Is Bipolar Disorder a Disability According to the SSA?

Woman sits on couch looking depressed while someone talks to her.According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), approximately 4.4 percent of adults experience bipolar disorder during their lives.

Individuals with certain disabilities may be able to secure disability benefits through the Social Security Administration (SSA). If you or a loved one have bipolar disorder, you may wonder whether the SSA considers bipolar disorder a disability.

Depending on the severity of the illness, the SSA may consider mental health illnesses such as bipolar disorder a qualifying disability. The law firm Atticus reports that , in 2020,13 percent of people receiving disability benefits qualified based on mental health issues. Five percent of these individuals had bipolar disorder or a similar condition.

What Is Bipolar Disorder?

Formerly known as manic depressive disorder, bipolar disorder involves extreme mood swings. Highs can entail various levels of mania, and lows can bring depressive episodes.

When someone experiences mania, they may feel euphoric, creative, and talkative. Highly energetic, they may have trouble sleeping and may also show poor decision-making ability.

During the lows of the disorder, individuals may feel sad or hopeless, lose interest in things they typically enjoy, and have trouble concentrating and completing tasks.

Types of Bipolar Disorder

There are four different types of bipolar, Healthline reports:

  • Bipolar 1 – Mania is more intense with Bipolar 1, while depression is less severe. Some patients may not experience depression.
  • Bipolar 2 – Individuals with Bipolar 2 experience a less severe form of mania and episodes of depression.
  • Cyclothymic disorder – The ups and downs of this form of bipolar disorder are less intense than in Bipolar 1 or 2.
  • Other specified and unspecified bipolar disorders – Individuals with these disorders may still experience highs and lows in mood.

Popular culture often depicts those with bipolar disorder as highly creative artists. Yet this type of mental illness can nonetheless be devastating.

According to the NIMH, those with bipolar disorder experience the highest levels of severe impairment among people with mood disorders. Having bipolar disorder can make it difficult for someone to regulate their mood. Fluctuating moods can complicate relationships, making keeping long-term relationships difficult. Changes in productivity and interest in working can also make maintaining employment challenging.

The National Alliance on Mental Health states that the average age of onset for bipolar disorder is 25. This illness can also occur in adolescents and even children as well.

Treatment of Bipolar Disorder

Treatment options may consist of a combination of medication and cognitive behavioral therapy. Health care providers often also recommend learning strategies for self-managing bipolar disorder. These could include keeping to a stable routine and learning how to recognize one’s triggers. Maintaining a strong network of loved ones for support and living healthfully can also prove helpful.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration offers a free hotline available 24-7 for those coping with mental health disorders such as bipolar disorder. Call 1-800-662-HELP to obtain referrals to treatment centers and support groups near you. This national service is confidential and available as in English as well as Spanish.

Is Bipolar a Disability Under the SSA’s Definition?

As having bipolar disorder can cause day-to-day challenges, individuals with this illness may qualify for disability benefits.

Eligible individuals who meet the SSA’s definition of disability may receive one, or both, of the following types of public benefits:

  • Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). SSDI provides monetary assistance to workers who can no longer participate in the workforce because of a disability. They must have a work history and had to have paid into Social Security to qualify for these benefits. (Individuals who became disabled before age 22 may be able to qualify for SSDI based on a parent’s work record.)
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI). SSI gives financial support to those with very limited income and resources, including children and adults with disabilities.

The SSA administers both programs, and the medical requirements are the same. However, these programs do differ in three important ways. They do not have the same financial requirements, offer access to the same health benefits, or provide the same monthly payments.

Disability Definition

To receive SSI or SSDI for a disability, you first have to meet the SSA’s definition of disability. You must have a medically determinable physical or mental impairment that prevents you from engaging in any substantial gainful activity. (The SSA considers “substantial” activity any type of work that requires significant physical or mental activity, or both. “Gainful” activity is work generally performed for pay.)

Your disability must also:

  • be terminal,
  • have lasted for at least a year, or
  • be likely to last at least a year.

Since the illness must be severe enough to prevent you from working, not all with bipolar disorder can obtain benefits.

Applying for Disability Benefits

To receive benefits, you must prove that your bipolar disorder qualifies as a disability. This entails the following:

  • Submitting information about health care providers, doctors, hospitals, and clinics
  • Providing your job history

For your application to succeed, it should establish that your bipolar disorder severely limits your mental functioning and ability to work. It must also show that your illness is long-term. Even though the Americans With Disabilities Act recognizes bipolar disorder as a disability, the SSA may not.

Contact our Ruston, LA office by calling us at (318) 255-1760 today and schedule an appointment to discuss how we can help you with your planning.

Take a Moment Before Signing a Nursing Home Contract

In the scenario where your parent is no longer capable of making decisions, dressing, or eating independently and requires nursing home care. You are stressed and anxious. The nursing home puts a twenty-page contract in front of you. You wish you could flip straight to the last page and sign just to get it over with.

Don’t do it. You could be agreeing to pay thousands of dollars out of your own pocket for your loved one’s care.

Try to get your parent admitted, and before you sign the contract, bring it to an elder law attorney for review and guidance. Once your loved one has moved in, they can’t be evicted just because you want to negotiate the contract. Elder law attorneys look for wording that may not be compliant with state laws or is misleading in some way. Nursing homes want to get paid and may be deliberately vague about financial responsibility.

If you don’t have an elder law attorney, sit down and take a few deep breaths. Read the contract carefully and make a list of questions for a facility representative to answer. Ideally, that person would go through the document with you. Don’t sign until you understand.

Things to Watch Out for in a Nursing Home Contract

A nursing home should not ask you to use your own money to pay for a loved one’s care

Do not sign the contract if it requires you to pay with your own money. Carefully scrutinize any language referring to you as the responsible party, resident representative, or agent.

More language to look out for includes:

  • Co-signor
  • Guarantor
  • Personally guarantee
  • Personally liable
  • Private-pay guarantor
  • Surety
  • Individual capacity

Words like these obligate you, personally, to pay if your loved one doesn’t have the money. Don’t sign if you see something like this: “If the resident does not or cannot pay, I will pay the amount owed for residency charges, services, equipment, supplies, medication, and other charges.” The nursing home can ask you to agree – and you can refuse.

Understand that the facility can legally require you to pay nursing home bills for your loved one if you hold financial power of attorney or are a guardian. However, you are required to spend their money on their care.

When Your Loved One Runs Out of Money to Pay for Care

If your loved one lacks the money, the next step is to apply for Medicaid assistance, not dig into your own pocket. Reach out to an elder law attorney for assistance, as the eligibility requirements and application process can be a bit complex. It will be worth it to have the benefits processed quickly so they can begin sooner.

Everyone in need has the right to apply for Medicaid

The nursing home contract must not require your parent to waive their right to seek government assistance like Medicare or Medicaid, nor can it ask either of you to sign any statement that your loved one is ineligible for benefits.

If your loved one has no money to pay for care, a Medicaid application will be required. The contract may seek your permission to apply for Medicaid for you. You have the right to decline that option and seek an elder law attorney you trust to help you apply instead. Some facilities mishandle Medicaid applications, resulting in an incorrect denial of benefits and lengthy appeal process.

The Medicaid application process begins with providing all financial and medical records necessary for your loved one’s application.

Once eligible for Medicaid, Medicaid pays

If your loved one qualifies for Medicaid, the nursing home must not require an additional payment over and above the Medicaid amount determined by your state.

The nursing home must not demand that your loved one receive additional services not covered by Medicaid and evict your loved one if they decline those services. The facility should ask, in advance, whether those services are desired at a specified additional cost.

Other Considerations in a Nursing Home Contract

  • The nursing home must not require additional donations to a charity as a condition of admittance.
  • Do not agree to arbitration. If you agree, you will be giving up your right to a jury trial if a dispute arises.
  • Understand the nursing home is obligated to protect your parent’s property during their stay. However, use good judgment to safeguard valuable property by keeping it elsewhere.
  • Cross out provisions in the contract that you decline, and put your initials by the strike-outs. Also, be sure to sign the contract only as your parent’s agent. Your signature should read: “[Parent name], by [your name], power of attorney, guardian, or agent.”

To be fair to nursing homes, they are entitled to be paid, and they often have difficulty collecting legitimate debts. Facilities are forbidden from suing to take a resident’s Social Security or pension income. They must comply with strict federal consumer protection restrictions. Despite these payment hurdles, they must still protect frail and vulnerable people from all manner of harm. They also suffer public hostility, thanks to the misconduct of some bad actors.

Our elder law firm always urges cooperation with nursing home personnel if possible because their job is a difficult one. However, you and your family have the right to be protected from bad actors and confusing contract language. No matter how reputable the facility is, consulting our elder law attorneys before you sign an admission contract makes sense and avoids difficulty later.

Contact our Ruston, LA office by calling us at (318) 255-1760 today and schedule an appointment to discuss how we can help you with your planning.

Reevaluating Your Retirement Investments: 5 Compelling Reasons

To ensure a comfortable retirement, it’s essential to reconsider your financial retirement portfolio. While you might have accumulated a substantial nest egg in a 401(k) plan, withdrawing money from it comes with significant tax planning considerations. In the early stages of a 401(k), employers match your contribution to the plan. Contributions come out of your paycheck before calculating taxes and compound every year. When you retire, however, the tax impact of a 401(k), 403(b), or traditional IRA can become significant.

Retiring at a Higher Tax Bracket

You have probably been told you’ll be in a lower tax bracket at retirement. However, many people experience the opposite. Your tax rate is expected to increase if you maintain the same standard of living, requiring the same amount of income and tax rate. With your children grown and the house paid off, substantial tax deductions are gone, which may push you into a higher tax bracket. You will pay taxes on withdrawals from your contribution plan(s) annually, whether the money comes from dividends, capital gains, or your contributions. That money will be taxed at your income tax rate at the time of withdrawal. Currently, the top marginal income tax rate is 37 percent, and considering the US deficit, that tax rate could increase in time.

Double Taxation

Unless you have a Roth IRA, distributions from your retirement plans count against you when calculating what percentage of your Social Security is subject to tax. The result is paying more taxes on your retirement plan distributions and Social Security income. You also pay more taxes from capital gains, dividends, and interest from your investments.

Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs)

It can be frustrating and expensive if you neglect to make your minimum required distributions. You must withdraw funds from your retirement fund accounts when the IRS deems it necessary. Even if you want to leave the money in the account, as of 2023, the IRS will schedule your withdrawals when you reach age 73. There are stiff penalties for not taking out the required minimum distribution. You may pay an additional 25 percent tax. If you correct the shortfall during a two-year window, it could reduce to 10 percent.

Leaving a 401(k) or IRA to a Spouse

If you’re married, a 401(k) or IRA is the worst account to leave to your surviving spouse. No one wants to die without leaving their spouse financially secure, but these two financial vehicles are fully taxable accounts. Upon your passing, your spouse changes their tax filing status from married filing jointly to single. That takes their tax obligation from the lowest to the highest bracket — probably not exactly what you had in mind.

Both your 401(k) and IRA plans are subject to tax law changes. Every time Congress convenes a session, there is the possibility that increases in taxes on your retirement plans can occur. It’s highly unlikely that your taxes won’t increase. The US debt continues to grow at an alarming rate, and tax increases are used to gain some level of financial control.

Get together with a tax planner to identify ways to move your retirement funds into better financial retirement vehicles. Sometimes conversion can cost a bit of money upfront, but in the long run, you’ll be far better off with regard to your retirement tax obligations.

Contact an Estate Planning or Elder Law Attorney

Connect your tax planner with your estate planning attorney. Retirement and tax planning are heavily tied to money and property being managed, preserved, and eventually distributed to your heirs. Our estate planning and elder law attorneys look at changing tax laws and retirement goals to maximize your family legacy. We also discuss preparing for potential long-term care expenses and how they could affect your retirement income. Costs for health care services continue to rise, and you don’t want to lose significant income to medical emergencies.

Contact our Ruston, LA office by calling us at (318) 255-1760 today and schedule an appointment to discuss how we can help you with your planning.

A Changing Landscape for Memory Care

There are many opportunities for specialized facilities offering memory care. The number of adults with cognitive impairments is increasing, but the number of caregivers is decreasing, which requires more innovative solutions. While some facilities are stand-alone solutions for memory care patients, others offer care integrated into existing assisted living or nursing home facilities.

Innovative Changes

Recent changes to memory care needs include inventive settings that are vastly different than existing dementia support floors and secure units. New care settings use the latest research and understanding of cognitive impairment to provide the best possible environment and services. There will be many more options to choose from in the near future. The small house model has become increasingly popular. It’s an intimate setting within existing nursing communities consisting of 10 enclosed, secure units designed for couples facing memory challenges. A small-scale affordable housing model, partially funded by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), is typically available to low-income seniors. Design elements include:

  • High visibility of features so patients can see the toilet from the bed, the kitchen from the living room, the activity space from the dining room, etc.
  • Discreet security measures like disguised doors to prevent exit-seeking behavior and decorative fencing to provide a secure environment.
  • Separate bedroom suites furnished with the patient’s own belongings.
  • Time-appropriate bright lighting during awake hours and dimmer lighting in the evening.
  • Accessible outdoor space to enjoy nature and walk and wander safely.

Those seniors who can afford private pay for their memory care can live in an assisted living facility designed like a neighborhood from an earlier time. Often, dementia patients readily recall memories from long ago, and these centers look like a community replete with porches, rocking chairs, carpet that mimics grass, and fiber optic ceilings that allows transitional lighting, creating a sense of the day and night sky. Other elements, like aromatherapy, calm residents or stimulate their appetite depending on the selection of oils integrated into the therapy. All these elements help reduce anger, anxiety, and depression, which are hallmarks of seniors who suffer from dementia illnesses.

Full Continuum Care with Geriatric Psychiatry

Memory care is improving to meet the increasing number of residents. Many facilities are tapping into the expertise of geriatric psychiatry. Geropsychiatry, psychogeriatrics, or psychiatry for older adults is a subspecialty of psychiatry dealing with the study, prevention, and treatment of mental disorders in seniors. This field of study can enhance a memory care facility and improve the problems of anger, depression, and anxiety with medical components that address dementia. The techniques use a person-centered approach that fosters autonomy, develops empathy with residents, and even focuses on humor to help alleviate stress and increase quality of life.

Certified Memory Care Professionals

Professional caregivers offer specialized care to patients with dementia. Formal memory care education will become a more commonplace accreditation as the number of patients increases. Rather than a certified nursing assistant (CNA), dementia patients will be tended to more frequently by certified dementia care nursing assistants (CDNAs). This change in credentialing is driven by rising consumer expectations and tighter regulations that govern memory care.

Slowing the Progression of Dementia

Dementia is more prevalent than ever before, and so is the understanding that the disease has a long preclinical phase. Intervention and healthy lifestyle modification can delay the clinical dementia phase. Physical activity, social engagement, and brain fitness through smart devices and computer applications are excellent cognitive compensation strategies that protect executive brain function, particularly in the preclinical phase of the disease. Cutting-edge technology can also help seniors compensate for memory loss, allowing them to remain at home longer. It also enables senior facility operators to refine their services with fewer staff.

Wearable cameras with artificial intelligence (AI) facial recognition capabilities can provide a patient with the name of the person approaching them. AI can also help a senior’s cognitive load, helping them stay informed regarding daily decisions. New software applications are making it easier for memory care patients to use video, audio, and sensory technologies that provide predictive analytics to caregivers to detect depression and receive alerts indicating a patient is having a bad day or at an increased risk of falling due to a change in gait.

Do you or your loved one have a plan in place in the event you become a memory care patient? Are you aware of the changing options available for living arrangements? Contact our Ruston, LA office by calling us at (318) 255-1760 today and schedule an appointment to discuss how we can help you with your planning.

Elder Law Attorneys and End-of-Life Planning

End-of-life planning can be a difficult topic to talk about and even harder to plan for. But it is an important part of estate planning and a gift to your family. No one wants their family to have to make emergency medical decisions for them without knowing what they want.

People who become incapacitated or die without proper end-of-life planning leave many loose ends for their family members to tie up. This often involves going through long, sometimes expensive, court proceedings to either become a guardian for an incapacitated loved one or move their estate through the probate process after death.

Planning well in advance for death and potential incapacity makes both situations easier for your family and gives you more peace of mind knowing that your wishes will be carried out. Everyone’s situation is unique, so it’s best to work with an estate planning attorney or elder law attorney who can help you tailor an estate plan to meet your specific needs. Below are some of the most common documents and parts of an estate plan.

Last Will and Testament

A last will and testament, or simply a will, is a key component of any estate plan. In your will, you can specify whom you want to receive what you own after you die. You can be as general or as specific as you want, but the clearer you are, the less confusion there will be.

You also use your will to name an executor, also known as a personal representative, to manage and dispose of your estate after you have passed away. If you have minor children, you can use your will to choose a guardian for them if you are unable to care for them.

Even though most people consider their pets family members, they are considered property under the law, and the courts treat them as property. In your will, you can name a caregiver for your pets and choose their next home.


There are many types of trusts for many different purposes. One of the most common types is a revocable living trust. This type of trust can be changed while you are alive but becomes irrevocable and can’t be changed once you pass away.

With an irrevocable trust, once you put your assets into it, you relinquish ownership of those assets. This can be useful for qualifying for government benefits, such as Medicaid.

Some pet owners create pet trusts for pets with long lifespans or those that are expensive to care for. In a pet trust, you can name a trustee or a caregiver for the pet and fund the trust with money to help with their care.

Durable Financial Power of Attorney

A durable financial power of attorney (POA) is an important document used to name a trusted person to be your financial agent. They are authorized to handle your finances if you are alive but unable to make decisions. You may be injured, ill, or out of the country.

Health Care Power of Attorney

In a health care power of attorney (POA), you name a health care agent to make decisions on your behalf regarding your medical care. This can be the same person you choose as your financial agent or someone different. Make sure the person you name is willing and able to carry out your health care wishes regardless of their own views and beliefs.

Living Will

A living will expresses your wishes regarding the types of medical treatments you want and don’t want if you can’t communicate your wishes. This document is often combined with a health care POA. A living will guides your health care agent when making medical decisions for you.

Memorial Instructions

Memorial, or funeral, instructions are not legally binding documents, but they can be helpful for your family as they make arrangements after your passing. Some people give specific instructions, while others leave most of the decisions to their family members. You can appoint a person to be the primary decision maker.

In your memorial instructions, you can specify what type of service you want, whether you prefer to have your remains buried or cremated, and you can share your choice of resting place. You can write your own obituary or list some things you want in it.

Instructions for Digital Assets

Most people have a variety of digital accounts, including bank accounts, subscriptions, and email addresses. To make it easier for your executor, trustee, or agent to access your accounts, store your account information, including usernames and passwords, in a safe place. Tell them where you keep this information so they can find it.

Starting Your End-of-Life Planning

Working with an estate planning attorney for end-of-life planning ensures your documents meet your state’s current laws and will be followed by your agents and medical professionals. After you have completed your end-of-life planning, review your plan every few years to make sure it still reflects your wishes. Life circumstances may change and affect the decisions you made.

Contact our Ruston, LA office by calling us at (318) 255-1760 today and schedule an appointment to discuss how we can help you with your planning.

The Job of Family Caregiving

Instead of paying someone else or transferring a senior loved one to a facility, wouldn’t it be much better if a family member gave them care at home? The family member can pay the bills, balance the checkbook, keep the house clean, shop and make meals, and take their aging parent on outings and to the doctor. The senior stays in familiar surroundings getting the care and attention they need, and the family member can even be paid, so they don’t give away their time and labor for free.

What Should Be Simple May Require Legal Guidance

The daughter, Jessica, quit her job to care for Ellen, her mother. But when Ellen fell and needed nursing-home care, the caregiving arrangement cost them nearly $70,000.00 in lost Medicaid benefits. This led to litigation.

The court was sympathetic but was still unable to help. The judge understood that Ellen might as well pay Jessica rather than a third party to provide companion services, especially because she is a member of the family and had Ellen’s best interests in mind. Nevertheless, the court ruled that Jessica failed to document her hours and services with a contract as the law requires. Without that proof, the court found that Jessica should have returned to work instead, where she would have earned more and could afford to hire an agency. Without the required proof, it appeared that mother and daughter had entered into the caregiving arrangement only to give money to Jessica.

Medicaid has Strict Rules Regarding Paid Caregiving Arrangements

The Medicaid rules penalize people for gift-giving, even in a case like Ellen’s. Money or property must not be given away during a five-year lookback period prior to the need for long-term care services. By breaking this rule, Ellen no longer had Medicaid benefits to pay for the extremely high cost of nursing home care.

Other Complications in Family Caregiver Situations

Even if Jessica had treated caregiving like any other job, and if she had documented her work as the law requires with a signed caregiver contract specifying working hours and services provided, and logged her hours as the law also requires – payment under a caregiver agreement must also be reported to the IRS for income tax purposes, or risk stiff penalties.

There is also a risk that a caregiver could be injured on the job. Worker’s compensation insurance would be a good idea.

Consulting and Elder Law Attorney

How a family caregiver is paid is important. It may not be possible for them to receive a lump sum of money; instead, an hourly payment arrangement is required. The hourly rate must match the type of care being provided and the experience level of the caregiver.

A family caregiving arrangement can work under the following circumstances:

  • The caregiver must be capable of the hard work involved
  • They must be properly contracted with hours logged and documented
  • Taxes on the compensation must be properly paid

If your family member treats caregiving like any other employer-employee relationship, the arrangement can be rewarding. But the record-keeping and documentation can be tricky, and mistakes can be very expensive.

To benefit from family caregiving without financial penalties, please contact our elder law attorneys for help. Our law firm is dedicated to keeping you informed of issues that affect seniors who may be experiencing declining health. We help you and your loved ones prepare for potential long-term medical expenses and the need to transition to in-home care, assisted living care, or nursing home care.

This article offers a summary of aspects of elder law. It is not legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. For legal advice, contact our Ruston, LA office by calling us at (318) 255-1760.

How Do Estate Planning and Elder Law Differ?

Although elder law and estate planning are both concerned with aging issues, elder law focuses mainly on issues that seniors face as they grow older.

How Estate Planning and Elder Law are Similar

No matter what stage of life we’re in, we face challenges. Hope for the best, but plan for the worst. We can get into accidents, especially when we’re young and under the impression that we’ll live forever. If you were incapacitated, who would you want to speak for you? Who would you trust to pay the bills or make medical decisions?

Both estate planning and elder law attorneys help you choose the right people to stand in your shoes when you can’t speak for yourself.

As adults, we start families, buy property, and accumulate valuable and sentimental items. If we’re thinking realistically, we want to ensure our families are taken care of and receive our property should something happen to us.

Both estate planning and elder law attorneys help you answer tough questions. Both attorneys also know how to protect your estate from tax burdens and avoid the expense and delay of court proceedings, such as probate and guardianship.

Elder Law Becomes Crucial in Later Stages of Life

Elder law expertise becomes crucial when we get older. We’re living longer, healthier lives – but nobody knows when we, or those we love, will get too sick to make decisions or live independently.

You may want to postpone thinking about these things, but delay or denial about incapacitation or declining health can mean that your entire savings gets wiped out paying for nursing home care. Misconceptions about government benefits, like Medicaid, can prevent you from seeking benefits, cause disqualification, or delays that leave you paying thousands of dollars a month for care out of pocket.

Senior business owners who are retiring need a succession plan for a smooth and profitable transition from their business. Older adults and their families have a quality of life to protect. Many want to stay in their homes as long as possible but must prepare for a time when skilled nursing facility care becomes necessary. Elder law attorneys help seniors allocate financial resources to protect against as many potential problems as possible. That includes preserving your home and savings for a spouse or future generations.

Reasons to Find an Elder Law Attorney

Elder law attorneys create custom estate plans with senior issues in mind. They can help you answer difficult questions and find the right solutions for your family by keeping their best interests at heart. Preparing for the future reduces stress and anxiety in an emergency. Your family will know your wishes and can make decisions for you when you need their help. Part of your plan to pay for long-term care includes how to use Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, or retirement benefits.

Evaluating financial resources and determining eligibility for government benefits is complex and requires knowledge and experience to navigate the process successfully. Elder law attorneys use legal strategies to maximize your resources and will work with your financial advisor to align estate planning strategies with overall financial goals.

Our elder law attorneys want you to enjoy your life and independence for as long possible. And when life becomes harder with age, you’ll have something left over for your legacy. We are dedicated to keeping you informed of issues that affect seniors who may be experiencing declining health. We help you and your loved ones prepare for potential long-term medical expenses and the need to transition to in-home, assisted living, or nursing home care.

This article offers a summary of aspects of estate planning and elder law. It is not legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. For legal advice, contact our Ruston, LA office by calling us at (318) 255-1760.

The Simple Things You Can Do To Live Longer

The Simple Things You Can Do To Live Longer

With advances in medicine, technology, and life science, we are now living longer, on average, than previous generations. But simply living a longer life should not be the goal. Maintaining a healthy quality of life should be. After all, who wants to live a long life filled with sickness and ailments?

The earlier you adopt a healthy lifestyle, the better your chance of living a long, healthy life. Here are some simple things you can do to improve your lifestyle.


If you are not a smoker or tobacco user, that’s good. Make sure you don’t become one. Avoid breathing second-hand smoke whenever possible. If you are a smoker, find a way to quit. Try nicotine patches, gum, or hypnotherapy. Figure out what works for you and do it. Breath is life, and keeping your respiratory system healthy increases your lifespan.


Exercising for 30 minutes each day is imperative for longevity. The best and easiest daily exercise is walking. If you are out of shape and 30 minutes of exercise every day seems unachievable, then start with 10 minutes. As your stamina improves, increase your exercise time to 20 minutes each day. As you build up to 30 minutes of daily exercise, make sure your pace is moderate to vigorous.

Try making a routine of walking every morning. Walking will help you lose weight and gain muscle. Adding other exercises to your routine, such as swimming and weightlifting, will help you create a well-rounded exercise regimen. Joining a class can be helpful since classes are at set times, which can help you establish a routine. Talk with your doctor before starting a new exercise regimen.

Healthy Diet

We all know that a healthy diet plays a significant role in living a long, healthy life. There are many books and articles about which diet is the best. The best diet for you, though, is a healthy diet you can achieve and maintain. Talking with your doctor will help you choose a healthy diet that works for you.

When shopping for food at your local supermarket, keep in mind that healthier foods are generally found around the outskirts of the store. You will find fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meats, and dairy products there. The inside aisles of supermarkets are stocked with food products, not real food. Most of these food products are so over-processed and full of chemicals that they are unhealthy.


Consuming alcohol in moderate amounts is not considered an unhealthy practice. Moderate amounts of alcohol are described as two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women. If you habitually consume more than a moderate amount, you should work on reducing your alcohol consumption as soon as possible. If you have not caused too much damage to your liver, it will likely heal itself.

Social Interaction

Studies show that socially interacting with other people, as well as with animals, has health benefits. Being socially active can help stave off such health issues as depression, high blood pressure, cognitive decline, and dementia. Here are some ways to add social interaction into your life:

  • Join a club that is focused on your favorite hobby
  • Take academic, artistic, or exercise classes
  • Stay in regular contact with family and friends
  • Adopt a pet
  • Get involved with your neighborhood or community

Planning for a Longer Life

If you end up living into your 80s, 90s, or beyond, make sure your financial life is healthy too. Talk with a financial adviser and an attorney experienced in estate planning and elder law to ensure you have the necessary funds to live comfortably in your later years.

Our law firm is dedicated to keeping you informed of issues that affect seniors who may be experiencing declining health. We help you and your loved ones prepare for potential long-term medical expenses and the need to transition to in-home care, assisted living care, or nursing home care.

Contact our Ruston, LA office by calling us at (318) 255-1760 today and schedule an appointment to discuss how we can help you with your planning.

Preparing Your Family for the Unexpected

Preparing Your Family for the Unexpected

Making sure your affairs are in order in case of unforeseen circumstances, such as an accident, incapacitation, or death, is what planning for the unexpected involves. If the COVID-19 pandemic taught us anything, it’s that life is uncertain and that caring for you and those you love is imperative, including legal preparedness. An elder law attorney and estate planning attorney can address your concerns and help prepare your family for the unexpected.

Elder and Estate Law

Elder law focuses on legal issues affecting elderly individuals, including health care planning, long-term care planning, Medicaid planning, and guardianship (in Louisiana callee interdictions). They help clients plan for their future needs and ensure protection in cases of incapacity or disability.

Estate law focuses on legal issues relating to the transfer of assets after an individual’s death. They help clients plan for the distribution of their assets, minimize taxes, and meet goals by creating wills, trusts, and other legal documents.

Both elder and estate law overlap significantly, particularly in end-of-life planning and long-term care. For example, an elder law attorney or an estate planning attorney can assist clients in creating a living will or power of attorney for health care decisions. A significant difference between the two legal practices is one focuses primarily on the needs of individuals while living, and the other plans the distribution of assets after an individual’s death.

Why Planning is Important

Many things can happen over your lifetime, and much of it is unexpected. But we can be aware of potential problems and prepare for uncertainty.


·       Healthcare Planning

Put a health care plan in place in the form of advance directives, such as a living will or durable health care power of attorney, ensuring your wishes are followed if you become incapacitated and unable to make decisions. Your loved ones won’t have to struggle with decisions during a difficult time.

·       Financial Planning

Financial hardships happen due to emergencies, requiring additional financial resources, insurance, and more to successfully manage unexpected events.

·       Digital Planning

Ensure your legal documents have digital copies on secure networks, making important documents and information accessible online to those who have your login credentials. Keep a list of credentials in a safe place and let a person you trust know the location.

·       Estate Planning

Many individuals not only create an estate plan, but regularly update their wills, trusts, and other legal documents to ensure their wishes are carried out, and their assets receive protection in case of illness or death. Your estate planning also protects the future of your loved ones.

Legal Planning for the Unexpected

Legal planning means having your affairs in order in case of unforeseen circumstances. These are six steps to increase preparedness:

1.     Create a Will

Not enough people in America have a will. This legal document outlines your asset distribution after your death. If you already have a will, review and revise its contents to address changes.

2.     Designate Beneficiaries

You can designate beneficiaries on your bank accounts, retirement accounts, life insurance policies, and other assets. Revise your beneficiary status in the event of a death, divorce, marriage, or other major life changes so you’re your asset distribution will reflect your intended beneficiaries.

3.     Create a Power of Attorney

A power of attorney allows someone you trust to make legal, financial, and medical decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated.

4.     Create a Living Will

A living will outlines your end-of-life wishes. It includes whether you want to be kept alive through artificial means.

5.     Consider Setting up a Trust

A trust can manage and distribute your assets during your lifetime and after your death. It can minimize probate costs and protect privacy of your loved ones at your death. Furthermore, it often is a less expensive in the long run and more stress free for your heirs.

6.     Review and Update Your Plan Regularly

It’s important to review and update your plan regularly to ensure it reflects your current wishes and circumstances.

Consulting with an elder law attorney or estate planning attorney can help create and ensure your legal documents are thorough and complete. Preparing for an unexpected crisis will reduce the stress on yourself and your family members. A comprehensive legal plan that can address your desires during times of uncertainty can bring you and your loved ones peace of mind.

This article offers a summary of aspects of estate planning and elder law. It is not legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. For legal advice, contact our Ruston, LA office by calling us at (318) 255-1760.

Financial Fraud and Abuse Against the Elderly

Financial Fraud and Abuse Against the Elderly

Each year, the National Council on Aging (NCOA) reports loss of assets and money from financial fraud and abuse against the elderly up to 36.5 billion dollars. And although self-reported financial exploitation occurs at higher rates than all other types of elder abuse, the NCOA believes instances of elder financial fraud and abuse are likely under-reported.

Even as the coronavirus pandemic wanes, many older adults remain socially isolated and vulnerable to financial victimization. Robocalls, emails scams, and catfishing on social media platforms, con artists bombard the elderly routinely seeking financial gain. However, the National Adult Protective Services Association (NAPSA) reports that most financial exploitation cases the organization receives are from individuals known to the victims, such as relatives, caregivers, friends, and neighbors.

If you have an elderly loved one, there are signs and circumstances to watch for that can help prevent financial abuse. Typically abusers will misappropriate cash, jewelry, and other assets, often suggesting to the elder adult they must not remember where they left them. Some abusers will forge financial documents or steal a Social Security benefits check outright.

Signs of Financial Abuse

Look for instances of unusual financial activity, such as large withdrawals of cash, questionable credit card charges, and unpaid bills. Identify any recurring transactions and bank transfers your loved one does not remember approving. If they can’t recall any request, authorization, or adequately explain the circumstances, investigate the situation fully. A periodic review of an aging loved one’s credit or debit card, and bank statements will help you guard against elderly fraud.

Always be on the lookout for new helpers and indispensable “friends.” The elderly are often lonely and particularly susceptible to abusers that want to ingratiate themselves into their lives under the guise of companionship. These individuals like to work when no one else is around, making it easier to hide their exploitive behavior.

Isolating a loved one is often the first sign of financial abuse. This newfound friend may cut off regular family communications with bogus explanations, saying they are unavailable, feeling unwell, or napping with promises of a return phone call that never materializes. These exploiters will initially be very helpful, making themselves indispensable to the victim and then begin to steal from them.

But there are things that every family member can do to help protect their loved ones.

Simplifying Banking Transactions

Physical disabilities and other issues preventing an older person from driving or otherwise getting around can create vulnerabilities. For example, frailty and mobility issues can end in-person banking independence with a trusted employee. The older individual may not be adept with computers, understand how to do remote banking, or have visual impairment making financial transactions difficult on a small smartphone screen or tablet.

Automatic bill pay can help combat these problems as financial institutions and corporate entities like banks or utilities will not exploit auto bill pay. Payment can be on time without the hassle of receiving paper bills, writing checks, and sending them off, relieving enormous strain on the older person.

Watching Out for Cognitive Decline

Dementias such as Alzheimer’s, which is prevalent, can create many financial problems as cognitive decline leads to a loss of financial acumen. Many elderly adults live with undiagnosed mental issues increasing the opportunity for exploitation. Unscrupulous friends, neighbors, and even family members often try to exert undue influence over cognitively impaired loved ones.

Sensitive private information like Social Security numbers, account numbers, and passwords must be closely guarded by one trusted individual to help with money management tasks. Limiting access to this crucial information is a best practice to protect an elder adult.

Vetting Delivery Services

The pandemic may have families relying on services when they used to provide the help themselves. House cleaning, meal preparation, errands, and even picking up prescription medications are all available services, and some ask for cash payments. Cash for services rendered to the elderly gives nefarious individuals the opportunity to exploit financially.

Estate Planning and Elder Care Attorneys

The most direct way to protect against elder financial abuse is to meet with their estate planning attorney to have a trusted individual named a durable financial power of attorney. This individual can then oversee their loved one’s finances with full access to facilitate, transact, and protect assets. Naming a financial power of attorney generally can help an elder adult feel a great sense of relief. Still, any cash in the hands of an aging loved one needs to be monitored and their home closely guarded to prevent theft.

This article offers a summary of aspects of estate planning and elder law. It is not legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. For legal advice, contact our Ruston, LA office by calling us at (318) 255-1760.