How to Age Well While Saving Money

Your senior years should not be plagued with money woes. The stress that money problems bring not only ruins your aging experience but can also be disastrous to your health. Rising health care costs and your increased need for health care can add up to big bills that can further tax your health. To age well, you must use sound financial judgment as well as make healthy choices for your body and mind. The goal is to remain as healthy as you can for as long as you can and have a healthy bank account to support those goals. Beyond the obvious, such as choosing the right insurance plan and saving money for retirement, there are other strategies you can implement to further a successful and happy retirement.

Chronic stress is known to worsen health problems and can also accelerate the aging process. Though everyone experiences and handles stress differently, it is important to identify the specific stresses in your life and hone in on its source to be able to address it adequately. Relationship stress, family stress, and work stress can be treated through meditation and gentle yoga. The more you practice, the more significant the mental and physical benefits you experience.

In the case of financial stress, meditation will not save you. You need a concrete plan to approach your problem. Develop a budget that will address which debts you need to pay off first and stick to the program. Learn to avoid excessive spending that puts you in a debt cycle. Once you are as debt-free as reasonably possible, learn ways to increase your savings.

An easy way to lower your expenditures and increase your savings is to view the world as your gym. Thirty minutes of brisk walking five days a week in your neighborhood is excellent for your body and your mind. Bring your cell phone, but only use it in the event of an emergency. Take in the outdoors around you and let your mind be free. You can be active doing leg extensions or squats in your own home. You can do several ballet plies while cooking a meal and toe raises while brushing your teeth. Before you get out of bed in the morning move your pillow out of the way and stretch out your spine; arms overhead and extending through your toes. The idea is to connect your daily routine activities to a specific exercise and do it every time you enter into that everyday behavior. If you have physical limitations, talk to your doctor before implementing at-home exercises or neighborhood walks.

Learn to limit the portions of food you eat. We are a nation of overeaters. In many countries around the world, it is unheard of to have a “to go” box from a lunch or dinner that is too big for consumption in one sitting. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020 recommend active men over 65 need 2,600 calories daily, while sedentary men require just 2,000; for women, it’s 2,000 if active, and 1,600 daily calories if sedentary. Pass on the heaping helping and pass on a second helping. By limiting the amount of food you eat, you can maintain a more healthy weight, which in turn can improve your health and longevity, as well as save money.

If you have room in your yard, start a vegetable garden, plant some fruit trees, and involve your friends to share in the workload and the resulting produce. If you don’t have a yard, join a community garden. Growing your food is an excellent way to increase the number of fruits and vegetables you eat and has the added benefits of making you physically active and socially engaged. By making a garden a group effort, you can prevent isolation which for many older adults is a risk factor for everything from depression to hypertension. If you have problems kneeling or being down on the ground, try using raised garden beds or even try gutter gardening. Gutter gardens are a simple way to grow vegetables that have minimal roots in gutters that are affixed to an outside wall at a height that is comfortable for you. Gutter gardens also remove the problem of bugs in the soil. A fruit and vegetable garden will lower your grocery bill and shift your eating habits to a more healthful plant-based diet.  Learn how to can or freeze your produce if you have a short growing season where you live.

Make a small investment to solve a significant problem. A grab bar in the shower or lowering the height of your bed can help you prevent a range of serious injuries from a fall. Fractures and head traumas often result in a rapid health decline and even death. Improve your balance with gentle tai chi exercises. Be sure you have adequate lighting in your home. Fix uneven floorboards and get rid of throw rugs. By being mindful of how you move through your home you can avoid an unnecessary fall which will save you money by avoiding medical treatment and might even save your life.

Kick bad habits and start with smoking. Just because you have not already developed lung cancer after decades of smoking does not mean you won’t, nor will it help prevent other lung problems like emphysema or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Replace a bad habit with a good one as proposed above. If you drink alcohol on a daily basis or sometimes to excess, consider cutting back or quitting altogether. Alcohol contributes to unsteadiness on your feet and can precipitate you to fall. Do not take more than the prescribed dosage of painkillers or anti-anxiety medications and never mix them with alcohol. It is easy to become addicted to these drugs as you age because often they are used in the treatment of chronic conditions. You can build a tolerance to them and need progressively stronger doses. Try to find alternative ways to address your pain or anxiety. Cut back on sugar and fatty foods.

If your day is not structured, create a schedule. Try to eat at regular times as well as have a predictable bedtime and wake up call. Your body will appreciate the regularity of life. Kicking bad habits to the curb can help you enjoy your retirement years with greater energy and health as well as save you a lot of money on bad habits that are expensive. Don’t tax your wallet and your well being.

There are many techniques for aging well and preserving your bank account. Some methods are simple while others require guidance by trusted counsel.

You can reduce the financial stresses of your retirement life by letting us create a thorough plan for your finances. Contact our office today by calling us at (318) 255-1760. You may also contact us through our website by simply by clicking here and filling out our contact form. 

Let’s schedule an appointment to discuss how we can help you with your planning.

Nursing Home Evictions: What You Should Know

Nursing home evictions are an issue for many elderly people. Reports of evictions and complaints against nursing homes attempting to evict patients are widespread. Nursing homes are businesses and eviction problems often occur for residents when financial issues arise.

There are federal regulations concerning nursing home evictions. However, it is largely dependent on the state to enforce these regulations. Some residents or their families choose to fight back with complaints and legal action. Unfortunately, many of these cases go unreported as is the case with other types of elder abuse.

Nursing homes do have guidelines that allow for evictions in certain cases. A resident may be evicted but the facility must follow the minimum guidelines of federal and state law to be successful. One reason an elderly person may be evicted is if their clinical or behavioral status puts others in the facility in danger. This is one of the reasons often cited for discharging patients involuntarily.

Force discharges are also commonly attributed to the patient’s care not being paid. This can happen when private pay patients run out of resources and fall back on enrollment in Medicaid.  This program pays substantially less for the same service and the home is looking to replace this lost income. Another common trigger for eviction notices occurs when Medicare patients change from being a patient under the Medicare program to requalifying under Medicaid.  This transition can mean a reduction in the resources the facility is being paid.

Involuntary discharge can also occur if the facility is unable to meet the resident’s needs or if it is necessary for the resident’s welfare.  A patient’s needs and the facility’s ability to meet those needs should be assessed before the person is admitted to the facility. For this reason, the inability to meet a patient’s needs should be a rare reason for discharge. If it is determined that the person no longer needs the care the nursing home provides, they can be discharged. Finally, if the facility is closing, patients can be legally discharged.

It is important for residents and their families to do their homework and be informed about the regulations governing nursing homes. Not only must nursing homes follow these regulations, but they must also follow strict procedural guidelines in order to evict. If these guidelines are not strictly followed, the discharge can be reversed. If a resident is threatened with eviction, this must be done in writing and must include a written reason for the eviction. If you or your family receives a discharge notice, contact an elder law attorney immediately.

Even if the resident does not want to stay in that particular facility, it is important to take the discharge notice to an attorney because it may affect the patient’s ability to get into another facility. The window for appeals is short so be sure to contact an attorney quickly in order to give the attorney time to build the case and file the appropriate documents. The Nursing Home Reform Act helps to protect residents. The problem is that many people are uninformed and miss their opportunity to appeal these evictions. A timely response is essential in these cases.

Living in a nursing home is a difficult experience for many patients and their families. A threat of eviction adds stress to the situation. The attorney is your best advocate as he or she is able to enforce the resident’s rights and protect them within mandatory time frames.

If you have any questions about something you have read or would like additional information, please feel free to contact us for a consultation.


Hearing Loss and its Surprising Health Risks

The findings from a 10-year study by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) have reported a link between hearing loss and health risks. The risks include a 50% greater risk of dementia, a 40% greater risk of developing depression and a nearly 30% higher risk of accidental falls. While hearing loss is becoming more prevalent in younger people due to the use of earbuds and noise pollution, it is the elderly population who are more quickly and significantly affected by adverse health risks because of their hearing loss.

There is a wide range of reasons that account for hearing loss. Some are genetic while others include noise exposure, medications, head injuries, and infections. While hearing loss is a frustrating experience for those who have it, along with their loved ones, the worst option is to ignore the condition. The sooner your hearing is tested, the better your ability to proactively save yourself from associated health risks due to hearing loss. According to Johns Hopkins University, brain scans indicate that loss of hearing has even been associated with more rapid rates of brain atrophy.

One of the first symptoms of hearing loss is trouble detecting high-pitched or soft sounds. This form of hearing loss is associated with stereocilia, which is the damaging of the fragile hair cells that convert sound waves into electrical signals your brain can understand. For example, high-pitched sounds might include children’s voices while soft sounds include phone conversations or background noise in a restaurant. If you are having any trouble hearing these softer or high-pitched sounds, make an audiologist appointment for a hearing assessment to get a baseline reading. Loss of hearing contributes to social isolation and the longer you wait to address hearing loss, the greater the risk of cognition problems. Meaning, you may hear the words but not be able to process their meaning.

Other than cost, there is no downside to hearing aids anymore. They are discreet, 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 cost of a hearing aid is comparatively minimal. If your hearing loss is profound already, there are cochlear implants, which are devices implanted into the inner ear to stimulate the auditory nerve. These devices can help to restore sound perception in adults with more extreme hearing loss. Your walking motor skills are dependent upon your hearing to pick up subtle cues that help you maintain your balance. Hearing loss mutes these critical cues and makes your brain work harder to pick up sounds, which can then interfere with some of the mental processes needed for safe walking.

While it is not yet proven that treating hearing loss can prevent dementia, unintended falls, or social isolation and depression, it is important to investigate as more than two-thirds of adults over the age of 70 have significant hearing loss that can impact their everyday quality of life. Older adults with hearing problems left untreated also incur substantially higher overall costs of health care. At the ten-year mark of untreated hearing loss in older adults, the incidence of hospitalization increases by 50% or so. There are also higher rates of hospital readmission and an increased likelihood for emergency room visits when compared to those elderly adults without hearing loss.

Communication between patient and health care provider is also problematic for those adults with hearing loss. A patient has less participation in their health care plan and can often become confused as to their diagnosis and possible courses of action for treatment.  Also, following instructions post appointment or hospital discharge can be problematic. Costs associated with untreated hearing loss have prompted both health care companies and insurers to find better ways to serve patients with hearing loss.

Nearly 27 million Americans age 50 or more have a hearing loss while only one in seven uses a hearing aid or implant device. Hearing is often the most overlooked of the five human senses: taste, sight, touch, smell, and sound. Your ability to hear is incredibly important and the longer you put off addressing a hearing problem, the greater the possibility of associated adverse health events. Make good hearing part of your overall plan to age successfully.

Like retirement planning and elder law planning, the sooner you address the issue, the better the outcome will be.

Contact our office today and schedule an appointment to discuss how we can help you with your planning.

Medicare, Medicaid, and Alphabet Soup

Many people confuse Medicare and Medicaid. And, why not? They are spelled almost the same, and they both are government programs that have to do with health care. However, they are very, very different, and a proper understanding of the basics is necessary to make sure that you or your loved one can does not misstep when making important decisions concerning health care or long-term care. Even if you are not in that situation right now, it is never too early to gain a basic awareness and understanding of these programs that are so important to older Americans and their loved ones. In this piece, I will attempt to help you navigate through some of the basics.

Louisiana Medicaid

Medicaid is a health care assistance program. Its guidelines (and substantial funding) come from the federal government, but it is administered by the state.  Each state’s program is different, but must work within the guidelines that the federal government provides.

Medicaid eligibility is based on a person’s income and assets and, generally speaking, is available to people with disabilities, people over age 65, children (and the parents of eligible children), and pregnant women.  Moreover, Louisiana Medicaid can also pay for long-term nursing home care.  With proper planning by a Louisiana elder law attorney, seniors can become qualified such that they have a co-pay based on their income for the nursing home care, and Medicaid will cover the rest.  Medicare does NOT pay for long-term care. There are extensive regulations and laws that govern who can qualify for Medicaid, so it is important to talk with a lawyer skilled in this field regarding you or a loved one becoming eligible.


Medicare is a health insurance program funded by and administered by the federal government.  This means that it is uniform from state to state.  As with any government program, a person must meet certain requirements before receiving Medicare. To qualify for Medicare benefits at least 65 years old or have a severe disability. To qualifiy at age 65, a person must be a United States citizen or a permanent legal resident that has lived here for at least five consecutive years. Additionally, he or she must have worked long enough to be eligible for Social Security retirement benefits (regardless of whether he or she has started receiving those benefits).  However, in order for a disabled person under the age of 65 to receive Medicare, he or she must have received Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) for two years.  (SSDI is not the same as SSI, which is Supplemental Security Income, a means-based program.) If a person meets Medicare’s eligibility requirements, her or she can receive Medicare without regard to his or her income or assets. Costs for Medicare are based on the recipient’s work history. This means that costs are determined by the amount of time a person paid Medicare taxes. These costs like all insurance include premiums, copays, and prescriptions.

Another thing that can be confusing about Medicare is its so-called alphabet soup of “plans.” We all hear advertisements referring to Parts A, B, C, D.  Although I will explain these in detail in a later piece, I will provide you with a quick summary. Part A works like insurance for hospitalization. Part B works like insurance for medical. Part D is an option plan that provides prescription drug coverage. Parts A and B are covered in Original Medicare offered by the government. Part C is often called the Medicare Advantage Plan. This is a private health plan. The Medicare Advantage Plan or Medicare Part C plan are required to include the same coverage as Original Medicare but usually also include Part D as well. Additionally, there are other plans, such as Part F. Part F, sometimes referred to as Medigap, is supplemental insurance that covers those things that Medicare does not. It is important to do your homework on these plans to find what works best and is most cost effective for you.

Can You Qualify for Both Medicare and Medicaid?

In some circumstances, one can be eligible for both Medicaid and Medicare.  In this situation, the two programs can work together. For example, Full Medicaid benefits can cover the costs of Medicare deductibles and cover the 20% of costs not covered by Medicare. (Medicare costs include premiums, copays, and deductibles.) Medicaid may also cover the costs of premiums for Medicare Part A and/or Part B.)

If you are interested in learning more about how you or a loved one may be able to qualify for having Medicaid defer some or all of your or your loved one’s long-term care nursing home costs, please contact Ruston, Louisiana elder law attorney Add Goff.