Getting Old is Harder Than It Used to Be
By Lori A. Leu and Erin W. Peirce, Lori A. Leu & Associates, LIVING WELL Magazines
As Baby Boomers get older, many of them are suffering because they weren’t fully prepared for the hardships of aging. These days, getting old seems to be harder than it used to be––families live farther apart and aren’t always able to care for each other the way they did in the past. There are many of us in the Sandwich Generation––trying to raise our kids and take care of our parents at the same time and that’s a lot to juggle. People are living longer, and providing quality care for them is getting tougher, but there are some things we can do to make it a little easier.
Fraud Awareness: I have seen too many older women and men who were manipulated by someone they thought they could trust: a son, a daughter, a family friend, a teller at a bank, or even a caregiver. These people each befriended an elderly person and then abused their position to exploit them, almost always in ways that were financial or material. Take the time to talk to your elderly loved ones regularly about their lives and daily activities and listen carefully for hints that they are struggling to manage on their own. Remind them that there are many unscrupulous people and countless scams perpetrated every day. Make sure they know you are available to help and that you care about their well-being and financial security.
Know Your Health Care Options: There’s another important way to prepare for aging: get the facts on your health care coverage and available public benefits. Many people don’t know what private health insurance and Medicare will and will not cover. People are often shocked to find out that Medicare or their health insurance will not pay for long-term skilled nursing or assisted living care, which can cost thousands of dollars a month. Some people can get government benefits, such as Medicaid or Veterans’ benefits, but not everyone qualifies for these public programs. If you have the advantage of time to plan in advance, long-term care insurance, or its equivalent, can make all the difference.
Long-term Care Planning: Every week, we are asked to help families who are faced with the challenges of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. These are situations that can be really hard on everyone involved. Debilitating illness can become the kind of worst-case scenario that leaves a family in financial ruin due to lost income, medical expenses, and nursing care costs. It’s impossible to plan for every unexpected circumstance that could arise in the future, but having your estate planning documents in order as soon as possible will definitely help. Medical and Durable powers of attorney to designate agents to assist with medical decisions and financial matters are vital to avoiding the need for guardianships.
Guardianships: Sometimes, it becomes clear that a person no longer has the capacity to care for or protect themselves. A judge can appoint a legal guardian for someone who is suffering from dementia or any other disability that impairs judgment and decision-making. The appointed guardian will typically oversee personal affairs and finances. Guardianships can be difficult, but are sometimes necessary to protect a loved one from exploitation by unscrupulous or misguided people. One of the only ways to ensure you have some control in the selection of a guardian is to sign a Declaration of Guardian while you have capacity. A Declaration of Guardian allows you to choose who you do, or do not, want appointed as your guardian, if the time ever comes when that’s necessary. A little advance planning can make things a lot easier down the road. Letting your wishes be known ahead of time can prevent a lot of heartache and fighting.
Find Trusted Advisors: Whether you’re helping your parents or other family members deal with aging or facing those challenges yourself, don’t go it alone. Seek qualified professional advice on health care, insurance, legal documents and financial planning. There are many trust-worthy professionals in our community––take the time to build relationships with people you trust to help plan for your future. You’re doing your family a huge favor when you put a plan in place well before you need it.
Lori A. Leu and Erin W. Peirce are Elder Law attorneys with Lori A. Leu & Associates in Plano, Texas. They help clients sort through these issues every day and can be reached at 972-996-2540.
Lori A. Leu and Erin W. Peirce are Elder Law attorneys with Lori A. Leu & Associates in Denton County. They help clients sort through these issues every day and can be reached at 972-996-2540.