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The 3 Most Important Legal Documents for ANYONE Over 18

Having a powerful Durable Power of Attorney for Finances, Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care Decisions and HIPAA Releases can save you and your family an enormous amount of money, time, aggravation and heartache.

Durable Power of Attorney for Finances

Having this document in place can keep your family from having to go to Probate Court to set up a Conservatorship so that they can handle your finances.  If you are married, you and your spouse are probably on all assets.  However, tax deferred assets like an IRA, ROTH, 401(k) and most life insurance policies are in individual names.  Unless your Durable Power of Attorney specifically mentions those types of assets, your financial institution or life insurance company may not accept the Durable Power of Attorney.

Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care

Many people believe telling their family their health care wishes are sufficient.  The law says that your must put your wishes in writing and appoint someone to make decisions for you.  Just because you are married does not give your spouse the ability to make health care decisions for you.  This is especially important if you do not wish to be kept alive indefinitely by artificial means (feeding tube and ventilator).  If you don’t have a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care, then your family will need to go to Probate Court to have someone appointed as your Guardian to be able to make health care decisions for you.

HIPAA Releases

Medical personnel can be fined between $50,000 and $1,000,000 a year for speaking to a family member that you have not given written permission for them to talk to.  HIPAA Releases allow you to designate who, over the age of 18, can know about your private medical life.  People listed on a HIPAA Release DO NOT make health care decisions for you.  They do have the ability to call the hospital to check on you and can be present when a doctor is giving a report or test results.

The HIPAA Releases should be a separate document from your Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care.  The Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care can not go into effect until a doctor declares that you are incapable of making your own health care decisions.  If you are unconscious due to a car accident, you still want your family to be able talk to the doctor without being declared incompetent.

FYI – HIPAA stand for the Hospital Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996

Alzheimer’s Disease Workshop – Alzheimer’s Association

Join us on Tuesday, November 14th at 6:30 for our free, educational workshop put on by the Alzheimer’s Association titled – The Basics: Memory Loss, Dementia & Alzheimer’s Disease

If you or someone you know is affected by Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, it’s time to learn the facts.  This program provides information on detection, casues and risk factors, stages of the disease, treatment and much more.

R.S.V.P is required as seating is limited.  Please call 636-394-0009 or email kfronczak@vougaelderlaw.com to reserve your seat!

Long Term Care Conversation Checklist for Families and Seniors

Having a conversation about long-term care with an aging loved one can be very difficult.  Initiating a conversation can be awkward or uncomfortable for family members or caregivers.  We offer the following hints that may help to begin a conversation about long-term care with your loved one.

A good conversation starter is to ask when their legal documents have last been reviewed

Asking this simple question is a good way to get everyone thinking about the future.  Many seniors believe that it isn’t necessary to review documents – “Oh I had those prepared years ago….I’m set.”  Helping the senior realize their life has “probably changed a lot since they were prepared” is a way to ease into “other changes” you have noticed. As we age, just like our health care needs change (we tend to take more prescriptions), our housing needs change (we don’t enjoy the 2 story house anymore), so do our legal needs change.

When you are 18, you need a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care so someone can make health care decisions for you if you can’t.  When you have a house and are raising a family, a Revocable Living Trust is what is needed to handle a serious accident, health care crisis or an untimely death.  When we become a senior and retire, we need to protect our home and assets against the tremendous cost of long term care and estate recovery.

If your loved one says they have no legal documents or they have “a Will”, NOW, before they have a medical emergency or lose mental capacity, is the time to avoid unnecessary legal headaches and fees by getting powerful documents in place, like “The 3 Most Important Documents”.

The most important documents everyone should have over the age of 18

A Durable Power of Attorney (for finances) appoints someone to act on your behalf if you are no longer capable of handling your finances.  Without a valid and powerful Durable Power of Attorney, the family will be forced to apply for a Conservatorship through the Probate Court to pay bills and handle investments.  Without having in writing who you wish to handle your affairs, the Court may appoint someone you would not have chosen to handle things for you.  A powerful and properly drawn Durable Power of Attorney will allow the person you appoint to protect assets for your quality of life and quality of care.

A Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care Decisions appoints someone to act on your behalf to make health care decisions for you if you are no longer capable of making them yourself.  Without this document in place, the family will be forced to apply for a Guardianship through the Probate Court to make health care decisions for you.  This is vitally important if it is your desire NOT to be kept alive by artificial nutrition and hydration.

The Probate Court requires a surety Bond for the person appointed Conservator and/or Guardian.  The Bond is based on the amount of assets owned by you.  It must be renewed annually and is VERY expensive and very cumbersome.  A Conservatorship and Guardianship lasts the rest of your life, requiring two annual filings with the Probate Court (continued legal fees) and the Court must approve every dollar spent for, or on, your behalf.  The attorney’s fees for a Conservatorship and/or Guardianship, in the FIRST YEAR alone average between $5,000 and $10,000.

If your loved one wishes to avoid a Probate Estate after their passing, they must have some type of a Trust in place.  A Last Will and Testament still goes through Probate.  A Revocable Living Trust avoids Probate, but does not protect any assets from being spent on the cost of long term care and does not protect their home against Estate Recovery.  A Beneficiary Deed does not protect against Estate Recovery either.

ONLY an Asset Protection Trust, and/or some form of long term care insurance, avoids all of your loved one’s assets from being spent on a nursing home and their home being subject to Estate Recovery by the state.  This type of planning is extremely complex and requires consulting with an Elder Law Attorney.

Please call us at 636-394-0009, to see if you are eligible for a FREE no-obligation conference.

Determine if it’s time to think about long-term care assistance

Reasons to seek long-term care can vary from person to person.  Long-term care is not just about a potentially more comfortable and safer environment for your aging loved one. Long term care can and may be necessary for the mental and physical health of the elder, and for the caregiver.

To ensure your loved one is able to consider their options without feeling confrontational, introduce alternative housing options as early as possible, even when you think your loved one might be in the early stages of needing help. Ask your loved one questions about lifestyle or health-related challenges to introduce the idea that either a home-care provider or senior living community may be a positive choice.  Continuing to engage in this conversation over time by sharing your observations, concerns, and any physical or mental challenges you may notice may make the transition easier when it is time.

Remain sensitive to your loved one’s needs

Discussing long-term care may be intimidating for you, but it is a difficult topic for your loved one as well.  Most of us want to do everything possible to stay in our home as long as possible.  Since any decisions that are made will affect your loved one the most, it’s crucial to respect their needs and preferences.  Involve your loved one in as many discussions and meetings as possible, barring any health restrictions.  Being left out of a family meeting or doctor’s conference could foster feelings of exclusion or distrust.

Allow time for your loved one to become open and adjust to the idea.  If there are no immediate health risks, allow your loved one to set the pace for the discussions.  Make an effort to find solutions that will work for everyone involved.  For example, if your loved one feels strongly about maintaining a garden in a new home, expand your search for communities that would be able to provide gardening opportunities.

Some communities have Alzheimer’s patients separate from seniors who just need assisted living.  If your loved one has Alzheimer’s make sure you check into those communities with memory care.

Below you will find a checklist of different symptoms that you may have noticed your loved one is experiencing.  If there are several family members that are around your loved one on a regular basis, it might be good to discuss the symptoms they have noticed and compare with what you have seen.

Physical Symptoms

□  Are they able to move around easily given the physical layout of the home? For example, are stairs, carpet, bath/shower or door handles obstacles for mobility? Is the heating and lighting adequate for any sensory impairment including hearing, sight and circulations problems?

□   Are they experiencing balance issues, especially when changing positions? Are you concerned about them falling?

□   If they fell, are you confident he or she would be able to call for help? Is there a reliable source to respond to a call at all times? If they are living alone, is it time to think about LifeAlert?

□   Are they experiencing frequent incontinence? Can they attend to the problem when this happens or is help needed?

□   Is your loved one experiencing frequent, significant sleep disturbances?

□   Are they capable of shopping for and cooking or preparing healthy meals?

□   Do they have trouble operating gadgets or appliances such as a can opener, microwave, stove or telephone?

□   Are finances such as bill payments, deposits, and investments being handled in a timely manner?

□   Is your loved one still driving? If so, are you concerned about his/her and others well being?  Is public transportation a safe and viable option?

□   Are they capable and are they adequately doing housekeeping, laundry and wearing clean clothes?

□   Are they bathing regularly?

□   Are prescribed medications obtained and consistently taken as indicated?

Mental Symptoms

Is your loved one demonstrating personality changes, including, but not limited to:

□   Frequent irritability?

□   Insensitivity to others?

□   Disoriented to place and time?

□   Aggressive behaviors?

□   Repetitive behaviors?

□   Communication with inappropriate language?

□   Is your loved one socially withdrawn and not able or not wanting to get together with friends or family?  Are there signs of depression?

□   Do they express negative comments about him or herself?

□   Are they demonstrating an inability to make sound decisions or use good judgment?

□   Is your loved one able to understand communication or instructions from others?

Schedule a family meeting

A family meeting can move the topic of long-term care to a more focused discussion that can lead to a plan.  If your loved one agrees, here is a checklist for planning for your family meeting:

□   Determine the family members that should be involved directly or indirectly in decision making.  Always include your loved one if he/she is capable of taking part in any decision making.

□   Consider including an independent third party to play the role of mediator.  This could be a minister or other member of the clergy, a social worker, or a case manager.  If necessary, find a neutral place to hold the meeting.

□   Prepare an agenda to help you stay focused.  It may include the following:

~ A medical update

~ Sharing of feelings about the illness and caregiving

~ Daily caregiving needs

~ Financial concerns

~ Who will make decisions – are there legal documents in place for decision making

~ If there are no legal documents in place, call us at 636-394-0009, to schedule an FREE,  no-obligation conference to discuss what options are best for your loved one and family

~ What support role each person will play

~ What support the primary caregiver needs

~ What you consider the next steps of moving forward should be

~ If you are around more than other members of the family write down what you have noticed in terms of declining health or memory issues that other family members might not notice.

Continue to involve the family

The move to a long-term care community is an immense transition for any family, so it’s important to involve everyone relevant to the person(s) being moved.

Reach out to siblings to secure their input and support.  For example, share online information about long-term care communities to secure greater involvement and participation.

Is there an unequal financial or time burden to one family member? If so, acknowledge the distribution of resources and discuss a strategy for achieving a balance that appeals to everyone.

Continue to engage your parent or loved one

Have ongoing conversations at time when your loved one is feeling best and there are few distractions.

Introduce the idea of an overnight visit to a long-term care community or an extended afternoon visit to get a feel for the various available options.

Begin researching long-term care options in your area.

□   Go to snapforseniors.com to access a nationwide senior housing database.

□   Call and request a consultation with those communities that interest you.

□ Ask family members to help you prepare a list of questions and concerns for your specific situation with your loved one.

We have checklists for Home Care and Home Health Care Providers and an Assisted Living Community cost checklist available in our Resource Center. 

Stop by anytime Monday – Friday, 8:30am – 5:00pm to browse our resources.

15 Things You Can Do For A Caregiver

15 Things You Can Do For A Caregiver

  • Walk the family dog, and take to veterinary appointments as needed
  • Simply ask the Caregiver what you can do, if they say “I don’t know” give them a few days and ask again, even if it’s something small to them, it might be a big deal
  • Give a gift certificate for a day at the spa or a pedicure and manicure – make sure you arrange care for the family member or make time to sit with them yourself
  • Cook an extra main dish when you are making dinner for your own family
  • Many family members are finding themselves taking care of older family members as well as their own children. Offer to take the kids for a night or a weekend or to a special event for a few hours
  • If you are handy, offer to do a little maintenance chores around the home once a month or ask for a list to be made and sent to you
  • Remind the caregiver that they can put your number on speed dial and use it…anytime day or night
  • Gather a list of area caregiver support groups and pass them along to the caregiver…offer to stay with the care recipient if the support groups do not have an “adult day care” during the support group meetings
  • Gather the laundry, start and finish the laundry, or just offer to fold the laundry once a week, or once a month
  • Hire a housecleaning service and get the caregiver/care recipient out of the home for the day
  • Establish a daily/weekly “phone ritual” with the caregiver as a safety check
  • Allow/encourage the caregiver to rant…with no sugar coating allowed (just listen, no judgment, a safe ear for a caregiver can mean the world when everything piles up)
  • Offer to take the family car in for routine maintenance
  • Discuss with the caregiver if they would like for you to research and find out if there are any respite programs that the care recipient qualifies for or additional help around the house or modifications that can be made to make life easier

    5 Bonus Ideas

  • Make a restaurant reservation: 1) for the caregiver and care recipient, 2) for the caregiver and a friend, or 3) arrange to have a restaurant deliver a special meal to the home
  • Take a moment and really observe the caregiver and come up with one simple thing that will make his/her life easier
  • Clip coupons for the caregiver and care recipient of items they use often (or better yet, buy food staples and stock the family pantry/supply closet
  • Arrange pizza delivery on special game nights for them to enjoy
  • Offer to help decorate for the holidays with the care recipient, or take the care recipient out for the day/afternoon/evening so the caregiver can enjoy putting up the decorations without interruption and have a few hours to themselves

May is National Elder Law Month!

Many people prepare for death by having a Will or Trust drawn up.  But the real question is,

“What if I don’t die, but get sick and need care?”

Are you, your family and your assets  protected? Come to one of our free workshops and learn what can  happen to you or your clients if you aren’t prepared.

We always encourage people to “get there ducks in a row” and make sure all of their legal documents are up to date and work for each individual’s Elder Care Journey.  We believe above all other legal documents you need to make sure you have The 3 Most Important Documents. That includes a Durable Power of Attorney, a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care and HIPAA documents.

Call us today at 636-394-0009 to register for a workshop or to learn more, or if you would like to learn more about the Elder Care Journey or The 3 Most Important Documents.

 

March is Storm Preparedness month!

Whether you are new to the area or a life long St. Louisan, you know of our horrible tornados and historic flooding.

The important lesson we are reminded of every time is to always be prepared.  Make sure all of your loved ones in your life are prepared for any emergency.

Visit our Resource Center Monday – Friday, 8:30am – 5:00pm for resources on Storm Preparedness and other topics for seniors and our community.

 

December 2013 – MoneyTalk Interview – Caring for your loved ones with dementia during the holiday season

Dana (Vouga) was on Bob Hardcastle’s Money Talk KTRS 550 AM radio show on Sunday, December 7th at 8:00 a.m.  She referred to post from last year on “Caring for your loved ones with dementia during the holiday season.”  Click on “more” to get acess to the Caregiver Stress Test, Activities for Alzheimer’s and Dementia Patients, Talking to People with Dementia, and Conversation Starters for Talking To People With Dementia.

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Alzheimer’s Caregiving Tips: Holiday Hints from National Institute on Aging

Holiday’s can be meaningful, enriching times for both the person with Alzheimer’s disease and his or her family.  Maintaining or adapting family rituals and traditions helps all family members feel a sense of belonging and family identity.  For a person with Alzheimer’s, this link with a familiar past is reassuring.

The tips below can help you and the person with Alzheimer’s visit and reconnect with family, friends, and neighbors during holidays.

Finding the Right Balance

Many caregivers have mixed feelings about the holidays.  They may have happy memories of the past, but they also may worry about the extra demands that holidays make on their time and energy.

Here are some ways to balance doing many holiday-related activities while taking care of your won needs and those of the person with Alzheimer’s disease:

  • Celebrate holidays that are important to you.  Include the person with Alzheimer’s as much as possible.
  • Set your own limits, and be clear about them with others.  You do not have to live up to the expectations of friends or relatives.  Your situation is different now.
  • Involve the person with Alzheimer’s in simple holiday preparations, or have him or her observe your preparations.  Observing you will familiarize him or her with the upcoming festivities.  Participating with you may give the person the pleasure of helping and the fun of anticipating and reminiscing.
  • Encourage family and friends to visit even if it’s difficult.  limit the number of visitors at one time, or have a few people visit quietly with the person in a separate room.
  • Prepare quiet distractions to use, such as a family photo album, if the person with Alzheimer’s becomes upset or overstimulated.
  • Try to avoid situations that may confuse or frustrate the person with Alzheimer’s, such as crowds, changes in routine, and strange places.  Also try to stay away from noise, loud conversations, loud music, lighting that is too bright or too dark, and having too much rich food or drink (especially alcohol).
  • Find time for holiday Activities you like to do.  If you receive invitations to celebrations that the person with Alzheimer’s cannot attend, go yourself.  Ask a friend or family member to spend time with the person while you’re out.

Preparing Guests

Explain to guests that the person with Alzheimer’s disease does not always remember what is expected and acceptable.  Give examples of unusual behaviors that may take place such as incontinence, eating food with fingers, wandering, or hallucinations.

  • If this is the first visit since the person with Alzheimer’s became severely impaired, tell guests that the visit may be painful.  The memory-impaired person may not remember guests’ names or relationships but can still enjoy their company.
  • Explain that memory loss is the result of the disease and is not intentional.
  • Stress that the meaningfulness of the moment together matters more than what the person remembers.

Preparing the Person with Alzheimer’s

Here are some tips to help the person with Alzheimer’s disease get ready for visitors:

  • Begin showing a photo of the guest to the person a week before arrival.  Each day, explain who the visitor is while showing the photo.
  • Arrange a phone call for the person with Alzheimer’s and the visitor.  The call give the visitor an idea of what to expect and gives the person with Alzheimer’s an opportunity to become familiar with the visitor.
  • Keeping the memory-impaired person’s routine as close to normal as possible.
  • During the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, guard against fatigue and find time for adequate rest.

For more caregiving tips and other resources: visit www.nia.nih.gov/alzheimers/topics/caregiving or visit our Resource Center open 8:30-5:00 Monday through Friday.

  Visit our FREE Resources Page to find out more about our Resource Center and directions.

More tips for helping your loved ones with dementia through the holidays

Thank you for tuning into KTRS 550 AM MoneyTalk with Bob Hardcastle and listening to Dana give you valuable tips to help you this holiday season. (If you were unable to hear the live version, click here (and scroll down) to listen to the recorded version after December 16th, 2013)

As promised, here are a few more articles and tips for you!

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Caring for your loved ones with dementia during the holiday season

Dana (Vouga) will be on Bob Hardcastle’s Money Talk KTRS 550 AM radio show on Sunday, December 15th at 8:00 a.m. to discuss “Caring for your loved ones with dementia during the holiday season.”  Here are a few tips for you to look at now, tune in on Sunday to learn more!

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