Family Conversations

 5 Family Conversations You Must Have With Your Aging Parents

 

Tis the season when families gather together to celebrate and to give thanks. From Thanksgiving to the 1st of the New Year there are celebrations no matter what your faith. And families are often together for those celebrations.

While some families see each other often others may only connect during the holiday season. Whether you are together often or only a few times a year there are important conversations that need to happen.

Unfortunately, in our society, some of these topics may be considered taboo. If you have aging parents and you have not had these conversations with them now may be the time. While I do not suggest doing this at the holiday dinner table or celebration it is important to schedule a time to talk.

Here Are 5 Conversations That Are a Must-Have.

The Money Talk

“In my family talking about money was taboo. Especially asking your parents how much they have. I sure wish I would have broken that rule. Not knowing put the family in a bind when dad had an unexpected stroke.” Claire

Questions you need to ask include:

  1. What’s their financial situation?
  2. Where are their accounts located?
  3. Do they have Life or Long-Term Care Insurance?
  4. Do they have enough to pay their bills right now?
  5. What if they live another ten or twenty years?
  6.  Do they have a will?
  7. Do you know where the will is, and the name of the estate planning attorney who created it?
  8.  Do they have powers of attorney for finances in place?

The Health Talk

Who is their primary Care doctor? Are there any specialists?

What type of Medicare Plan are they on? (Medicare advantage or Original Medicare with a supplement?) You should know where their paperwork is located.

Do they take medications? For what conditions? You may suggest that they post a list on their current medications on the refrigerator. This will allow for easy access by you or an emergency medical professional who is called in an emergency.

Have they properly documented a power of attorney for healthcare?

The Aging Talk

Grandmother with her daughter

What plans do they have if they are no longer able to care for themselves? Would they be open to going to an assisted living facility or a nursing home? Do they know the costs associated with care at home? Do they know how much they will pay for care elsewhere? And finally, will their funds support long-term care?

If they really want to stay in their home a home assessment is in order. Making the home a safe environment for someone who may have physical limitations can keep them in that home much longer. Falls are the #1 reason that seniors end up in the hospital. Though all falls cannot be avoided, making a few changes at home may eliminate some falls.

What if someone is no longer able to drive? What options are available? Nowadays, there are so many options available. Not being able to drive yourself is not as big of a problem as it once was. A lot of seniors do not want to be dependent on their adult children for transportation. With Uber and Lyfte this is not a problem.

But chances are your aging parent does not know how these programs work.  GoGo Grandparent makes it easy!  When seniors have options that keep them in control, they are more likely to hang up the car keys.

The End of Life Talk

An elderly lady sits pensivel

This is often the hardest talk to have. But there really is no time like the present. Do they have a medical directive or a living will? How do they feel about extreme measures being taken to sustain life if they are incapacitated?

Also, ask if they have pre-planned their funeral. You will need to know where these papers are kept. Are they planning cremation or traditional burial? Ask what is important to them about their funeral?

The Family Legacy Talk

This is a much lighter and brighter conversation to have. What do they want the family to remember about them? Are there family recipes, photo books, treasured heirlooms, videos or jewelry they want to pass along? Are there stories they want to share?

Estate planning attorneys, like the Hilbun Law Firm, work with families and aging issues on a regular basis.  Attending a workshop together is a great way to start getting the conversation going. Then schedule a consultation, your attorney can help you and your parents make decisions. They’ll know about issues you may not even be aware of.

Attend a Free Estate Planning workshop at the Hilbun Law Firm and get this conversation started!

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Power of Attorney

Mom Refuses to Give Me Power of Attorney

 

“On top of that, she does not have a will!” Kimm cried

Kimm’s mom has COPD and Kimm is her only child. We recently had the discussion about the need to have different documents in order. Having a will is important and may help you to avoid costly probate.

And You Need Other Documents Also

But there are other documents that may be important to have in place also. A Power of Attorney (POA) is one of these such documents. Kimm’s mother is afraid she will be giving up her ability to make her own financial and medical decisions. This is a common concern among many seniors.

Nothing Could Be Further from The Truth

But Kimm’s Mom Caren has no need to worry. She is in good health and her mind is sharp. As such the document could not be used to override any decisions she might make. However, if she were to become ill or be in an accident the Power of Attorney could be a really useful tool. If Caren were incapacitated and medical decisions needed to be made her daughter would have her hands tied without a POA.

Accidents, a Stroke or Sudden Illness

Power of Attorney

Likewise, if she were incapacitated for a long period someone would need to be able to manage her finances. Bills still need to be paid. Someone who has a stroke could be incapable of managing their finances for months or even longer.

If Caren loves and trusts her daughter to make good decisions for her in a crisis she needs to appoint her as a power of attorney. If she feels her daughter would make poor decisions or not act in her best interest then she should choose someone else to fulfill that role. Without a power of attorney in place, Caren will be at the mercy of the medical team. Her financial situation could also be in jeopardy.

What about Guardianship?

True, Kimm could file to become her mother’s guardian if something happened. However, the process is long and quite costly. At a time when Kimm will want to spend time caring for and loving her mom, she will be frustrated. Having a parent in the hospital is stressful enough. And just going through the legal process can be exhausting. Put the two together and the situation can become overwhelming.

So How Do I Get Mom to Listen?

This can be a real challenge. A lot of how you approach an elderly loved one will depend on your relationship with them. If you describe the relationship as challenging (meaning you butt heads a lot) you may need to have a mediator. This could be a pastor you both like, a valued friend or relative, or an attorney or other paid mediator.

The Key is You Need to Communicate.

You need to communicate how you feel about life, death and everything in between.  You may have different beliefs about medical intervention. One may believe that everything possible should be done no matter what. The other may feel that heroic measures should not be taken when the prognosis is low.

How do you feel? And how does your parent feel? Can you respect their beliefs? Do they have a living will in place to ensure their desires are respected? Having a discussion like this is important. And make sure you are listening. This is not the time or the conversation to try to sway your parent to your way of thinking. Instead, this is a time to learn about their beliefs and desires.

Do You Have Your Documents in Place?

So you want Mom to get all of her ducks in a row. You want to make sure she has a POA, will, Living will and anything else that could be needed. But do you have your documents in place? If you are 18 or older you should. Let’s face it, accidents can happen to anyone, regardless of age.

Attend a Workshop Together

In fact, get other family members involved. Ask mom if she has a friend or neighbor who could be interested too. The more the merrier! This way it will not feel like you are trying to boss her around. And you will all get the facts! If you are getting documents in order for your family it will seem natural for her to do the same. Add other family members into the equation and the idea will be reinforced. Now it is a smart decision that she is making.

The Hilbun Law Firm has weekly workshops. They are no charge and we promise you will have fun learning with us. Remember, what you don’t know will hurt you. See the schedule here.

 

Big Changes for Aid & Attendance Benefits

 

Our veterans have graciously fought for us. We love them,  are proud of them and for many of us, they just so happen to also be members of our families. If that is the case for you or your family, listen up-this piece is for you! Effective October 30th, 2018 the VA pension plan regulations are bound to change.

Aid & Attendance (A&A) and Housebound Eligibility

Long Term Care Options

According to the VA Benefits webpage, VA pension eligible veterans who require the attendance/assistance of another person (ie. a nurse or a family member) may now qualify for additional monetary payment.

 

These veterans must be in eligible wartime service status, with 90 days active duty at least one day within the confines of WWII, the Korean Conflict, Vietnam Era Conflicts, or the Gulf War. This does not replace the pre-existing pension agreement that the veteran already has, but is a supplementary addition to the monthly allowance. The qualifiers are based on the following:

-The veteran requires the aid of another person in order to perform 2 or more everyday personal functions.

-The veteran is bedridden (ie. the veterans disability/ies require time in bed for a prescribed amount of time)

-The veteran is in a nursing home due to mental or physical incapability

-The veteran’s eyesight is limited to a corrected 5/200 visual acuity or less. This can be in either or both eyes or a concentric contraction of the field of vision to 5 degrees or less.

 

In regards to eligibility for the Homebound, the veteran must be substantially confined to your immediate premises because of a permanent disability to qualify for additional pension payments.

Aid & Attendance and Housebound Ineligibility

 

Because these A&A allowances increase the monthly pension amount, those that are not eligible for basic pensions due to excessive income may not be eligible for these benefits. The veterans net worth is not to exceed federally established Medicaid Community Spouse Resource Allowance, which currently stands at 123,600 USD. The VA will now look back at the finances of the past 3 years to decide whether or not candidates are eligible for these benefits. This is a new addition to VA benefit qualifications.

 

Additionally, Unreimbursed Medical Expenses (UME) are deductible from net worth calculation as they apply, licensed care professionals must provide the UMEs. These UME must not be spent on certain non-care related medical expenses like HI premiums. Family caregiver payments are no longer accepted as valid UMEs unless said family member is properly licensed by the state. In addition to this, a veteran or a surviving spouse of a veteran may not receive A&A and Housebound benefits at the same time.

 

How to Apply

One may apply for Aid and Attendance or Housebound benefits by acquiring the services of Hilbun Elder Law Firm to assist with the A & A application process. They will assist with the writing and sending of the documents to your local VA benefits center. To enlist their services, one must come with the necessary documents.

 

Upon arrival, one would be advised to include copies of any evidence of aid and attendance or housebound status. These documents are preferred to be a report from an attending physician that can validate the need for A&A or Housebound type care. A call to Hilbun would help to assess whether or not the documents one has are valid.

 

These documents should provide sufficient detail to determine whether there is a disease of injury-producing physical or mental impairment, loss of coordination, or conditions affecting the ability to conduct daily living activities without assistance. Examples of activities needing assistance are:

  • dressing,
  • feeding,
  • toileting and making themselves presentable.

 

Regardless if the claim is for A&A or for housebound status, the applicant must present information addressing the abilities of each applicant. This should include information like how well the applicant gets around, where they go, and what they are able to do in a day. It is also important to determine if the claimant is confined to the home or immediate premises.

 

Contact Hilbun Elder Law for any other questions or inquiries about the new A & A and Housebound benefits.

3 Reasons You Need To Discuss Finances and Legal Issues With Your Parents

 

 

 

Okay, I get it.

It is an uncomfortable topic. Many families do not discuss finances. It is considered taboo. And children are taught to stay out of their parent’s personal business. That includes their finances.

 

And This Needs to Change.

 

Many problems that wind up in our office could have been avoided. Proper planning a communication with the whole family can eliminate a lot of headaches we see.

 

Rolling the Dice

Let’s face it, tragedy can strike at any time. However, the older we get the higher the odds are that an accident or illness may happen. Are you really ready to roll the dice?

1. A Fall or Other Accident May Leave You Physically Incapacitated

Long Term Care Options

If we have heard it once we have heard this story a thousand times. Mom or dad has fallen and winds up in the hospital. They are incapacitated. However, no one in the family has a power of attorney. Their hands are tied. They are unable to make medical decisions. And furthermore, if there are multiple children each may have a different opinion.

Sibling Rivalry rears its ugly head and everybody wants to do something different. Chances are (hopefully) they are all wanting to help their parent. But they each have different beliefs and views on what is the best way. And so, the fight begins and the family unit is torn apart. Is this really what you want for your family?

And how are your bills going to get paid while you are recouping?

Hopefully, if you have fallen, you still have your cognitive abilities. An Elder law attorney can come to see you in the hospital and help get your documents in order. But wouldn’t it be less stressful to do that before there is a problem?

 

2. A Stroke or Other Serious Health Situation that Leaves You Mentally Incapacitated

Now we have a more serious situation. You have not planned for this. Yet here it is.  Hopefully you have at least named someone as your POA (Power of Attorney) and hopefully, you have other documents in place to ensure that your medical needs and decisions are respected.

Have you discussed your finances with your POA? Do they know how much you have available?  Often families come in because they do not know what to do. A stroke that left dad incapacitated means he now needs long-term care.

And Medicare Does Not Pay for That

Families are shocked to discover that Medicare does not pay for a home care worker to stay with dad during the day while his daughter is at work. You may be able to get a few hours a week from Home Healthcare for a limited time. But they will not cook, clean, run errands or play chess with Dad. Nor will it pay for an Assisted living facility or nursing home. These costs will have to come out of pocket.

And if there is not any money or not enough money you may have to apply for Medicaid. But planning this ahead of your actual need is necessary. Applying for Medicaid is a process. And having a plan in place is important.

“I was ashamed that I had not saved enough money for retirement. So, I hid that fact from my children. I was hoping that I would just die in my sleep one day and we would not have to deal with any of this” ~ Sharon, a stroke survivor

3. The Long Slow Slide into Dementia

It is common to want to believe this is not happening. To yourself or to someone you love. But the signs are there. Subtle in the beginning but nevertheless there. Pretending that this is not or will not happen is not a strategy that works for anyone.

“Dad was having a good time traveling across the country with his race car. I was proud of him. He was 78 and still so active and seemed to really be enjoying life. But looking back there were signs. It was uncomfortable. And I did not want to believe there could be a problem. I wanted his life and my life to continue on this happy course. And then our little Utopia came crashing down around us. Dad showed up at my house a few days before hurricane Harvey hit Houston. It would flood our home and we would not return for a year. Dad’s car had obviously been wrecked. He could give me no logical explanation about what happened. Though I was concerned I had other worries to deal with now as Harvey invaded our home. And then Dad disappeared.” ~ Claire, Daughter and Harvey Survivor

Claire’s father was eventually found. He had gone home. To the home, he had shared with his now ex-wife and Claire’s mom. They had been divorced for over 25 years. She still lived there and let him in. She could tell something was wrong.

As an only daughter, Claire had POA but the money she thought Dad had had all been spent or possibly given away.  People with beginning dementia are especially vulnerable to con artists and crooks.

What’s Your Plan?

Having a plan and strategy in place can help families avoid having to make important decisions during stressful times. Take a few hours to attend a workshop. Learn about what you need to have in place. Have the money conversation with your family. This way they will know what to do when tragedy strikes.

 

 

 

 

blended families

Blended Families- What You Need to Know

 

You are madly in love! You are sure the person you are marrying is also a really good Mom/Dad. And you imagine that everything will work wonderfully.

Hmmmmm….Really? No hiccups along the way?

Getting married when you are young and single without children can be an adjustment. You both came from different families. As such, there were beliefs you picked up along the way. You have different ways of doing things.

Getting Married with Children

blended family

Approximately 65% of new marriages include children of past marriages.

Let’s face it, getting married with children brings the whole adjustment experience up a notch. Everyone has their own vision of what life should look like in the new family. And the truth is you may not all be on the same page. Here are a few situations you should consider.

Sibling Rivalry

All families experience sibling rivalry. But blended families experience it at a different level. The fighting may be more intense. After all, they didn’t ask to be a part of this new family. Chances are your child may long for “how things used to be.” Additionally, children who haven’t had to “share’ their parent in a long time may have trouble letting go.

How to Handle the Situation

Communication is the key to a successful remarriage and a blended family. Make sure you and your spouse are on the same page about sibling rivalry. If one of you thinks the other’s child is causing the rift, nothing will work. If you are having trouble with this seek counseling.

Consequences and rewards need to be the same for all the children, no matter how it “used to work” before you two got married. The rules have to be the same for everyone and you and your partner need to be on the same page.

Turf Wars

Children of blended families often have trouble with one another’s turf. If the children from one family move into the home with children who are already there expect some acting out. Ideally, if you can move into a new home it may make the transition smoother. But this may not be possible. In that case, try the following tips.

If there are not enough bedrooms, make the den or an office space into a bedroom.

Sharing Bedrooms

blended families- bedrooms

Children who must share bedrooms need to have an active voice in how it is decorated. Spending a few extra dollars on new paint and décor can help soften the blow of sharing a space for your child.

Consider hiring an organizer to work with the family to clean out closets, drawers and family spaces that will be shared. This will be an outsider who can help the children develop a good plan to use their space.

Keep each family member’s allotted space as equal as possible. This is so important!

Legal Disputes and Issues

When families separate there may be legal issues that arise. During a divorce, one partner may get the house but when a new partner enters the picture, legal agreements may need to be changed. There may also be financial strains from ongoing legal issues related to the divorce.

Communicating before you get married. Put all of your cards on the table. Make sure you enter a marriage with your eyes wide open. Understand all of the legal and financial challenges you may encounter.

It is Important to Plan

Wills, trusts and other documents need to be updated. This is so important. Often people do not even think about the fact their new family could be left in the cold. Your ex-spouse could end up with money you wanted your new spouse to have. And you want to make sure all of the children in the family get equal treatment and shares.

The Hilbun Law Firm can help you make sure everything is in place.

Pet Estate Planning- Caring For Your Fur Babies

 

“Bella is my baby I can’t imagine what might happen to her if I’m gone. And what if I just got in an accident and couldn’t make it home? Who would take care of her? Who would even know that she’s there.”

When You Live Alone

June lives alone. she’s been divorced for a while and has a grown daughter. But her daughter lives in another city. Furthermore, they don’t have the strongest relationship.

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Plus, June told me Carrie doesn’t really like animals.  “I can’t understand that. But that’s the way it is. So, I have to think about other arrangements for Bella. After all, I’m her protector and she deserves the best.

A lot of people who live alone and worry about what will happen with their pets when they are gone. Unfortunately, all too often people have not made any plans or arrangements. They assume they will outlive their pets.

Let’s face it life is uncertain.

Whether you are 30 or 80, things can happen. And if you’ve taken on the responsibility of a pet then it’s your responsibility to make sure that they’re taken care of in the event that something would happen to you. And you can’t always expect the family to swoop in and take over.

“When my mother-in-law fell,” Kathryn said “We had to take in her cat. I really didn’t want or need another animal. But it was the right thing to do. And no one else in the family would do it. So, my husband and I took Callie and cared for her for the next 9 years. We really didn’t want to but we did.”

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Not everybody has someone in their family who would do that. If you do that’s great. But have a talk with your family ahead of time. Make sure you know who is willing and who is not. And if nobody is really willing then you’ve got to think of other arrangements. Where would your pet go? Who would care for them?

When Keith Didn’t Answer His Phone

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Elaine called Catherine concerned she hadn’t heard from her friend Keith in over a day.

 

“It’s not like him,” she said “We always call each other each morning. He’s not answering and I’m worried. I’m afraid to go over there” Elaine said

 

She was concerned that Keith might have passed away. At 89 years old it was definitely a possibility. So, Catherine got her husband, Bob, to go and check on Keith. Elaine had a key so he could get in.

Keith Was In Trouble

Keith wasn’t dead but he did have a stroke. He was laying on the floor in the hallway. And his two dogs were snuggled up next to him clearly distraught. The person they love was not doing well. An ambulance was called. But now came the question, what to do about his to beloved pets?

A Plan Was In Place

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Luckily Keith had already made a plan. The place where he boarded them when he went on vacations had already agreed to take care of them. Furthermore, if Keith passed away or could no longer care for them they would find a home for both of his fur babies.  Keith even paid for a month in advance to ensure that is two sweet angels would be well taken care of.

 

Furthermore, he had set up a trust account. This would be for any medical bills they may have in the future. Whoever adopted them would not have to worry about the expense. He clearly thought of everything.

Peace of Mind

Keith spent the last 6 months in a nursing home. But he did not have to worry about his beloved pets. In fact, the couple who adopted brought them for visits once a week and made sure Keith had plenty of pictures and videos.

 

A Few Steps To Protect Your Pets (or Fur Babies)

 

  1. Make sure that you have information in your wallet to let people know that you have a pet at home. If you were in an accident, someone would need to check on your pet. Print something up on card stock. Make sure contact information is included for the person who can enter your home to take care of your pet.
  2. Does a friend, relative or neighbor have a key to get into your home? Luckily Keith thought ahead and gave Elaine a key. This made it easier for someone to check on him and his fur babies.
  3. Talk to your family. Do not assume they will take care of your fur friends. What other options are there? Who could help? Have a plan in place like Keith did.
  4. Have a sticker on your door and window to let EMS know there is a pet inside. Have contact information on your refrigerator so they know who can care for your pets.

 

Consider adding a provision to your estate plan. This is especially important if you have exotic animals or pets with special needs. After all, your fur babies are your family too. Make sure they are well taken care of.

Long Term Care Options

Making Sense of Long-Term Care: Know Your Options to Plan for Your Needs

 

We spend much of our adult years planning for retirement, but as that time approaches, our financial goals start to shift and other needs come into focus. Of course, it’s impossible to know for sure whether you will need long-term care or for how long, but there are some risk factors that can help predict the likelihood. Whether you’re approaching retirement or already retired, now is the time to think about those risk factors and start planning ahead.

 

What are Your Risk Factors?

 

Over half of Americans turning 65 today will develop a disability serious enough to require long-term care. According to HuffPost, the two most common reasons people need some form of long-term care are dementia and disability. You may not be able to predict these things, but you can ask yourself a few questions that affect your likelihood of needing long-term care.

 

 

  • Are there hereditary illnesses and conditions that could impact you? Dementia, Alzheimer’s, and stroke all have genetic components, so if you have a family history of any of these debilitating illnesses, your risk of needing long-term care may be higher.

 

  • What lifestyle choices are you making now? You can’t change your genetics, but lifestyle factors play a huge role in your risk of having problems later. For example, high blood pressure, diabetes, and smoking are just a few of the lifestyle factors that lead to a higher risk of stroke.

 

  • What other factors raise your risk? A few other factors that are out of your control may also raise your risk. Women are more likely than men, and single people are more likely than married people to need long-term care.

 

  • How close are you to retirement? The earlier you start saving for long-term care costs, the better. If you plan to get a long-term care insurance policy, AARP recommends shopping in your 50s or 60s. As you get older, premiums will be higher, and worse health could prevent you from getting the best coverage.

 

What Can You Do Now?

 

It’s never too late to change unhealthy lifestyle choices. Quitting smoking, exercising, eating a balanced diet, and managing stress can all lower your risk for stroke and other chronic illnesses. You can also reduce the risk of injury by doing a thorough safety check of your home and making any modifications that make mobility easier and safer.

 

What are Your Options When Preparing for Long-Term Care?

 

Most people use a combination of personal funds, government programs like Medicare and Medicaid, and personal financing options like long-term care insurance to pay for their care. There are also some commonly overlooked funds, such as VA benefits, so be sure to explore all options that are available to you. While government programs can help, most long-term care costs typically come from your private savings or insurance.

 

If you have the means and want to avoid paying for an insurance policy you may never need, one option is to put a substantial sum into savings. This isn’t an option for everyone, and it can be tricky to estimate the amount you should be saving. Another option is to purchase long-term care insurance; you can choose from traditional long-term care policies as well as life insurance/traditional long-term care combination policies.

 

Even with savings and insurance, it’s important to know your options if you end up needing help paying for long-term care. You may want to consider a life settlement as one option. Choosing a life settlement allows you to sell a life insurance policy you already have for a greater value than you would get surrendering the policy. Selling a life insurance policy can help pay for daily living expenses and medical care if you find yourself needing help paying for long-term care. Just be sure to do thorough research before making any decisions to avoid unwanted surprises.

 

Thinking about long-term care costs is often unsettling. When you’re ready to enjoy retirement, preparing for long-term care is probably the last thing you want to do. Just keep in mind that the peace of mind you will get from planning ahead will be worth it.

 

Author

 

June is the co-creator of Rise Up for Caregivers, which offers support for family members and friends who have taken on the responsibility of caring for their loved ones. She is author of the upcoming book, The Complete Guide to Caregiving: A Daily Companion for New Senior Caregivers.

 

 

Photo credit: Pixabay