US Census: Beware Scammers

October 27, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — Alexis @ 11:44 AM

The US Census, conducted every ten years, is underway. You can count on scammers to use the opportunity to try to rip people off.

A Census worker will be coming to your door. They will have an identification badge, a copy of the letter that was previously sent to you by the Census Bureau, a bag or laptop with the Census Bureau insignia, and a hand-held device.

They will ask you for your name so that they can verify your address.

Legitimate census workers will NOT ask for your Social Security number, your credit card number, bank account numbers, or any other confidential information.

If anyone does claim to be with the Census and asks you for your Social Security number, credit card, or bank information, ask them to leave.

Also note that the Census will not contact anyone by email. If you receive an email claiming to be from the Census, it is not legitimate.

Keep an eye on your neighborhood, especially the homes of elderly neighbors. Seniors are particularly susceptible to scam artists.

Veterans Benefits: Aid & Attendance Benefits

October 26, 2009

Filed under: Living at Home,Veterans Benefits — Tags: , — Alexis @ 11:31 AM

Most of my clients need a little extra help at home but aren’t sure how to pay for it. When we look at their savings and project how long those funds will work for them, the bottom line is usually this: if the client had just a little more cushion, they could stay at home, with the proper supports, for longer. But where to find the money?

For many of the Greatest Generation, the answer lies in Veterans Benefits. There is a fantastic program that few seniors and their families know about: Aid & Attendance. Once you qualify, the VA will send a monthly check that you use to pay caregivers, buy medical equipment, remodel a bathroom to be wheelchair accessible, pay rent at assisted living – whatever you decide is the best and most effective use of that money. This is the most logical, pragmatic long-term care program I know of. It helps seniors stay at home or in an assisted living – and out of a nursing home – for longer. All without limiting you to certain home health aide agencies, rolling deductibles, and a lot of the impediments that come with other support programs.

The application process for the A&A program is not for the faint of heart. There are reams of papers to fill out (of course), and it can take at least six months to receive approval. More to the point, the VA regulations are hard to find, and if you can find them, impossible to understand. More than almost any other government program, you will need an elder law attorney or a qualified veterans representative to walk you through the planning process. Without this help, it is very difficult to obtain the maximum benefits you are entitled to.

In order to assist you, an attorney must be “certified” by the VA and take requisite training. I have made it my business to become certified and receive the necessary education so that I can help my clients stay at home for longer.

Howard Gleckman’s Caring for Our Parents

October 23, 2009

I’ve been reading Howard Gleckman’s book, Caring for Our Parents, in which he examines the long-term care system of today and the future. Essentially, if we keep on doing things as we are now (expect people to use up their savings to stay at home or in assisted living, have Medicaid pay for nursing home – with a few other public programs thrown in here and there), then the elderly of the next few decades are in for quite a shock.

My conclusions are these:

1. Write a Health Care Proxy and a Medical Directive, or Living Will My version of this is to give clients Your Way, a fantastic workbook that helps you spell out to your family what care you would want in various end of life situations. Long-term care is astonishingly expensive, as you know if you are currently coordinating at-home care or other support for your parents. If you don’t want that kind of money spent on you – if you don’t want certain procedures done or decisions made – tell your family now. During an emotional crisis, it will be very difficult for them to turn down a medical option without you having previously given them that moral permission.

2. Get thee to a financial advisor. The current long-term care system depends in large part on the consumer paying her own way. The Boomers are notorious for not saving money. Work with an advisor to see what kind of cushion you can build up.

3. Get involved in politics at the grass-roots level. As currently structured, the Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and long-term care insurance systems are projected to crash in on themselves. Additionally, Boomers don’t have the numbers of children that their parents do to share the workload. Your parents will be OK – an elder law attorney can help them stretch out their assets to stay at home for as long as possible. But the Boomers will not be OK. The system needs to be overhauled, dramatically. I don’t have answers, but Gleckman outlines the models that some other countries use. I’m sure there are other brilliant policy makers in the US coming up with excellent ideas, as well. But ideas become law only if the Boomers use their sheer numbers to push the system to provide the care they expect. Without big change, the Boomers will be in for quite the surprise in their frail old age.

Does Your Special Needs Child Really Need a Guardianship?

October 19, 2009

Last week I gave a presentation to Weymouth parents of special needs young adults, and from our conversation, it was clear that the school system was telling them that when a special needs child turns 18, the family must obtain a guardianship. As I’ve written elsewhere, this costs money, involves lawyers, and requires going to court. And for kids with developmental disabilities, there is the daunting clinical team report, which requires coordinating three different professionals.

Fortunately, guardianship (and its accompanying conservatorship) is not necessarily the answer for every family. For lots of kids, a Health Care Proxy and Durable Power of Attorney are the way to go. I don’t know why school special ed personnel are not educated on this, but the Health Care Proxy and Durable Power of Attorney are much more respectful of the young adult’s autonomy and cost significantly less – thousands of dollars less – with a fraction of the hassle.

To sign her Health Care Proxy and Durable Power of Attorney, the young adult needs to have a basic understanding of what she is appointing the named agents to do (usually her parents, but not necessarily – it’s up to her to decide whom to name). Ask yourself: Does she understand that money buys her things? That money must be saved and spent with care? Does she like to have someone help her manage money and make decisions? Does she like to have someone involved with her medical care? Would she like for someone to be able to tell doctors what to do if she can’t tell them herself?

If you think the answer to these questions is “yes,” then meet with a special needs attorney to discuss a Health Care Proxy and Durable Power of Attorney instead of guardianship and conservatorship. Technically speaking, the question of whether a person has the requisite mental capacity to sign these documents is a legal one, so the attorney will need to meet with the young adult alone – maybe more than once – to make that determination for herself.

And if the attorney decides that indeed this young adult can create and sign these documents, than the small investment you have made is more than outweighed by the savings of avoiding guardianship and conservatorship – in terms of the young adult’s autonomy and your family’s time, money, and emotional capital.