Making Plans for Aging at Home

There used to be very few options for seniors who began to have trouble living on their own. In many cases the only options available were to move in with family or move into a nursing home. Now, however, that doesn’t have to be the case. With new advancements in technology, the help of family and local aging services, and with some planning and forethought, many seniors will be able to live at home and on their own for many years. Here are a few things to consider right now if you want to age at home in the future:

Support System- Do you have family or friends nearby who can check on you regularly and help when home maintenance issues crop up? Having someone close to you who can provide you with transportation is helpful as well, although many cities have public transportation services that may be an option.

Home Renovations- Is your home senior or handicap friendly? Are doorways and hallways wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair? Could you easily add ramps or lifts in place of stairs, if necessary? Do your kitchen and bathrooms facilitate easy maneuverability with as little reaching or bending over as possible?

Security or Medical Alert System- Having a security or medical alert system in place can provide immeasurable comfort to an elderly homeowner and his or her family. The technology for this is improving by leaps and bounds, and there are a number of different options available.

In-Home Care Services- The length of time you can remain in your home can be greatly increased if you have the financial means for (and access to) quality in-home care services. Someone to do basic cleaning and cooking, and help with daily activities, can prolong your time spent at home… but you have to plan for it.

Getting older shouldn’t mean you have to give up your home, your friends and neighbors, or your independence. For more information about what you may need to stay in your home as you age check out the website for the National Aging In Place Council.

Adult Children and Elderly Parents: Caring for Each Other

The idea of adult children caring for aging parents or grandparents is not a new one. In fact, with the aging Baby-Boomer population, adult children giving up free time or extra hours at work to care for relatives is a growing trend. But recently families have begun creating “caregiver compensation agreements,” something which can end up benefiting both parties in a number of ways.

According to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, “the high unemployment rate, the rising cost of nursing-home care, an aging population, and a 2006 change in Medicaid law that makes it harder for people who wish to qualify to give away assets” are all contributing factors to the growing trend of these compensation agreements among family members.

How can it help you?

If you’re a caregiver the benefits of a caregiver compensation agreement are fairly self explanatory. “Some 37% of caregivers surveyed by the NAC in 2007 said they had quit a job or reduced their hours to accommodate their responsibilities,” some kind of compensation seems only fair. And if you feel uncomfortable taking “wages” from your parents, there are other ways to arrange for compensation. “Attorneys say many families pay an hourly wage. As an estate-planning tactic, others opt for annual gifts or a lump-sum payment designed to cover services over an extended period. Some arrange for the caregiver to receive a larger inheritance.” It will all depend on what works best for your family.

If you’re the one receiving the care, compensation agreements can benefit you as well. Paying a family caregiver can help you deplete your savings and qualify for Medicaid, it can also help you reduce your taxable estate, as well as give a gift of sorts to younger family members who may be in need. Remember that Medicaid rules vary from state to state, so enlist the help of your attorney before signing any contracts.

However you may decide to structure your compensation agreement, disclosure can be of the utmost importance. Make other family members aware of the agreement up front to avoid suspicion or hurt feelings later on.

Talking to Siblings About Caring for Mom and Dad

Many modern families have members living all over the country—and all over the world. Which means that the holiday season provides one of the only times to all get together in person, celebrate, catch up… and talk about caregiving strategies for aging parents. Unfortunately, this kind of conversation can be a difficult one, especially if not all siblings agree about mom or dad’s needs, or if one sibling feels that he or she shoulders an unfair amount of responsibility. In spite of the difficulty, having the conversation can be of the utmost importance.

In this article in Time Magazine author Francine Russo describes the consequences that can follow when lines of communication break down. “It wasn’t until my mom’s funeral, watching my dad and sister cling to each other and weep, that I got a hint of their long ordeal — and how badly I’d screwed up.”

Russo makes the point in her article that much of the tension and disagreement among siblings can come from inaccurate or conflicting information. “Friction often stems from parents giving their children different information about how they’re doing. Mom may put on a good show for the out-of-towner, who then discounts what the local sibling says.” This is all the more reason for siblings to communicate with each other, not just through mom or dad.

If you aren’t sure how to get the conversation started, Paula Spencer, senior editor for Caring.com wrote this article for Third Age which gives some helpful strategies on how to ease into the difficult topic of caring for aging parents this holiday season.

Estate Planning Through the Ages

Can you remember what you were doing in your early 20s? Can you imagine what kind of life you’ll be living in your 70s or 80s? We experience incredible changes as the decades roll by—not just to ourselves, but in the world at large. With our lives changing so much, our estate planning documents and strategies should hardly remain static. Here is a guide to how your estate plan may or may not evolve through the decades.

In Your 20s: You’re young, just finishing school and starting in your career, unlikely to be married yet… the last thing you’re thinking about is estate planning! At this time of life, who gets your “stuff” may not be as important as who will make your decisions. Choosing your financial and healthcare agents and creating your power of attorney and healthcare directive are the important things to do at this time.

In Your 30s: Marriage, children, home ownership—most of these things happen in your 30s, and your estate plan should reflect that. Now is the time to choose guardians for your young children, decide with your spouse how your joint property will be distributed, and get serious about life insurance.

In Your 40s: This is when your strategy may switch from simple direction of inheritance to more serious asset protection. You’ve worked hard and saved, and you’ll want to think about the best way to maximize your assets with trusts and tax planning.

In Your 50s: As your children start to become independent you may have more freedom with your income. Some people choose to create charitable trusts, some prefer to invest for retirement, and still others decide it’s time to take a risk and start over with a second career. Your estate planner can advise and help with all of these.

In Your 60s: Ah retirement! Making the big change from work to retirement means making changes to your estate plan as well. If you’ve been keeping up with your planning through the decades all that is required now will be some basic maintenance; changes to account for marriages of your children, the birth of grandchildren, and your own relocation to someplace warm and sunny. But beyond the basic maintenance, you may want to start doing some simple Medicaid and long-term care planning—just in case.

In your 70s and Beyond: Health is the key word now. Our life-spans are getting longer, but so are our illnesses, you need to be ready. Tighten up your estate plan, invest in long-term care insurance, and although it may sound morbid, talk to your doctors and family about your end-of-life decisions.

The life alterations that come over a span of decades are difficult enough; you don’t want to have to find a new lawyer every time your circumstances change. Our firm makes it our business to keep up with you at every stage.