schools, and parents can best address student special education needs following the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Students with special needs are provided Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE), which requires tailoring to meet individual disability needs. The program's goal is to give children with special needs the same education opportunities as those without disabilities. The coronavirus is severely challenging schools to provide these necessary services.
This year, in 2020, a significant portion of the American baby boomer generation has reached the age of 65 or older, which increases their risk for Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia diseases. By the year 2030, the 65 plus age segment of the population will increase substantially, accounting for over 20 percent of the American people. In the absence of a cure, the number of cases of Alzheimer's disease will increase. Projections that these Americans will survive well into their eighties, nineties, and beyond will dramatically increase. These longer life expectancies are due to continuing medical advancements in conjunction with improved social and environmental conditions.
You might think that leaving your property to your heirs would be simple enough. You make a will or a trust, you do a transfer-on-death deed for your real estate, you put your kids on your bank account, you designate beneficiaries for your life insurance and retirement accounts, and you’re done.
Technology is central to American life and becoming more pervasive in senior populations as the tech industry targets this growing market demographic. A new survey by AARP projects by the year 2030 close to 132 million Americans aged 50 or more will annually spend more than 84 billion dollars on technology products. Today, 91 percent of those aged 50 or more use a computer, and 94 percent say that technology allows them to keep in touch with family and friends. Even smartphone use in older Americans (80 percent) maps out to the same number as the population at large. Also, many parents and grandparents are spending considerable amounts of money on tech-focused gifts for children and grandchildren. Even people aged 70 or more are showing a growing interest in technology and its applications to better their lives.
Although nursing home residents are less than one percent of the total US population, according to a report in the Minnesota Star Tribune, they account for more than 40 percent or approximately 45,500 of the US 115,000 COVID-19 deaths. Seema Verma, the administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), asserts that nursing homes following federal infection control guidelines were largely able to contain the coronavirus.
We owe immense gratitude to those who are caring for the sick, and to those who support those workers. At the same time, we should be skeptical of bills we may be presented for that care.
Whether at home or in a long-term care facility, America's elderly are facing increasing incidents of mistreatment and abuse as social isolation during the pandemic creates more vulnerabilities. Stay-at-home guidelines isolate seniors from the systems that can protect them like medical providers, congregations, extended family, and senior centers. The high rate of coronavirus deaths for those Americans 70 and older increases fear and their dependency on those who might seek to take advantage of them. Sadly, most of these abusers are family members, such as an adult child or spouse, followed by caregivers or staff in a long-term care facility.