Every May is both National Elder Law Month and National Older Americans Month. As a firm, we are committed to working with our Florida seniors and their families to ensure that they have a way to find good long-term care, should the need arise, and be able to afford it without losing a lifetime of savings. No month encompasses our goals more than the month of May.
This is a time of year to reflect on and honor the many ways senior adults impact the lives of others. It is also an opportunity to raise awareness about the challenges facing older adults. For example, did you know that 15 million senior adults are formally recognized volunteers, and it is estimated that about half of all aging adults volunteer in some form in their communities? Almost one in five seniors has served in the U.S. Armed Forces, and the overall senior contributions to the economy, education system and families are incalculable.
Both National Elder Law Month and National Older Americans Month are occasions to spotlight the amazing people who make up this often overlooked group.
While recognition is indeed due, so is increased attention to critical senior concerns. Let us share with you in our blog just a few of these concerns together with possible solutions you and your aging loved ones may use.
1. There is a near-epidemic of diabetes among Older Americans.
According to the American Diabetes Association, about half of Americans age 65 and older have pre-diabetes, meaning nearly 25 million seniors are at risk for developing type 2 diabetes. That figure is shocking considering about 25 percent of the nation’s older population already has diabetes. Encourage your loved one’s to be tested and seek a doctor’s guidance.
2. Obesity is a serious related issue in Older Americans.
Obesity rates among older adults has steadily climbed over the past decade, and now stands at an eye-popping 40 percent of 65-to-74-year-olds. The ill effects of these sorts of challenges can often spill over onto others who care about them. Talk to your aging loved ones about your concerns and support their choices for a healthier lifestyle.
3. Long-Term Care for Older Americans.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration on Aging estimates that 70 percent of all people 65 and older will need long-term care services in their lifetime, especially as the rate of Alzheimer’s disease and other long term ailments continues to grow. In many situations, long-term care is unpaid, as more than 80 percent of caregiving is performed by family members, friends, and neighbors. An estimated one in four households provides some level of care for an aging loved one. Discuss alternative options for long-term care with your loved ones as soon as possible.
While these are concerns to be aware of, remember that American seniors are a large, diverse, and incredibly valuable group. They continue to make a difference all over the country each and every day in the lives of their loved ones and their communities. We know this article may raise more questions than it answers and encourage you to schedule a meeting with us to discuss them.
One of the most challenging aspects of getting older is the loss of independence that accompanies aging. Advancing age alone, however, is not necessarily a sign that the Florida senior you love should give up his or her car keys. According to the Center for Disease Control, over 40 million licensed drivers are over the age of 65.
Unfortunately, as drivers get older, they can be more at risk of being seriously injured or killed if they are involved in an accident. There is more to driver safety than buckling your seatbelt. If the Florida senior you love is eager to drive, let us share a few tips to help you keep him or her safe on the road.
1.Research senior-friendly cars.
Did you know that not every car may be appropriate for a senior driver? Certain cars have features that can help keep your senior loved one safer while driving. A car with safety features such as power seats, power windows and mirrors, an easier to grip steering wheel, a push start button, and keyless entry can help senior drivers feel more comfortable behind the wheel.
2. Encourage your loved one to make regular doctor’s appointments.
As we age, our bodies change. The senior you love may regularly visit the doctor’s office for check-ups and treatment plans for any medical conditions. If your senior loved one is driving, however, you may want to encourage him or her to meet with a primary care physician to discuss whether any prescription medications they currently take can impact driving skills. Regular checkups with an optician and ear specialist can also help your senior loved one monitor any hearing or vision loss that can increase their risk while driving.
3. Encourage your loved one to take a driver-safety course.
Most of us remember taking a driver safety course when applying for our driver’s license. It never hurts to refresh those skills! Did you know that your Florida senior loved one can enroll in an older driver education program? These programs are designed to increase awareness of age-related risks and will educate your senior loved one about how to help avoid these risks while driving.
4. Make sure your loved one knows his or her limits.
The senior you love may not feel comfortable driving in every situation. We encourage you to discuss your loved one’s driving limitations before he or she gets behind the wheel. Determining what driving conditions your senior loved one finds more challenging, for example, driving in the dark or when it is raining, can help protect both your senior loved one and other drivers on the road.
These are just a few of the ways you can help protect the senior you love on the road. Above all, remember, it is important to frequently check-in with your senior loved one to keep track of any changes in their health or functionality. Do not hesitate to ask us your questions or to seek advice about creating a legal plan to protect the senior you love.
Every day, millions of Americans take prescription drugs and over-the-counter medicines to treat a variety of ailments ranging from incontinence, to depression, to allergies and more. New research, however, shows that previously unknown risks associated with certain associated drugs may be contributing to elevated rates of dementia in aging adults.
Today, dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease are at near epidemic levels. They currently affect over 50 million people worldwide, and about 10 million more people are diagnosed every year.
Millions of Americans and their families have also been painfully impacted by the devastating effects of dementia. These can include, but not be limited to, severe memory loss and deteriorating judgement, decision making, and behavioral functions. Alzheimer’s Disease alone is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, and there is no known cure.
Several groundbreaking studies in recent years have shed light on the issue by establishing a compelling link to a class of drugs known as “anticholinergics.” These include highly technical drug names like amitriptyline, dosulepin, and paroxetine, for example, and others like oxybutynin, solifenacin, and tolterodine.
In plain English, these are are used to treat depression and the loss of bladder control.
Other conditions regularly treated with anticholinergic drugs include asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and Parkinson’s disease. Some studies include diphenhydramine, an anticholinergic ingredient in many commonly used antihistamines. Common medicines containing diphenhydramine include Benadryl, Motrin, Midol and Robitussin — although it’s important to note that these medicines have not been shown to cause dementia, only that diphenhydramine has anticholinergic effects. Anticholinergics work by blocking a chemical messenger, or neurotransmitter, called acetylcholine that carries brain signals for controlling muscles.
A new British study found that long-term use of certain anticholinergics is significantly linked to dementia, especially those used to treat depression and Parkinson’s disease. But unlike other studies, it did not find a connection between antihistamines and dementia.
Shockingly, in some cases, a link was established for study participants who took anticholinergic drugs 15-20 years before being diagnosed with dementia. Scientists concluded that such cases reduced the possibility of mere correlation between these drugs and dementia.
While there’s much research to be done, every new study advises both physicians and patients to be vigilant about the use of anticholinergic drugs. We know just how hard it can be when a loved one faces a diagnosis like this. Do not wait to contact our office on this issue or any elder care issue you or a family member may be facing.
When it comes to planning for an aging parent’s long-term care needs, few legal documents are as important as a durable power of attorney. Simply put, a power of attorney grants a designated person, known as the attorney-in-fact or agent, with the legal right to make decisions on the aging parent’s behalf. Through the durability of this document, should the time come when the parent is unable to make decisions, this authority can include assisting the aging parent with financial and legal matters.
With aging adults, a sudden illness, dementia or simply the aging process itself can lead to a situation where they become incapable of managing their own affairs. When a Florida durable power of attorney is in place, an adult child, or whomever the designated attorney-in-fact is, can step in and seamlessly continue paying their bills, handle their investments, and even make long-term care decisions.
Unfortunately, if this type of planning is not in place, any number of challenging situations can arise, including the need to file a court action to obtain a guardianship. This can be time consuming, expensive, and emotionally burdensome during a difficult period. Further, with a guardianship in place, the adult children may not be able to protect the aging parent’s money from the high costs of long-term care.
Planning ahead in this regard can make a huge, maybe even critical, difference. Despite the obvious benefits, many aging Floridians do not take the necessary steps to protect themselves, their assets, and their family from long-term care costs. Long-term care costs are a reality today. Research continues to show that the majority of seniors over age 70 will need some type of long-term care in the future.
Despite this continuing trend, many aging adults do not think about a future that could include long-term care. This could be for any number of reasons including a genuine fear over how to afford future care and that the senior will be in a position of vulnerability. When the aging adult’s planning is not completed in advance of a crisis, however, the durable power of attorney becomes the family and the senior’s best protection from this uncertainty.
Through the Florida durable power of attorney, the agent will be able to care for the elder in a way that makes sense for him or her. The agent will be able to find good care and determine the best way to pay for it. This could even include hiring an elder care attorney to help with the process.
If you’re aging parent is resistant, we encourage you to talk to them sooner rather than later. The durable power of attorney in Florida is your family’s best ally when it comes to crisis planning for the long-term care costs that may be needed in the future. We know this article may raise more questions than it answers and are here to help you as an elder care resource.
The older one gets, the more they tend to appreciate the relationships that matter most. In many cases, it’s loving and appreciating aging parents. It’s only natural that we want to take care of our parents, especially as they age. The question becomes: How can well-meaning adult children provide support and care when they don’t live in the same area?
It’s a dilemma that countless people face and our clients frequently ask us. Luckily, it is not one without any solutions. Although regularly stopping by to see them might not be an option, with a little information and some extra effort you can do a lot for your parents.
Let us share five ways you can provide support for elder parents no matter how big the distance.
1. Create a “Care” Notebook. This is a tool that has never been more manageable than in our current digitized world. Create an online notebook you can share with your aging parents and siblings that lists key contact, health, calendar, and other important information that may need to be available at a moment’s notice.
You may want to go a step beyond sharing it. Consider allowing family and friends to have the ability to add to it. This shared project can be a great way to infuse a network of support with updates and happenings about your elderly loved one.
2. Regular Conversations. The best practice is to call regularly and visit whenever you can. Encourage others to do the same, and be sure to make the most out of each opportunity. The easiest way to feel a connection might just be calling and saying hi, then listening. Other occasions might require leading questions and some gentle probing. For example, “What’s on the agenda for this afternoon?” or “How’s Dr. Smith?”
3. Build a Local Support Network. If you live far away, you obviously can’t just pop by when you need to. In the case of a health issue, or an emergency, this can a serious problem.
One way to hedge against such scenarios is to develop a list of key individuals such as neighbors, care providers, doctors, and others who can pitch in during an emergency. Be sure they have your contact information to facilitate an efficient two-way communication and ultimately know who is in charge pursuant to your parents’ Florida estate planning.
4. Daily Assistance. Long distance relationships by nature are void of daily appearances. Don’t wait to make sure your potentially isolated parents have continuous interaction. Work on coordinating with various organizations and individuals to schedule frequent assistance such as meal deliveries, check-ups from home health aides, and others.
5. Involving Family Members. No one wants their adult parents to be alone, but that doesn’t mean you have to be alone either. Spread the love and share the burden together. Involve other family members to assist in communication, and other important health, financial, social, and legal considerations.
Often family members with the closest geographic proximity are relied upon the most, but with involved family members there doesn’t have to be any undue burdens. Work together on the elder care issues facing your aging parents as a team. Don’t forget, we are here to help and would love to discuss the planning you need for success.
Depending on your relationship, it may be uncomfortable to approach your aging parents about their end-of-life choices, but do not put off his conversation. As our parents age it is critical we foster open communication on who they want to take care of them, how care should be provided, and the legacy they wish to leave.
Your parents will almost certainly have ideas and wishes to fulfill. You can help them ensure their goals are met but also can take the time to make sure they are prepared for an uncertain long-term care future.
When it comes to Florida estate planning, there’s a lot to consider. Offering support could be exactly what the situation needs. Whatever the case, starting the conversation is step one. This is only the start though. Your goal is to ultimately plan for how they will find good care should they need it and know how they will be able to afford it.
The earlier you can have this conversation the better. Let us share one way to break the ice:
“Mom, or Dad, would it be okay if we talked for a minute? I feel like it’d irresponsible of me if I didn’t ask you about your estate plan and future health decisions?”
Simply put, an estate plan includes anything the aging person owns and it puts into writing how they would like to distribute any available assets after they pass. It also can include a financial power of attorney and a healthcare power of attorney. Both are documents allowing a named individual to make financial and healthcare decisions on the person’s behalf should he or she become incapacitated.
Consider continuing the conversation with this:
“Your estate plan is important to me, but it is more than that. I am worried that you may one day need long-term care. I think we need to start talking now about how we will find good care and be able to afford it.”
This conversation may catch your parents by surprise. Reassure them. Let them know that you are not trying to pressure them into making an immediate decision but you do want to open the conversation. Discuss with them how this type of care, which could become necessary in the future, can be expensive, and involve considerable inconveniences during an emotionally difficult period.
Share with them that if they do not have Florida estate planning documents that contemplate future elder care needs, much of the planning they need may not be possible. In fact, they may be at risk of not being able to save any of their assets from being depleted on the cost of a nursing home. Encourage them though that together you can create a plan with their elder care attorney to ensure that they are provided for under any potential future circumstance.
It may not be easy to talk to your aging parents about their estate planning and elder care needs, but with love and support it can alleviate worry and bring about peace of mind. Consider it an opportunity to be of service to your loved ones who once took care of you. Do not hesitate to ask us your questions.