Technology in Senior Care

Technology in Senior Care

It is possible for many aging Americans to live longer and healthier lives in their own homes because of the internet of things and technological advancements such as self-monitoring medical devices, telehealth, and smart homes. Elder law and at-home medical technology uses can intersect in several ways. Whether you are a senior looking to stay in your current home or have an aging parent and want to implement systems that create better safety and communication, an elder law attorney can help you craft a plan.


Legal Documents

Elder law attorneys can assist older adults when creating legal documents, such as durable powers of attorney and health care proxies, in an online environment. These and other legal documents are crucial to have in place as they authorize someone to make decisions about the older adult’s medical treatment and the use of at-home medical technology.

Meetings with your estate planning or elder law lawyer and family members can happen virtually, and some states now legally recognize e-signatures. Creating these documents without leaving your home benefits seniors with mobility and transportation issues and protects against exposure to infectious diseases.

Privacy and Security

Elder law attorneys can advise older adults on the privacy and security of their personal information and medical data when using at-home medical technology. Secure network communication protocols will keep hackers from stealing your information and ensure the data integrity of communications with medical professionals and entities.

Medicaid Eligibility

Medicaid, the government health insurance program for low-income individuals, may pay for certain at-home medical technology if it’s deemed medically necessary. An elder law attorney can help older adults navigate the Medicaid eligibility process to ensure they receive all the benefits to which they are entitled.

Telehealth services allow Medicaid to reach more seniors at a lower cost than ever. Whether you’re having issues with eligibility, understanding home health services, or selecting home health providers, an elder law attorney can help you understand your Medicaid options.

Long-term care planning

Elder law attorneys can help older adults plan for future needs of long-term care, including using at-home medical technology to help them age in place and maintain their independence for as long as possible. Incorporating at-home medical technology into long-term care planning may include the following:

  • Monitoring Health – Technology such as wearable devices, remote monitoring systems, and telehealth services can track vital signs and send alerts to caregivers if there are any concerns.
  • Medication Management – Personal emergency response systems (PERS) and smart home devices can ensure that older adults are safe and can call for help if needed.
  • Mobility Aids – Robotic exoskeletons, stairlifts, and smart home devices can help older adults with mobility issues move around their homes and control the environment (locks, lighting, temperature) more easily.
  • Social Engagement – Virtual reality, video conferencing, and social networks can connect older adults with loved ones and socialize with others combating isolation and feelings of loneliness.
  • Care Coordination – Medical technology can connect older adults with care providers and healthcare professionals, such as doctors, nurses, and social workers, to monitor the care and support they receive at home.

At-home medical technology is a more affordable option than expensive institutional care. When planning for long-term care, it’s important to consider how technology can help older adults maintain their independence and quality of life.

Guardianship (Interdictions)

In some cases, older adults may be unable to make decisions about their medical treatment or use of at-home medical technology due to cognitive decline or other health issues. Elder law attorneys can assist in appointing a guardian  called a Curator to make these decisions on behalf of their loved one.

Getting Started

An elder law attorney can help an aging adult, and their family understand what at-home medical technology is available and if government programs will pay for it. Getting seniors to use at-home medical technology can be challenging and generally falls under the direction of the family. There are several strategies to implement to make the process easier:

  1. Keep it simple by starting with the basics. Then gradually introduce more advanced features as your loved one becomes more comfortable with the technology.
  2. Make sure the senior understands the benefits of the technology. Explain how it will help them stay healthy and independent and make their life easier.
  3. Demonstrate how to use the technology. Walk your loved one through the setup and use of each device, making sure they know how to operate it.
  4. Provide your loved one with a user manual or guide for reference.
  5. Schedule regular check-ins with your loved one to see how they’re doing with the technology, answer any questions, and ensure their communications with medical professionals are timely and accurate.
  6. Provide your loved one with technical assistance while visiting, and have them contact you if they experience technical issues. Everyone needs reliable IT support.
  7. Look for local support groups and online communities so your loved one can connect with others using similar technology.
  8. If your loved one is having difficulty understanding or not using the technology, consider hiring a professional to help with device setup, training, and guidance.
  9. Encourage your loved one to engage in a trial period with each new technology and see how they feel about it. If they don’t use or are uncomfortable with that particular technology, there might be better solutions.

Many providers make smart home technology for aging adults. The best options depend on the specific needs and preferences of the older adult. Also, compatibility with existing technology and devices. Technology needs will also change with additional health challenges that invariably occur when aging.


Elder law attorneys can recommend at-home technology so that an aging adult can safely live at home. Family members must participate in the installation of the technologies to ensure their loved one’s security and privacy. Technology alone is not a solution. A support system, including family, friends, lawyers, and healthcare providers, must coordinate efforts in the senior’s best interest.

Whether you need to plan for future at-home health care or already require care management via remote health monitoring. Consumer health technology can make senior care more patient-centric, personal, and accessible.

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.

Government programs for seniors

Government Programs for Seniors

AdditioNot knowing government programs for seniors and inflationary pressures are leading to financial insecurity for many US seniors. Besides reducing unnecessary expenses, many retirees or near-retirees should consider contacting the government to see if they qualify for assistance. It can reduce the anxiety many Americans feel living on a fixed income.

Government Programs for Seniors

The National Council on Aging (NCOA) works with thousands of national and local partners to provide tools, resources, advocacy, and best practices for every aging American to have health and financial security. Checking out if you qualify for senior benefits through government programs is easy to do with NCOA’s online BenefitsCheckUp tool.

Wasted Benefits

Every year billions of available dollars in US benefits programs are not claimed. Older adults (55 or more) are unsure if they are eligible. And, if so, how to apply. No registration is necessary, and requests for information are minimal. Personal data entered into the website will remain confidential, and accessing the database costs nothing. If you hate filling out forms and get confused by all the questions, estate planning and elder law attorneys go through this process every day. Contact them for help. There is rarely an upfront cost for legal help. You will be in a much better financial position once you begin receiving assistance.

The Online Benefits Check Up

If you complete the benefits check-up online, NCOA will send a confidential report to your mailing address. It will list the help available to you and how to apply for it. Since 2001 this NCOA program has helped millions of older adults receive help. This includes paying for medicine, food, utilities, and more. More than 2,000 benefits programs are in the check-up system, including categories such as:

  • Food and nutrition
  • Health care and medication
  • Housing and utilities
  • Income
  • In-home care and aging in place
  • Disability services
  • Skilled nursing facilities and other long-term care environments
  • Tax help
  • Legal, crisis, and general assistance
  • Veterans’ programs
  • Discounts and activities

The online BenefitsCheckUp site helps older individuals identify the federal and state assistance programs for which they can qualify. This NCOA website is newly revamped and permits error corrections and the addition of information if you feel the need to revise your answers. The resulting online individualized Eligibility Results report can be saved in a PDF format to email to yourself, your lawyer, or a trusted family member.

Providing this eligibility information to your elder law or estate planning attorney is a smart strategy. Suppose you already receive disability benefits through SSDI, SSI, or other programs. In that case, adding other government assistance programs may result in unintended and negative consequences. It may render you ineligible for benefits you already receive. Your lawyer will know the strategies already in place and how additional programs may affect your current planning.

The chart above shows how many older adults struggled to manage basic expenses. This even before the inflationary circumstances of late 2021 – 2022 (and predicted beyond). Participation rates in government assistance programs are at a historic low, with a mere low to mid sixty percent of eligible individuals participating.

Benefit take-up rates are low due to program enrollment barriers. Many older adults lack awareness that these benefits exist. When they do, the application process for many programs can be cumbersome and complex. Additionally, perceived stigma about receiving government assistance and other program misconceptions contribute to lower participation rates.

Ramsey Alwin, NCOA CEO and President, admits, “In today’s economy, inflation is taking a bigger and bigger bite out of people’s incomes.” He adds, “We completely redesigned BenefitsCheckUp to make it even easier … no one should have to choose between paying for medications or food.”


In Summary

To worry less and age better with more resources at your disposal, explore the NCOA’s BenefitsCheckUp website and learn what is available to you. Before you use the contact information to take the next step to apply consult with your elder law or estate planning attorney. Also, all assistance you receive should not interfere with existing plans and help you age successfully. More than 2,000 government benefit programs are available to help you. It can make the difference between thriving or just surviving. For assistance and information on government programs for seniors please contact our Ruston, LA office by calling us at (318) 255-1760.

Helping seniors avoid loneliness

Helping Seniors Avoid Loneliness

We help seniors avoid loneliness by creating a goal to live a long and healthy life. Senior citizens are admired for their wisdom and knowledge. However, their long life often comes with the grief of outliving their spouses, friends, and sometimes their children. As a result, if they can’t maintain and make new meaningful connections as they age, they are at risk for crippling loneliness.

Helping Seniors Avoid Loneliness

Loneliness is feeling sad about a lack of human connections and interactions. While social isolation may make most people feel lonely, loneliness is not the same as being alone. Not everyone who lives alone feels lonely, and not all people who feel lonely live alone. People of any age may feel lonely, but the condition is especially common in the elderly.

Risks Factors for Loneliness among Seniors

Studies from the University of California San Francisco show that loneliness among senior citizens is pervasive and contributes to poor health and even death. To illustrate, The Center for Disease Control and Campaign to End Loneliness outline several risk factors for people 65 and over.

These risk factors include:

  • Being an immigrant who lost touch with loved ones from their home country
  • Feeling marginalized by the wider community
  • Living alone
  • Being physically limited by illness or disability
  • Lacking the financial means to do activities or visit others
  • Grieving the loss of a loved one
  • Not having meaningful outlets for their talents
  • Being a full-time caregiver
  • Struggling with incontinence
  • Lacking the ability to drive or take public transportation
  • Having a communication barrier from language, loss of hearing, or inability to talk
  • Feeling depressed or anxious and lacking the motivation to join activities

Overcoming Loneliness with Meaningful Social Engagement

The first step to overcoming loneliness is acknowledging it and a need to change some habits. If you are the one experiencing loneliness, think about small ways you can start connecting again. Even the smallest positive change might put you on the right path for reaching out more and more. If a spouse or loved one is feeling lonely, you might invite them to join you in some of these activities to get the ball rolling. Look for opportunities to talk, laugh, cry, and share in the following ways:

  • Join a club, class, or religious institution to get to know people with similar values and interests—if you can’t drive, look into ridesharing, public transportation, and online groups
  • Invite one or two friends over to share a meal, watch a movie, or play cards
  • Try an exercise class geared toward senior citizens
  • Call or visit a family member or friend
  • Volunteer your time and talents at a school, animal shelter, or place of worship
  • Get a job that you enjoy to interact more with others

Remember that everyone needs physical contact too. Don’t be shy about asking for a hug. Consider getting a cat or dog to satisfy that need.

With that being said, you might also need to consider changing your living arrangements to make interactions easier. Even the most loving family members will not be able to visit as often as you would like if you live far away. Some seniors love residential programs with communal dining, planned outings, and frequent activities. Others prefer living with a family member or in a senior citizen community where everyone has their own homes. With a little research and keeping an open mind, you might find that changing your home is the best thing you can do to meet new friends and stay engaged. For assistance, please contact our Ruston, LA office by calling us at (318) 255-1760.

Coverage for Long-Term Care

Coverage for Long-Term Care

The improvement in medical care and healthier lifestyles are making people live longer. Because of this, more of us will need some form of long-term care in our later years. As a result, the cost of long-term care has been rising. Wharton estimates nursing home costs will increase by 4.7% and home health care by 6.9% by 2030.

Many seniors will receive some long-term care services from relatives, friends, or neighbors. However, many others will need professional help, whether in their home, an assisted-living facility, or a nursing home. There are different ways to pay for these types of long-term care. If you are able to plan well in advance for your long-term care needs, long-term care insurance could be a good option.

Traditional Long-term Care Insurance

Traditional long-term care insurance policies are similar to health, home, or auto insurance policies. You typically pay the insurance company regular premiums to keep the policy in effect and file claims. If you need them to pay for services your policy covers.

Like health insurance policies, you can choose the amount and types of coverage you want your long-term care insurance policy to cover. Policies state how much reimbursement you can receive on a daily or monthly basis over a certain number of years or up to a lifetime maximum. You may be allowed different amounts depending on the care you are receiving, such as care in your home or nursing home.

Another policy feature you may get to choose is the waiting period between when you start needing care and when you start receiving benefits. Ninety days is a typical waiting period; however, you can pay more to start receiving benefits after 30 days, or you can pay less and wait 180 days before benefits start.

What Long-term Care Insurance Covers

The long-term care insurer will dictate what they will cover and what they won’t cover. Some conditions are often not covered by insurers, such as alcoholism and drug addiction. Some preexisting conditions, such as heart disease or cancer, may not be covered right away. If you have a preexisting condition, find out if the insurer will cover needs connected to that condition before you sign up.

Generally, you can be eligible for benefits when you can no longer perform a certain number of daily living activities. This can be such as eating, dressing, getting into and out of chairs and beds, bathing, and using the toilet. Often you won’t need to pay premiums while you are receiving benefits.

Usually, you’ll lose your coverage if you stop paying your premiums before you need to receive benefits. Unfortunately, you don’t get your premium payments back if you never use the coverage. The insurance company keeps the money.

Hybrid Policies

Many long-term care policies these days are combined with other benefits, such as life insurance. These policies are referred to as hybrid or linked-benefit policies. For this type of policy, you will likely pay a lump sum or several fixed annual payments.

With a hybrid policy, you will get coverage similar to what you would get with a traditional policy. In addition to an amount of life insurance that will go to your heirs if you don’t use the long-term care benefits. If you do need to use the long-term care benefits, the life insurance payout would be reduced or eliminated. This extra flexibility usually comes with a higher premium.

Consult with a Professional

There are many factors to consider before committing to a long-term insurance policy. You may determine that you don’t even need one. Do an ample amount of research and talk with an insurance professional or an elder law attorney.

Our law firm is dedicated to informing you of issues affecting 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 facility care. Contact our office today to learn how we can help you afford the right level and best quality of long-term 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 assistance, please contact our Ruston, LA office by calling us at (318) 255-1760.

Nursing Home Questions to Protect Loved Ones

Nursing Home Questions to Protect Loved Ones

A nursing home advocate plays a vital role in ensuring the well-being of your loved one. Residents in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities are disproportionately affected by the flu, pneumonia, COVID 19, and other contagious diseases. According to the American Family Physician Journal, a flu outbreak in a nursing home often affects 20 percent or more of the residents.

If you have a loved one in a nursing home or other long-term care facility, AARP has identified some specific questions to ask about the facility to help ensure the safety of your family member.

Inquire About Vaccinations:

  • What proportion of staff and residents are up to date on regular vaccinations? Compare these vaccination rates at any Medicare-certified nursing home to the state and national averages.
  • How is the facility educating staff and residents regarding the vaccine’s safety and effectiveness?
  • What type of access to vaccines do residents have?

Ask if Anyone at the Facility Has Tested Positive for any Infectious Disease Recently:

  • Include staff, residents, visitors, vendors, maintenance workers, and anyone with access to the facility.
  • How many people, if any, have tested positive?
  • What is the facility testing protocol for symptomatic individuals?

Understand the Steps is the Facility Taking to Prevent Outbreaks of Disease:

  • What are the screening protocols for staff and other people entering the facility?
  • How are positive cases being handled after identification? Do staff quarantine at home? Do residents move into isolation units?
  • What are the protocols for sanitizing the facility, and how often are they implemented?
  • Are there social distancing measures in place? What are the precautions for residents with roommates?

Find out if the Nursing Home Helps Residents Stay in Contact with their Families and Other Loved Ones:

  • What are the infection control measures for visitors?
  • Does nursing home staff help residents call their loved ones via phone or video?
  • Will the facility set up a regular schedule for residents to speak with family and loved ones?

Determine if the Facility Regularly Communicates Important Information to Residents and Their Loved Ones:

  • If there is an outbreak of an infectious disease within the facility, how long will it take to notify residents and their families or representatives?
  • How is the information shared?

Know if the Nursing Home is Fully Staffed with Doctors, Nurses, Aides, and Other Workers:

  • In the event of staffing shortages, what are the backup plans to ensure the needs of nursing home residents are met? The plan should include bathing, feeding, physical therapy, medication management, and social engagement.

Ask About the Maintenance of Healthy-Living Programs:

  • Are communal activities adapted for social distancing in exercising, entertainment, and socialization?
  • Are any services suspended, and if so, which ones?

If you have a spouse, parent, sibling, or other loved one living in a nursing home, they depend on you to advocate for their protection and wellbeing. Asking the right questions helps ensure that their nursing home facility or long-term care services prioritize their health.

For assistance, please contact our Ruston, LA office by calling us at (318) 255-1760.

Work After Retirement: Making a Decision

Work After Retirement: Making a Decision

You may find that commonly the business owner or service provider at a podiatrist or shoe repair business is over the age of 55. You are witnessing what the statistics show. Older workers dominate some professions. In addition, more Americans are working more years across industrial sectors. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the percentage of Americans working after age 65 has been increasing for decades.

Reasons Seniors Work Longer

As people live longer and often healthier lives than in previous eras, it makes sense that people are staying in the workforce longer. Senior Living says that many people work for as long as possible because it keeps them active, feeling purposeful, and engaged in the community. Others work for financial reasons. Perhaps they don’t receive Social Security benefits, or the benefits are insufficient to cover their needs. Many people work to stay enrolled in a group healthcare plan. And still, other older Americans realize late in life that they want a different career that fulfills them in a way their previous job did not. They may even go back to school or get new training.

How Seniors Contribute to the Labor Market

Workplaces benefit from diverse perspectives. Years of experience give older workers a depth of knowledge and understanding that may help them spot potential challenges and see solutions that younger people might miss. As their motivations for working may not be to climb the corporate ladder as much as younger workers, they may be able to call out problems without fear of those actions hurting their advancement. They often have fewer family responsibilities. They might be able to relocate and accept positions with more travel or less monetary compensation than those who are balancing raising a family with their career. Finally, they help fill pipeline gaps in certain professions, like teaching, caregiving, and medicine.

Government Response to Hiring Practices with Ageism

Unfortunately, some employers have biases against older workers. They may think that older workers lack energy, can’t keep up with workplace technological advances, or take too many sick days. Also, positions requiring extensive and expensive training, like flying a newer model jet, can make hiring older people who may retire in a few years a poor return on investment. Of course, all of these challenges could be true of individuals in any age category, but ageism is still a major hurdle to employment for many older Americans.

To combat workplace ageism, the Age Discrimination Workforce Act of 1967 prohibits employers from discriminating based on age. The bill’s aim is still relevant and helpful, but some details and support systems are outdated. There is bipartisan support to update it, but as of July 2022, the bill has not passed the senate.

Additionally, the head of the National Council on Aging wants the Department of Labor (DOL) to establish an “Older Workers Bureau.” The bureau would operate within the labor department to “look holistically at older worker issues across the federal government” and “identify and coordinate existing federal resources, identify and work to eliminate barriers to working longer, and disseminate promising employment and training practices.” Ramsey Alwin, president and CEO of the National Council on Aging (NCOA), discusses the new bureau and the need for federal resources to promote public-private partnerships.

Making the Decision that Works for You

Many people choose to retire based on age and experience milestones for Social Security benefits, pensions, 401k withdrawals, and Medicare eligibility. Each of these has implications for your lifestyle and estate planning. An estate planning attorney or elder law attorney helps older Americans figure out how to plan to meet their needs and desires in a confidential and caring atmosphere. If you or a loved one would like to discuss when, if ever, is the right time to retire, please give us a call.

For assistance, please contact our Ruston, LA office by calling us at (318) 255-1760.

SSI and SSDI Claims Rejection

SSI and SSDI Claims Rejection

Before spending time and effort on federal Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) applications, you should review some of the major disqualifiers. Eligible individuals can benefit from both programs though they have distinct differences. The major difference is SSI eligibility qualification relies on age, disability, and limited resources and income, while SSDI eligibility determination relies on disability and work credits. In most states, SSI recipients automatically qualify for Medicaid health care coverage, which could result in additional supplementary benefits through your state’s Medicaid program. However, both programs have some common reasons that can disqualify your claim. Learn about SSI and SSDI claims rejection.

Typically most people think about the reasons they should receive benefits without ever considering why they may be denied. Some of the reasons are beyond your control, while other reasons are missteps you can avoid that result in denial. Things to consider include:

Your Income Earnings are Too High

In the case of SSI, the disability benefit for low-income individuals, you cannot exceed the substantial gainful activity (SGA) threshold. However, it is permissible to earn more money after your approval. Still, there is a limit of about $1,600 a month on all earned and unearned income for SSI. This dollar amount applies to both application for and collection of benefits. Any time your monthly income exceeds $85, your SSI payment will receive a reduction based on a complex formula. Anything over $1650 per month, and you will no longer qualify.

When you apply for SSDI (the benefits program for workers who paid into the Social Security tax base over multiple years), your claim may be denied if you work above the threshold considered substantial gainful activity. Going over this amount means you earn too much money to be considered disabled. It is permissible to earn a small amount during your application and collecting of SSDI but not over the SGA limit. This limit (for non-blind individuals) was $1310 per month in 2021, and the figure is adjusted annually. It is worth noting income from investments does not count toward the SGA; only work income determines your ability to work.

Your Disability is Not Considered Severe or Won’t Last Long Enough

Qualification for both SSI and SSDI benefits means the Social Security Administration (SSA) must believe your impairment is severe enough to continue for at least 12 months or result in your death. Blind SSI applicants are the only exception to the duration requirement.

Many claims based on bone fractures resulting from acute trauma from accidents are commonly denied since the disability is unlikely to last 12 months. Nearly all bone fractures heal in under a year. If your bone fractures are severe enough and have not healed after six months, you may resubmit your claim as the SSA will likely believe your impairment will last a year. Each case receives an individual evaluation.

If your medical condition is not trauma-related, it must still cause severe limitations of disability to qualify for SSI or SSDI. Most denied claims are due to the applicant’s impairment not being severe enough. You can learn about the disability determination for benefit claims here.

The Social Security Administration Can’t Reach You

Both the SSA and Disability Determination Services (DDS) agencies need to be able to communicate with you regarding your application. If they cannot reach you, schedule examinations, appointments, or communicate about critical matters, you will likely be denied benefits. Every day claimants are denied because the SSA cannot locate them. If you opt to name a representative (such as a disability lawyer) to handle your application, you may not have to contact the SSA. However, you most certainly must maintain contact with your disability attorney.

Your Refusal to Cooperate

The SSA requires medical information about your impairment, and if you refuse to release these records, your claim of disability will likely be denied. If you provide medical records, but the SSA deems them incomplete, or you lack a regular doctor for treatment, they will schedule a consultative examination (CE) with an SSA doctor. Refusal to accept this exam(s) and requesting a determination of eligibility be based on existing medical records may be cause for denial due to inadequate medical data or failure to comply with a CE. Your attorney also helps you gather the correct medical information according to the requirements.

Your Failure to Follow Prescribed Therapy

If you receive medical treatment, failure to adhere to the doctor’s prescribed therapy when you are able to may cause a denial of disability benefits. Some acceptable medical excuses include:

  • The severity of your mental illness precludes your ability to comply with the prescribed therapy.
  • You elicit intense fears regarding surgery, making the procedure inappropriate. Your treating doctor will confirm the severity of your fears to the consulting DDS doctor.
  • You are physically unable to follow the prescribed therapy without assistance due to paralysis, cataracts, or other physical limitation.

Some acceptable non-medical excuses include:

  • You lack the money to pay for the treatment.
  • You have religious beliefs that prohibit receiving the proposed medical therapy.
  • Your doctor prescribes a treatment with which a second opinion doctor disagrees.
  • The proposed therapy will not result in the restoration of your ability to do substantial gainful activity.

Your attorney can review the details of your situation to see if any exclusions apply and collect the necessary documentation.

Your Disability is a Result of a Drug Addiction or Alcoholism (DAA)

If a contributing factor to your disability is DAA, the SSA will deny your claim for benefits. The DDS medical consultant will determine whether you would still be disabled if you ceased using drugs or alcohol. You can read more about DAA determining factors here.

You have a Criminal Conviction

Certain conditions relating to criminal conviction or imprisonment will prevent approval of SSDI.

  • You are in prison after your felony conviction without a court-approved rehabilitation program likely to result in employment upon release. That release expectation is within a reasonable amount of time.
  • You received an injury while committing a felony and are convicted of the crime. The resulting impairment, or worsening of an existing one, suffered during a felony crime is ineligible to use as a basis for disability benefits.
  • You became injured while in prison. The resulting impairment, or worsening of an existing one, suffered while incarcerated can’t be used to get benefits. However, you can likely receive benefits after your prison release.

If these conditions apply to your situation, it is still worth the effort to apply for SSDI benefits. Although you will not receive cash benefits, you may still be granted a benefit-free disability period that freezes your earnings record, preventing the decrease of eventual disability, retirement, or dependents benefits. Talk to a disability attorney if your claim is complicated by these circumstances.

The above conditions do not prevent your receiving SSI disability benefits, although you will be unable to collect them while incarcerated.

You Commit Fraud

Always apply for disability benefits honestly. If you receive them by dishonest means, the SSA may terminate your benefits and choose to prosecute you for fraud. Benefits obtained through fraudulent methods by your representative or someone working for the SSA also may cause the termination of your benefits.

These common reasons stop you from legally obtaining SSI and SSDI benefits. Before you become too involved in applying, be certain you meet the minimum standards for approval. A disability lawyer can help you sort out any issues, avoid missteps, and properly present your case for disability approval.

For assistance, please contact our Ruston, LA office by calling us at (318) 255-1760.

Achieving Advanced Directives Requires Critical Conversations

Achieving Advanced Directives Requires Critical Conversations

Achieving Advanced Directives

It is among the most difficult challenges we will ever have to confront in life to consider our own death. Yet it is very important to think carefully about the medical treatment we would want for that challenging time. Medical technology can now keep us alive long after we have ceased to enjoy meaningful quality of life. Achieving advanced directives requires critical conversations.

A series of legal rulings around thirty years ago established the rights of patients to decide when life support should be stopped. The fear of being kept alive indefinitely by artificial means led many to create legal documents known as advance directives.  An advance directive expresses our wishes about the kind of medical treatment we would prefer. It is called “advance,” meaning ahead of time; and “directive,” meaning our directions for whether we want medical providers to keep us alive at all costs, or whether we would prefer to pass naturally when life becomes no longer meaningful. It is wise to think about this, and to create such a document, well before we are facing the end.

Do They Serve Their Purpose?

After thirty years, concerns have now shifted to assess whether advance directives really do serve the purpose for which they are intended. Do advance directives really ensure that we receive the treatment we would like?

The short answer is “yes but.”

Yes because it is just as important now to create a legal document by which to appoint a person to help communicate our wishes. The “but” part comes in with the issues raised below.

The answer to these issues is the same as it has always been: to establish a close relationship with one or two people – called “agents” or “proxies” – whom patients appoint to step in when patients can no longer make health-care decisions for themselves. Patients must talk with their agents so the agents will know, in as much depth as possible, where the patient stands on end-of-life questions.

Document that Meets Legal Requirements

Over the years, we have learned that advance directives might not work as well as they could. Here are concerns that have emerged:

➢        It is unrealistic to micro-manage health care in advance. There are so many variables that depend on the particular situation. Treating a complicated illness has been likened to a jigsaw puzzle, where each puzzle piece could fit multiple other pieces; the right fit for each piece must be arrived-at, often by a team of various specialists who sort through the pieces and collaborate in assembling the picture. Under those circumstances, it can be difficult, if not impossible, to interpret a legal document that was intended to guide detailed medical treatment for as-yet-unknown conditions.

➢        The “check-the-boxes” approach taken by many “fill-in-the-blank” forms is too crude to be helpful in any but the most general of ways. Without additional detail, these documents don’t adequately address the nuances that almost always arise.

➢        Change is constant and humans are adaptable. It is one thing to imagine, when in good health, that life would not be worth living if, say, one became permanently bedridden. But when the patient is actually in that situation, new meaning in life could emerge. Choices made years in the past might look a lot different in the moment of truth.



➢        The prognosis can change with time. As reported in Kaiser Health News,

if a senior contracted COVID-19 early in the pandemic, and her advance directive stated that she did not want to be placed on a ventilator, doctors tended to assume that the virus was universally fatal to such seniors. Some never got the care that could have saved their lives.

➢        The documents must be readily available, both at patients’ homes and in agents’ hands too. They must not be hidden away and forgotten-about, so no one can locate them when they are needed.

The best alternative is to create an effective, current, and available legal document backed up by serious talk between the patient and the agent or proxy. A document that meets legal requirements is essential, but beyond that: conversation in advance is the crucial additional element.

Get Prepared

That conversation should occur first between the patient and their agent or proxy, in which they discuss quality of life issues and what matters most to the patient. The talk should avoid excessive detail for hypothetical situations that may never arise. Rather, the aim should be to provide the agents or proxies with enough information to be able to respond flexibly to unforeseen circumstances.

These conversations can be challenging. Helpful resources to assist can be found at The Conversation Project ( or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (

Get the Care You Deserve

Then, if the time comes when the patient is unable to speak or make decisions, the agent will be best equipped. To convey the patient’s wishes to medical providers. Knowing those wishes in advance, the agent can focus on ensuring that providers furnish as much information as possible. To make the hard decisions on the facts as they presently exist.

What if you are alone and without a person whom you trust to be your agent? First, study the guidance resources provided in this article. Then call us to create a legally effective advance directive document that spells out your wishes. And the final step would be to schedule an appointment with your doctor to discuss your wishes. Give him or her a copy of your document.

Again, all must make sure that doctors and agents have copies ready for use. And everyone should also carry a wallet card to inform health-care providers whom to call in case of an emergency. Print one here,

provided by the American Hospital Association.

There are no assurances in this life, except that it will end for us all. The hope is that we will have delegated people whom we trust to step in when we need them. And that we will have talked with them about the kind of care we want to prepare for. A passing that is as peaceful and merciful as it can be.

Contact our Ruston, LA office by calling us at (318) 255-1760 we are happy to help.


A Nursing Home can be Covered by Medicaid

A Nursing Home can be Covered by Medicaid

Remember Medicaid planning doesn’t simply mean meeting strict income and asset limits to qualify for long-term care insurance. You will also need to demonstrate you need the level of care typically provided in a nursing home setting. These health eligibility rules are valid if you apply for nursing home coverage. Or a Medicaid waiver program for coverage in your home. Each state has a level of care requirement. And its own criteria to determine if you meet the mandated level of care. It can get complicated because eligibility criteria are not always clear.

Determining the level of care necessity usually includes:

  • The need for two or more activities of daily living constitutes bathing, toileting, dressing, eating, and mobility.
  • You require frequent medical care, like IVs or other injections, medications, or other medical treatment.
  • You exhibit behavioral problems such as aggressiveness or wandering away from home.
  • Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia impairs your cognitive ability. Making decisions on your own is problematic and/or you cannot correctly process information.

The state evaluates the assessment of a Medicaid applicant and, in many cases, will require a doctor’s diagnosis. The assessment generally requires the applicant to answer a series of questions about their abilities to perform activities of daily living and any behavioral issues or cognitive problems. There are further questions regarding the applicant’s family and their ability to provide support.

Understanding Medical Services Covered by Medicare

Medicare still covers the medical services you may need beyond nursing care along with institutional Medicaid. If you need to see a specialist or go to a doctor’s office, Medicare pays first, and Medicaid will cover your remaining costs like copayments, coinsurances, and deductibles. When applying for institutional Medicaid, consider the following:

  • The program considers you and your spouse together when counting assets and income. Typically, you can set aside a certain amount of assets and income to protect your spouse’s standard of living. This spousal amount does not count when applying for Medicaid.
  • You will still be able to keep a small amount of income for your allowance even though you qualify. The amount varies by state, and your local Medicaid office can provide more information. The remainder of your income will pay the nursing home.
  • There is a look-back period of up to five years for institutional Medicaid in most states. When determining your eligibility, your state will count any assets you have transferred in the past five years. If Medicaid determines any transfers violate the Medicaid eligibility rules, you may be penalized. Medicaid may opt to pay only a portion of your nursing home stay or none at all.
  • Owning your own home affects Medicaid eligibility and coverage. An elder law attorney can characterize your specific circumstances and how the equity in your home may count as an asset. When long-term care is no longer necessary, or you are deceased, these assets may repay Medicaid for your care coverage.

Nursing Home and Assisted Living

Nursing home level of care, also known as nursing facility level of care (NFLOC), Is not an easily definable term as there is no formal federal definition. Each state has the task of defining the term, and rules are not always consistent from one state to the other. Generally, there are four areas of concern, though not every state considers all four; physical functional ability, medical needs/health issues, cognitive impairment, and behavioral problems.

For those families with a loved one who requires more care than they can provide at home but do not require a high enough level of care to qualify for nursing home admittance, there is an in-between care type typically provided in assisted living. However, Medicaid coverage of this type of assisted living is very limited in numbers.

Nursing homes are experiencing very limited capacity, and waitlists can be years. Medicaid is adapting to provide this coverage type in-home to those applicants who may meet NFLOC Medicaid eligibility requirements but not pose a danger to themselves or others in a home environment. Perhaps using this as a springboard as a potential nursing home residence is waitlisted for full-time care.

Getting Informed

Before applying to become eligible for Medicaid nursing home coverage, there is much to consider. Applications that are insufficient or incorrectly filed can create delays, and with limited space available, it can be several years on a waiting list before admittance can take place.

The need is more significant than ever before for long-term care in a nursing home. Meeting your state’s eligibility requirements can be a long and complex series of providing documents, answering questionnaires, having assessments and reviews, and filling out and filing forms. The scope of the project can be overwhelming. To get to your best outcome, don’t wait. Contact our Ruston, LA office today at (318) 255-1760. Proactive planning with an elder law attorney will help you understand and address all criteria you need to act on to succeed.


Choosing a Long-Term Care Option for 2022

Choosing a Long-Term Care Option for 2022

It’s more crucial than ever to take stock of your life and your healthcare planning at the start of a new year. Americans continue responding to the ever-present threat of COVID-19 in its many iterations. And we are identifying that which is most important in our lives. To preserve our health and financial future best.

For many, the mere mention of long-term care health insurance congers up images of twilight years seemingly far removed from our daily lives. However, the reality is that you may find yourself in need of long-term care. This can be due to a sudden disease or illness or as the result of an accident. The US Department of Health and Human Services statistics currently show that about seventy percent of individuals over the age of 65 will require some long-term care during their lives. Genworth’s latest statistics show that a full thirty-seven percent of these long-term care recipients are, in fact, under sixty-five years of age.

Choosing a Long-Term Care Option for 2022

Regardless of your age or cause, when long-term care becomes a requirement, it is important to know and plan for your options regarding funding the care you need. Where and how you prefer to receive it. Your planning today can make a huge difference in your financial solvency. And those caregivers (mostly family) who participate in the financial burden of your care.

Naturally, the best scenario is having prepared for the future by having healthy balances saved in your retirement programs and health savings accounts. If the funding is available to cover long-term care costs for yourself or a loved one, it is prudent to do so. Perhaps you can only make part of the funding happen, in which case you may have to ask loved ones for help. They may have the financial where with all to finish covering premium costs. Paying some out-of-pocket for an aging parent early on means less of a toll emotionally, physically, and financially. Should a family member have to assume becoming a full-time caregiver.

The IRS considers long-term care insurance as a medical expense. As long as the policy is qualified, it is deductible. IRS rules state the policy must have been issued on or before January 1, 1997, and adhere to certain requirements. Policies purchased before this date may qualify to become grandfathered. If the state’s insurance commissioner approves the selling of the policy. The IRS rules from 2021 to 2022 are little changed, most notably in age categories from sixty to seventy years old the IRS reduced the deduction by ten dollars.

Note these tax deductions are, for the most part, not available in hybrid policies. These policies combine life insurance and annuity policies with a long-term care benefit. Hybrid policies are becoming particularly popular because if long-term care is not a requirement, the individual’s heirs may receive a death benefit. Your medical expenses need not exceed a certain percentage of your income to be tax-deductible. As long as you earn a profit, you may take the amount of your long-term care insurance as a deductible.

General Overview of Qualifications

Public programs are becoming more heavily leveraged for lower-income individuals to plan for long-term care services. There is nothing wrong with taking advantage of these programs. However, most Americans do not understand the differences between Medicare and Medicaid. What and who they fund. And for how long. The answers are complex as there are physical and financial thresholds to qualify for benefits, and these may vary from state to state. Here is a general overview of qualifications and limitations in coverage and choices of care facilities.

Sometimes referred to as Medicaid crisis planning, an elder law attorney can guide you. Through the process of sheltering some of your assets. Medicaid is a federal/state program helping low-income seniors with limited income and assets afford healthcare and long-term care. Many seniors believe their only option to qualify for the program is to “spend down” their assets. While this is true in some cases, proactive Medicaid planning can protect a substantial portion of your assets if done correctly.

Seek Professional Legal Advice

The program’s eligibility rules are complicated, as is the application process. So, it is best to navigate the process with a specialized Medicaid planning elder law attorney well before you need to tap the benefits. Always seek professional legal advice when creating your long-term care strategy using Medicaid. Applications are rarely successful as a do-it-yourself project. Mistakes can have devastating long-term consequences on a family and their finances.

Options for long-term care exist; however, finding the best solution for your financial circumstances is complex. As 2022 is before us, it behooves us all to look to the future of our healthcare, and prioritize proactive planning. Ensuring there will be a plan in place when we encounter the likelihood of a long-term care requirement. If you have questions or would like to discuss your personal situation, please contact our Ruston, LA office by calling us at (318) 255-1760.