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.
Elder law attorneys help seniors and their loved ones plan for the possibility of needing long term care.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 1 in 10 people age 65 or older has Alzheimer’s dementia.This number is predicted to double by 2050. Alzheimer’s is also the most expensive disease in the country, with no known cure. In 2017, the average lifetime cost of care for someone with dementia was $341,810.
A diagnosis of dementia can wreak emotional and financial havoc on a family. Elder law attorneys help take the financial stress off of families by discussing options to find and pay for appropriate care without losing the family home or a lifetime of savings.
The emotional and financial cost to family caregivers is also quite alarming. 83% of all caregiving comes from family members, friends, or unpaid caregivers. 30-40% of family caregivers suffer from depression. In 2011, a MetLife study estimated that women caregivers lose over $324,000 in lost wages and social security benefits over their lifetime. Male caregivers lose an estimated $283,000 in lost wages and social security benefits over their lifetime.
The family caregivers who are trying to work and provide care to a parent or loved one also need a legal plan. Elder law attorneys work closely with family members and caregivers to make sure they have proper legal documents in place should their health fail, or if they lose employment due to unpaid caregiving.
If it’s not in writing, it won’t be honored.
Elder law attorneys work closely with seniors to understand what should happen if they can no longer make financial decisions or health care decisions. For example, if mom develops dementia and can no longer pay the monthly bills, who will she want to have authority to access her bank account in order to get the bills paid? What type of care does she want if her dementia advances to the point that she can’t communicate her wishes? Does she want to live at home as long as possible? Does she want a private room if she’s in a facility? These are just a few questions that elder law attorneys discuss with clients, which then get put into legal documents so that mom’s wishes will be fulfilled.
My loved one is in the hospital and can’t come home – now what?
It can be very stressful for a spouse and children when a parent becomes ill and can no longer live at home safely. It can also be very expensive, putting the family’s home and savings at risk.
Elder law attorneys help families find and pay for the best long-term care possible. Unfortunately, 24 hour care at home or in a facility can cost families thousands of dollars a month. Therefore, it is often appropriate to look at other funding sources, like Medicaid or Veterans Benefits, to help offset the cost of care. Elder law attorneys help families explore options, and make the best decision for the loved one needing the care.
We will continue exploring how elder law attorneys help seniors and their families in Part 2 of “Why May is Special for Elder Law Attorneys.” In the meantime, if you have any questions or would like more information about how we, your friendly neighborhood Marietta Elder Law attorneys, can help you or a loved one, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at 770-425-6060.
As a Marietta Elder Law Attorney, I can vouch that the number of adult children caring for their elderly parents is growing at a very fast pace. If you are a baby boomer and not already caring for an elderly parent, chances are high that you might be facing this situation soon. It isn’t always easy to know when, or how, to step in to ensure that your aging loved one receives the care that he or she needs. But, we’ve helped lots of Marietta area families through this stage of life and can offer tips for assisting your aging loved ones.
How to know when to step in
Age alone is not an indicator of when an elderly person needs you. Some people do quite well on their own into their nineties and beyond. Others might need help much earlier. The key here is to look for warning signs. The signs might include frequent falls or unexplained bruises, an empty fridge, or even unopened mail. Frequent visits are the best way to get a clear picture of your loved one’s physical and mental health.
Develop a plan
If you think the time has come to step in and provide care for your elderly loved one, you should start by developing a plan that includes all family members. Consider allowing your elderly loved one to also participate in creating the plan. It’s best to start with small, easy changes that still allow your loved one to maintain his or her independence.
Meet with an Elder Law Attorney
To provide the best care for your elderly loved one, you need to ensure that you have the necessary legal protections in place. A Marietta elder law attorney can help your loved one create documents that will allow you, or someone of their choosing, to make decisions for them in financial and medical matters.
If you suspect that your loved one needs help, I encourage you to take these steps right away. We get a lot of calls from people who waited too long and are facing unnecessary financial and legal crises as a result. Don’t limit your options. Call our Marietta elder law office at 770-425-6060 to schedule a consultation for the peace of mind of knowing that you are doing everything possible to help your loved one.
The largest coordinated sweep of identity fraud involving US seniors has recently been conducted. The US Department of Justice has reported that more than one million elderly people have collectively lost hundreds of millions of dollars because of this targeted financial abuse. The Department has criminally charged 200 out of 250 defendants identified in the sweep. These third party scam artists account for 27% of seniors who are financially exploited.
Con artists and scammers employ many different schemes to defraud seniors of their identity information and money. A large number of them are conducted over the telephone, for instance posing as an Internal Revenue Service agent claiming back taxes are owed, or frightening a grandparent to think that their grandchild has been arrested and needs bail money wired to them. Other schemes include the promise of a prize or lottery cash if they just send a large fee in order to collect their “winnings.”. Seniors become easy victims when targeted by these social engineering schemes and it is likely to get worse because of the proliferation of smart phones and other devices that get seniors to explore the online world.
USA Today reports that while phone scams target one senior at a time the online environment is opening doors to thousands or even millions of seniors falling prey to a single scam. Email and other online channels can reach a vast number of potential victims and more elderly people have an online presence than ever before.
Romance scams that use to be conducted in person can now be achieved in the online dating environment and even in social media. The attacker can befriend multiple seniors online and then ask for money to cover “travel expenses” to visit them. This is particularly successful as many seniors are dealing with isolation and loneliness.
The online shopping world is another vehicle employed by scam artists to defraud seniors of money. All that is needed is a picture of an object that seems to be owned by the scammer and you have the potential to sell that item over and over again to thousands of seniors. All the scam artist has to do is set up a mirror website that appears to be a legitimate online auction house such as E-bay to drain seniors of their money as well as obtain credit card and other identity information. These mirror sites masquerading as official websites are often in the email accounts of seniors and a mere click on a link can download malicious software to their device that is designed to steal critical identity information.
Of the 27% of seniors who do become financially exploited by a third party, 67% do not exhibit symptoms of cognitive decline. That is a huge number of mentally fit seniors being financially exploited. This is a pervasive problem in the elderly community. According to the Federal Trade Commission’s “Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book 2017” identity fraud is second only to debt collection with regard to consumer complaints. Identity fraud accounted for 14% of all consumer complaints last year. The Commission also reported that seniors who are financially exploited suffer higher median losses than other age groups.
Many seniors who have been targeted are embarrassed, ashamed, or scared as a result. Many never saw themselves as being at risk, they fear retribution from the perpetrator, and they fear that government agencies or family members will label them unfit to care for themselves.
Systems can be put in place to monitor senior accounts and make their money less easy to access by scammers. In addition, there are legal documents that can protect the accounts of seniors during their lifetime, and eliminate the chance of fraud or abuse. Please contact us, your Marietta Elder Law Attorney, for more information on how we can help you or your loved ones reduce the chance of financial fraud or abuse.
Longer lives are among the greatest achievements of our modern era. Advances in healthcare and other progress related to human safety have resulted in what the United Nations says is one of the most significant social transformations of the 21st century.
However, with the success of longer lives come problems that catch most of us off-guard. According to a study by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 70% of Americans over the age of 65 will need long-term care services at some point in their lives. Few families are in the position of being able to step-up and take over the care of their elderly loved ones, so they must seek outside help.
Unfortunately, many wait until their loved one is in full-blown crisis to seek long-term care assistance. Making decisions in this way can be fraught with emotion and very expensive. That is why we highly recommend that our clients not wait until their parents are in dire need to begin the long-term care planning process. If you are struggling with finding and paying for the right long-term care option for your parent in Marietta, Georgia, here are some things you need to consider.
Appropriate Level of Care
Long-term care encompasses many different levels of care, so it’s important to match up the facility with the individual needs of your parent. Different types of facilities include skilled nursing facilities, custodial care facilities, and intermediate care facilities. While it’s not always possible to plan ahead for nursing home care, it is a good idea to become familiar with some of the long-term care facilities in your area and select the ones that you and your parent would prefer. When the time comes for long-term care, a Marietta GA elder law attorney can assist you in determining the level of care required for your parent and work with the long-term care facility of your choice.
Paying for Long-term Care
You will also need to think about how to pay for your parent’s long-term care. Facilities can cost anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000 per month, depending on the level of care required. Long-term care insurance policies may help defray some of these costs, but very rarely do those policies cover the entire amount needed. Special benefits are available to veterans through the VA, and Medicare may help pay for a very limited amount of time in a nursing home based on the illness/injury. Medicaid is the most common option to help pay for long-term care, but there are strict eligibility requirements attached to that assistance, and it is very easy to become disqualified from that care if your parent exceeds asset or income limits without the proper planning in place. It is important to speak with a Marietta elder law attorney to review your available options and determine the best course of action to pay for your parent’s long-term care.
Planning ahead for long-term care can make a world of difference in your life and contribute to the comfort of your parent when the time comes. If you would like to start this conversation with a Marietta elder law attorney who has extensive experience helping people find the best long-term care solutions, call our office at 770-425-6060 and schedule a consultation.
Millions of individuals are affected by dementia in their lifetime. Unfortunately, it is usually after a medical crisis like dementia hits that many families begin to think about estate planning, and talking to their Marietta Estate and Elder Lawyer.
What people don’t realize, however, is that it may be “too late” under the law to make a plan after dementia strikes. This is usually the case when dementia is in an advanced state. In order for legal documents to be valid in Georgia, the person signing them must have “testamentary capacity.” This means that he or she must fully understand the implications of what is being signed.
Does that mean that your loved one can no longer sign legal documents after a diagnosis of dementia? Not necessarily. Dementia is a progressive condition, and mental capacity can be fluid in earlier stages. Your loved one may still be considered mentally competent to sign legal documents, even with a diagnosis of dementia if he or she:
- Can understand the nature and extent of their property
- Can remember their relatives and descendants
- Is able to articulate who should inherit their property
- Can understand what they are signing
- Can understand how all these things relate and come together to form a plan
In some instances, a verification from a physician about the individual’s competence may be required and the ability of whether a person with dementia can sign legal documents will rest in the doctor’s hands.
If the physician determines that your loved one cannot execute legal documents, the family must then turn to the court system, and likely the process of Guardianship and/or Conservatorship, in order to take over control of the senior’s affairs in the absence of a current Trust, Power of Attorney, or Health Care Directive.
Whether your loved one can sign legal documents following a diagnosis of dementia really depends on his or her individual battle with the disease. Talk to a Marietta estate and elder lawyer, as well as your loved one’s doctor for an idea of what your options may be. Be sure to go through all the proper channels as your loved one’s legal documents could be contested later on if you have them quickly signed while there is still a question of mental capacity out there.
If you need assistance getting started and evaluating your loved one’s situation, we invite you to contact our Marietta GA estate and elder law attorneys at 770-425-6060 to schedule a consultation.
November is Caregivers Month, which is an important time to recognize individuals dealing with the burdens and responsibilities of caring for sick and/or disabled loved ones. Marietta Georgia elder law attorney Steve Worrall talks here about how pre-planning and communication can make the caregiver’s job mush easier.
Caregivers often become burnt out, depressed, and sick themselves, assuming that the reason they are having such a hard time in their role of caregiver must be due to the fact that they are “letting their loved one down” and not providing the “level and quality” of care that they should be.
But, caregivers across our state might be relieved to know that the struggles and frustrations they face have less to do with them being a “bad caregiver” and more to do with a lack of pre-planning and communication.
Unfortunately, no one ever anticipates becoming ill or disabled to the point that they would be unable to care for themselves. That means, in most cases, the person you are caring for right now never intended to have you in this role—leaving both you and them unprepared and ill-equipped for the future.
The simple solution to get everyone back on the same page, while more effectively managing stress and expectations, is to begin having open and direct conversations about the future and possible long-term care hurdles that may arise.
These conversations may be uncomfortable to have and may even be met with resistance from your loved one; however, addressing long-term care issues in a direct way will ensure everyone is on the same page and that there’s enough time to put a solid plan in place to carry out your loved one’s wishes, while safeguarding their independence, finances, and future well-being.
To get the conversations rolling, here are a few key issues to begin discussing with your loved one. Approach them gently with your loved one’s continued independence and best wishes in mind as you ask:
- What are your wishes for emergency or end-of-life medical care (i.e. life support, feeding tubes, blood transfusions, organ donation)?
- Are there any lifesaving procedures you would NEVER want?
- Who do you trust to make medical decisions and communicate with your doctors if you are unable to speak for yourself?
- If at all possible, would you prefer in-home assistance?
- If you needed nursing home or in-home care, how would you want us to pay for it? What if Medicare or Medicaid is not an option?
- Do you have a will, trust or other estate planning documents in place? Where can we find them, and are they up to date?
- Who have you named in your “legal helper” roles (i.e. Power of Attorney, Healthcare Representative)? Where can we find the documentation we need to handle your affairs in an emergency?
In all, you will find that knowing your loved one’s wishes in these different situations will make your job as a caregiver much easier, as you will be prepared to make appropriate decisions under pressure and avoid many of the financial struggles that families face when attempting to secure long-term care. Don’t forget to also stay in close contact with your estate and disability planning attorney, who will help you utilize legal tools such as Living Trusts and Powers of Attorney in order to stay in control and protect family assets from being lost to creditors, nursing homes and/or the government.
Steve Worrall is a Marietta Georgia estate planning and elder law attorney at Georgia Estate Plan: Worrall Law LLC. For a Caregivers Legal and Life Planning guide, please visit Hope4Caregivers. com