Avoid These Major Elder Law Planning Mistakes

Increasingly, more people are realizing the benefit of elder law planning and are setting up consultations with elder law attorneys to discuss mitigating their risks. However, there are opportunities for mistakes in this process if you are not knowledgeable about what to do. Looking ahead to the future is not always easy, but you must consider elder care and protecting your assets.

The first and most common failing of elder law planning include not to address all of the comprehensive issues that make up planning for your older years.

Sadly, most people don’t realize what they’ve missed- instead, it’s their family members grappling with problems in the aftermath.

They can include:

  •   Protecting your assets from the cost of long term care while also qualifying for government benefits that exist with that care.
  •   Choosing trusted individuals who are capable of managing your affairs if you are disabled.
  •   Protecting your inheritances for your beneficiaries from lawsuits, creditors and divorces affecting your children.
  •   Transferring your assets to your heirs in the manner that you want, when you want while also avoiding family disputes.

If you are not able to manage your affairs at any point in time, you could become the subject of a guardianship proceeding in which a judge appoints a legal guardian to serve on your behalf.

Taking your future into your own hands and scheduling a consultation with an elder law and estate planning attorney is one way to avoid this problem.

Key Steps for Preventing Elder Abuse

Unfortunately, elder abuse is a pervasive problem not just in Massachusetts but all over the country. Often the elderly, and especially those who are afflicted with severe conditions are unable to protect themselves or even speak up for themselves. This is why it is imperative for friends and family members to understand the signs of elder abuse and neglect.  Eldery home care

Follow these tips below to take a stand against elder abuse:

  • Give a break to a caregiver so that you can check in on your loved one
  • Visit or call an elderly loved one and make sure to ask how he or she is doing
  • Make notes of your visits with your loved one and record any details out of the ordinary
  • Ask for copies of your loved one’s medical records if you believe that signs of the abuse may be filed there
  • Know the signs of elder abuse and neglect so that you can raise concerns to an elder abuse attorney or an elder law attorney if you believe something is out of the ordinary. Understanding the signs of elder abuse and neglect can help stop abuse early on in the process and prevent others from becoming a victim.

Here is a link to the elder abuse hotline for more information- http://www.mass.gov/elders/service-orgs-advocates/protective-services-program.html

Making the decision about how to care for your elderly parents is a challenging one but it is one that must be undertaken with a particular level of care and compassion. Consult with a Massachusetts elder law attorney today to learn more. Noreen Murphy is passionate about helping seniors with their elder law needs. She was recently inducted into the Arlington Elder Abuse Prevention Hall of Fame for her efforts.

For Dementia Patients, Increased Awareness Brings New Dignity

Things are changing on the dementia front, and we might say they’re changing for both the better and the worst. On the one hand, the overall rate of dementia is (according to most projections) rising rather rapidly. On the other, though, scientists are finally starting to make some real headway in their understanding of this terrible disease.

With the growing diagnoses and the more frequent dementia-related headlines in the news, we’re seeing more widespread awareness about dementia than ever before.

Statistical models show that if you don’t already know someone affected by dementia, you probably will within the next few decades (or sooner), unless things change. In other words, the disease is really hitting home for many Americans.Group Of Senior Couples Enjoying Meal Together With Home Help

In a sense, that is encouraging news — history shows us that medical advances often follow a rising tide of cultural awareness.

For today’s dementia patients, this newfound awareness also heralds a more immediate benefit — dignity. New nursing homes are popping up with dementia-specific care programs. Seniors have a growing number of alternative care options, too, like “Dementia Villages,” which are designed to provide a neighborhood-like living environment for those with advanced care needs.

Recently, I came across a story about a pub in Mill Creek, Washington that offers a 90-minute dementia “supper club” every week, designed to offer a good meal and a respectful network of support for dementia patients and their caregivers. “Mac ‘n’ cheese with a side of dignity,” they call it.

Dignity is crucial to the dementia patient’s experience, and it ought to be a paramount objective in every service we seek out for them. It’s always a chief goal in my efforts as a Middlesex County elder law attorney, and I’m pleased to see that people in other lines of business are getting on board with that notion as well.

Old Age Is Never an Identical Experience

Joyful senior stretching his legs in a parkThe New Yorker calls them “the oldest old” — people aged 85 and above. It isn’t exactly a flattering term, but it makes the columnist’s point: most people younger than that age have a hard time grasping what it could possibly be like to be that old.

Popular media relies on two stereotypes: the cantankerous geriatric and the flighty eccentric. New Yorker columnist Ceridwen Dovey recently realized just how powerful those stereotypes are. In trying to create a new novel with an octogenarian protagonist, the author kept slipping into those archetypal modes, quite by accident.

Upon further investigation, though, Dovey discovered that there’s really nothing uniform about old age. It’s a different experience for everyone who goes through it.

Maybe that shouldn’t be a surprise. After all, do any of us ever experience anything in life in exactly the same way? Why should aging be any different?

It isn’t.

In realizing that, we should also note that old age can be a better experience for some people than others. Much of that has to do with how carefully we’ve planned for our latter years. Happiness is often earned by preparation.

One of my passions in life is helping people create a reliable, well-protected future for themselves — right on into old age. That’s what my Middlesex County elder law practice is all about. I’d like to help you make the best of yours. Call me or contact me online to set up an easy, confidential consultation. I’d love to chat.

More People with Mental Illness Are Reaching Old Age

Sadly, it has long been the case that people with severe mental illness — especially schizophrenia and similar conditions — tend to die at much younger ages than those who are not suffering from mental illness. But now that’s starting to change.

The University of Iowa’s Center on Aging reports that more and more people who suffer from severe mental illness are living into old age. That’s largely due to advances in treatment therapy, improved social programs, earlier diagnoses, and an improved focus on tending to these patients’ underlying ailments.

That’s certainly good news. Society’s inability to meet the mentally ill’s needs has been an ongoing source of sadness and tragedy. A documented improvement in their average lifespan, not to mention their quality of life, is very welcome news indeed.

Society will now need to plan to address the needs of a growing elderly population with increased mental illness, though — needs that might differ significantly from those of their younger years.

“It’s a very difficult social problem, and we’ll have to start thinking carefully about how best to meet that need,” Dr. Susan Schultz recently told The Des Moines Register. Dr. Schultz is a geriatric psychiatrist and the director of UoI’s Center on Aging. “It’s a big question that will become more important over time.”

Family members will need to do some thinking and planning too, as will the mental health patients themselves. Long-term care costs are already expensive as it is. Coupled with additional psychological and/or psychiatric care, those costs could become overwhelming. Proactive planning can help.

If you or a loved one suffers from mental illness, now might be a good time to begin thinking about your options for paying for long-term care. Figuring out those solutions isn’t always easy, but they are absolutely attainable — and I’m here to help. I invite you to give my office a call so we can talk more about your options.


Wine & Dine at Age 89? Why Not?

The assisted living industry is out to make a new name for itself, or at least certain parts of it are. As seniors live longer lives, they’re increasingly interested in finding better places to enjoy their time. For many, the conventional nursing home just doesn’t cut it, and the market is becoming ever more aware of that fact.

I recently came across an English-language article in a Finnish newspaper, and it reveals some of the fascinating new developments in Finland’s senior care.

A slew of new retirement homes are opening there, each designed to cater to popular pastimes or specific hobbies. One home emphasizes gardening, for instance, and its residents spend much of their day outdoors. Others, meanwhile, focus on providing fancy four-course dinners and excellent glasses of wine every night.

There are even “old-age homes,” as they call them, that specialize in environmentalism, cultural media, and sports! Those options have apparently proven quite popular there, though the more diverse selections are largely confined to Helsinki and other big cities.

Cost is a major concern, too. Even by-the-book senior care is expensive, so more specialized services like these come with a considerable upcharge. That makes them an option only for the wealthy or those who’ve planned prudently and well in advance.

Stateside, we’ve started to see specialization and innovation in our own senior care industry as well, though perhaps not yet quite so creative as the Finns. As the pendulum continues to swing in that direction, we’ll probably see much more specialization in the years to come. Of course, cost will be an all-important factor for America’s seniors, too.

If you’re peering down the road into your own future and think that a different kind of “old-age home” might be right for you, the time to start planning is now. One of my primary focuses is helping people employ sensible strategies for saving and utilizing all the available resources out there to secure their futures in advance. Give me a call to talk about what we can do together.

10 Ways Technology Will Change Your Old-Age Experience

The future never quits changing.

I’ve written a lot in recent months about technology’s exciting entry into the fields of elder law and senior care. Each week seems to bring about a brand-new and truly intriguing story.

Now, The Huffington Post has a list of ten new ways that everyday technology could revolutionize the old-age experience during the next decade. I think you’ll find that a number of them seem remarkably plausible, not to mention incredibly exciting:

  • Talking street signs — A lifesaver when eyesight begins to fade!
  • Self-driving cars — They’re already on the way, and they could extend how long seniors are able to safely transport themselves.
  • Virtual doctor’s visits — As the Post says, Skype could revive the old-school “house call.”
  • iMonitoring — Your smartphone and other devices will allow doctors and nurses to remotely monitor your blood pressure, vital signs, and more.
  • E-medicine— Just as banking, buying, and communication have all gone digital, experts predict that medical records and physician referrals will soon unfold on the web.
  • The Robo-Nurse — Robots are already under development as in-home medical assistants. Those who saw Disney’s smash-hit Big Hero 6 last year may soon have a Baymax all their own!
  • LED integration — Here’s more good news for those with weak eyes… tiny LED lights are being built into smartphones, duffel bags, restaurant menus, and much more.
  • Safety sensors — The fear of falling will be less ominous thanks to new technology that can instantly detect a tumble and alert family members or 911.
  • The “Smart House”— Imagine that your bedroom lights turn on as soon as your feet hit the floor. That’s the kind of fantasy that may become reality in new, high-tech homes. The Post even imagines a day when your refrigerator will tell your television that you left the freezer door ajar.
  • Apps aplenty — As I’ve discussed at some length before, smartphone apps specifically designed for senior citizens are in rapid development. That wasn’t true a couple of years ago, but it’s all the rage now. I think the Post is absolutely right to predict that we could see scores of life-changing apps over the next ten years.

Read the entire HuffPo piece here.

The future couldn’t be much more exciting, and one thing is clear: we have a lot to look forward to! Here in my office, I help people of all ages plan proactively for the many days that wait ahead. If you’d like to learn more about how I can help you secure a comfortable future for yourself, please give my office a call today!

Growing Old Together: What It Looks Like

Growing old together: it’s the dream that drives many couples toward marriage. The idea of two people so in love that they can’t wait to live out forever together is about as lovely an idea as I can think of.Senior couple face to face

Now just imagine that you could fast-forward to the future with your significant other in the blink of an eye. One lucky couple got to do just that.

Just last month, in St. Louis, a young couple was given the chance to see and feel what forever looks like just before they tied the knot. The idea came from The Cut, a popular fashion channel on YouTube, renowned for its incredible work in the hair and makeup department.

The Cut team asked two soon-to-be-marrieds, a young man and woman named Tavis and Kristie, to pose for a little aesthetic enhancement. They proposed to age the two from their current ages (late 20s) to three future milestones in life: ages 50, 70, and 90.

They put the whole thing together in a video, and it just might be the most poignant thing you’ll see all week.

In just under six minutes, we witness Tavis and Kirstie’s transformation before our eyes. At each stage along the way, they react with emotional candor to the changes they see in front of them. It’s incredibly touching to see the couple reflect on what kind of life might have led them there.

Plenty of laughs are shared, but it’s the tears that really reveal how powerful this couple’s love is.

Once they hit their 90s, the two are asked a profoundly personal series of questions, including what their last words to one another might be. With tears in both their eyes (and admittedly mine), Tavis and Kristie say exactly what the other needs to hear — before it’s too late.

We all know that they’re just 20-somethings in wigs and makeup, but for a brief shining second, the two become the age they see.

Then Kristie brings us back to reality when she mentions, “We should write these down because we’re writing our own vows.” And just like that, we suddenly remember that they aren’t even married. Still, we somehow feel that we lived a whole life with them.

Watching the video, I’m truly reminded how beautiful a thing aging really is. Whether with a companion or on our own, we all deserve a full and meaningful life in each of the years ahead. I’m proud to play a part in securing that kind of future for so many of my clients, and I hope that this video inspires some joyful reflection for many of you too. Watch it here.

Rules Governing Care Of Dementia Patients In Massachusetts Amended

Workers in nursing home dementia care units will now have to receive eight hours of initial training plus four hours of additional training every year, according to rules recently adopted by state regulators. The new regulations also require such facilities to have, at the very least, one therapeutic activities director. The therapeutic activities director is responsible for ensuring residents in the dementia unit are provided with appropriate and meaningful activities.

Dad at Diamond Ridge Healthcare Center (Novemb...

(Photo credit: cseeman)

These new regulations close a legal loophole that permitted nursing homes to advertise their dementia units without actually providing workers with specific training or residents with specialized activities. The regulations were finalized by the Public Health Council, an appointed body of health advocates and academics that sets public policy.

Another change that has been under discussion of late is the requirement for a 6-foot fence surrounding outdoor areas, with the goal of preventing residents from wandering away and becoming lost.

However, some nursing home operators objected to this change, arguing that facilities in urban areas might never be able to meet a requirement mandating that residents have access to outdoor space if 6-foot fences were required. Other operators said that fences this high could reduce residents’ enjoyment of the opportunity to be outside in the first place.

The Public Health Council came up with a compromise, requiring that nursing homes with dementia care units must have a “fence or barrier to prevent injury and elopement.”

It is important to note that the new regulations require that all licensed nursing homes, not simply those advertising dementia units, must provide dementia-specific training for every direct-care worker within 180 days.

As a dedicated Massachusetts elder law attorney, I applaud these new regulations and invite you to click on the link below to learn more about them.


Medicare Coverage: Going Home For The Holidays.

This week The Center for Medicare Advocacy  issued a timely reminder: patients in a Nursing Home may leave the facility to enjoy the holidays with family without losing their Medicare coverage. Medicare’s own Policy Manual instructs facilities not to tell patients that if they leave the facility they will lose their coverage.

If a nursing home resident leaves the facility for the day, but returns by midnight, the facility can bill Medicare for that day. If the resident leaves the facility, but does not return by midnight, that day will not be billed to Medicare, and is considered a temporary leave of absence.

The facility is allowed to charge the patient to hold their bed – called a “bed-hold” fee -during a temporary leave of absence. But, the facility must tell the patient ahead of time that they will be charged, tell them the cost of holding their bed, and the patient must elect to make the payment. Most of the time the bed-hold fee is worth paying. If a patient is well enough to leave the facility overnight, it is comforting for families to know their loved one can go back to the same bed, in the same facility, without having to go through any readmission process.

Center for Medicare Advocacy: You Can Leave the Nursing Home: Home for the Holidays (November, 2013)