Category: Caregiving

Helping Our Family Caregivers During National Family Caregiver Month

Did you know that November is National Family Caregivers Month? Do you know what family caregivers do? Are you a family caregiver or know someone who is? Family caregivers are unsung heroes, working tirelessly to help elderly or disabled family members. Many family caregivers are juggling their caregiving responsibilities alongside paid work outside the home and caring for their own children. As we celebrate family caregivers this month let us share several ways you can take time to honor family caregivers.

One way to honor your family caregiver would be to think about giving your family caregiver an afternoon off once a week. Perhaps you and other family members could volunteer to give a family caregiver an afternoon off by stepping in to take over the caregiving responsibilities. If you or other members of your family are unable to cover one afternoon a week a professional caregiver could be hired. It can mean a lot to family caregivers to know they do not have to shoulder the caregiving responsibility alone.

In addition, other family members should be aware of what responsibilities a family caregiver has at home and at work. Family members could offer to pick up the caregiver’s kids after school, provide a meal once a week or take the kids out to the park or to a movie. These offers of help let the family caregiver know that the rest of the family understands the overwhelming responsibility of caring for a family member while maintaining a full time job and taking care of kids.

Finally, just as parents take care of their children and make sure their kids are safe, clean, fed and well rested, even if they are tired, hungry or need a shower, the same goes for the family caregiver. The family caregiver is first tasked with keeping his or her elderly or disabled family member clean, fed, well rested and living in a clean and healthy home, no matter how the caregiver feels. Just as parents must work to keep well rested and healthy, so must the family caregiver. To help a caregiver stay healthy, encourage them to take care of themselves by eating right, getting a good night sleep and exercising.

Do you have questions? Please contact our law practice to learn more. We are here for you. Elder and Estate Planning Attorneys PA is a law office small enough to provide personal service but large enough to provide service in Palm Beach, Martin, St. Lucie and Indian River Counties.

Helping Loved Ones Understand on World Alzheimer’s Day

On September 21, we celebrate World Alzheimer’s Day to raise awareness of the impact of Alzheimer’s Disease and other forms of dementia on loved ones afflicted and on family members and friends impacted by their diagnoses. Alzheimer’s Disease and other forms of dementia are often called a “family” disease because of the difficult impacts it can have on the afflicted person’s family members and friends. Supporting those with Alzheimer’s can also mean supporting their loved ones who help them to cope over time.

There can be many ways to promote understanding of Alzheimer’s Disease among family and friends. The first step may be to tell your loved ones, as soon as you feel comfortable doing so, after receiving a diagnosis. When you decide to have the conversation, it may be helpful to bring some articles that explain what Alzheimer’s means, and discuss the typical prognosis. 

You can also encourage loved ones to go online and visit the Alzheimer’s Association website to learn more. This way, instead of having to be the scientific resource yourself, you can give them the tools to learn more and make yourself available for more practical and emotional discussions about the specific situation and changes for your family.

If your spouse or parent has recently been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, you may want to take some time to discuss future caregiving plans with extended family members who want to be included in the process. It may also be advisable to complete any estate planning needs that remain unfinished before your loved one becomes incapacitated by Alzheimer’s, so that they can take an active role in the planning. 

It can be difficult for friends and family to explain Alzheimer’s when their loved one struggles in public. Sometimes, giving visitors a helpful speaking prompt and asking them to say their name and explain who they are, rather than expecting your loved one to recognize them immediately, can be helpful. Speaking to them naturally, and not treating them like a child, can help preserve their dignity. You can also explain that correcting your loved one when they make a mistake may be embarrassing to them, so letting the little things go can be the smoothest path for everyone. 

If you are out in a very public setting, like the grocery store or a park, you may want to carry some literature from the Alzheimer’s Association with you. If someone asks you questions, it can be an opportunity to educate and raise awareness of the disease. You never know, the person asking you might have a loved one who was recently diagnosed. Having information on hand could help him or her on his or her own journey. 

For more information about legal issues associated with an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, please reach out to our office to schedule an appointment.

Family Caregivers Can Help Senior Adults During Older Americans Month

Senior adults have not only made a lifetime of contributions to society, but according to the U.S. Census Bureau seniors are on track to outnumber young people for the first time ever. Thus, older adults deserve both recognition and support for senior-specific issues that are only going to increase in the years to come, and that is what Older Americans Month is all about.

Since 1963, every U.S. president has declared the month of May, Older Americans Month. This involves ceremonies, events, fairs and similar activities, as well as connecting seniors to resources that provide valuable support services. Older Americans Month also coincides with National Elder Law Month, which provides outreach, education and legal services to seniors across the country. 

Adult children of aging seniors and family caregivers can play a critical role in facilitating these resources by assisting their elder loved ones. Let us share a few of these important resources for you to consider.

  • Eldercare Support: The national Eldercare Locator helps connect older adults and their family caregivers with trustworthy elder care organizations across the country.
  • Health Care: State Health Insurance Assistance Programs, or SHIPs, provide free support to Medicare beneficiaries and their caregivers.
  • Long-Term Care: The U.S. Administration on Aging assists seniors in understanding what is involved in long-term care, such as nursing homes and assisted living. The National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care helps older adults and their family caregivers understand their rights. It can also assist in obtaining help if they need it. 
  • Elder Abuse: The National Center on Elder Abuse helps combat elder abuse. Learning more about this critical issue can help identify warning signs, protect vulnerable seniors and take necessary actions.
  • Pensions: Millions of senior adults depend on their pensions to survive. Family caregivers can help resolve pension-related problems by connecting with groups like PensionHelp America.
  • Legal: The National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, which our own attorney is a member of, is a nonprofit association that provides legal services for senior adults and people with special needs. NAELA established National Elder Law Month as a way to acknowledge the elder law profession and provide legal support for the nation’s senior community.

We know that you and your loved ones may need estate planning or elder law help right now. If you or someone you know would like more information or specific guidance on legal matters, do not hesitate to contact us now, or anytime throughout the year.

 

Should Family Caregivers Have Their Dependent Parents Move In?

Family caregivers provide unpaid care for millions of dependent Americans, many of whom are elder adults. According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, the average age of a dependent care recipient is 69.4 years old, and nearly half of all informal care recipients are over age 75. A key question for loving family members, this National Family Caregiver Month, is whether to have aging dependents move in with them. 

 

Safety concerns and cost efficiencies might make such moves seem appealing, but adult children should first determine if they are capable of meeting their elder parent’s needs. If they require only minimal care, such as assistance with meal preparation, dressing and transportation, then moving in might make sense. 

 

If an elder relative is ill or disabled, however, perhaps with dementia or a medical condition requiring nursing care, then well-meaning adult children may be unqualified to help. This may only invite problems to an already demanding situation. Make sure to ask an aging relative’s doctor about his or her needs, while keeping in mind that any existing concerns are likely to increase over time. 

 

Another consideration is the nature of your relationship. In other words, do you get along and is it emotionally feasible to live together under the same roof? You may want to care for an elder adult, you may feel obligated to do so, but it is more important to ensure the best quality of life for everyone involved, including members of your own family.

 

Practical considerations are also important. For example, can your home accommodate another person. To dive into this further, can your home accommodate a person with specific needs? Will the existing layout need adjustments? Renovations? Can your home support certain medical equipment?

 

Mounting expenses might require reimbursements or an allowance from the elder parent’s financial resources. Assuming other family members are in agreement, an estate plan could be crafted or updated to reflect the new caregiving dynamic. For instance, a power of attorney document could be created to allow for bill payments, groceries, and other items to be paid on the dependent parent’s behalf. 

 

Other financial and health care arrangements could also apply and you may want to discuss your situation with an elder law attorney before moving forward. We encourage you not to wait to get the answers you need to your questions. You may contact our law practice to schedule a meeting with attorney Anné Desormier-Cartwright to obtain the guidance you need for yourself and your loved ones.

The Two Main Medical Alert Options For Seniors

Did you know that older adults are at elevated risk of falls, accidents, and dangerous health situations? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 3 million seniors are treated in emergency rooms every year just for falls, with one out of five causing serious injuries such as broken bones or head trauma. One of the best ways to combat these emergency scenarios is by using a medical alert system.

These life-saving devices connect users to emergency responders with the press of a button. Typical systems come with wireless bracelets, pendants, or lanyards that are worn by senior adults or disabled persons. When pressed, the devices transmit signals to an alarm monitoring company or emergency health department. Medical personnel are then dispatched to the location where the alert signal was triggered. 

Medical alert companies offer different services, equipment, and price points. The most basic difference, however, is whether a system is home-based or mobile. Deciding which type of device is best will depend entirely on your senior loved one’s needs. To help better guide your decision, let us share with you some information about the two main medical alert options for seniors. 

Home-Based Medical Alert

Home-based or in-home systems are sometimes called “traditional medical alert systems,” because they have functioned essentially the same for decades. The systems come with a wearable wireless device that connects to a base unit within the senior’s home. They are perfect for seniors who spend a lot of time alone in their homes. These devices are also cheaper than mobile systems, but have a limited range of connectivity, similar to a home wireless internet system, or WiFi.

Mobile Medical Alert Systems

Mobile medical alert systems have developed amid the technology upswing of recent years. They do not require a home base unit for connectivity, but have a wide-ranging capacity to connect with emergency services similar to smart phones. Mobile alert devices allow the user to speak directly to 911 dispatch or another pre-programmed entity in most locations. They are ideal for active seniors, but are typically more expensive than home-based systems and rely on batteries.

These are just a few of the benefits of the different types of medical alert systems. If you or a senior loved one are unsure about which option may best apply, we encourage you to reach out to our office to ask us your questions.

3 Ways You Can Prepare for a Transition Away from Family Care This National Elder Law Month

As older adults advance in age, it is not uncommon for family members to step-in and provide assistance with day-to-day activities. As health and other concerns arise, family members often begin to play a more active caregiving role. There comes a point, however, when even the most dedicated family members can no longer manage the care needs of an aging loved one.

This is often the time when the family needs to transition to outside care. Our goal, during National Elder Law Month, is to help you understand the steps you need to take, both before and when, this happens. Unfortunately, it is a potential reality that many adult children and their aging parents, or grandparents, do not want to face.

We encourage you to address this potential long-term care issue head on and plan forward. Together, we can develop an elder care plan that will help you be prepared and can help set up your family for success. To this end, let us share three key considerations with you.

  1. Plan Early. It is never too early to help aging family members prepare for their elder years. Among other benefits, planning ahead can provide an opportunity to explore a range of options best suited for an elder loved one’s specific situation. Further, options change with time. This means that what may have been available if you planned years in advance, may no longer be there in a crisis.

When possible, do not wait until there is a major health concern, such as dementia or a fall, that may render your parent or grandparent unable to participate in the process. Instead, plan forward. Proactive planning with your Florida elder law attorney can help take advantage of available treatments, long-term care solutions and eligibility for public benefits programs that can help you pay for care.

  1. Select housing together. When family caregiving is no longer enough, determining appropriate housing for the elder adult becomes critical. Will he or she receive professional care in the family home? For how long? Would a nursing home better suit their long-term care needs? Will they need round-the-clock care? These are all questions to consider now.

It is also important to talk with the aging adult to determine what they would ideally like to do, what may happen in reality, and begin planning for the costs of care in both scenarios. There are a number of financial avenues to explore in Florida with your elder law attorney.

  1. Solidify estate planning. One of the best ways to prepare for an aging loved one’s elder years is to create, and frequently update, their estate plan. Who is their decision maker? Who is the back-up decision maker? May we work to create a legacy early and protect hard earned savings from being used on long-term care? These are all questions that your estate planning and elder law attorney will be able to answer and verify that your legal documents support your goals.

We know that this topic may raise more questions than it answers. We encourage you and your loved ones not to wait to find the answers you need. Whether you schedule a meeting with attorney Anne’ Desormier-Cartwright this National Elder Law Month now or anytime throughout the year, we look forward to supporting you and your loved ones.

Don’t Miss These Benefits for Seniors During National Nutrition Month

This March we celebrate National Nutrition Month. Nutrition is an important facet of all of our lives but this holds especially true when we are considering how we will care for the Older Americans in our lives. “Older” Americans is a term that refers to individuals who are over sixty years of age in America and are the individuals and their loved ones that we focus on helping in our law practice.

When it comes to elder care, it is never too early to plan forward. Our goal is to ensure that you are protected both now and well into the future, whether you are a Florida senior or caring for one. We know that this type of planning can raise significant questions, especially as you start to think about your potential long-term care needs and who can make decisions for you if you cannot make them yourself.

One of the keys to success for you and your loved ones is to be armed with the information you need. Whether you are an Older American, or caring for one, let us share a few fun facts and tips that can benefit you this March and throughout the year!

1- Get informed about your options. When we think about nutrition, most of us think about improving our health overall. Whether you are starting with improving your eating habits, exercise or something else entirely, do your research. Learning what is best for you and your loved ones, as well as being knowledgeable about what is available in your local community, can be a great step in the right direction.

2- Learn to prepare healthy alternatives. It can be hard to determine how to cook healthier options, especially as you age. For most seniors, there are more robust options available for healthy eating than there were fifty to sixty years ago. The goal now, is to learn how to prepare these foods so they can be enjoyed. Luckily, there are more and more tools on the internet you can use to teach you how to prepare healthy food. For example, just click this link to watch the Next Steps to Better Nutrition video developed for seniors by the National Council on Aging.

3- Eat your veggies. It is not just a catchy saying, it is the truth! There are incredible benefits for seniors that come directly from eating vegetables. For example, green, leafy vegetables have strong health care benefits and research shows that they can assist with health care conditions, such as macular degeneration or cataracts.

4- Remember physical activity. While it may be harder to get outdoors during the winter months, there is never an excuse for failing to exercise. Most health professionals recommend a minimum of thirty minutes a day. Remember, especially if this is a new routine for you, that this can be broken up into smaller increments. In fact, the American Academy of Family Physicians shares that you can add exercise into your daily routine by parking farther away from your destination or taking the stairs instead of an elevator.

We know this can be a confusing topic. We encourage you, however, to step outside your comfort zone and learn more about ways you can improve your life or the life of an Older American you care about. Do not hesitate to ask us your questions about this or any other elder care issue you are facing. We are your local community law firm here to help you both now and in the future as you face challenges associated with the aging process.

How to Avoid Family Conflict When Shifting from Family Elder Care, to Paid Caregiving

Most elder caregiving is performed by close family members, but almost inevitably, there may come a time when even the most dedicated family caregivers have to make room for paid care services.

This can create conflict between family members and run the risk of detracting from an elder loved one’s quality of care and overall well-being. We are here to tell you that it does not have to.

Family conflict, particularly among adult children, often results from:

  • Sibling rivalries and prior family disputes
  • An inability to cooperate and make important shared decisions
  • Disagreements about an elder loved one’s health and financial concerns
  • Uneven distributions of paid caregiving responsibilities

Whether due to a diagnosable illness like Alzheimer’s Disease, a debilitating injury or just plain old age, paid caregivers are well-suited to deliver positive health care results. This does not mean, however, that transitioning away from family care is going to occur smoothly.

First, the lion’s share of family caregiving usually falls on one particular adult child. It is important for other siblings to recognize all that this entails, as letting go can be challenging.

Forgoing income-generating opportunities and basing social and personal commitments around an aging parent is an enormous sacrifice. When combining the rigors of meal preparation, assistance with bathing, dressing, transportation, and other daily activities, elder caregiving can be exhausting.

This has to be acknowledged and respected, even if it is the primary elder caregiver who now wants to pay for help, and possibly relief. Conversely, a primary caregiver should recognize and work through any resentments from adult siblings and family members about his or her volunteer care.

Even the most “functional” families may bring old baggage to the table when facing difficult elder care decisions, but issues will need to be resolved with the elder loved one’s best interests in mind. Clear communication and mature compromise is a requirement. If disputes persist, then consulting a third-party expert for impartial guidance can be extremely helpful. As elder law professionals we can offer advice on sensitive issues and provide a healthy way forward. Do not wait to let us know what help you and your loved one’s need.

Don’t Forget These Ways to Say “Thank You” to a Caregiver Over the Holidays

Fall is the season of giving back and being grateful for the people you have in your life. While many of us remember the last time we thanked our friends, family members, and other loved ones, do you remember when you last told your caregiver “thank you”?

This individual is constant in the life of your loved one, providing necessary care and support each and every day. We want to share five unique ways to remind the caregiver in your life that you are thinking of him or her and are appreciative of the work and care he or she is providing.

1. Say “thank you.”

Many of us think that showing thanks to someone requires a grand gesture or pricey gift. In reality, however, sometimes the smallest gestures have the greatest impact. Simply taking the time to say “thank you” to your caregiver lets him or her know that you recognize and are thankful for his or her hard work.

2. Remind them to take time for themselves.

Being a caregiver is a full-time role that often does not end when he or she goes home for the night. Every once in a while, encourage your caregiver to take the day off to spend time with his or her family or enjoy his or her hobbies. If you are worried about your loved one’s care needs being met, you may consider respite care options. This type of short-term relief can be utilized on an as needed basis, allowing your caregiver some time to recoup and regenerate.

3. Give them a small gift.

There is no need to spend a fortune to let your caregiver know you are thinking of him or her. An item as small as a keyring or notebook can be meaningful. Make it a surprise gift, or ask if they had their eye on anything in particular. Either way, it will be sure to put a smile on the caregiver’s face after a long day.

4. Offer a helping hand.

Sometimes, caregivers need help too. Whether it is helping with his or her yard work, cooking a meal, or just making yourself available to spend time with the loved one they are caring for can allow the caregiver to take a well-earned break that will benefit all of you.

5. Write a “thank you” letter or card.

Taking the time to put your thoughts and feelings into a handwritten card or letter can be especially meaningful. This is something your caregiver can look back on if they are in need of a boost and can show him or her that you care enough to spend the time crafting a thoughtful note of thanks.

How do you say “thank you” to your caregiver? We know how important it is for your loved one to be well-taken care of, but it is important that you take some time every now and then to let your caregiver know you appreciate him or her. Do not wait to contact our office if you need some additional unique ideas for ways to thank your caregiver during the holiday season and throughout the rest of the year.

Paid Family Caregivers of Elderly Parents Could Face Tough Tax Rules

As aging parents begin to need assistance with daily tasks, adult children will face the difficult choice of either caring for their parents themselves, or outsourcing their needs to outside caregivers or nursing homes. When it comes to this decision, there are a lot of factors to consider, including cost.

It’s no secret that outside care is expensive. Providing care within the family, however, carries its own out-of-pocket concerns. As care needs escalate this can include the opportunity cost of time spent with the elder parent instead of at a job.

One way to deal with this dilemma is for the family caregiver to be financially compensated by the aging parent. Elders can choose their caregivers and this choice can include their adult children. In this circumstance, however, you should consider consulting with both an elder law attorney and a qualified accountant first. In both instances, these professionals can provide insight into the rules that apply. Depending on the circumstances, a paid family caregiving arrangement might not make sense.

In some instances, the Internal Revenue Service considers a paid family caregiver an employee of the elder parent because the elder parent tells them what to do and then pays them for their work, similar to any job. Accordingly, the elder parent, or the family member, can then be responsible for a variety of taxes depending on the amount of wages paid. They also can be responsible for preparing and filing tax forms or hiring an accountant to do so.

According to the Journal of Accountancy, the tax responsibilities of an aging parent “employer” can include:

  • Collecting and remitting the family caregiver’s withholding tax obligation.
  • Collecting and remitting the family caregiver’s Social Security and Medicare tax obligations (and pay the family’s match of these taxes).
  • Paying federal and state unemployment taxes on taxable wages.
  • Maintaining appropriate records to support these filings.

In cases where paid family caregivers are not considered employees, they may still need to report any compensation from their elder parent as income. Further, self-employment tax could apply if they are being paid as an independent contractor.

As with almost all things involving taxes, the question of whether adult children should provide paid care services for their elder loved ones is not as easy as it seems. Each situation has its own circumstances that determine if it’s worth it. In Florida specifically, when an aging parent has care being provided to him or her by an adult child, a personal services agreement may need to be entered into. With the help of an experienced elder law attorney, this contract can prevent any amount of money being paid to the child to later be seen as a gift should the parent need to apply for public benefits programs such as Medicaid. Do not wait to contact our office to ask your questions and discuss this matter further.