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.

 

Add to Your Estate Plan with Life Insurance

Add to Your Estate Plan with Life Insurance

Grieving loved ones should not need to inherit assets only to find they are not accessible for cash expenditures they will be responsible for after you pass away. Most retirees’ assets are in homeownership and retirement accounts, requiring a sale to get cash. Life insurance can provide the liquidity needed when managing and distributing your estate assets. Your policies can address final expenses, estate taxes, business ownership, estate equalization, probate, and special purposes depending on your circumstances and the number of assets at hand.

Final Expenses

The average funeral cost in the US is nearly $8000 and somewhat less with cremation. The price becomes even greater when adding a burial plot, vault, or headstone. Even without a funeral service, cremation ranges between $1,000 and $10,000, depending on location, with the average around $4,000.

Some debts of the decedent will become part of the estate’s responsibility. These debts can reduce the remaining assets for your heirs, requiring a cash payout. Creditors may present the estate with outstanding bills and even litigate for payment.

State and federal final income taxes are a requirement. The government will seek payment of any back taxes in addition to those taxes owed in the year in which you die. Life insurance death benefits can help address these final expenses, helping meet the estate’s obligations.

Estate Taxes

The size of the estate affects the state and federal inheritance taxes that may be due. How much and at what rate is a shifting target of late. As thresholds change, so too should efficient tax planning for your legacy. Beneficiaries receive life insurance death benefits tax-free. With the right guidance, these proceeds can be used to offset inheritance taxes and avoid selling estate assets to cover tax obligations.

Business Ownership

If you own a business or are a co-owner, your passing may present substantial challenges for continuing the business, affecting family or business partners. Many start-ups and partnerships establish plans to address these eventualities, often in a buy-sell agreement. This contract outlines how a departing partner or founder’s business shares will be reassigned to other stakeholders or sold. Life insurance is often the financial product employed to fund such an agreement.

Estate Equalization

In the case of multiple heirs, assets often do not divide up easily or equally. For example, a vacation home worth $600,000 may be local and desirable to one heir, while the other two heirs live far away and have no interest in the property. To compensate those heirs who do not want to co-own the property, the heir wishing to retain the property must cash them out $200,000 each. This situation can quickly create a family rift.

As part of an estate plan, life insurance can fill the gap and equalize inheritance among heirs. In this case, one heir would get the property outright, while the other two would receive death benefit proceeds to compensate for their portion of the property value.

Probate Avoidance

Probate court oversees the settlement and distribution of a decedent’s assets. It can be a lengthy, involved, and expensive process even when a general estate plan and will are in place. Life insurance proceeds bypass probate when going to the named beneficiary.

Unlike a public probate process, the payment remains private and tax-free to the beneficiary. Be aware that life insurance death benefits may still be subject to estate tax if the insured had “incidents of ownership” when they died.

Special Purposes: Child Support, Divorce, and More

A life insurance policy earmarked for special purposes can address divorce obligations like child or spousal support. Death benefit proceeds may go to the continuation of support of a loved one like a minor child with special needs or an elderly family member.

Mainly these types of direct purpose policies are part of an established trust. Assets like life insurance policies are held in the trust on behalf of a beneficiary and under the supervision of a trustee to meet obligations providing long-range monetary support in a substantially funded trust.

Your estate planning attorney can identify which trust type will suit your needs. Personal circumstances and goals help define which trust will work best regarding probate, taxes, and more.

Life insurance death benefits can solve many liquidity problems that arise in the dissolution of an estate. These proceeds are typically not subject to income taxes and have uses as wide and varied as the circumstances and goals of the individual creating their estate plan. We can advise how to use life insurance properly to serve your beneficiaries. Please contact our Ruston, LA office by calling us at (318) 255-1760.

April: Parkinson's Awareness Month

April: Parkinson’s Awareness Month

Importance of the Month of April

In the month of April each year, the global Parkinson’s community engages to support awareness of Parkinson’s disease (PD), a disease whose cause remains largely unknown although treatment options exist. The goal of raising awareness can help make lives better for people with Parkinson’s disease. It  generates ideas to improve care, educate, and fundraise to help advance research toward finding a cure.

Effectively, Parkinson’s is a disease where nerve cells that normally deliver the neurotransmitter dopamine to other cells experience a reduction in numbers. The more cell death spreads to larger areas of the brain, the greater the body is affected. Symptoms of Parkinson’s typically develop slowly throughout the years. With symptom progressions varying from person to person because of the diversity of the disease. The neurodegenerative disorder can manifest itself through tremors, bradykinesia (slowness of movement), limb rigidity, and gait and balance problems. Dopamine reduction can also produce nonmotor symptoms, often preceding a PD diagnosis. These symptoms can include REM sleep behavioral disorder, automatic dysfunction, depressions, visual impairment, and attention deficit. Even reduced sense of smell, and difficulties planning and acting on ordinary tasks. Parkinson’s disease is not in itself fatal; however, disease complications can be serious.

The PD Foundation website has offerings by state. Local impact, education, and support are hallmarks of the foundation’s work. Individuals can plug in their zip code on the website Parkinson’s Foundation in your area for their closest PD chapter to become involved. Whether your interest is in exercise classes, therapy services, research trials, or caregiving support, visiting a local PD website in any state can point you in the direction you need.

Important Research

California’s large and diverse population makes it an ideal state to study and expand our understanding of Parkinson’s disease. The state’s Department of Health has a chronic disease surveillance and research branch (CDSRB) that collects data to measure PD’s incidence and prevalence. This research brings awareness to the disease through the California Parkinson’s Disease Registry. Statistics about how the disease is distributed among different population groups and whether the disease patterns are changing over time may lead to insights about PD about which we know surprisingly little.

In 2021, about one million people live with Parkinson’s disease, with approximately 600,000 receiving a PD diagnosis each year, with men 1.5 times more likely to have Parkinson’s than women. Estimates are that direct and indirect costs of Parkinson’s include treatment, lost income, and social security payments accounts.  For nearly 52 billion in US expenditure annually. Just the medication averages about 2,500 dollars per year. The cost of therapeutic surgery can be upwards of 100,000 dollars per individual.

The terms incidence (new cases arising in a population over a given time) and prevalence (a measure of all individuals affected by the disease at a particular time) are often cited when discussing who suffers from Parkinson’s disease. Does prevalence vary by study, population group, and geography? Statistics generated by studying larger and more diverse populations can address these questions. Considering the last major prevalence study was in 1978, Parkinson’s disease studies are long overdue.

The statistics matter as the Parkinson’s Foundation continues to attract state and federal government and the pharmaceutical industry. To address the urgent, growing need to understand and hopefully prevent PD. As a nation, we need to understand better who develops Parkinson’s and why. Much of the research focuses on ways to identify PD biomarkers, leading to earlier diagnosis and tailored treatments to slow down the disease process. While all current therapies can slow the process and improve symptoms, they do not slow or halt the disease progression. Idiopathic Parkinson’s disease progression tends to be variable and slow, making research all the more difficult, particularly when comorbidities are present.

Bringing Awareness and Help

On social media platforms and other online forums such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Reddit, Linkedin, WhatsApp, and more, use #KnowMorePD for this April’s Parkinson’s Awareness theme. Help to promote the foundation’s campaign cross-platform. The goal is to have conversations among loved ones, family, friends, neighbors, care teams, and the community. It will lead to more education, action, funding, and understanding of Parkinson’s disease.

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with Parkinsons’ disease there are a number of ways we can help. For example, we can create a comprehensive legal plan. To make sure you or your loved one has the proper documents in place. To cover care decisions, financial decisions, and what to do in the event of a disability. We welcome the opportunity to speak with you in a confidential setting to determine how we might help. Please contact our Ruston, LA office at (318) 255-1760 to schedule an appointment.

The Financial Toll of Elder Care in America

To age well and securely in America is expensive on every level. The financial toll for millions of the elderly and those families who do their best to care for and support them. Long-term care facilities and retirement communities cost staggering amounts of money, as do the high costs of premiums to maintain a long-term care insurance policy. The truth is the US long-term care system is both underfunded and not well matched to the expectations of the older adults trying to thrive within it. There exists a crisis in care and a crisis in conscience within this country’s social safety net.

What is the Causes of the High-Cost of Elder Care?

The reasons are many and create a confluence that spells financial disaster for many in America.

  • The aging baby boomers who increasingly require more care
  • Workforce shortages or limitations (COVID-19) in healthcare or Long Term Services and Supports (LTSS) systems
  • Federal and state efforts to segue responsibilities to home and community-based services and family rather than improving social safety net policies
  • Increasing numbers of Americans identifying themselves as caregivers
  • The insurance projections that underfunded the costs of long-term care decades ago
  • Fewer workers paying into the system

More than three in four people, or seventy-seven percent, according to the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), agree with the following statement “I’d really like to remain in my community for as long as possible.” Indeed, the majority of aging Americans want to do so in their own homes.

Studies show much of the caregiving provided is family-driven. Like paid caregivers, their work is often unnoticed, under-discussed, and unappreciated. It can have devastating consequences on their retirement planning, affecting the next generations of their family and perpetuate this problem cycle. Vox reports the most recent data from AARP, which constitutes 41.8 million people or 16.8 percent of the US population, are currently caregiving for an adult of 50 years or more. A full 28 percent of these care providers have stopped saving money, 23 percent are accumulating more debt, 22 percent have depleted their short-term savings, and 11 percent report being unable to fund basic needs, including food.

The Dilemmas of the Caregiver System in America

The more significant belief that caregiving is a “family responsibility” permeates the US consciousness. And politicians and policymakers who promote this mindset remain unable to redress the shocking costs of eldercare, thus imposing the caregiver reality upon family systems. By extension, many family caregivers’ labor is characterized as something done out of instinct or love, devaluing the complex, primarily unpaid work.

This devaluation of caregiver labor exists for paid caregivers in institutional settings, leading to paychecks that do not constitute a living wage and shortages of caregivers, often women, particularly women of color. Low and stagnant wages continue even as demand skyrockets because many home health workers were not designated as “essential” during the pandemic. Also, the moment a more lucrative opportunity presents itself, and the worker is gone. With new COVID-19 variants on the horizon, the need for caregivers will remain high while their valuation remains low.

Outside of those people providing this elder care, the difficulties remain largely invisible. There are fewer resources than ever chasing the needs of millions. Impoverished Americans with less than 2,000 dollars qualifying them for Medicaid find that with 80 million documented low-income Americans, waiting lists for home care assistance has an average wait time of more than three years. What happens if they have no family to rely on during this waiting period?

As demand for care continues to rise for the increasingly older and infirmed population, the supply of private institutional care is prohibitively expensive, and care within families is substantially contracting with smaller and more widespread family systems overall. Existing social policies are not meeting the needs. Aging in the American landscape needs political reimagining to protect families and stop subverting grievances and social responsibilities to those caregiving workers (paid and unpaid) least likely to thrive providing this care. It is essential to preserve the dignity and care of our older generations and those providing this care. It is incumbent upon the US government to identify the ways to do so affordably.

Please call our Ruston office at 318-255-1760 if you need assistance in planning for yourself or a loved one.

Living Alone in Your 50’s and 60’s Means a Greater Risk of Dementia

Living situations for aging Americans are decidedly leaning towards aging in place. Nearly all older adults prefer to age in the comfort of their long time homes and familiar community surroundings. Aging in place often means living alone. Pew Research findings show that older people are more likely to live alone in the United States than in any other country worldwide. This preference of living solo, however, comes with hidden danger. Research from Science Times reports that living alone in your fifties and sixties increases the likelihood of dementia by thirty percent.

The conclusion drawn is based on a report from sciencedirect.com, a website replete with large databases of scientific, academic, and medical research. Findings indicate that social isolation is a more important risk factor for dementia than previously identified. In this age of gray divorce (also grey divorce) and social distancing due to the coronavirus pandemic, adults living alone in their fifties, sixties and beyond, are at greater risk than ever for cognitive decline, leading to dementia.

Understanding the Causes of Dementia Cases

The lead author of the study, Dr. Roopal Desai, says that overall increases in dementia cases worldwide can be due to loneliness, stress, and the lack of cognitive stimulation that living alone brings. Biologically, cognitive stimulation is necessary to maintain neural connections, which in turn healthily keep a brain functioning. Staying socially interactive is as important to cognitive health as staying physically and mentally active.

Strategies for Seniors Living Alone

Health care professionals in the U.S. are implementing a “social prescribing” strategy to improve the connection of a patient who lives alone to a prescribed range of services like community groups, personal training, art classes, counseling, and more. Unfortunately, in the days of COVID-19 social prescribing is limited to virtual connections between people. However, virtual social engagement is better than no social engagement at all.

Why can’t an adult, choosing to age alone, maintain their health with physical exercise, crossword puzzles, and other activities that stimulate their brains without the input of human socialization? It turns out that social isolation presents a greater risk for dementia than physical inactivity, diabetes, hypertension, and obesity. Brain stimulation is vastly different when a person engages in a conversation rather than in repetitive games and puzzles. Carrying on a conversation, whether in person or virtually, is far more stimulating and challenging to the brain’s regions.

Conversation with other people chemically evokes neurotransmitters and hormones, which translates into increased feelings of happiness and reduced stress through purpose, belonging, improved self-worth, and confidence. It turns out that being human is undeniably an experience at its most healthy when shared, and a mentally healthy person is prone to stay more cognitively capable.

The Importance of Human Connection to Decrease Dementia

Maintaining this human connection can be challenging, particularly if you are one of the many Americans who are opting to age in place. In the first place, aging is replete with reasons to reduce activity and become isolated when facing particular types of stressful events common to later life years. Role changes associated with spousal bereavement through death or divorce, household management, social planning, driving, and flexibility all fall prey to functional and cognitive limitations. Without the benefit of an involved family or social prescription, it is easy for an aging adult to spiral into social isolation, loneliness, and depression, all of which are causally linked to cognitive decline.

If you or your aging loved one actively chooses to live alone, it is imperative to maintain a vibrant social life. Staying cognitively healthy is associated to satisfying social engagement as well as physical activity. If you live alone, reducing the risk of developing dementia will allow you to continue living out your years as imagined, with independence and control, thanks to your continued human interactions.

If you have concerns about your current living arrangements (or those of a loved one who needs care), please reach out. We help families create comprehensive legal plans that cover care and financial concerns. We’d be honored to speak with you. Please contact our Ruston, LA office at (318) 255-1760. We are happy to help.

 

Are You Considering Having Your Loved One Needing Care Live With You?

Aging in place continues to increase in popularity, but what should you do when you notice an older loved one is having trouble living safely at home? Troublesome signs like a dirty home in poor repair, unpaid bills, piles of mail, and food out of date or spoiled in the kitchen, poor personal hygiene, and trouble managing medications are all warning signs that your senior is struggling. When visiting, you may notice a loss of weight, disoriented behavior, or lonely and depressive behaviors. When these signs reveal themselves to you, it is time for your older relative to move in with you or into some senior living community where the situation is safer.

Even before the pandemic, polls began showing a shift to the living trend of a century ago, when most seniors lived with their adult children in a multi-generational house. The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) reports that older parents are moving in with their adult children and comprising a larger component of shared living than a generation ago. AARP states, “Today, 14 percent of adults living in someone else’s household are a parent of the household head, up from 7 percent in 1995.” And with many Americans now working from home, keeping a watchful eye over a parent is easier than ever.

If you consider moving your loved one into your home, there are several things to consider before making a move. For example, you might think the idea is fantastic, but how will it affect other current household members, spouses, or children? Does everyone get along, or will you be importing conflict? Are your lifestyles compatible regarding quiet hours, entertaining guests? Is smoking a habit of someones that needs consideration? Is your home big enough, or will someone have to give up their room?

Is your home suitable for the needs of your loved one? Can they be housed on a single floor without having to use stairs? Can your parent bring their familiar belongings and furniture with them? Perhaps it is feasible to create a “mother-in-law” apartment with a separate entrance or invest in a backyard cottage, the so-called granny pod. If they reside in your active home, what modifications can you make to create a safer environment? Things like night lights, the removal of area rugs, or adding grab bars in the shower or an additional handrail on the stairs can make big safety differences.

Who will be tasked to help your parent? The fact that your parent now lives with you should not mean you are at their service all of the time. Many well-meaning adult children make this mistake. At the outset of living together, a parent is usually fairly self-sufficient. Still, in time they will require more, and if you do not begin your living experiment employing outside help, you will fall into a trap where your time is no longer your own. Share tasks with other family members and make them do their part. Find local senior support services and check out professional in-home care to ensure your loved one becomes accustomed to others providing support to them.

If not in your home, where will your loved one go? Living in a family multi-generational home isn’t for everyone. Your parent might prefer “shared-living” adults living under the same roof but not romantically involved, a sort of roommate experience. Or perhaps a retirement community with defined living stages, from independent to assisted, and full-time care. Many families find living together can save money but not necessarily sanity and look to house their parents out of direct living contact. Talk it out as a family. Even if the conversation is difficult to have, it is better than responding to a catastrophic fall or illness, forcing a change of housing for your parent.

Find out how your aging loved one feels about the next step when they will no longer be able to live alone. Your parent’s thoughts may surprise you. It can help to speak with an elder attorney to address issues that invariably present themselves. If your parent sells their home, how will they handle the profit? Should you want a monthly living expense contribution? Can you claim your parent as a dependent on your tax return? Your parent may no longer have to pay bills but may have other assets and policies to manage; who will handle asset management and premium payments? Goodwill goes a long way to a successful living arrangement but so does preparedness. Having pre-set a structure to address issues will allow you to focus on enjoying your time with your loved one.

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.

Options to Afford Long-Term Care

According to findings, the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) estimates that approximately seventy percent of retirees in America will need long-term care (LTC), with median annual costs for these services ranging from $53,768 to $105,850 in 2020, according to research from Genworth. HHS also reports that those who receive Medicaid-financed nursing home care will spend more time in residence than those who self-finance their care or have private long-term care insurance. These long-term care services and supports (LTSS) are becoming more critical as retirees live longer lives and worry about outspending their assets.

The Dilemma of Affording for Long-term Care

Paying for long-term care planning remains a significant challenge for most older Americans and preparing for service payments can be tricky. LTC insurance may cover a portion of services or all of them, and premiums depend on a person’s age, gender, health, location, and other criteria. The American Association of Long-Term Care Insurance lists 2021 average premiums for initial benefits of $165,000 (with a 1 to 5 percent annual growth rate) for a healthy fifty-five-year-old male to be between $1,375 to $3,685 per year. For the same coverage type, a healthy fifty-five-year-old woman can expect to pay between $2,150 to $6,400. Premium hikes tend to be costly because metrics used years ago in the insurance industry were faulty and did not accurately project the real LTSS costs.

What is Hybrid Long-term Care Coverage?

A different payment option is hybrid long-term care coverage. These policies are part annuity or life insurance and part long-term care coverage. You may purchase a policy upfront eliminating any future risk of premium increases, and your heirs may receive a death benefit if you do not need long-term care. This option is an arbitrage approach hoping that you will not require LTSS and that your heirs may benefit. Hybrid policy price comparisons are more difficult to ascertain than a standalone long-term care coverage policy.

How to Utilize a Health Savings Account to Pay for Long-term Care

A third option is for those retirees with sizable health savings accounts to use pre-tax funds to cover long-term care expenses or premiums. Currently, those itemizing deductions can write off long-term care expenses above 7.5 percent of their adjusted gross income on their taxes. Finally, those low-income retirees with assets below a certain threshold may qualify for Medicaid LTSS. Applicants must pass a five-year “look back” period to assure they did not gift or spend down assets to qualify. If you think you may qualify, take this Medicaid eligibility test.

Typically, family members play an important caregiver role in their loved ones who need help regarding activities of daily living. This statement is particularly true in the earlier stages of requiring care, where someone may need help with just one activity of daily living. In-home assistance, community programs, and residential facilities can help your loved one stay as active as possible, accomplishing everyday tasks. The family-style approach constitutes most living arrangements for those who receive long-term care.

HHS

Many available resources help older adults continue to reside in-home and participate in their communities. The stay-at-home option in the earlier stages of a significant long-term need, or if projected care requirements may be a matter of two to three months, may be the most viable and cost-effective solution. Pivoting to in-home service provision is the most likely scenario for most American retirees. Nursing home residential space is expensive, and Medicaid can only supply so much aid. While most LTSS stays remain paid care and have relatively short durations, the lifetime risk for expensive out-of-pocket costs runs high.

Unfortunately, receiving paid LTSS care is not equally distributed among the US population. Generally, people with limited education and less financial resources are the most likely to experience severe LTSS needs. Over a lifetime, however, the more well-educated population with different socioeconomic advantages tend to live longer and can outlive their assets. Family is an integral part of the solution for long-term care while the federal government responds to the growing need to make this care more available and affordable. For your best outcome, be proactive in your planning. Most Americans will need LTSS, but few will have taken steps to plan for it. Please contact our Ruston, LA office by calling us at (318) 255-1760 or schedule an appointment to discuss how we can help with your long-term care needs.

 

Tips to Safely Store Your Financial and Legacy Information

It is crucial to store your estate planning documents like your will, living wills, powers of attorney, trusts, medical directives, and financial information securely somewhere your survivors can easily access. Additionally, you need to securely store information about birth certificates, marriage licenses, even divorce decrees, as well as medical records and property titles.  In your project, include recurring bills, digital assets, including computers, devices, social media, online storefronts, and smartphone passwords, which you want to keep accessible for your survivors.

Many people are attempting to become as paperless as possible and storing the data onto memory sticks or an external hard drive. Still, others are opting to use online data storage services that keep this information in the cloud. There are still those individuals who prefer maintaining this information themselves, in their homes, and a copy in a safe deposit box.

How you choose to store your relevant data is indicative of the amount of labor and time you are willing to invest in creating and maintaining your information system. Going paperless is generally the most convenient, safe, and quickest. After all, much of our information is already in an online format.

But the online option precludes a trusted person from finding clues about your assets’ locations, what bills need payment continuation and what services to close out. LA Times finance columnist Liz Weston quotes a friend regarding organizing your data, “Your frequent flier miles could disappear while your Netflix subscription continues indefinitely.”

Your list depends on the complexity of your circumstances and the age at which you die. An individual lost to a family in their early forties probably has more moving parts and information reflecting their daily life than someone in their eighties who has likely been downsizing and simplifying their life. Changes in circumstances are an illustration of the importance of updating your information because of life changes.

How to Safely Store and Share Your Digital Information

Some of your organizing will include creating digital copies of important documents like social security cards, birth certificates, passports, marriage, and driver’s licenses. Scanning these documents does not make them a legal copy; however, it will be easier to replace lost or stolen documents if you have a copy. It also puts the information in an easily accessible format rather than rummaging through your home to find the document. Of course, the original documents need to be in a fireproof safe or a bank deposit box, while others can be solely in digital form. For a list of hard copy documents and how long you might keep them, look here.

If you are not comfortable using digital devices, ask someone in your family who can help you set up your digital file system and show you the basics. Your documents can travel with you wherever you go, and you can also share this information with others.

Online storage possibilities are many, but the most popular options are Microsoft OneDrive, Google Drive, and Apple iCloud. These services already offer free limited storage in the cloud, and you can purchase an upgrade for additional storage capability.

If you prefer storing documents locally on a physical storage device, you must include a backup plan and run it regularly to keep your information up to date. A Windows 10 computer permits scheduling backups automatically using Windows File History. Simply type <backup> in the search bar and select <Backup Options> from the results. You can also find this location by right mouse clicking Start>Settings>Update & Security>Backup. If you use a Mac, there is also an auto-backup feature. Read about Apple’s Time Machine to back up your files here. This URL explains other methods to employ when backing up and restoring files.

You can also purchase an external USB hard drive for file backups. Look for a 1 or 2 TB drive that can house all of your information and updates quickly. Smaller USB memory sticks also work but are typically limited to 256GB of information, which can be enough for your needs and transport easily if you travel and want to keep your information at hand. These backup methods should have an extra drive to store identical information in a fireproof safe or a bank deposit box.

The truth is safely storing your financial and other valuable personal data is often a combination of these methods and information types. For your loved one to access financial records, they require your personal information such as usernames, passwords, and social security numbers, in addition to account numbers and online site URLs.

If you feel unsure about your ability to organize and safely store this critical data cohesively, talk with an accountant, attorney, or other trusted advisor to create a structure to implement before copying and scanning data. Everplans is an online service that allows you to store your information in their format for a fee or can provide a starting point to understand the scope of this type of project. Do your research first, and then implement your strategy for best results.

Please contact our Ruston, LA office by calling us at (318) 255-1760 or schedule an appointment to discuss how we can help with your planning needs.

Elder Abuse: Why It Occurs and How To Prevent It

According to the American Psychological Society, elder abuse is the infliction of physical, emotional/psychological, sexual or financial harm on an older adult. Additionally, elder abuse can manifest as intentional or unintentional neglect of an older adult by the caregiver. Elder abuse has a variety of causes. It is important that family members and caregivers of senior adults be aware of the causes of elder abuse in order to prevent abuse and keep senior loved ones safe and secure.

Elder abuse can occur for a variety of reasons and complex issues. Family stressors are one of the reasons elder abuse occurs. Family members who are charged with caring for a senior family member can often become stressed and run-down dealing with the demands of caring for their loved one. In addition, these family members often feel isolated and do not take time to recharge. These factors can lead to elder abuse. A violent family past can also continue to hold on to family members and this can lead to elder abuse. Financial burdens of a multigenerational household can also lead to financial elder abuse.

Caregiver stress can lead to elder abuse. Caregiving can create stress for the caregiver and the care recipient. This stress can lead to potentially harmful situations for the senior adult. If the caregiver is caring for a person who is sick or physically or mentally impaired, this can lead to stress that would cause a caregiver to abuse the care recipient. The caregiver can feel alone or helpless. Caregiving can lead to emotional and physical stress and exhaustion. These feelings can be overwhelming and may lead to elder abuse.

Certain societal issues can lead to elder abuse. Often senior adults are viewed as insignificant or unimportant. This has in many cases lead to the devaluing of this population, making them easy targets from abuse. This can make the senior more vulnerable to elder abuse. This is evidenced by the fact that scams and financial abuse among the elderly population continues to be a major problem.

How can elder abuse be prevented? Education is one way that elder abuse can be prevented. It is important that caregivers and family members be educated about the risk factors and signs of elder abuse in order to prevent it from occurring. It is also important that families and seniors be aware of financial scams that target the elderly in order to prevent seniors from being taken advantage of financially.

Respite care is also an effective way to prevent elder abuse. There are adult day cares and respite care agencies available to provide care for a few hours a week to take stress off of family members or caregivers. Respite care is especially important for those caring for patients who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease or dementia or are severely disabled. This gives the caregivers time to rest physically, mentally, and emotionally. Along with respite care, it is important for caregivers to maintain social contact and support. Often caregivers are thrust into difficult situations for which they are ill prepared. They often neglect social interactions. It is important not to neglect these interactions, and even to seek support from groups or people who are in a similar caregiving situation. This can help to deal with stresses in caregiving.

Counseling is another option for preventing elder abuse. Caregivers and families alike can benefit from counseling. Counseling can help families deal with past issues, as well as dealing with the emerging stress of caregiving.

Knowing the causes of elder abuse and methods of prevention can help keep elders safe. Family members and caregivers should know and be aware of these. Elder abuse is a major problem and solutions must be found to protect our seniors.

If you have any questions about something you have read or would like additional information, please contact our Ruston, LA office by calling us at (318) 255-1760 or schedule an appointment to discuss how we can help.

Tips for Caregiving During a Pandemic

The Covid-19 pandemic has posed a challenge for caregivers given the demand for these caregivers to be especially prepared for a deadly virus. Caregivers must balance the need for their care partner’s health and balance it with that person’s safety. As the US heads into seasonally extreme weather months, it is prudent to create or revisit existing plans for evacuating a patient or loved one displaced or challenged by tornadoes, blackouts, hurricanes, floods, wildfires, cyber ransomware attacks, even a resurgence of COVID-19.

Suppose your loved one resides in an in-patient facility. In that case, it is important to know what plans and procedures are in place to address whatever crisis, including current COVID-19 protocols and restrictions the hospice, nursing home, retirement community, assisted living operators, and residence may face. You can share that information with your care partner in a general way to assure them there are protocols in place to protect them and what they can anticipate. An open conversation allows you to allay any fears they may have, and there could be many due to the isolating effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

If you do not have a caregiver disaster plan, it is a good time to create one. The plan can address specific seasons as summer plans can differ drastically from winter ones. Write a list of your loved one’s current needs, impairments, and routines, including important identifying information such as a current photo, date of birth, and Social Security number. Include all known allergies, medications, and diagnoses. A short biography that can inform providers of their interests, personality, and background can go a long way, especially if you as the caregiver typically provide their “voice.”

Emergency relocation requires addressing the need to move all assistive medical devices and durable medical equipment. Don’t forget batteries and rechargers! Remember that a proactive early departure during a crisis when cooler heads prevail can reduce stress levels and help you avoid potential difficulties like gas shortages and traffic jams. Does your chosen relocation site have adequate availability of food, water, toiletries, and medication? You can check with the pharmacy before leaving as many will provide early refills in times of emergency, and a host of major retailers offer prescription delivery. If you are remote to your care partner, check with charitable organizations or neighbors to supply donations or meals and provide daily checks.

Suppose you must leave your loved one in the care of an assisted living or nursing home where you will experience limited contact. Below are some recommendations:

  • Make sure the facility has your primary and alternative contact information.
  • Specifically request updates regarding any changes in your loved one’s emotional or physical state.
  • Ask for medical records that document all care they are administering.
  • Communicate with your loved one in any way possible and often, whether by phone, video chat, or any other means to ensure they are as safe as possible.
  • Take detailed notes because it is easy to overlook or forget important details during times of crisis.

Planning for unexpected crises is not easy because how do you create responses for what has not yet happened? However, there are basic strategies to implement that can be amended to fit specific situations as they arise. If the plan includes relocation, be sure to check with local authorities regarding current COVID-19 restrictions. The planning steps you take may seem very small in light of the larger impact of a crisis event, but these steps can provide organization, protection, and comfort in times of great uncertainty. Please contact our Ruston, LA office by calling us at (318) 255-1760 or schedule an appointment to discuss how we can help with your long-term care needs.