Take a Moment Before Signing a Nursing Home Contract

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

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

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

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

Things to Watch Out for in a Nursing Home Contract

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

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

More language to look out for includes:

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

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

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

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

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

Everyone in need has the right to apply for Medicaid

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

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

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

Once eligible for Medicaid, Medicaid pays

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

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

Other Considerations in a Nursing Home Contract

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

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

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

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

Costs Associated with Second Marriages

Costs Associated with Second Marriages

Most people wouldn’t think of losing their assets to pay for their new spouse’s serious illness when they get married for a second time (or more). But that could happen. Costs for long-term care have been rising significantly for years and continue to grow. Studies show that 70% of Americans will need some form of long-term care. Which can last for three years or longer. It is important to be aware of the costs associated with second marriages.

Paying for Long-Term Care While Protecting Assets

If one spouse becomes ill, the assets of both spouses are, by and large, required to be spent on the ill spouse’s care before Medicaid benefits become available. This could be a big problem. Especially if the money that the healthy spouse had saved for their children’s inheritances goes to pay for the ill spouse’s care instead.

With careful planning, this need not happen. Making financial arrangements in advance can protect the estates of both spouses to ensure they can retain the assets they brought with them to the marriage.

Medicaid Community Spouse Resource Allowance

Medicaid rules allow the healthy spouse to keep an allowance of a certain amount for their benefit. This is known as the Medicaid Community Spouse Resource Allowance (CSRA). But many find that the CSRA is too small to permit the healthy spouse to maintain their standard of living, pay for their retirement, and still have something for their children to inherit.

Any planning or shifting of assets must be done very carefully and only after consulting with an attorney experienced with Medicaid planning. Medicaid heavily penalizes transfers of assets made as gifts.

Medicaid Planning

Assets can be protected, though, by using strategies that are permitted by the Medicaid rules. Some, or all, of the healthy spouse’s assets could buy a Medicaid-compliant annuity. This would provide an income stream for the healthy spouse that will not be deemed available to pay for the ill spouse’s care.

In turn, the assets of the ill spouse could be transferred to people they trust, such as a trustee, an agent for financial affairs, a family member, or a beneficiary. That kind of transfer may be subject to a penalty, depending on when the transfer is made and when long-term care benefits are received. Planning well in advance, at least five years, helps mitigate Medicaid penalties.

There are also long-term care insurance products available to cover the costs of long-term care services. Which everyone should consider when newly married and while they are still reasonably young and healthy.

The best strategy of all, though, is to consult an attorney experienced with Medicaid as soon as possible. The sooner you start planning, the more options you have and the more money you can save. Contact us today to schedule a consultation to learn how we can help you prepare for your future.

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. Also, the need to transition to in-home care, assisted living care, or nursing home care.

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

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.


The Importance of Hiring an Elder Law Attorney as Soon as Possible

The Importance of Hiring an Elder Law Attorney

Whether your loved ones are older adults, or you are concerned about your future health and financial well-being, an elder law attorney can help. Elder law is a highly specialized area of law focusing on the legal needs of older adults encompassing more significant issues like long-term health care needs, quality of life, and financial well-being. Know the importance of hiring an Elder Law attorney as soon as possible. Planning may include estate planning and administration, asset protection planning, Medicaid planning and applications, wills and trusts, probate, advance directives, special needs planning, and guardianships.

How would you answer the following questions:

  • Do you have a will, and has it been updated in the last five years?
  • Are your assets protected in the event you require home care or nursing home care?
  • Do you have a living will, including a health care proxy and durable power of attorney?
  • Is your home protected, perhaps in a trust?
  • Are you willing to spend half or even all of your assets on the cost of your elder care?

If your answers are no to any of these questions, it is time to consult with an elder law attorney.

The Importance of Medicaid Planning with an Elder Law Attorney

As you age, early planning is the key to enjoy a successful, secure, and less stressful lifestyle. Currently, the look-back period for Medicaid nursing home benefit qualifications is five years, and it is 2.5 years for Medicaid home care benefits. Early planning can protect many of your assets and still secure eligibility for government benefits.

The truth is, regardless of your age or wealth, you should have an estate plan. Your will sets forth instructions regarding which heirs will receive your property upon your death, name a guardian(s) for minor children, and protect assets in a special needs trust benefiting any disabled loved ones.  An estate plan will tackle tax planning, power of attorney, health care proxy, and a living will in the event of unforeseen incapacity.

Engaging in Medicaid planning and asset protection can ensure you or your loved one will receive the care they need and afford it. Medicaid planning can protect a healthy spouse who wishes to remain in your home with the financial resources to do so. Proper planning for Medicaid benefits can protect your assets from Medicaid’s estate recovery program, genuine estate liens.

How an Elder Care Attorney Can Help You or a Loved One?

Hiring an experienced elder care attorney can be the most significant financial safeguard a person can make. For their life or the life of a loved one. Specific services of an elder care attorney include but are not limited to:

  • Planning and managing of long-term care services – Your elder law attorney will compile financial information, insurance, and assets, including medical and housing needs, in addition to evaluating and implementing estate planning. Geriatric care, veterans benefits, financial and tax planning, and preparation are part of the process.
  • Planning and qualifying for Medicaid eligibility – Elder law attorneys understand the differences between Medicare and Medicaid. They can show how income levels and current asset holdings may affect your future benefits.
  • Interdictions (Guardianships) – In this process, a judge will appoint a person to manage another’s financial affairs known as a Curator (guardian). Particularly for those who can no longer care for themselves or have Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia. Elder law attorneys can guide a family through the process of obtaining guardianship for their loved one’s benefit.
  • Administration of the estate, probate and trust(s) – This service benefits the estate holder and the designated trustees or executors. An elder law attorney can outline the rights and responsibilities of those with fiduciary appointments.
  • Estate and disability planning and preparedness – Many seniors have questions regarding the impact of their will on their family. And other tax and legal issues. Your elder law attorney can explain these impacts and help guide choices that ensure your legacy and benefit your heirs.

Getting the Guidance you Need

A well-crafted estate plan is invaluable to you and your beneficiaries. Your elder law attorney will help guide you through the estate plan process. Customizing it to meet your needs, and prepare the legal documents reflecting the laws of your state. Early proactive planning will yield the best results to protect your assets and your well-being. Contact our Ruston, LA office by calling us at (318) 255-1760 to establish or review your existing estate plan.


Methods to Finance In-Home Care

In-home care is the preferred living arrangement for many aging seniors. However, many medical conditions and personal care needs as adults age can cause this to become more difficult due to cost. The cost of in-home care varies from place to place, but generally follows the cost of living. Places where the cost of living is lower usually have lower costs for in-home care and the opposite is also true. In areas with a higher cost of living, in-home care is generally more expensive. Another challenge of paying for in-home care is the strict limitations on using Medicare and Medicaid to pay for in-home care. However, it is possible to pay for in-home care. Let’s look at some of the options.

Medicare and Medicaid

Although these two options are more limited in the in-home care covered, there are occasions where they can be used to pay for in-home care. Medicare generally pays for in-home care services for a period of time and most often occurs for a time after a patient is discharged from a hospital or rehabilitation facility. Treatment generally would not be covered for a chronic condition. Medicaid rules vary from state to state but are often similar to Medicare. All programs cover short-term in-home care when the patient has an acute condition. Medicaid offers long-term coverage in some areas, but this is often limited to patients who are ill enough to qualify for nursing home coverage. This care must be provided by a Medicaid-certified care agency. With Medicaid, each state runs its program differently and coverage will vary from state to state. In Louisiana, for example, Medicaid would not generally cover in-home long-term care.

Reverse Mortgage

A reverse mortgage is an option for paying for in-home care. If the senior, age 62 or older, owns a home outright or owes little on the home, they can apply for a reverse mortgage. A reverse mortgage gives seniors the option of using the value of the equity in their home to get cash. The bank enforces strict rules about taxes, maintenance, homeowner’s insurance, and mortgage insurance. Therefore, it is important to do research on reverse mortgages and find a reputable bank, to lower the risk of defaulting on the reverse mortgage. Another important consideration is the length of time that care may be needed, as compared to the value of the equity. If a senior decides the reverse mortgage is a good choice for them, the cash can be used to cover the cost of in-home care.

Veteran’s Aid and Attendance Benefits

Aid and Attendance is an often-overlooked benefit available to veterans who are paying out of pocket for care. Veterans who served on active duty for 90 days, with one day during wartime, and who were honorably discharged, may be eligible for aid and attendance benefits. However, the qualification process is not easy and many veterans become frustrated when trying to do so.  As a result, the majority of veterans who may be eligible for the benefits never receive them.

Once qualified, a veteran can receive a monthly cash benefit, tax-free, to use for care. For veterans and their spouses, these benefits can be a major help in paying for in-home care. Surviving spouses of wartime veterans can also qualify for a monthly cash payment through the aid and attendance benefit.

Life Insurance

Life insurance is another possible way to pay for in-home care. If the life insurance policy is no longer needed to care for someone after death, it can be an option for paying for in-home care. A life insurance policy can be sold back to the company for a percentage of the value – usually 50 – 75%. This money can then be used to pay for in-home care. Many policies have flexibility, but some require the senior adult to be terminally ill. A policy with an Accelerated Death Benefit rider allows the policyholder to take a cash advance on the policy that is subtracted from the amount beneficiaries would receive. In this instance, the premiums are still paid and the policy still belongs to the policyholder.

Although in-home care is costly, the good news is that there are options available to help seniors pay for this care. The above are just a few options that may help seniors who wish to continue to live at home even when extra assistance is needed.

We help seniors and their loved ones find and pay for good long-term care using many of the options discussed above. We also create legal plans to protect the home and savings to make sure our clients never run out of money or options for good care. If you would like to learn more, please feel free to contact us. 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.

This Year’s Urgent Priority: Affordable Long-Term Care

The challenges ahead are many as AARP reports that the population age 85 plus, the most likely to need long-term care, will more than triple between 2015 and 2050. Elected leaders must rethink institutional care and its affordability and make improvements while creating innovative long-term care options for those Americans who are aging in place. Recently the Milken Institute 2020 Future of Health Summit looked into the short-term future of long-term care and deemed improvements a most urgent priority for the US healthcare system.

The statistics are that as the nation’s population ages, 70 percent of Americans 65 or more will require long-term care at some point. This statistic represents many seniors who will need affordable care while the private long-term care insurance market has contracted. The Milken Institute Center for Future Aging is partnering with teams through the Financial Innovation Lab to make recommendations to expand options for affordable long-term care for middle-income Americans. Nora Super, senior director of the Milken Institute Center for the Future of Aging and executive director of the Milken Institute Alliance to Improve Dementia Care reports the group study has narrowed many examined solutions into three big ideas including:

  • A large scale Medicare Advantage demonstration project to test the effectiveness of home-based interventions and technology applications as it relates to reducing costs and improving care across the continuum.
  • Scaling up and adapting integrated care models to provide low-cost, high-value, flexible services for those enrolled with complex needs.
  • Identify the most beneficial and viable options for complementing private and public insurance solutions to expand long-term care coverage for the middle market.

The focus is on Medicare Advantage, which has grown in the past twenty years to allow more flexibility for participants to test new ideas and bring much-needed technologies into the home to prevent extensive stays in the long-term care system. These integrated care programs, according to Super, can bring together the long-term care and healthcare systems; however, the programs have not yet been scaled. Super has said, “Medicaid is the safety net for the nation but there is nothing for middle-class people. Costs are exorbitantly expensive.” Public-private partnerships do not meet the high demand for affordable long-term care as the industry has gone from one hundred private insurers to twelve.

As part of the Milken 2020 Health Summit, David O’Leary, president, and CEO of US Life Insurance Companies and Genworth Financial, stated, “This is a problem facing the country, this aging population we’re not prepared for. We can no longer ignore this. This is personal to everyone.” And O’Leary is right. The long-term care industry covers less than ten percent of the people who need it and an average claim of around 200,000 dollars. The number one reason for a person 65 or older to declare bankruptcy is a healthcare event.

While the healthcare industry professionals and government policymakers attend symposiums and discuss scalable, affordable, long-term care needs, more middle-class Americans fall into a cycle of impoverishment as they confront their immediate individual long-term care needs. Costly institutional care, Medicaid, or unpaid family caregivers seem to be the only solutions currently and are not particularly viable. The Medicaid system is straining to meet long-term care demands for the poor with long waiting lists to become residents at often substandard facilities with infection control deficiencies.

Medicaid planning, or long-term care planning with an elder law attorney is one avenue open to middle-class Americans to address long-term care needs without being bankrupted. There may be other options to help protect your life’s earnings as well. Aging Americans must determine how they will be able to handle their statistically likely long-term care needs. Waiting for the healthcare industry and government programs to catch up to your future needs may put you in jeopardy.

We help seniors and their loved ones plan for the possibility of needing long-term care so that their savings and home are not lost to the high cost of the care. If you would like to talk about your particular situation to see how we might be able to help. 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.


What is the Role of an Elder Law Attorney for Your Legal Matters?

The senior citizen population of the United States is increasing rapidly as the baby boomer generation ages, and the influx of international migration continues. Although the US average life expectancy has seen a slight three-year decline, many Americans, men, and women live well into their 80s, 90s, and beyond. An elder law attorney works with seniors, taking a holistic approach to the legal issues people commonly face as they age. These include matters of housing, physical and financial health, estate planning, and more. There are as many issues as there are seniors, as life circumstances are different for everyone. An attorney who specializes in the host of the problems senior citizens face can be a wise investment.

Whether you have a lucrative business and many assets, or a small home with a modest bank account, estate planning can be overwhelming. However, having your affairs in order is a final gift to your family. An estate plan is much more than creating your will though it is generally the first step. There are multiple types of wills, and while most people think of their last will and testament, there are also living wills, joint wills, pour-over wills that work in conjunction with trusts, and more. The type of will(s) you need to best control what happens to you and your assets throughout your life, and your death, are best explained by an elder law attorney. An elder law attorney specializing in estate planning helps you navigate wills, trusts, guardianships, advance medical directives, and the financial management of life insurance policies, annuities, IRAs, and 401ks. All of these can have tax implications for managing and settling your estate.

Government programs on federal and state levels may be available to seniors. Individual qualifications and the application processes can be complicated and confusing, especially when enrolling for the first time. An elder law attorney can help you understand Medicare Part A (hospital, skilled nursing, some home health, and hospice), Part B (medical insurance covering certain services by doctors, preventative services, medical supplies, and outpatient care). Medicare Part C (Medicare Advantage Plans, a private company insurance plan you purchase that dovetails with Medicare) and Part D (covering prescription drugs). If you are a veteran, programs are available through the Veteran’s Administration and can provide you with further and more specialized assistance because of your military service. Veteran program qualifications can be highly complex, so look for an elder law attorney who is accredited by the Veterans Administration.

Medicaid provides health care benefits for low resource and low-income adults, pregnant women, elderly adults, children, and people with disabilities. If you qualify, you may receive both Medicare and Medicaid benefits. Medicaid qualifiers have their healthcare premiums and out of pocket medical expenses covered through the program. Medicaid also includes custodial care and addresses long-term care expenses if you begin living in a nursing home. An elder law attorney understands how Medicare and Medicaid can work to your best advantage.

Social Security benefit amounts change depending on the age range you choose to receive your benefit. You can currently apply and qualify for your benefits at 61 and nine months of age; however, the full retirement age for social security is 67, and cashing in early has long-term consequences for your payout. An elder law attorney can help you determine the best age to receive your social security benefits based on your health and financial situation. Suppose you also receive disability benefits before full retirement age or become disabled at that age. In that case, an elder law attorney can ensure you receive the proper benefits based on your condition.

Long-term care is known to be an expensive proposition whether you are trying to afford long-term care insurance upfront or pay for it out of pocket if you require it in the future. Not addressing the issue of long-term care is a big gamble to your financial well being. Morningstar reports that 52 percent of Americans turning age 65 will need some long-term care services in their lifetime. An elder law attorney can help you understand policy premiums and how they can increase if you purchase long-term care insurance. They can also guide you through Medicaid planning or estate planning that can help you qualify for the best financial arrangements for long-term care. Sometimes, it is beneficial to spend down your estate to be eligible for Medicaid, and your elder law attorney will know what is required by law to do it properly.

Other issues, such as employment discrimination, elder abuse, and elder fraud, even grandparent visitation rights, fall under an elder law attorney’s scope. An attorney who practices elder law has a more comprehensive list of capabilities to help you through your senior years than those attorneys without expertise in this area.

We focus on elder law.  We would be honored to speak to you about how we can help you come up with a comprehensive legal plan covering many of the topics above so you can enjoy your senior years without unnecessary worry. We look forward to hearing from you. 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 elder law needs.

The Top Trends for Senior Living

As the silver tsunami of baby boomers continues to enter the senior living and care organizations markets, the general response has been uncertainty as to how to meet changing and varied senior needs while maintaining profitability.  Health Dimensions Group (HDG ) has released its list for 2020 entitled “Top Trends in Aging Services: Preparing for Historic Changes.” Owners and operators of senior living facilities must become responsive and make changes that are swift and diverse.

New Senior Housing Projects

Actuaries used to define senior housing construction projections and schedules are based on population data that are five or more years out. These metrics attempt to address occupancy and growth challenges as senior living occupancy rates fluctuated between the 86 – 88 percent mark for 2019 according to new data from the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care (NIC). The third quarter of 2019 set a record for the highest demand of net new senior housing units while the construction data indicates a slowdown is near. The population projections of 2015 are not in accord with the latest senior housing demand. More cost-effective construction options and the repurposing of existing real estate is becoming a necessity to offset occupancy pressures and saturated markets.

Alternative Living Care Options

For lower-income seniors, alternative living care models, including the Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE), integrate Medicare and Medicaid financing; provide a comprehensive service delivery system. This coordination of care is an effort to defer or avoid seniors moving into a long-term care fee-for-service facility. Implementing this program and other, less costly models of care can help to address lower-income senior housing issues. These models will continue to leverage technology to drive innovation and efficiencies, as well as address workforce shortages.

Middle-Income Seniors

The most challenging market segment for senior living is that of middle-income seniors. Those seniors without sufficient resources for long-term care but who are also not in a position to qualify for Medicaid seem to face some of the most significant issues as it relates to housing and healthcare costs. According to McKnight’s Senior Living, investors and operators focus on the upper end of income distribution as their preferred targeted residents while leaving state and local programs to provide for low-income seniors. This scenario leaves a large portion of middle-income seniors whose living needs are not adequately being addressed.

Technology for Seniors

Applied digital technologies are changing the senior living sector, and the race to seize substantial market share in the active adult and under-addressed middle-class needs has not gone unnoticed by tech behemoths like Apple and Amazon. Alexis Ohanian, the co-founder of Reddit, who runs a venture capital firm, is predicting that a significant change is imminent for senior living. New startups, heavy on innovation and technology, will bring major disruption to existing senior living models and facilities very soon.

Investments in Senior Living Facilities

Existing operators and investors of aging senior living facilities are increasing investment in a wide range of offerings and services to remain operationally sound and competitive. One service strategy is to partner with home health agencies that provide therapy under Medicare Part B while a senior resident ages in place. Another is to create more public spaces within facilities. The creation of roof-top restaurants and park spaces on the property can increase senior socialization alleviating depression, which is a contributing factor to downward health spirals for seniors. Smartwatch technology that acts as a smart key for residents as well as a movement and health monitor reduces the number of daily interactions with staff and provides a way for loved ones to monitor their spouse or parent remotely. Creating more job flexibility for staff and dramatically increasing wages for hourly positions is a necessity to recruit and retain competent staff in a tight labor force.

While many of the baby boomers are still below the average age of residents that live in traditional senior communities, demographics point to the fact that the senior living industry will soon be under more pressure than ever to provide for a diverse and increasingly particular population. Market sector opportunities in middle-income senior living will drive innovation as competition increases, and companies vie for market share. These opportunities to realize new solutions will positively affect the entire senior income spectrum for housing.

We help seniors come up with comprehensive plans to address the aging process and the challenges that come with it. We welcome the opportunity to talk with you about your particular needs.

Contact our office by calling us at (318) 255-1760 and schedule an appointment to discuss how we can help you.

Hearing Loss Linked to Depression

The findings from a ten-year study by the Journal of the America Medical Association (JAMA) reports of a link between hearing loss and health risks. The risks include a 50 percent greater risk of dementia, a 40 percent greater risk of developing depression and nearly a 30 percent higher risk for unintended falls.

Reuters Health cites data analyzed by researchers, combining the findings from 35 previous hearing studies with participants aged 60 or more, which establishes the connection between hearing loss and depression. The aggregate of the conclusions of these reports suggests that older adults who experience some form of hearing loss are 47 percent more likely to display symptoms of depression. The take away is that depression is often brought about by the isolation of an individual and hearing loss tends to create social isolation. Dr. Nicholas Reed of the Cochlear Center for Hearing and Public Health at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine agrees with the findings published by Reuters. “First, hearing loss impairs communication and influences balance, which can lead to social isolation and decreased physical activity that, in turn, result in depression,” Reed said.

Beyond the problem of social isolation due to hearing loss is that the longer you wait to address the issue the greater the risk of associated cognition problems. An older adult may be able to hear words but not be able to understand their meaning cognitively. It is imperative to see an audiologist and test hearing capabilities to establish an informational baseline and make future adjustments accordingly. Overall, older adults who experience hearing loss tend to withdraw from society and are more likely to experience mild cognitive decline furthering levels of social and emotional loneliness.

It is estimated that 100 million people in the US are exposed to unhealthy levels of noise. Aircraft and automobile noise, leaf blowers and lawnmowers, car stereos and earbuds all contribute to the increase of hearing loss. Hearing loss lowers quality of life and can also have severe implications regarding personal safety. Potential danger warnings like smoke alarms, car horns, fire alarms, public safety announcements all require the ability to hear. Hearing loss limits everyday life experiences in our ability to socialize, work, and communicate. It also limits joyful experience like the sound of a child laughing, a bird singing, a loved song on the radio, or a gab session with a great friend.

Thus far there is no way to undo damaged hearing but other than cost; there is no downside to hearing aids anymore. Their look is discreet, they are easy to learn how to use, and professionally adjustable over time to compensate for increased hearing loss. Once you factor in the cost of a potential fall, increased risk of dementia, social isolation, and depression, the price of hearing aid(s) winds up being comparatively minimal. Although the study, as reported by Reuters, does not investigate whether treating hearing loss can prevent depression aging Americans should still seek medical attention when experiencing hearing problems.

Hearing is a complex biological phenomenon. First ears capture sound traveling through the air as a vibration in air pressure. The outer ear (pinna) catches the sound waves and indicates its direction, in front, behind, above or below you. The ear canal receives the sound wave and triggers vibrations to the eardrum which becomes amplified by tiny bones known as ossicles.

Then the amplified vibrations travel to the cochlea in the inner ear where the sound is translated into nerve impulses that your brain recognizes and processes as distinct sounds.

Hearing and its complexities and loss will continue to get a lot of attention moving forward. In a world full of headphones, earbuds, robust speakers, and unwanted environmental noise, all of us are at risk of having diminished hearing abilities. Turn down the sound whenever possible to improve your quality of life as you age. Hearing loss has a profound impact on your well being.

Be proactive in the monitoring of your hearing abilities and subsequent hearing loss as you age.  If we can be of assistance in any way, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

You can get in touch with Goff & Goff at our Ruston, Louisiana headquarters by clicking here, or calling us at (318) 255-1760.

What’s the Difference Between Estate Planning and Elder Law?

The short answer: Both share similar concerns. The longer answer? The differences make all the difference.

The Concerns are Similar

No matter what age we’re in, life can deliver some hard knocks. Hope for the best, but plan for the worst. We can get into accidents, especially when we’re young and under the impression that we’ll live forever. Whom would we like to be there for us if we can’t speak for ourselves? If we can’t pay the bills? Decide about our health care?

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

As adults, we start families and assemble worldly goods. If we’re thinking realistically, we want to make sure our families are taken care of and who gets our property if the worst happens to us.

Both estate planning and elder law attorneys help you with those questions. Both kinds of attorneys also know how to protect your estate from tax burdens and to avoid the expense and delay of court proceedings.

The Differences Make All the Difference

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

It’s understandable, but not wise, to postpone thinking about these things. Delay or denial can mean that entire savings get wiped out paying for nursing homes. Misconceptions about government benefits can forfeit eligibility for them. If you want to retire from your own business, do you have a plan for a smooth and profitable transition? What quality of life can you protect? What housing arrangements can be made? What is the wisest allocation of financial resources to protect against as many foreseeable contingencies as possible?

This is where we elder law attorneys come into our own. We can help you face these difficult questions with your and your families’ best interests at heart. What we know can go far to spare you the distress and anxiety if you were caught unprepared. We know how Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security work. We can help you manage retirement income benefits. We can steer you to financial arrangements necessary if you or yours need long-term nursing care.

These are difficult, complicated questions that require particular knowledge to answer. We elder law attorneys have studied long and hard for that knowledge. We have learned how to help you plan to enjoy the life you have, plan for when life becomes harder with age, and have something left over for your legacy.

Estate planning is only the beginning.

At Goff & Goff Attorneys, we have extensive experience in dealing with both estate planning and elder law, along with their similarities and differences. If you or a loved one have any questions regarding your or their planning, please click here to send us a message, or give us a call at (381) 255-1760.