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 How the New Tax Law Affects Older Adults  

 How the New Tax Law Affects Older Adults

How the New Tax Law Affects Older Adults

Broad takeaways on how the law will affect seniors, plus drilldowns on individual situations such as gig economy workers

Older adults have heard everything from how wonderful the new Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) is going to be for them, to headlines assuring them a trip to tax Armageddon. The answer depends on your own circumstances, but there are ramifications for older adults as a group. Several key provisions of the bill shed light on how seniors will be affected.

First, the positives:

    • Tax Brackets are Mostly Lower. Seniors who have taxable income will still find seven tax brackets, but they are generally a couple of percentage points lower than before. Like most of the tax cuts for individuals, these expire at the end of 2025. Click here for more detail.
    • Deductions Climb. The new standard deduction is $12,000, up from the current $6,350 for single filers. Married couples have a $24,000 deduction, previously $12,700. However, filers can no longer claim a personal exemption of $4,050. The effect is to reduce the number of people filing itemized deductions, since they must meet the higher limit.Importantly, the new tax bill keeps the additional $1,600 deduction for single filers who are over 65 or blind. A married couple who both qualify earns a $2,600 deduction.
    • Deduction for Medical Expenses Stays. The bill retains the Medical Expense Deduction used by almost 5 million taxpayers age 65 and over with high health costs. In addition, it reduces the cutoff from 10 percent to 7.5 percent for the first two years, 2018 and 2019, and grants the 7.5 percent level retroactively to 2017 filers.
    • Gig Economy Members Benefit. If you have a pass-through business such as a sole proprietorship or LLC, the standard income deduction is now 20 percent. This includes Uber drivers, dog sitters, freelancers, and the like. If you don’t already have a side business, now may be a good time to start one. But there are income limits, and the deduction ends after 2025. Check the calculators here to see if you’ll benefit. Businesses can also deduct the cost of appreciable assets purchased before 2023 in one year, instead of amortizing them.
  • Lower Corporate Taxes Should Boost Stocks. The official corporate tax rate has permanently changed from 35 percent to 21 percent, and international corporations have a chance to bring back cash socked away overseas for an even lower amount. While some companies are doling out one-time bonuses to employees, a few are lifting starting wages. If you’re a senior thinking about becoming a greeter at Walmart, for example, you’ll now make $11 an hour.Furthermore, older Americans with retirement accounts invested in the stock market may see their money compounding faster than before if the country’s GDP increases, and earnings follow suit. The tax bill was designed to juice up the third-longest bull market on record. Theoretically, dividends will increase, corporate buybacks will increase scarcity, and stocks will shoot higher.

Now, let’s take a look at the negative effects:

    • Cuts Expire. Most tax cuts for individual filers expire in 2025 (although corporate cuts are permanent). If the cuts are extended in the future, the deficit will rise accordingly.
    • Deductions Climb. The new standard deduction is $12,000, up from the current $6,350 for single filers. Married couples have a $24,000 deduction, previously $12,700. However, filers can no longer claim a personal exemption of $4,050. The effect is to reduce the number of people filing itemized deductions, since they must meet the higher limit.Importantly, the new tax bill keeps the additional $1,600 deduction for single filers who are over 65 or blind. A married couple who both qualify earns a $2,600 deduction.
    • Federal Deficit Increases. The federal deficit is money the government must borrow (and pay interest on) to cover its debts. The nonpartisan scorekeeper Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) estimates that even with increases in economic growth attributable to the tax law, the deficit will increase by $1.1 trillion. Republicans (who currently control Congress) have said that their plan to counteract deficit increases would include cutting programs to make up for it. Medicaid, Medicare, the Older Americans Act (OAA) and Social Security are all on the table. The budget outline passed last fall proposed $1 trillion in cuts to Medicaid and another $473 billion to Medicare, while $800 billion is to come out of non-defense discretionary programs such as the OAA.
    • Cost of Health Insurance Rises.The bill eliminates the Affordable Care Act (ACA) individual mandate, which taxed filers (mostly young and healthy) without health insurance. If you are one of the approximately 3.3 million Americans aged 55-64 who gets their health care under the ACA, you’ll be paying premium hikes of about $1,000 per year. This provision is likely to cause 13 million Americans to lose their health insurance.
    • Program Cuts Likely. Increased deficit and budget sequestration rules, known as PAYGO, mandate budget cuts if the deficit increases. The tax cuts are predicted to cause a deficit increase that would trigger $136 billion in program cuts next year, including $25 billion in Medicare.
    • Tax Bracket Indexing Slows. Every year, the income level in each tax bracket is adjusted for inflation using the Consumer Price Index. The new law will squeeze about $130 billion more out of taxpayers over 10 years by changing how inflation is measured. By using a lower “chained” measurement, taxpayers (especially those in the lower brackets) will find themselves pushed into higher brackets more quickly. A 2013 study by the Tax Policy Center found taxpayers in the second income quintile (those making about $25,000 to $50,000) would see a tax increase of about 0.4 percent after 15 years. Those in the top 0.1 percent of income would see no effective increase at all.Chained indexing may be more accurate than prior measurements, and it’s had bipartisan support in the past. However, it is a regressive tax that is now permanently in the code, and advocates for older adults speculate there is now a smoother path to use it for Social Security cost of living adjustments.
    • Charitable Tax Deductions in Jeopardy. Although the new law keeps charitable tax deductions, the higher per-person standard deduction of $12,000 reduces the number of itemizers who can deduct charitable contributions from 40.7 million to 9.4 million, according to the JCT, and it’s likely some of those $95.8 billion in contributions might fall.In addition, the estate tax exemption is doubled under the new law, escalating from $5.5 million to $11 million per person. Whereas last year Jane Richperson would be incentivized to give away $2 million of her $7.5 million fortune in lieu of paying the government, she now can pass that money down to lucky heirs. This may impact private sponsorship of programs for seniors, such as the art gallery profiled in this month’s Coffee Break, that are fully or partly funded by wealthy donors.Qualified Charitable Distributions (QCD) are still legal, and can be a way for those at least 70 and a half (who must take a Required Minimum Distribution) to distribute up to $100,000 to 501(c)(3) charities without taking a tax hit. The money must flow from an IRA account directly to the charitable organization. Instead of paying ten percent or more if you made the same gift from ordinary income, you can fund that charity completely tax-free. There are strict rules surrounding the donation; check here for specific information.
  • Beer, Wine, Liquor Cheaper. The new law snips taxes on beer, wine, and liquor. What’s wrong with that, you ask? The Brookings Institute found that reduced prices on alcohol correlate directly with increased purchases and a higher death toll.

How the New Tax Law Affects Older Adults

Takeaways:

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act reduces taxes by approximately $1,600 on average this year. But the biggest cuts go to households making between $308,000 and $733,000, an analysis by the Tax Policy Center found. Middle income households can expect an average $900 cut, while lower earners will see less. Older Americans looking for work should benefit from new jobs it’s hoped will be created from company tax savings.

High income households benefit primarily from five of the law’s changes. Wealthy households are the most likely to own stock, and thus reap greater market returns on their investments that corporate tax cuts are expected to generate. A more generous alternative minimum tax allows them to keep more of their earnings, and the 20 percent income deduction for pass-through businesses is most beneficial to larger entities. The decreased rate of the maximum tax bracket and doubling of the estate tax exemption only benefit high earners.

In fact, the top one percent of households will put a cool $50,000 or more into their pockets, while middle earners can pay for a couple months’ worth of groceries. And in 2025 when the individual tax cuts expire, it’s only the wealthy who will still benefit from the plan.

What does this mean for America’s seniors? The median income (half above and half below) from all sources for people age 65 and above was $35,107 in 2011. That amount is less than half the median income of Americans aged 45 to 64, an analysis of the 2011 U.S. Census Bureau data by Interest.com found. Nearly a quarter of older married couples and almost half of single seniors relied on social security for 90 percent or more of their income in 2017, according to the Social Security Administration.

These individuals pay little or nothing in income tax, so why are groups representing older adults, like the AARP, up in arms over the new law? First, they criticize the temporary nature of individual tax cuts. Second, the changing inflation index gets a thumbs-down. Third, there are worries that seniors in high-tax states will be hurt by capped deductions. But these pale in comparison to what may be the law’s greatest impacts on health insurance and government programs.

Advocates for seniors worry that future effects, potentially the most harmful to older adults, will be glossed over by relatively small paycheck increases this year. Their biggest concerns are changes to Medicare and Medicaid that could be triggered by the higher federal deficit, and the erosion of health care coverage and increased premiums resulting from the elimination of the individual mandate.

“The large increase in the deficit will inevitably lead to calls for greater spending cuts, which are likely to include dramatic cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, and other important programs serving older Americans,” according to a letter sent by the AARP to Congress.

These cuts would all be hardest on the most vulnerable population of seniors who make do with social security and little else. Thus, the overarching effect of the new tax law is to transfer wealth from the poor to the affluent. Senior advocacy groups remain vigilant as the effects of the tax law unfold.


Sources

What The GOP Tax Cut Will Mean For Older Adults,” Forbes.

The GOP tax overhaul kept this $1,300 tax break for seniors,” CNBC.

In Updated Charts, What 8 Seniors’ Tax Bills Will Be With Tax Reform,” The Daily Signal.

Why AARP doesn’t like the tax bill,” CNN Money.

Straight Talk for Seniors®: The Final Tax Reform Bill,” NCOA.

TaxVox: Campaigns, Proposals, and Reforms,” Tax Policy Center.

The Big, Permanent Tax Increase Inside the Tax Cut Act,” Bloomberg.

Trump’s Tax Plan and How It Affects You,” The Balance.

The GOP’s Tax Reform Is Great for Gig-Economy Workers,” National Review.

Preliminary Details and Analysis of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act,” Tax Foundation.

Senior Income Statistics,” National Committee to Preserve Social Security & Medicare.

Fact Sheet SOCIAL SECURITY,” The United States Social Security Administration.

Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors
www.csa.us

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

https://vougaelderlaw.com/3577-2/

Warning Signs to Watch for During a Holiday Visit aging parent dementia warning signs noticed at holidays
Infrequent visits can reveal subtle changes in older adults. How can family members or friends tell if it’s something to be worried about? And is it time for a move?

A holiday visit often gives you a chance to spend time with loved ones you haven’t seen in awhile. These happy occasions can provoke worry if family members notice changes that weren’t there the last time they visited. How does someone tell if it’s normal aging, or the beginning of dementia or even Alzheimer’s? Is it time to contact a care professional?

Many of the early signs of dementia and Alzheimer’s overlap. We’ve provided a list of each, with behaviors that are typical in older adults, countered with behaviors that might be found in someone beginning to show signs of disease.

Early Indications of Dementia

It’s hard to diagnose dementia in the beginning stages, because the signs are subtle and vary from person to person. However, common symptoms are:

Reduced ability to concentrate. Anyone can struggle with managing finances. Someone with dementia might not understand what numbers mean or how to use them.

Personality or behavior changes. Anyone can get tired of an activity. Someone with dementia totally loses interest in activities they used to enjoy, or needs prompting to get involved.

Loss of ability to do everyday tasks. Anyone can get distracted and burn a meal. Someone with dementia has trouble remembering all the steps involved in preparing a meal.

Increased confusion and disorientation. Anyone can get lost. Someone with dementia may have difficulty finding their way on a familiar route or be confused about where they are.

Difficulty remembering recent events. Anyone might forget an appointment. Someone with dementia forgets them more often or never remembers making them at all.

Depression or apathy. Anyone can be down or depressed. Someone with dementia may become confused, suspicious, or apathetic, or have wild mood swings.

Loss of language ability. Anyone might forget a word occasionally. Someone with dementia may forget simple words and substitute inappropriate ones, making the person hard to understand.

Poor judgement. Anyone can miscalculate the weather. Someone with dementia can see snow outside without thinking a jacket is needed to go for a walk.

Misplacing objects. Anyone can misplace the car keys. Someone with dementia might forget what the keys are for.

Be aware that many conditions, some of them temporary, can mimic dementia. Don’t think your loved one has dementia when the warning signs may be due to a stroke, depression, infection, nutritional deficiency, hormonal disorder, long-term alcohol overuse or even a brain tumor. Many of these conditions are treatable. Only a doctor can diagnose dementia. An early diagnosis is critical for treatment, support and making plans.

Is It Alzheimer’s Disease?

No one wants to discover that a loved one has Alzheimer’s, a brain disease that slowly degrades memory, thought and reason. But early diagnosis is crucial for treating the disease to get some relief from symptoms and maintain a longer period of independence. Read on for a list of 10 warning signs and symptoms, adapted from the Alzheimer’s Association’s version. A person may experience these signs at varying levels. If you notice any of the signs in a loved one, have them see a doctor for further evaluation.

Five Warning Signs of Abuse or Neglect

As many as 5 million older adults are abused every year, according to the Senate Special Committee on Aging, and yet that abuse remains significantly underreported. Elder abuse often originates with someone in a position of trust, including family members and caregivers. Here are five warning signs to watch out for:

Physical abuse. Look for burns, abrasions, pressure marks and bruises. Does your loved one have a history of sprains, dislocations or even broken bones? Sudden hair or tooth loss can also indicate abuse. Beware of odd explanations such as “She ran into a wall.” Does a caregiver or family member hover, not allowing you to visit alone? Is your loved one taken to many different medical facilities for treatment? All are red flags.

Neglect. If an older adult needs help due to cognitive or physical impairments, check for dirty clothes, soiled diapers, bedsores and unusual weight loss. Is their living environment neat and clean, or has it deteriorated? Are medical aids such as hearing aids, canes and glasses clean and available, or nowhere to be found? The neglect may be intentional, or it could be passive as the result of an untrained or overly burdened caretaker.

Verbal or emotional abuse. Does your loved one seem withdrawn, or exhibit odd behavior like biting or rocking? Are there signs of fear, stress or tension around the caretaker? Does the caretaker snap or yell at the older adult? Is there forced isolation of the older adult by a member of the family or a caretaker? Emotional abuse can be tricky to spot, because it ranges from an insult to an outright verbal attack, and the older adult is often unable to fight back or even recognize the problem. A caregiver may say, “I can’t wait until you die so I get my life back!” or curse. The abuser may also isolate the older adult so no one knows what is happening.

Sexual abuse. Age is no armor against a sexual predator, who may see an older adult as easy prey. Look for bruises around breasts or in the genital area, venereal disease, and vaginal or rectal bleeding. Your loved one may have difficulty walking or standing, and exhibit depression or withdrawal. Be suspicious if the caregiver acts flirty or seems to touch the older adult excessively or intimately when it is not warranted.

Financial abuse. Are there unpaid bills piling up? Has money “disappeared”? Does a caregiver suddenly have an unexplained purchase that seems beyond their means, such as a new car, cell phone or clothing? Does a caregiver take money to make a purchase that never arrives? Has someone new been added to bank accounts or credit cards? Is credit card use increasing? Are cash withdrawals becoming more frequent? Family members and caregivers have the greatest access to older adults’ accounts, and are often in the position of greatest trust to steal from seniors.
If you suspect severe elder abuse, call 911 to report immediate, life-threatening danger. Otherwise, report the abuse to a local adult protective services agency, the police or a long-term care ombudsman. Find a local resource at the National Center on Elder Abuse.

Memory loss that disrupts daily life. Anyone forgets names or appointments, but remembers them later. Someone with Alzheimer’s forgets important dates or events, asks for the same information again and again, and has difficulty remembering recently learned information.

Difficulty solving problems or planning. Anyone makes an error now and then balancing a checkbook. Someone with Alzheimer’s has trouble following a familiar recipe or paying bills.

Confusion of time or place. Anyone might forget what day of the week it is, but be able to figure it out later. People with Alzheimer’s can lose track of seasons or the passing of time, where they are or how they arrived.

Difficulty with spatial cues and visual images. Anyone might have reduced vision due to cataracts or macular degeneration. Someone with Alzheimer’s has vision problems leading to issues reading, judging distance and seeing color contrast, which might lead to difficulty driving.

Problems with written or spoken words. Anyone can struggle to find the right word now and then. Someone with Alzheimer’s struggles with vocabulary, and has trouble following or joining a conversation, repeating what was just said or failing to continue the thread.

Misplacing objects. Anyone can forget where they put something and have to retrace steps to find it. People with Alzheimer’s put things in unusual places, like leaving car keys in the freezer. They may be unable to retrace their steps to relocate an object, or accuse others of stealing it. This behavior typically accelerates over time.

Poor judgment. Anyone can make a crummy decision once in a while. People with Alzheimer’s may use poor judgment with money, giving large sums to people they meet over the phone. They may quit taking care of their appearance and cleanliness.

Withdrawing from work or social occasions. Anyone may feel like being alone sometimes. Someone with Alzheimer’s might quit hobbies, social outings, sports or work activities. This could be because they’ve forgotten how to complete the hobby or because of other changes from the disease.

Mood and personality changes. Anyone can get in a particular pattern and feel irritated when it is disrupted. People with Alzheimer’s can easily be upset at home or work, especially in situations where they don’t feel comfortable. They can become confused, suspicious, fearful, anxious or depressed.

Increasing the Level of Care

Perhaps your concern for your loved one isn’t about cognition at all. You may notice that Grandma prepared a delicious turkey, but she didn’t have the strength to carry it to the table. Maybe her house is dirtier than usual because her eyesight is failing, or she can’t physically sweep like she used to. There are a host of issues you may need to address while you are there or shortly afterward.

Have a conversation with the older adult about what you notice. How does the older adult feel about it? Is Grandma adamant about aging in place, or is she feeling lonely and thinking it might be time for a move to assisted living? Would she like help doing certain tasks around the house, or with errands? Is it time to stop driving?

If you decide to bring in home help, determine if the neighbor down the street would be a good fit, or if you should contact a professional caregiving service that screens and trains all of its employees. Do you simply need a cleaning service, or is your loved one ready for help with meals and shopping? What are her needs likely to be going forward, and is there someone, such as a family member or friend, who can help you assess them? Do you need to talk to her doctor to review medications and recommend changes in Grandma’s home so she can get around more easily?

Homecoming is full of nostalgia. It can be hard to face the point when you realize that your loved ones need your help, especially when they might not be willing to admit it yet. Tread gently and seek their input, then consult with professionals if you need further guidance. Above all, accept the changes with a loving spirit and the most positive attitude you can muster for the challenges ahead.

Sources

“10 Early Signs and Symptoms of Alzheimer’s,” Alzheimer’s Association.

“Dementia – early signs,” Department of Health & Human Services, State Government of Victoria, Australia.

“5 Signs of Elder Abuse,” Caring.com.

Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors
www.csa.us

Warning signs that your aging parents may need more help to stay at home

Warning signs that your aging parents may need more help to stay home.
By Hannah Draeger Ross

Warning signs that your aging parents may need more help to stay home

What Happened to Mom?

Time and obligations have a way of interfering with the best laid plans of family members. Trips to visit an aging parent or relative become more and more infrequent. Many of our parents or grandparents have relocated to states that offer climates more conducive to shoveling sand versus snow. Or adult children have moved to distant states for better jobs or opportunities.

Many of us have limited our travel planning for various reasons, including the difficulty of taking time off from work. Our daily responsibilities often take precedent to seeing aging relatives, and another year’s plans to visit slip away.

Finally, a visit is possible, and the door to their home is opened by a very frail parent.

“What happened to Mom?” is a question I hear quite frequently these days.

“I knew my mother needed a little help around the house, and we did hire an agency to come once in a while to assist with the housekeeping. But I had no idea she had changed so much,” I recently heard a daughter lament.

How do I know about these instances? I operate a senior service designed to offer resources and assistance to families. Many of my clients live hundreds or even thousands of miles away from their parents.

An elderly person may sound great on the phone while hiding health issues. Your loved ones don’t want you to worry about them. They might also be nervous that you will suggest they move into a retirement home. The majority of senior clients I work with want to remain in their own residences.

Or they may be unaware that they need help. Over time, older adults can gradually lose some of their functioning. Their hearing gets worse, they’re more tired, they can’t remember how to turn on the shower or the stove. Slowly, they withdraw from some of life’s daily chores.

When you visit an aging parent, use your senses to evaluate whether your mom or dad needs additional care.

Warning Signs Your Parents Need Help

Watch. Do they dress appropriately for the weather or the season? Does your dad have on a soiled shirt? Is his appearance disheveled? Is he well-groomed? Do his teeth appear clean? Does your mom continue to wear make-up? Is the car dented and dinged? Is the house clean and free of clutter? Is mail all over the counters and tables?

Listen. Can they carry on a general conversation and understand what you are saying? Are they speaking too loudly? Is the television blasting in the background? Do they call you by your name? Do they engage in phone conversations with telemarketers?

Smell. Does the home have an unpleasant odor? Is there outdated or spoiled food in the refrigerator? Is the garbage can overflowing? Is the heat or air-conditioning completely off? Do you smell a litter box or other pet odors?

Touch. Do they look healthy? Do they feel cold to the touch? Is their skin supple and normal in color? Are there any bruises or skin tears? Have they lost weight? Have they gained excessive weight? Has their eyesight failed?

Observe. Are there many medications and pills around? Are there different doctors’ names on pill cases? Has their personality changed? Do you see a big supply of liquor? Are bills marked “past due” or unopened? Is there an abundance of letters from charities or contests, indicating they have been too susceptible to every appeal that comes their way?

Be proactive. If you sense a problem, take action immediately. Discuss the issues you find with your loved ones. Set up doctor appointments and determine what services are needed.

How to Help

Once you have noticed concerning changes in a loved one that may be putting them at risk physically or financially, please think about respectful and practical solutions to help them. Many elder citizens want to live life in their own way and resist changing residence. They would prefer to bring the help they need into their homes rather than move.

Put yourself in their place. Would you want to leave your own home to stay with your kids? Or would you prefer to make renovations to your place to accommodate your changing health and safety issues? Do you enjoy your neighbors and your neighborhood? Is your garden your pride and joy? Do you have a beloved pet that would not be welcomed into assisted living?

Bringing care into the home extends the time your parent can stay in the comfort of their own residence with their memories and their precious belongings around them. Your parents deserve to live their lives to the fullest. Helping them stay in their own home can often provide a less expensive alternative to special-assistance housing. Sometimes, a caregiver simply needs to come by for a few hours a day.

Of course, these solutions for enhancing at-home care are intended to address the natural stages of aging, not dementia. If you suspect that your parent’s behavior points to the cognitive decline associated with dementia then trust your gut. Before you embark on improving their lifestyle at home, where they could be at risk, get your parent to an appropriate doctor for cognitive testing and diagnosis.

How to Change the Home

My senior clients have commented about how much life has improved for them because of the addition of a ramp or bath designed for handicapped use (please make sure proper training is included). Renovating a home for special needs can also prove a wonderful alternative to geriatric housing facilities. We “baby proof” homes for safety, but rarely “senior proof” them on the opposite end of life.

Installing “nanny cams” and proper security when a senior is at risk due to cognitive issues is a smart idea. I have one client who installed this sort of security for her father, along with a phone app, so she can routinely check to make sure he is OK.

It also makes sense to have someone assist with cleaning and cooking to help ensure your parents eat properly in a hygienic home. One of my clients found a retired nurse to move in with her parents. Lucky her! Caregivers can also drive your parents to the doctor, out to lunch or to visit an old friend. Many of my clients have stayed in their homes until the very end because they took advantage of care and services from family members, caregivers and hospice.

Don’t Beat Yourself Up

If you are not able to be your loved one’s primary caregiver, take the proper precautions so that you have peace of mind. For example, make sure the caregiver and any other important people know to call you if needed. Clearly display a list of emergency contacts such as your parents’ or relatives’ financial planners, lawyers and doctors. List the medications they take and their pharmacy’s phone number. When you visit your loved one, get the name and number of one of their close friends or neighbors so that you can check with them if needed.

Finally, stop beating yourself up and schedule time for at least one phone call every week. Mom and Dad already know you have other responsibilities. In the meantime, let’s hear it for this wonderful, stubborn generation of “Golden Agers” who still watch Jeopardy, play cards with friends, sign up for dance lessons and believe that 90 is the new 80!

Author - Hannah Draeger Ross, CSA
– Hannah Draeger Ross, CSA

Hannah Draeger Ross, CSA, is the owner of Elderlinx Senior Services. She has been a geriatric homecare professional for over 15 years and resides in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

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Do Resolutions and Estate Planning go together?

Resolutions and Estate Planning

Resolutions and estate planning are two thing that most people don’t want to think about.  While January is a great time to set resolutions for weight loss, exercising, eating better, and spending more time with your loved ones.  It is also a great time to think about those things which we tend to “put off” like estate planning.

Most people plan for “What happens when I die?”; very few people plan for “What if I don’t die, but become sick and need care for the rest of my life?”   Trust me, no one wakes up and says, “I think I will have a stroke today”.  Being prepared gives you and your family the most options to protect yourself, your family and your assets.

Another consideration is “Have you planned for the cost of incapacity (long term care)?” Do you know CURRENTLY the cost of an average nursing home (Delmar Gardens or Bethesda), is between $7,500 and $8,000 a MONTH???  You don’t have to go broke in a nursing home! Planning now not only saves you and your family thousands and thousands of dollars but also gives you peace of mind.

Did you know that a HIPAA release only allows your family to hear what is going on with you medically, but does not allow anyone to make actual decisions? What you don’t know CAN hurt you!

Make January or February your time to take control of YOUR estate plan. Make you sure you are PREPARED.  Call us today (636-394-0009) to attend a FREE workshop to learn about the above OR to schedule your FREE conference to learn what options YOU have.

Best wishes for a healthy, happy and prosperous 2017!

Resolutions and Estate Planning

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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.

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.

 

National Healthcare Decisions Day

April 16th is National Healthcare Decisions Day

 The goal is to inspire, educate and empower the public and providers about the importance of advance care planning.

Nobody wakes up and says:

“I think I’ll have a stroke today.” 

Don’t get stuck with inadequate documents.  Make sure your Durable Power of Attorney and Health Care Durable Power of Attorney are powerful yet flexible to take care of whatever life throws at you.  Don’t forget we review    Durable Powers of Attorney and Health Care Durable Powers of Attorney for FREE! Call us to schedule an appointment to have your documents reviewed.

 

January Resolutions

January is a great time to set resolutions for weight loss, exercising and eating better, and spending more time with your loved ones.  It is also a great time to think about those things which we tend to “put off” like estate planning.

No one wakes up and says, “I think I will have a heart attack and die today.”  Or “I think I will have a stroke today and need care for the rest of my life.”

Being prepared gives you and your family the most options to protect yourself, your family and your assets.  Make January or February your time to take control of YOUR estate plan. Make you sure you are PREPARED.

Call today 636-394-0009 to attend on of our FREE Workshops on February 18th at 10:00 a.m. or February 23rd at 6:30 p.m. or you can view all of our upcoming workshops and sign up through our Events page.

Happy Rubber Ducky Day!

Today is National Rubber Ducky Day! In 1970, Jim Henson performed the song “Rubber Duckie” as Ernie on Sesame Street, and the rubber duck bath toy has been an iconic American symbol ever since. Rubber ducks have been around since the rise of the rubber industry in the late 1800s, but no one knows their exact origin.

Did you know that in January of 1992, a shipment of 29,000 rubber duckies fell off a cargo ship in the Pacific Ocean? By 2007, the “Friendly Floatees” had traveled 17,000 miles around the world on the ocean currents. Some are still afloat today! Over the years, people reported sightings in Indonesia, Australia, South America, the Bering Straight, the Arctic, and (eventually) the Atlantic Ocean.

Happy Rubber Ducky Day!