Elder Living

Options for Senior Living Depend on the Level of Care Needed

As we grow older, senior living options vary widely based on what level of care is required. Available options are tied to the resources a senior has to cover living costs, and vary widely in cost, assistance, and care provided. In addition to budget considerations, seniors must also realistically consider the needs they have and what senior living option best fits those needs.

Nursing Homes

Nursing homes, or skilled nursing facilities, are one option for senior living. These facilities are for seniors who can no longer live independently. They provide care for seniors with illnesses or mental conditions that cause them to require monitoring and medical care on a full-time basis. For example, many nursing home patients have dementia, are confined to a wheelchair, or spend most of their time in bed. Their conditions require that medical attention be available around the clock.

Nursing homes also provide the option for short-term care, where patients come and stay for a limited time after major medical events such as strokes or heart attacks. In these facilities, the residents generally live in semi-private rooms and all meals are provided. Medicare may help cover the cost of skilled nursing facilities, assuming the resident meets certain financial requirements. Long-term care insurance may also pay for nursing home care.  Otherwise, a nursing home resident pays privately, which can often bring financial hardship to the family. As a result, many families work with an elder law attorney to discuss care options as well as payment options for that care.

Assisted Living Facilities

Another option for senior living is assisted living facilities. These facilities are ideal for seniors who are still independent but may need some assistance with activities of daily living, as well as meals, cleaning, or other daily self-care tasks. These facilities usually offer a more private living conditions. Since residents may be fairly independent, assisted living facilities are an appealing option because they often offer a variety of activities and opportunities for seniors to interact with one another and to stay active. Assisted living facilities are generally paid for privately with a few exceptions, including long-term care insurance or partial assistance from Medicaid.

Independent Living Communities

An independent living community is another viable option for senior living. These communities are for independent, active seniors who enjoy the idea of living in a community. Independent living communities are much like living in a condo or as a part of a community with an HOA. Often maintenance, housekeeping, and landscaping are part of what is included with living in these retirement communities.  Many seniors choose this type of community when they are no longer able or no longer wish to maintain a home. The housing options for independent living communities range from detached homes to apartments. Another benefit of retirement communities is the wide range of amenities and activities available. Seniors are often lonely and living among other seniors can provide friendship and companionship. Residents in independent living communities pay privately, and the cost varies from one community to another.

Memory Care

Memory care facilities provide a more specialized senior living option for seniors who have serious cognitive impairments, such as Alzheimer’s or dementia. These facilities are much like assisted living facilities but cater to cognitive impairments. They may even be a specialized part of an existing assisted living facility. The staff at memory care facilities have specialized training that helps them better assist residents with cognitive impairments. They are often planned intuitively to help patients who may become easily disoriented. These facilities also give extra consideration to security for residents who may wander due to their cognitive impairment. If a senior needs this kind of care, it is important to plan and look for facilities that provide it ahead of time.

Senior living options vary greatly in care and cost. It is important that seniors have conversations with their families about the needs they have or may have in the future, as well as the cost of the type of care they wish to have. The earlier the planning begins, the better off the senior and the family will be when the time comes to seek alternative living options. This planning should be a part of the overall legal and financial plan of the senior.

If you have any questions about something you have read or would like additional information, please feel free to contact us. Please contact our Reno office by calling us at (775) 853-5700.

Elder Law, Elder Living

Important Considerations Before Turning 65

In order to make the most of your estate and government benefits, several factors need to be addressed before turning 65 years old. Overall, the most crucial thing to do before turning 65 is to invest your time wisely crafting the best approach possible for your health and financial security well-being. 

Can you afford to retire? Are you married? Estimate your total annual spending, including a cushion for periodic or unforeseen expenses like home repairs or dental work. Total all of your potential retirement-income sources and understand the tax implications associated with their spending. Run through several scenarios where you change what year you claim social security benefits to see if you should defer collecting it to a later age. Be realistic and start adhering to a modest budget today. Very few Americans can withdraw a lot from personal savings and investments without risking running out of money too soon. As you start to gather your assessments in general about how you view your retirement, find a qualified retirement planning expert that can help you with projections that are based on realistic assumptions.

Familiarize yourself with Medicare and its associated program variations. If you are retiring, you will approach Medicare differently than if you continue to work and have health care available through your employer. If you no longer will have health care through an employer, learn about Medigap supplemental insurance policies as Medicare will not cover all of your health care. Health insurance becomes quite complicated and varies widely depending on your overall health and personal financial situation. The National Council on Aging (NCOA), in partnership with private companies Aon Retiree Health Exchange™ and Via Benefits™, provides a checklist and timeline that can guide you through the process of enrolling in Medicare and assessing how you will cover the cost of prescription medication. If your income is low, you may qualify to enroll in Medicaid, which covers more expenses than Medicare. If you have already begun to take your social security benefits, then you will automatically be enrolled in Medicare. A packet entitled “Welcome to Medicare” will be sent to your address three months before turning 65. There are essential actions to take, and deadlines associated with this packet so read through the material carefully and meet those deadlines.

There are resources available to help you understand what your options are and the best way for you to proceed. As you approach the age of 65 many private insurance companies will lobby for your insurance dollars that will be spent on supplemental insurance. Finding a retirement planning company with insurance brokers that can sell you policies from many different insurance companies is more advantageous than locking into a group that will only sell plans that are associated with their company. A reputable insurance broker should not charge for helping you to assess your situation as they make commissions from the insurance company providing the policy to you. Check with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) online where you can plug in the name of an insurance group or retirement counselor and find out how long they have been in business, their accreditation, BBB rating, and customer reviews and complaints.

If you are over the age of 50, you can contribute an extra 1,000 dollars annually to your IRAs and an additional 6,000 dollars to 401(k)s up until the age of 65, according to Kiplinger. If you are still working, this is an excellent way to boost your retirement spending money. Before 65, you need to explore the option of a long-term care insurance policy, which helps to pay for any assisted living care needs you may require in the future. Long-term care policies can be expensive. If you do not enroll in a long-term care plan before the age of 65, the policies will become practically unaffordable.

Before turning 65, you should also come to terms with your will, advance medical directives, trusts, and the difficult conversation with your spouse or children about your end-of-life wishes and any funeral arrangements. Take heart, turning 65 is far from a death sentence as many Americans are living long and active lives well beyond the age of 65; however, meeting with an elder counsel attorney can save you and your heirs plenty of money and heartache. Do not wait until an adverse medical event forces your family or loved one to act on your behalf financially or medically. Decisions made under duress do not provide the best outcomes. Beyond your will, power of attorney, and power of medical attorney, consider a dementia directive as well. Projections for the aging US population indicate an ever-increasing number of seniors who have Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. Your elder counsel attorney can guide you through your options. Some states even have working templates for dementia directives. As you age, you can review your legal strategies from time to time and make adjustments as you deem necessary. It isn’t easy to discuss your end-of-life scenario, but once you have had the discussions and put proper legal documents into place, you can move forward with a sense of relief. It is freeing to make decisions and act on your future behalf, knowing you can always revisit your choices.

Now for the fun stuff, get excited about the senior discount. While it is true that there are discounts available as early as 55 and 62, nothing beats the senior discount at age 65. You can check off that bucket list of yours with deals on restaurant meals and travel excursions, clubs, retail stores, hotels, cinemas, smartphone plans, AARP membership discounts, and more. If you do not see an offering for a 65 senior discount posted, by all means, ask.

Beyond Medicare eligibility, you can get a one-time free physical exam if you have Medicare Part B insurance coverage. Gyms and community programs offer discounted or free physical fitness programs so that you can keep yourself moving and as healthy as possible. If you have Medicare, check out your eligibility for SilverSneakers for a 65+ fitness program. Your local senior center can keep you socially active and connected to people your age. Making friends and enjoying the simple act of conversation is known to have many benefits for your cognition and staves off isolation and depression issues.

If you retire from your job at 65, you can finally begin to collect on your pension plan or 401(k). That in itself is worth a celebration after many decades of hard work. You might also opt to collect your social security benefits, but it is generally advisable to wait until you reach full retirement age.

Homestead benefits and property tax exemptions are considerable benefits for those who already own or plan to own a home or property. Benefits vary by state, so you will need to see what you can qualify for where you live. Your local comptrollers’ office can provide information about offers regarding homestead benefits. For property tax exemptions, you must contact your local comptroller or tax assessor’s office for exemption information.

There is a lot to discover, learn, and know about how to proceed in life at age 65 and beyond. With Social Security benefit determinations, health insurance policies, and legal documents in order, you can begin to enjoy being 65. Start your education about being 65 or older today. Stay vibrant and healthy and enjoy those things you dreamed of doing when you were your younger self. If you have questions or would like to discuss your personal situation, please don’t hesitate to contact us. Please contact our Reno office by calling us at (775) 853-5700.

Elder Living

Can You Expect a Fourth Stimulus Check?

At this time, it is still uncertain if Americans can expect another federal stimulus check. We do know that the IRS is nearly done sending out its third round of stimulus checks, and some lawmakers are already pushing for a fourth. Though some households are showing signs of economic recovery after more than a year of shutdowns due to the coronavirus, CNBC reports that nearly thirty percent of Americans were unable to cover their living expenses in late March.  Further data from the US Census Bureau indicates about eighteen million adults are going hungry every month.

While President Biden maintains his focus on his two trillion-dollar infrastructure plan, twenty-one Democratic Senators have sent a letter to the President. In their letter, the Senators write, “Almost 6 in 10 people say the $1,400 payments set to be included in the rescue package will last them less than three months”. In particular, these direct payments help Americans who do not qualify for unemployment insurance yet have seen their work hours reduced or left their employment to care for family members during the pandemic.

The Senators ask President Biden to include automatic unemployment insurance extensions and recurring direct payments in his long-term economic plans. The letter from the Senators is similar to an overture made by House Democratic members who advocate for monthly payments until the US achieves full economic recovery. Some progressive Washington lawmakers are projecting payments should continue into 2022. President Biden has not yet publically said he supports a fourth stimulus payment.

Even with continuing stimulus check payments, the economy is projected to grow rapidly yet unevenly, leaving some US cities suffering economic hardships for decades. Even with uneven economic growth, the individual and family stimulus money provides a small modicum of housing and food security for those who are hit hardest due to COVID-19. By itself, a fourth stimulus check can lift 6.6 million people out of poverty in 2021, according to a report from the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center.

The Biden Administration is currently working on a sequel to the March-approved American Rescue Plan known as the Build Back Better plan. This proposal seeks to invest in transportation, the nation’s energy grid, water systems, and broadband though it may not include stimulus checks. As Biden seeks Congressional approval for funding of Build Back Better, Democratic Congresspeople and Senators are calling for the President to include recurring stimulus checks during the pandemic.

Other ideas for helping the most economically vulnerable Americans include passing a minimum wage hike. Senators Mitt Romney (R) and Kyrsten Sinema (D) are the most recent to attempt passing a minimum wage hike from the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. Some proponents want to see the minimum hourly wage set to 15 dollars an hour, and others are proposing 11 dollars an hour. No matter the dollar amount, there is widespread support to increase the federal minimum wage. A 2021 report from the Brookings Institute models how a 15 dollar an hour minimum wage can economically lift 37 percent of US households to become financially self-sufficient.

Another proposal to increase economic security for Americans is to make the child tax credit raise permanent. In July 0f 2021, the federal government will send periodic payments to lower and middle-income families with dependent children. This action alone can lift millions of US children out of poverty. Finally, an extension of the federal unemployment assistance program beyond September will also help Americans weather the pandemic. Even with the advent of the vaccination program, businesses still run at limited capacity, affecting workers’ hours to prevent new waves of COVID-19.

There are several options to protect the most economically vulnerable Americans during the pandemic, and as of yet, President Biden has not made clear which options his administration prefers. With a mid-term election cycle upon the US in 2022 and a closely divided Congress, many Congressional lawmakers will be advocating for ways to help Americans better survive the coronavirus pandemic. Additional stimulus checks are one way to achieve economic security for many but not President Biden’s only option. If you have questions or would like to discuss your personal situation, please don’t hesitate to contact us. Please contact our Reno office by calling us at (775) 853-5700.

Elder Living

New App “Mind Your Loved One” Provides Storage for Important Information

Today, digital apps provide a means by which we can store and send information on our smartphones and tablet devices. Whether engaging in online banking, using a mobile plane boarding pass or creating work calendars shared in the cloud, the internet of things provides needed connectivity. Yet critical medical information, health care directives, and other essential legal documents tend to remain in older storage formats such as paper files or on-site at a hospital or doctor’s office. The American Bar Association website displays and recommends an app called Mind Your Loved Ones (MYLO) that provides access to this critical information 24/7.

The app allows you to send information directly to health care providers, whether they be an insurance company, doctor, hospital, or trusted friend or family members, via email, text, fax, or print. Information is not stored in the cloud but locally on the user’s tablet or smartphone for enhanced security.  A mobile app like MYLO falls under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) scope because it handles personal health information (PHI). The information you want resides on your smartphone, and MYLO has no access to the user’s profile beyond an email address and registered name.

Whether traveling for work, leisure, or living in a retirement community, you can securely store your and your family’s health care advance directives, key medical information like prescriptions, physician contacts, medical notes, and insurance information. There is no need to hunt for paper files or sign onto a website to obtain the information, and you can create as many individual profiles on the app as you want. This immediate access to critical information allows your trusted agent to immediately answer difficult questions that an emergency room or other healthcare professionals ask, creating better health outcomes.

Because you can create an unlimited number of profiles, you can use MYLO to store information on your aging parents, yourself, spouse, siblings, children, and even friends. Each profile automatically generates reports that can be shared electronically with the desired recipient. Insurance information includes copies of both sides of insurance cards. Event notes, routine appointments, prescription changes, activities of daily living, and vital signs can all be maintained and measured over time. A dropbox is available to backup, share, and restore profiles, so even if you accidentally delete or damage a profile, it can be easily recreated. An annual subscription service to MYLO is less than ten dollars.

Other apps provide a format to carry your medical history and records on your phone; however, these apps do not combine legal documents as part of the app. MYLO provides ways to track medical, legal, and other information seamlessly in one app, which is a big plus when under duress to provide information to help yourself or a loved one. Remember that you default your or your loved one’s decision-making to hospital authority without proper legal documentation to make medical decisions.

Keeping all of this critical information current is easy by simply uploading new forms, medical information, insurance data, and legal documents to the app. You will not have to guess which prescription information or legal document is most current as all data storage is by date. A medical doctor can even review previous to current medications to make assessments based on health responses to those prescription changes.

The MYLO app does not mean you have to give up your paperwork if you still like that hard copy in a file cabinet somewhere. Many older individuals like covering all bases with both the standard paper file format and the MYLO app. Time is precious when you or someone you love is experiencing an adverse health event. Quick and easy access to reliable health and legal documentation can help drive the best possible outcome for the situation at hand.

If you or a loved one do not yet have health care directives or powers of attorney for financial decisions, we can help. It’s important to have proper legal advice on what options to choose and to make sure the document fully represents your wishes. If you’d like to discuss this in more detail, please don’t hesitate to reach out. Please contact our Reno office by calling us at (775) 853-5700.

Elder Living

Seniors Victims of Data Breaches

A staggering 100 million Americans were victims of a Capital One data breach earlier this year, bringing this topic to the forefront of conversations. But what hasn’t been receiving much major media coverage are the recent breaches affecting seniors.

One such breach occurred last year in May, and that breach compromised the personal information of almost 4,000 clients and employees of home care and support services for seniors in the bay area. That “personal information” includes quite a lot, from names, emails, and phone numbers to Social Security numbers, financial records, and health information.

2018 saw three times as many records breaches as in 2017, with 15 million patient records compromised in the healthcare sector. And this issue has only been exacerbated in 2019, with potentially more than 25 million records breached as of July.

Just one security incident in April affected at least 60 facilities in Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, and Tennessee, compromising the personal information of an unknown number of patients in those four states.

This is an issue that is becoming increasingly important, in a variety of sectors but especially in the healthcare sector. However, many in this area are ill-prepared to handle it. Data breaches are going on for extended periods, and not being reported within the 60 days mandated by HIPAA.

Part of the problem is that HIPAA is not well equipped to deal with security needs today, in a technological landscape remarkably different from that of 1996 when HIPAA was enacted. Unfortunately, any legislation or regulation enacted today would face a similar problem: technology continues to adapt quickly, and the market pushes the healthcare sector to invest in technological advances as they come.

A few tips to protect your online information: 1) Never open an email from an unknown sender that contains an attachment. 2) When storing information online with a bank or medical provider, make sure you choose a strong password – one that contains a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols that is not easy to guess. 3) Do not store credit card or social security information online.

If you have questions or would like to discuss your planning needs, we would be happy to help. Please contact our Reno office by calling us at (775) 853-5700.

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Elder Living

Be the Best Caregiver You Can Be

There is a large number of Americans, 53 million in fact, that are the primary caregivers for family members. About 17 percent of the US population is a family caregiver, and most are losing sleep, worrying, losing income, struggling to balance caregiving tasks with their workload and other family responsibilities. These caregivers are often experiencing ill health of their own and putting their well-being at a lesser priority to their family loved one. The coronavirus pandemic further complicates matters as an October 2020 poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research reveals that family caregivers provide 36 percent more care than one year ago due to the virus. Many family caregivers are exhausted, keeping their older loved ones safe and socially connected, often while working from home and supervising children during home school days. To be good to others, you must first be good to yourself. Making self-care a top priority allows you to be a more effective caregiver to your loved one. Here are ten strategies to implement today to ease family caregiver burnout.

Relentlessly add some “me time” into your schedule. There is time to enjoy life, visit (even if virtually) friends, read an enjoyable book, do some artwork, practice meditation, or just lay down and relax. Whatever it is that brings you joy and peace of mind (and it can be changeable!), put it in your schedule routinely.

Prioritize your healthcare. You cannot be an effective caregiver if you are unwell. It is a trap to spend all of your time managing your loved family member’s doctor appointments and medication while forgoing yours. When was your last checkup? Are you experiencing new symptoms under the stress of caregiving that you are not sharing with your doctor? Make those appointments for your well being today.

Eat a healthy diet and get enough exercise. Neglecting the very basics of a healthy lifestyle encourages health problems to present themselves in you. A healthy diet coupled with exercise will bring balance to your well-being, and from there, all things become possible. Ditch the fast food, drop the daily glass of alcohol, and practice a healthier lifestyle.

Connect with other caregivers. It is so helpful to address your caregiving frustrations out loud to others in a similar situation. You might find they experience similar feelings to your own. It is not a failure on a caregiver’s part to have these feelings. You are human and, as such, have frailties. Never try to be invincible. If you feel you need more help than this, seek professional counseling. A counselor can help you sort through the complexity of your situation and feelings, providing tools to navigate family caregiving’s complex emotions. Select a therapist who specializes in helping those who are caregivers and the associated dynamics.

Learn more about your loved one’s health condition to better prepare for what lies ahead. You can’t know the future, but a medical prognosis and additional research can go a long way to addressing uncertainty that increases stress levels. Understanding possible future scenarios will let you plan and reduce the number of surprises that can catch you off guard.

Learn to set boundaries and don’t let old family dynamics dominate today. As your aging loved one requires more care, your downtime can become non-existent. Stay true to your schedule and your needs. If your loved one requires more help, it is time to call in other family members for financial or hands-on assistance or hire a service to provide additional care. Also, do not fall into child mode and allow your parent to push your buttons as they may have in earlier years. Stay in the present and focus on the task at hand. If you find it hard to separate then and now behaviors with your parent, seek support groups or find a counselor to learn ways to combat falling into old patterns.

Get help and get it sooner than later. It is not your destiny to go through this alone. Talk to your family or your doctor to strategize about ways to reduce your workload and stress. Bring in professional care, even if just a couple of times a week for some relief. Ask for help and then accept it! Your family members may be willing to help financially and spend time remotely with your loved one while you take a well-deserved break. When someone steps in to help, do not hover or micro-manage the situation. Walk away and clear your head. The world will spin without you being the family caregiver for a few hours or even a few days. Do not delay. Take good care of yourself to be your best for others.

Make sure you have a plan. If something should happen to your health, have you put into writing who should make decisions for you, who should manage your affairs, and what your wishes are regarding your care? If not, the time couldn’t be better. We can help, and would welcome the opportunity to make sure your wishes are properly documented. If you’d like to discuss your particular situation, please contact our Reno office by calling us at (775) 853-5700.

Elder Law, Elder Living, Estate Planning, Healthcare

How Do the Stimulus Payments Affect Medicaid?

The federal government has issued direct payments, “stimulus checks”, to most Americans to invigorate the economy after the devastating coronavirus pandemic. This money is to ease the pain of the Covid pandemic and to jump-start the economy.

The stimulus money should have arrived in the same way that Social Security payments or tax refunds are made, either direct-deposited into a bank account or mailed as a paper check. If the money has not arrived, or for guidance in general, consult the IRS website:

https://www.irs.gov/coronavirus/economic-impact-payment-information-center#more. Other options are to call 800-919-9835 or 800-829-1040, or you can visit your local Taxpayer Assistance Center.

Those who are receiving means-tied government assistance, like SSI, VA benefits, or Medicaid to pay for long-term care, need not worry that stimulus money will be counted against them for eligibility. As long as recipients spend the money within twelve months, the money will not push them over the maximum amount they are permitted before they are penalized.

Recipients may use the money to buy new clothing, cell phones or televisions, toiletries, snacks, dental treatment, or improved quality of medical supplies. They may buy an irrevocable funeral trust, to avoid future expenses to family members. They may give the money away to family or charities. The money might pay for updating estate-planning documents, or for consulting a geriatric care manager. (Some commentators believe that you could give the money away to family or charities. While this may be OK under federal law, it’s probably best not to take chances with how the states may interpret it. Spend the money, don’t donate it.)

Provided that the money is not spent on what could be called an asset or an investment – like, for example, rare coins or stocks or bonds – the money will not be counted against the asset limit for Medicaid eligibility. And, again, the money must be spent within twelve months. It must not be forgotten about or left unnoticed in a bank account.

It also must not be misappropriated by nursing homes or assisted-living facilities. If this has happened to you or your loved one, inform the facility manager that the money must be refunded to the resident. Cite the law that carves out the payment from being counted toward federally assisted programs like Medicaid: 26 U.S.C. § 6409.  Or, show them a handout downloadable from the Congressional Research Service.

If the facility will not refund the money, contact your state’s attorney general. Then lodge a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.

Recipients of assistance, like anyone else, are free to spend their stimulus money. The money is theirs. It is tax-free. It is intended to be spent, and it should be spent, in any way the recipient would like (subject to the conditions above).

This is one time when spending is unquestionably a good thing – for buyers and sellers.

If you have questions or would like to discuss your situation in a confidential setting, please don’t hesitate to reach out. Please contact our Reno office by calling us at (775) 853-5700.

Elder Law, Elder Living, Estate Planning, Healthcare

American Nursing Homes Face a Dilemma

Our country’s nursing facilities are home to the most vulnerable to the COVID-19 pandemic. When the novel coronavirus did hit, these nursing homes became its ground zero as many residents and workers did not receive testing, and staff found obtaining personal protective equipment a struggle. Some facilities tended to downplay the severity of the outbreaks. Couple these issues with some state governments mandating the reintroduction of recovering COVID-19 patients back into nursing home facilities, and the perfect storm came into being. The Washington Post reports that according to the best estimates, about half of COVID-19 deaths have been nursing home residents. Currently, that half represents more than 52,500 of our senior population.

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that according to two studies, nursing home residents who are dying from COVID-19 on average could have expected to live for another decade. Even the more senior residents, 90 and older, with multiple ailments, are losing more than one year of life. These studies challenge the perception that the coronavirus tends to kill elderly people who were likely to die soon anyhow.

A New Perspective on Elder Care

The coronavirus pandemic is forcing us to take a hard look at where our loved one should receive care if care at home is not a safe option. As the number of nursing home deaths continues to increase, the news media is finding it harder than ever to gloss over the unpalatable reality of these deaths.

Now more than ever it is important for families to come together when a decision must be made about a loved one’s care. We help families discuss options for care and how to plan to pay for appropriate care. If you’d like to discuss your particular situation, please don’t hesitate to contact us. Please contact our Reno office by calling us at (775) 853-5700 with any questions.

Elder Living

Solo aging, Housemates, and Individual Living

In the baby boomer generation, solo aging is becoming more prevalent, but many Americans don’t have family caregivers to assist them in their quest for elderly living independence. The ratio of caregivers to care recipients has fallen and is projected to continue to do so for the next forty years. According to the Pew Research Center, the rate of childlessness among baby boomers is about 20 percent. That number is double the previous generation. Additionally, these boomers who are aging solo, without a spouse or partner and have children living more than 500 miles away, bring the total of solo agers in America to nearly 40 percent of adults over the age of 65.

Because solo agers who own their own home prefer to reside there, many of them are finding creative ways to share costs as well as reduce the workload, stress, and isolation of living alone. Welcome to your new housemate, but don’t call them that and don’t call them roommate either. The boomer generation is adopting the term “POSSSLQ,” (pronounced “possle-cue”) short for People of Similar Sensibilities Sharing Living Quarters. This moniker is a wink at the former US Census Bureau designation for unmarried couples; “Persons of the Opposite Sex Sharing Living Quarters.” Whatever the preferred terminology, this new housemate trend is a demographic and economic shift which is redefining the “golden years” of retirement.

It is no surprise that at a historic shortage of homes pushing up housing costs coupled with the fact that many boomers realize they have not saved nearly enough for retirement has fueled this housemate solution. Some of the best ground rules to follow are to find someone you may already know, perhaps of similar background. Also, keep your “POSSSLQ” in a narrow age range to your own. Seniors who are looking to be housemates and are of a certain age can find each other on websites, some of which are Roommates4Boomers and Let’s Share Housing. It is a great way to stretch retirement dollars and still have independence in a shared living experience without loneliness or feeling like a burden to family.

Women account for most of these new housemate living arrangements. Women tend to live longer and have less in retirement savings as compared to their male counterparts. Women also tend to be more adept at making a home and creating companionable spaces in which to cohabitate.

The rules of roommates are usually broad and general. Some specific ground rules may be non-negotiable such as pets, loud music, or romantic sleepovers; however many women have a more flexible approach and often work out smaller details in day to day conversation. Often the secret to housemate living is to embrace its unexpected nature so long as an established basic framework remains intact. These boomer housemates are expressing creativity in problem-solving issues related to their golden years and want their focus to be on living life rather than the end of life planning.

The cautionary tale of baby boomer housemate living is to be confident you enter into the relationship with a legal document that outlines home ownership, household expenses, chore responsibilities, house rules, as well as identification of objects you already own in your home (if the owner) or what you may bring into the house (as the new housemate). Remember that you spend the first half of your life trying to get something and the second half of your life trying to keep it. Another issue to discuss and lay legal ground rules for is what happens in the case a housemate gets a diagnosis of dementia? A housemate living situation should not evolve into a caretaker situation.

Whether you are the homeowner or the housemate, it is imperative to have a legal document signed and notarized defining the living arrangement. Contact our office today and schedule an appointment to discuss how we can help with the planning and execution of a housemate agreement. Please contact our Reno office by calling us at (775) 853-5700.

Elder Living

The Best Technology for seniors Aging in Place and their caregivers

A big part of American life now includes technology and it is becoming more pervasive in senior populations as the tech industry targets this growing market demographic. A new survey by AARP projects by the year 2030 close to 132 million Americans aged 50 or more will annually spend more than 84 billion dollars on technology products. Today, 91 percent of those aged 50 or more use a computer, and 94 percent say that technology allows them to keep in touch with family and friends. Even smartphone use in older Americans (80 percent) maps out to the same number as the population at large. Also, many parents and grandparents are spending considerable amounts of money on tech-focused gifts for children and grandchildren. Even people aged 70 or more are showing a growing interest in technology and its applications to better their lives.

A Cambria Health survey finds that an estimated 100 million people, 45 percent of the US population, currently care for a loved one and that 64 percent of these unpaid caregivers are increasingly using digital tools to help them. Technology applications are ubiquitous in the paid caregiver world. Applications that are most commonly used include virtual medicine and health trackers worn as digital watches, home automation, motion-sensing devices, medication reminders, GPS devices, and emergency response systems.

The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) held every January in Las Vegas, NV showcases more than 4,400 exhibiting companies from all sectors within the technology industry attended by 170,000 people from 160 countries. The blog, Aging and Health Technology Watch, which tracks industry market trends, research, and analysis, identifies ten intriguing new technologies that currently address the older adult digital tools market. While these are specific to proprietary development companies, there is an expectation as the technology takes off, other tech companies will follow suit. Some of these digital tools are available, while others are not. The booming market for senior technology tools and their associated applications is undergoing very intensive development.

CarePLUS, though not yet available on the open market, uses discreet cameras throughout a household which can detect not only motion but the postures of loved ones. Through the use of artificial intelligence (AI) the system is capable of releasing warning messages in a moment of danger in real time. The artificial intelligence can detect hazards, including falling, sitting for too long, remaining too long in the bathroom, leaving home at an undesignated time, skipping medications, and more. This system reduces the need for multiple individual digital tools by combining many monitoring aspects into one technology product.

The Essence Group Fall Detector Radar is exclusively a multi-sensor fall detection system using Texas Instrument radar technology. Though this product is not yet available, the application programming interface (API) works with Essence’s Care@Home™ monitoring platform for seniors. Radar mmWave (extremely high-frequency millimeter-wave bands) technology tracks a person’s position in their home and provides immediate detection of a fall, alerting healthcare providers. 

For those aging adults with hearing loss, HeardThat™ is capable of turning a smartphone into a hearing assistant by tuning out background noise. Through the use of AI, this technology enables individuals who have hearing loss to more clearly hear speech, allowing them to more fully engage in conversation. The “de-noised” environment can also work with Bluetooth-enabled hearing aids and other listening devices like earphones in conjunction with your smartphone. While this is not yet available an invitation to become involved in the beta testing program and information about a release date is available through their webpage.

AARP Innovation Labs is developing an augmented reality application HomeFit AR™ that enables users to scan a room, discovering what improvements can be implemented to help seniors who choose to age in place have a safer home environment. Appliances such as refrigerators and microwaves, commonly used spaces like sinks and stairs, are identified for specific fixes to put in place that will make a home safer as well as a more comfortable fit for senior living. While the HomeFit AR Guide is still in beta version (part of a software release cycle), the public release date is slated for the year 2020.

Voice-enabled AI is adding integrated voice and conversational intelligence into your digital products using an independent platform that is continuously learning. Houndify™ is a “speech to meaning” engine that can interpret language with unprecedented accuracy and speed. Deep Meaning Understanding™ technology allows a user to ask multiple questions and receive filter results all at once. As the platform is non-brand specific, it can work with your existing device.

A smart remote caregiver solution known as Kytera Companion™ can provide insight into the activity of aging at-home seniors. This home system solution includes data collection, a mobile app for loved ones and a dashboard for professional caregivers. This product can detect both hard and soft falls using a wristband, location sensors, a base unit, and an internet-connected dashboard. Soft falls are the most common type of fall among the elderly and this is the first technology able to assess such a fall. Using AI the system provides comprehensive wellness monitoring that can detect physical and mental deterioration, and be predictive as to evolving disease conditions like depression, dementia, and UTI all based on behavioral symptoms.

Created by physicians and medical device engineers, MedWand™ helps to fulfill the potential of telemedicine. The wand incorporates multiple diagnostic tools in one and is a handheld device. Clinicians are able to conduct remote office visits through the real-time collection of multiple vital sign readings allowing for key patient assessments among numerous medical conditions anywhere in the world.

Orcam MyEye 2 is an advanced wearable assistive technology for the visually impaired or blind. It helps to provide independence by audibly conveying visual information. It can read a text, recognize faces, identify products, and more by simply clipping the device onto your glasses. For the hearing impaired, OrCam Hear is a wearable assistive technology device that uses artificial intelligence, combining lip reading with simultaneous voice separation for better listening. The wireless hearing aid is worn as a necklace with camera modules and microphone sets, allowing for hands-free operation and crisp, isolated voice reception even among crowds.

A companion robot called PECOLA is in development by Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI). It incorporates ambient intelligence for the elderly through the collection and analysis of the user’s life and physiological data. It is capable of detecting abnormal behaviors of a loved one allowing for preventative rather than responsive healthcare which can provide best outcomes. By following the senior around their home, PECOLA can identify emotions as well as perform video-generated diet analysis and fall detection. It can conduct sleep assessments through breathing and heart rate readings. The daily generated activity reports are then automatically provided to the user’s caregiver.

The Zibrio SmartScale is available for pre-order and enables a home user to measure and track their balance with a safe and simple 60-second test. The test itself is eyes open, stand still for 60 seconds while the scale assesses balance and provides a score (1-10); the lower the score in seniors 65 or more, the higher the risk for falls. This scale also provides personalized insight into lifestyle factors that affect your balance. 

Other notable new products are available for review at these websites:

Digital technology innovation specifically designed to address older adult care needs provide new ways for seniors to age in place successfully. Consultation with your healthcare providers as to what systems they employ can help synchronize your healthcare and reduce doctor office visits through the use of telemedicine and at-home monitoring. It also can provide unpaid caregivers reliable, real-time information about a loved one’s well-being that can help reduce stress on the part of the caregiver.

If you are caring for a loved one, please give us a call to see how we can help to ensure that the proper legal documents are in place for you and your loved one. If you have questions or would like to discuss your personal situation, please don’t hesitate to contact us. Please contact our Reno office by calling us at (775) 853-5700.