Points to Discuss with Your Aging Parent

Your parent is getting on in age, but you don’t have a clear idea if there is a plan in place for their care. It is a difficult topic to broach; no one wants to talk about death and the financial realities that come with aging. Instead of having a proactive conversation early in a parent’s aging process most families have a reactive discussion under high levels of stress and emotions while their parent is experiencing an adverse health event. The Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) has reported that 85 percent of time long-term care decisions are made during a medical crisis. The message is clear, be proactive and start discussing the important financial questions with your parent.

Prepare Yourself
Your parent will be feel more comfortable and at ease if you have processed your feelings before talking to them. Conduct research so that you are knowledgeable enough to present a clear and concise set of options for your parent. Having options allows your parent and family to make decisions and feel in control of the process. You are seeking progress, not perfection. It may not all become settled in one conversation, but the price of silence about your parent’s plan may be very costly to you.

Review Documents
Two of the most critical personal legal documents are a durable power of attorney (DPOA) and a healthcare proxy. All older adults should have these documents as it gives legal authority to a designated representative to make financial, legal, and health care decisions on your parent’s behalf. If your parent does not have a DPOA and becomes incapacitated, you will have to go to court to get appointed as your parent’s guardian which can be a complicated legal process at a time when your energy is better spent in the care and decision making for your parent. If they do not have a DPOA and health care proxy in place make arrangements for them to meet with a trusted elder law attorney to properly draft the legal documents.

Often a parent will have a will, retirement account information and insurance policies that have not been revisited or updated in years, sometimes decades. When was the last time your parent reviewed beneficiary designations? Family circumstances change, and the birth of a child, death or divorce can affect how your parent may want beneficiaries designated. It is best to review financial and insurance data annually with your parent and make adjustments if necessary. For example, if the parent’s children are grown it might be best to cut back on the amount of life insurance they carry to save money on annual premiums.

Long Term Care Plan
Address the issue of long-term care. According to the PBS, a full 70 percent of all seniors will need some long-term care as they age. Even if your parent is healthy today odds are they will require long-term care and the costs are staggering. Some life insurance companies will add a long-term care rider to an existing policy. Medicaid also can cover some long-term care costs, but neither standard health insurance nor Medicare will cover your parent’s long-term care expenses.

Meet the Team
Ask your parent about their financial advisors and request a brief introduction to them. Find out who they are and how you might contact them in the event your parent is unable to do so. This information will allow you to keep an eye on your parent’s accounts and be confident the advisors are trusted, objective and well versed in elder financial issues. Oversight by you in a slightly detached way provides your parent privacy and independence about their finances but allows you to protect them from unscrupulous advisors.

Understand Filing System
The last thing you need to discuss is where this vital information is filed so that before a crisis hits you know where to find the important documents, online passwords, and forms of ID you will need to facilitate your parents well being. While you do not have to see all the specific contents of the information, particularly the financials, knowing where they keep the data is critical in a crisis. Remember that as your parent ages they may start to change the location of the information. Check with them a couple of times a year to ensure the information is still in the same place and physically look to be sure it is.

Discussing your parent’s strategy is best begun while they are healthy. Proactive planning is the best way to help your family as your parents age. Contact our office today and schedule an appointment to discuss how we can help you and your family.

Medicare and Medicaid: Unlocking the Mystery

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.

Medicare

Medicare is a health insurance program provided through the federal government. In order to receive Medicare, a person must meet certain requirements. A person must be 65 years old or older or have a severe disability. In order for a disabled person under the age of 65 to be eligible for Medicare, they must have received Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) for two years. In order to be eligible a person must have Social Security retirement benefits or Social Security disability benefits. Because Medicare is run and administered by the federal government, it is uniform from state to state. If a person meets Medicare eligibility requirements, they can receive Medicare no matter their income or assets. Costs for Medicare are based on the recipient’s work history. This means that costs are determined by the amount of time a person paid Medicare taxes. These costs like all insurance include premiums, copays, and prescriptions.

Medicare can be confusing because there are four parts. The commercials talk about Parts A, B, C, D. What does it all really mean? Parts A, B, and D can be somewhat simplified. Part A is hospital insurance, Part B is medical insurance, and Part D is prescription drug coverage. Parts A and B are covered in Original Medicare offered by the government. Part C is often called the Medicare Advantage Plan. This is a private health plan. The Medicare Advantage Plan or Medicare Part C plan are required to include the same coverage as Original Medicare but usually also include Part D as well. It is important to do your homework on these plans to find what works best and is most cost effective for you.

Medicaid

Medicaid is a health care assistance program. Its guidelines come from the federal government, but it is administered by each state. Medicaid is for people who cannot afford to pay for their care on their own. It is based on income and assets, and is available to people who belong to one of the eligible groups. The eligible groups are children, people with disabilities, people over age 65, pregnant women, and the parents of eligible children. Seniors who require nursing home care can qualify for Medicaid and only pay a share of their income for the nursing home. Medicaid then pays the rest.

Dual Eligibility

A person can be eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid and can have both. The two programs work together to help the recipient best cover the expenses of health care. For example, Medicare costs include premiums, copays, and deductibles. Full Medicaid benefits can cover the costs of Medicare deductibles and cover the 20% of costs not covered by Medicare. Medicaid can also help with Medicare assistance and may cover costs of premiums for Part A and/or Part B.

Although Medicaid and Medicare can be quite confusing, it is important at a minimum to know the basics. When you or someone you love is eligible or in need of the benefits, there are organizations willing to help and your elder law attorney is also a valuable resource.

If you have any questions about something you have read or would like additional information, please feel free to contact us.

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Do Not Plan or Save at Your Own Retirement Peril – Copy

A significant portion of Americans are saving nothing for retirement and very little in their day to day lives. While the unemployment rate is low and wages are seeing an increase the American worker is not saving enough of their income which will inevitably lead to short falls of operational cash during an unexpected crisis and in their retirement years further down the road. (https://www.cnbc.com/2018/03/15/bankrate-65-percent-of-americans-save-little-or-nothing.html

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Bankrate maintains that half of all Americans will not be able to maintain their standard of living once they have stopped working. GoBankingRates corroborates these findings citing that over forty percent of Americans have less than $10,000 dollars saved for their retirement. These statistics point to a dismal retirement future for nearly half of all Americans. 

This doesn’t have to be your future. It doesn’t matter how little you currently save. You don’t have to become the horror story of retiring and meeting financial ruin like so many do. What matters is that you change the trajectory of your retirement life by proactively examining how you are spending and saving. The sooner you begin the better your chances of success. 

The first and most important strategy to implement is learning to live beneath your means. That translates into saving money: probably more than you currently do. Saving money is an underestimated survival skill. To save begin by tracking your spending habits for thirty days. Once you have the data create a realistic and doable budget. Fluid expenditures like groceries, eating out, clothing, gasoline and auto maintenance need to have a set monthly budget. Create a simple two columned sheet of paper with budgeted and actual expenditures to monitor your progress. Typical categories where you can reduce expenditures include; cable packages, phone plans, groceries, entertainment costs, gym memberships, clothing and dining out. Start asking yourself over and over “Is this a need or a want?” and if it is a need, how can you make the cost lower. The game is how much money you can save, not spend.

Consolidate your non essential debt and pay it off, completely. Make it a primary goal to get out of debt. Stop being a debt slave. In the credit card industry there is an insider term used for people who fully pay their credit cards off each month. Guess what it is? It is a deadbeat. Companies cannot make money off of you if you stop becoming a slave to debt. If you can’t afford it then find a way to live without it.

Double check your insurance rates on your car, homeowner, and health. Do not purchase flight insurance, extended warranties, and disease insurance. Check this site for fifteen insurance policies you don’t need. (https://www.investopedia.com/insurance/insurance-policies-you-dont-need/). Get rid of the policy all together or find wiggle room for reduced premiums or get a more competitive provider to save money. 

Get rid of automatic payments attached to your banking accounts. Most people can eliminate expenditures they forgot they are even locked into. This also forces you to take control of your bill/payment cycles. Being involved in the day to day of bill payment keeps you far more aware of your financial situation and keeps your mind active.

Consider downsizing your home. If you are in a two story house it is inevitable that one day you will not be able to climb those stairs. A one story home or a first floor condo or apartment can help you purge your life of ‘stuff’ you no longer need. Some of those things can be sold and the proceeds can be saved. Any profit left over from downsizing immediately goes into savings or a financial investment vehicle to provide and protect your senior years. 

These are some but not all of the ways it is possible to change your savings habits. Guidance from a trusted professional is key to the pathway of success because there will always be roadblocks and setbacks that you must make adjustments for. Structuring a legal plan in connection with a retirement plan can provide added protection and allow you to enjoy retirement more thoroughly.

Contact our office today and schedule an appointment to discuss how we can help you with your planning. Use this link: Schedule an ElderCare Appointment

How to Recognize Nursing Home Abuse or Neglect

Nursing home abuse or neglect is defined generally as any action or failure to act that causes unreasonable suffering, misery, or harm to the patient. It can include assault of a patient, but can also include withholding necessary food, medical attention, or physical care from the patient. It is important that families stay involved in the lives of their loved ones once they have been placed in a nursing home. This is the best way to prevent or recognize abuse. Below are five main categories of abuse and their warning signs.

1. Neglect – Neglect can be intentional or unintentional on the part of the nursing home facility. Neglect happens when a patient’s needs are not being met. This includes not providing appropriate food, water, medical, and personal care for the patient. This can be an intentional choice on the part of the staff or it can happen be unintentional and due to the lack of adequate staffing in a nursing home facility.

It is important to know the warning signs for neglect. A neglected patient may be dehydrated or malnourished. Bed sores and other skin conditions can be signs of neglect. A decline in personal hygiene can be a sign of personal care being neglected. Weight loss is also a sign consistent with neglect. If any of these signs are present, your loved one may be the victim of neglect.

2. Psychological Abuse – Psychological abuse in nursing homes is one type that can be very hard to identify, because it can be subtle and hard to notice. Elders feel extreme sadness, fear, and anxiety. This type of abuse occurs when there is excessive yelling, humiliating, criticizing, or shaming the patient. It might also involve threatening and intimidation of the elderly patient. Many times, psychological abuse is accompanied by other forms of abuse.

Elderly people who experience psychological abuse will often become timid and withdrawn. Depression is a sign of psychological abuse. Some victims of psychological abuse will become more angry, agitated, and aggressive. Changes in behavior are common in patients who experience this type of abuse. Due to depression, there may be sudden weight loss and loss of appetite. These patients may even refuse to eat or take medications. Since this is a difficult form of abuse to identify, it is important to be aware of these warning signs and notice any changes in your loved one’s behavior.

3. Physical Abuse – Physical abuse in nursing homes is abuse that involves physical harm of the elderly resident. It involves intentionally inflicting physical harm, such as hitting, kicking, or pinching. Physical abuse can also come from the overuse of restraints or bed injuries or from physical neglect.

Physical abuse would seem to be easier to identify, but that is not always the case. Some signs of physical abuse are hidden by clothing, or false stories of falls or stumbles. Bruises and abrasions, as well as falls, fractures, or head injuries can be signs of physical abuse. Injuries requiring emergency treatment or resulting in broken bones should be red flags to the family. Often staff in charge of an abused resident will refuse to leave when the family is present. This may be a warning sign that something negative is going on with the resident. Be present and observant when visiting a loved one in a nursing home to help ensure proper treatment and care.

4. Sexual Abuse – Sexual abuse is another form of abuse that takes place in nursing homes. This type of abuse involves any unwanted sexual attention or sexual exploitation. This can happen with any patient and is especially hard to detect in patients who are cognitively impaired or have memory loss, such as patients with dementia.

Sexual abuse can be harder to identify, but there are some warning signs. Pelvic injury or bruising in the genital and inner thigh area can be warning signs of elder sexual abuse. Newly contracted STDs is a major red flag. Sexual abuse may cause the elderly person to have unexplained difficulty standing or walking. There may also be changes in behavior or mood, including unusual sexual behavior. Be aware and take action if you see any of these warning signs in a loved one.

5. Financial Abuse – This type of abuse takes place when the caregiver takes advantage of access to the elderly person’s financial matters, and steals or compromises the victim’s finances. This can be stealing from the person or accounts, applying for credit, or incorrectly billing for services paid by Medicare or Medicaid.

If your loved one is in a nursing home facility, watch for these warning signs of financial abuse: 1) A caregiver demanding money or taking money or possessions as gifts from an elderly patient. 2) Unknown charges to credit cards or sudden mismanagement of personal finances. 3) Forcing a patient to sign financial documents or forging the person’s name on documents.

Be sure to help your loved one keep track of their finances and to know their rights.

If any of these types of abuse are suspected, it is important to ask questions of the facility and to investigate. It may also be necessary to remove your loved one from the facility. Many of these crimes go unreported. It is important to report the crime to proper authorities and to find an attorney that can help take the appropriate legal action to protect your loved one and others who could be victims of abuse.

If you have any questions about something you have read or would like additional information, please feel free to contact us.

Need Help Understanding Medicare? Here Are Tips and Resources for Assistance

For those interested in information on Medicare, understand that applying for the benefit sometimes seems like a double-edged sword. On the one hand, Medicare is obviously a good resource because it provides medical benefits to seniors who are often on a fixed income. On the other hand, however, navigating the ins and outs of Medicare can be seriously confusing, causing many to give up in exasperation. If you are a senior and in need of medical care do not despair—there are numerous resources available to help you navigate the complicated details and minutiae of Medicare.

  • Consider hiring a qualified local elder law attorney sooner than later. Their professional knowledge of the ins and outs of the Medicare system combined with their experience working with senior citizens allows you to get the help and coverage you need as quickly as possible.
  • There are multiple websites you should check out. Medicare.gov, the official site of Medicare should be a starting point, as it provides numerous facts on the program and allows you to search for providers. The Social Security Administration website also has information on Medicare eligibility and enrollment. These are just two, but you can perform an Internet search on Medicare information and you will receive a list of several sites to review.
  • If you are uncomfortable working with computers it would be in your best interests to ask a friend or relative to help you because some of the information on the internet is very valuable. However, for those who would rather talk to a person, you may call 1-800-MEDICARE (800-633-4227) for more information.
  • Another great resource is the American Association for Retired Persons, commonly known as AARP. AARP is a well-established advocate for senior citizens in the United States. The organization offers helpful, reliable resources such as Information-packed webinars featuring experts who can break down some of the Medicare facts that applicants need to know.
  • There also may be support available at the state level like State Health Insurance Assistance Programs, or SHIPs. These programs offer free counseling for seniors who receive Medicare. Medicare applicants and their loved ones should visit shiptacenter.org for more information.

But if you want to save yourself hours of confusing computer research and potential headaches, the best idea is to speak with an experienced local Elder Law attorney before the Medicare application process even begins. A good Elder law attorney can assist you with the complex process, ensuring that you get the benefits you are entitled to more quickly. If you have questions, contact a local Elder law office today.