Uncategorized

Welcome to the Age of the Smart Personal Assistant

The smart personal assistant revolution is moving forward at a breakneck pace. It took approximately 30 years for the cellular telephone to begin outnumbering people on the planet, but smart personal assistants are projected to outnumber humans in half of that amount of time by 2021. The technology-research firm Canalys expects 100 million smart speakers (smart personal assistants) will be installed worldwide by the beginning of 2020 and also estimates the number of smart assistant compatible devices will reach 1.6 billion in the US that same year. The numbers are staggering.

It is precisely because of these numbers that manufacturers of smart personal assistants like Amazon, Google, Microsoft, and Apple are pushing sales of their devices. Not only does a smart personal assistant allow for corporate monetization post-purchase from user data collection it is at the forefront of taking over your everyday space whether that be your home, car, or office. The corporation that garners the biggest market share with its smart assistant technology will lock in-app developers, appliance manufacturers, and consumers into their company’s proprietary platform also called the ecosystem which ensures frictionless interoperability. Home automation and lighting is forecast to make up 49 percent of the market segment, followed by home security and surveillance (18 percent), audio and video entertainment (13 percent) and “other” appliance segment (20 percent).

The smart assistant with its voice technology is a significant boon to US seniors as more baby boomers are opting to age in place and smart voice technology simplifies remaining at home. There are the obvious uses for a smart assistant like calendaring events, medication reminders, home environmental controls, age-appropriate learning activities, and much more. Some of the newer applications of voice technology are pushing smart personal assistants into newer realms like a digital therapist, companion, and caregiver. For the senior who is living at home and alone, these are wonderful new developments.

Research in the field of prosody, the patterns of stress and intonation in a language, are making smart assistants capable of detecting depression, loneliness, anxiety, joy, and anger to name a few. Initial research of emotion enabled artificial intelligence focused on emotion detection through facial expressions but quickly turned to the spoken word. Vocal signatures carry an incredible array of information from how you string the words in a sentence together, to tone, depth, rhythm, pitch, resonance, pronunciation, tempo, and more. These vocal features are then analyzed to suggest a person’s mood and subsequent best action practice for the senior.

The practical applications of this technology are numerous. A medical doctor with a smart personal assistant in their office can more readily pick up on identifiers that suggest patient depression. A smart car speaker in a semi-autonomous car can make informed judgments about the safety of handing over the controls to the driver based on vocal characteristics indicating stress or confusion. A smart personal assistant might pick up on loneliness in a stay at home senior and offer suggestions of music or other activities to engage the senior and lift their spirits. The smart personal assistant is also “someone” an elderly person can tell their troubles without shame, recrimination or judgment. The smart assistant is programmed so that it never gets tired, never becomes distracted or bored with the content of “its person.” It is a bit like a therapist allowing the senior to get out all of their frustrations about growing old and losing their physical and cognitive abilities; even expressing fears for their future.

While smart personal assistant technology is currently not able to provide all of the benefits of a professionally trained human caregiver, therapist, or companion it is readily available, overall inexpensive, and can help alleviate the problems of too many seniors with too few attainable human caregivers to meet their needs. The technology may also outpace its human counterpart in the not too distant future if current research and development is any indication of success. The market forces for profit will continue to drive the expansion of the smart personal assistant and its associated products allowing for newer market segments and more importantly the ability for stay-at-home seniors to live their best quality of life.

If you have questions about what you have read, please don’t hesitate to reach out to the Schulze Law Group in Reno, Nevada by clicking here to send us a message or by calling us at (775) 853-5700.

Uncategorized

Planning for Caregiving with Family

A family caregiving meeting is an essential tool when dealing with the care of an aging loved one. These meetings are beneficial for helping to keep all family members abreast of decisions that need to be made, changes in diagnosis or prognosis, and help to ensure that all family members feel that they have a voice. Family meetings can also help to keep caregiving responsibilities from falling solely on the shoulders of one family member. In addition, family caregiving meetings can foster cooperation among family members and lessen the stress associated with caring for an aging loved one.

Who should attend a family caregiving meeting?

There are a number of people who should be included in a family caregiving meeting. First and foremost, it is important to include the aging loved one in the meeting whenever possible. This helps the aging loved one to feel that they are being heard and that their opinions and thoughts are being considered. If a spouse is living, the spouse should be included, as well as any children and possibly siblings of the aging person. Some families may choose to include other family members, but this really varies from one family to another. Anyone else involved in care for the person should also be there. This could include paid caregivers, family friends, or neighbors. Depending on family dynamics, a facilitator can be helpful in running the meeting.

When should a family have a caregiving meeting?

First, it is important to note that family caregiving meetings are not a one and done event. They must occur on a regular basis. The first family meeting can occur before an aging loved one actually needs care. This can give the person who may eventually need care more say in their future care, but oftentimes this does not occur. Most families find that the initial meeting needs to occur when an aging loved when begins to show signs of needing care or when a diagnosis is given that determines care will soon be needed. In addition, meetings should be scheduled regularly to discuss changes in the diagnosis, prognosis, or general needs of the loved one or the caregivers.

How can a family hold a successful caregiving meeting?

The key to having a successful caregiving meeting is cooperation. This doesn’t mean that family members will agree on everything, but it is important that all family members are respectfully heard and considered. Families must be willing to compromise and seek the best plan for their aging loved ones. Additionally, a smoothly run meeting should have an agenda and families should try to stay focused on the items included on the agenda. When holding a meeting, always put things in writing and be sure that all those involved get a copy of the important information and everyone’s responsibilities.

What challenges do families face in caregiving meetings?

One of the biggest challenges to family caregiving meetings is the family’s history. All families have their own dynamics that can cause problems in a caregiving meeting. There may be members of the family who are at odds with one another, creating an obstacle to having a successful caregiving meeting. The role that each family member plays can be a challenge. Some members may be overbearing and demand control, while others are peacemakers and do not feel free to share their thoughts. Another challenge is that some family members may be in denial of the severity of an aging loved one’s needs which could make it difficult to get a consensus for care.

Family caregiving meetings are beneficial and necessary when an aging loved one can no longer care for themselves. These meetings can help to divide the responsibilities of caregiving and reduce the stress placed on the family members. It is important that families remember that the meetings are for the care of their loved one and cooperate with one another to help the process to run more smoothly and successfully.

If you have any questions about something you have read or would like additional information, please feel free to contact Schulze Law Group in Reno, Nevada by clicking here to send us a message or by calling us at (775) 853-5700.

Uncategorized

Assisted Living’s Future is Complex

With changes in medicine, technology, and socioeconomics, it’s no surprise that assisted living is changing, too. The rising cost of assisted living means that some families are looking to new alternatives, while those who consider traditional assisted living have new options to consider.

Alternatives to assisted living include multigenerational housing and in-home care. As these options become more popular due to the rising costs associated with other, traditional options, the home health care industry will boom in response; the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts job growth of 70% in the next ten years for personal care aides and home health care professionals. Technology designed to assist in senior care will likewise play a role in alternatives to assisted living, from computer systems tracking medicine intake and remotes for windows, lights, and thermostats to reminiscence therapy and memory care to assist those suffering from dementia. And not only will technology designed for individual users continue to develop, so will platforms for home care agencies and other professionals engaged in the long term care process.

Meanwhile, the nursing home model of care will continue to decline, while other forms of senior living will take its place. These will include cultural- and lifestyle-based communities, green senior housing like LEED-certified homes and communities, senior-friendly neighborhoods in city centers, and senior co-housing with shared spaces and shared duties. Assisted communities are likely going to emphasize meaningful socialization and recreational activities, while the buildings themselves are likely going to include amenities that remind Boomers of home and improve their independence, such as kitchenettes. Certain design trends may arise for enriched living experience and wellness enhancement, from restaurant-style dining to wellness centers.

These changes are a part of the trend of a widening gap between the increasingly pricey assisted living options, and what people can pay for their long term care. As life expectancy lengthens and the quality (and therefore price) of assisted living rises, many will find the costs post-retirement to be beyond their means. That is one of many reasons why it is so important to plan in advance! There may be government programs available that can help with the costs of long term care.

See these articles for more details.

You can reach the Schulze Law Group at our Reno, Nevada office by clicking here to send us a message or by calling us at (775) 853-5700.

Uncategorized

Sandwich Generation Gets Squeezed

Dorothy Miller, a social worker, first created the term “sandwich generation” in 1981. A Journalist, Carol Abaya, continued to study and add to what the term means. In 2006, Miriam Webster included the term, sandwich generation, in the dictionary for the first time.  The sandwich generation is defined as a generation of people who care for their aging parents while supporting their own children. It is believed that this is occurring because of the increase in life span for adults and also because of delayed parenting. This means that medicine and technology are allowing people to live longer and couples are waiting to start families at a later age. Therefore, leaving people sandwiched between caring for aging loved ones and young children. This can lead to some potential problems for the sandwich generation.

Issues for the Sandwich Generation

One major issue for the sandwich generation is financial burdens. Because many in the sandwich generation may not have anticipated having to provide for the needs of their aging parents, they may be stretched thin financially. Another issue for this group that is often compounded by financial struggle is stress. When pulling double duty of caring for children and aging parents, stress is an understandable and expected side effect. Whatever the living situation of the aging parent, the responsibilities of caring for the aging parent often adds to the already busy schedule related to parenting their own children. The sandwich generation then fills pulled in too many directions. This can often leave them feeling as though they do not have enough of themselves to give to everyone they need which in turn leads to guilt and burnout.

If these issues continue to mount, then depression can become another issue for the sandwich generation. Depression can set in when the sandwich generation has little time for hobbies or social interactions, leaving them feeling isolated. The stress and financial burdens can contribute to feelings of depression. The bottom line is that the sandwich generation must recognize these potential problems and find ways to deal with them. Otherwise, they will be ineffective in their care for aging parents and their own children and the pressure will continue to mount.

Dealing with Issues for the Sandwich Generation

In order to be a good caregiver, the sandwich generation must find ways to take care of themselves and to ask for and accept help when necessary. One way for the sandwich generation to find times for themselves is respite care. Respite care provides short-term relief from caregiving responsibilities. Respite care provides a way for caregivers to can find time for themselves and take care of family responsibilities.

Caregivers can plan ahead for tasks and finances to help tackle stress and financial burdens. Having a family meeting to delegate responsibilities to other family members can be very beneficial. This means giving up some things to the spouse and children. Extended family can also help to share the responsibility of caregiving, so meeting with siblings or other involved family members to share the task of caring for the aging parent can help to lessen the burden on one person.  Having a close friend to talk to about the struggles can also be a very therapeutic way to deal with the stress experienced by the sandwich generation.

Being a member of the sandwich generation has many challenges. The demands of a person caring for aging parents while also raising their own family can be overwhelming. Self-care is essential to avoid the pitfalls associated with caregiving. In addition, it is important to remember that it is perfectly acceptable to seek or ask for help in order to maintain mental health and provide good care for everyone.

If you have any questions about something you have read or would like additional information, please feel free to contact us. You can reach the Schulze Law Group at our offices in Reno, Nevada by clicking here to send us a message or by calling us at (775) 853-5700.

Uncategorized

A Step-by-Step Process to Leaving Well

Contemplating our own death is one of the hardest challenges we will ever have to face. Yet, if we want our dying to be meaningful and merciful, it is imperative that we think about it while we still can. Most of us want to die at home, in a familiar and peaceful setting surrounded by loved ones. We would much rather not spend our last moments in an emergency room or ICU, with strangers futilely pounding on our chests and our families relegated to the waiting room.

With those two alternatives in mind, we need to do all we can to keep control, as much as possible, of decisions that need to be made long before our final moments. We need to think carefully, well in advance, about what makes life worth living, and where pain and limitation have so eroded that quality of life that we would prefer not to go there.

These are notoriously difficult questions, but it is vital to address them anyway. For example, Terri Schiavo spent nearly half her young life unconscious in a condition known as a “persistent vegetative state,” being kept alive by a feeding tube. Her husband and friends claimed that before her severe brain injury, she said that she would not want her life sustained by machines. Unfortunately, she never put that wish in writing. On the other side, her devout family and right-to-life supporters insisted that she be kept alive despite her dire condition. After protracted litigation, Ms. Schiavo’s husband prevailed, the feeding tube was withdrawn, and, fifteen years after she was injured and never having regained consciousness, she was finally allowed to die.

Since her passing, the law has evolved nationwide to encourage us all to document final wishes, to avoid the anguish and uncertainty of Ms. Schiavo’s situation. There are a number of documents available in your state for that purpose. The umbrella term for these is “advance health-care directives.”

It’s our job as lawyers to help you sort through the various directives needed to express your wishes. Here is a step-by-step guide to begin the conversation about final wishes, and to understand which document does what when.

1. If you are over the age of 18, appoint a health-care agent to speak for you when you can’t.

Decide who, among those who know you well, is best suited to take on this responsibility. That person must possess good communication skills, remain calm in difficult situations, and be able to deal flexibly with the complexity that might arise in reconciling your wishes with available medical options. Depending on which state you live in, your agent can also be called a “health care proxy.”

Sit down with that person and discuss your wishes in various scenarios. This is not an easy conversation to have, but there are guides available to help you. Visit “The Conversation” and download the starter kit.

2. Health Care Power of Attorney (HCPOA)

Once you have had that conversation, visit your lawyer to name your agent formally in an HCPOA document. HCPOA conveys legal authority on your agent or proxy to express your health-care decisions when you are unable to.

3. HIPAA authorization

Your agent or proxy will also need access to your otherwise-private medical information. This is best done by a standardized document that complies with the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Without this authorization, your agent will be unable to obtain the medical information necessary to exercise the authority you want him or her to have.

Now armed with your agent and the HCPOA and HIPAA documents, you will know that if you were to meet with an accident or lose consciousness, you have chosen and empowered an advocate to speak for you. You should review and update these documents every five years or so.

The next three documents are important at the end of life. All these documents should stipulate that you desire comfort care, to keep you clean and as pain-free as possible. Remember, though, that you must create these documents while you are still able to know and communicate your wishes, so it’s best to do the next two documents at the same time that you do your HCPOA and HIPAA.

4. Living Will (also known as Physician’s Directive)

This document is for use when you are not enjoying quality of life. Either death is imminent; you are in a persistent vegetative state; or you are permanently unconscious, permanently confused, or unable to care for yourself. If you have no awareness of others; can’t remember or understand or express yourself; or are unable to move, bathe, or dress yourself, it’s advisable to have expressed, in advance, the kind of treatment you want to receive or not receive.

A living will expresses your choice as to whether you do, or do not, want artificial measures that will merely prolong your life but not improve it. Those measures, among others, may include CPR if your heart stops, or breathing or feeding tubes, or repeated courses of antibiotics or chemotherapy.

You may also require physicians, and not your agent, to be the ones to decide whether to cease life-prolonging procedures as you would like. This decision will relieve your agent from the heavy responsibility of making that irreversible choice.

Living wills are legal in almost every state. Ask your lawyer. Don’t make this kind of document yourself. Otherwise, you risk that the document may be misinterpreted, with drastic consequences.

5. Specialized Directives

Medical decision-making varies depending on specific health conditions, so specific directives may be tailor-made for those conditions. For example, people suffering from advanced dementia benefit from a directive, in addition to the HCPOA or living will, specifically requesting that hand-feeding be ceased when the person can no longer speak, recognize loved ones, or move purposefully. Otherwise, caregivers are obligated to cajole or demand that the patient be fed by hand, taking advantage of a primitive reflex to open the mouth. This risks that the person may inhale the mush instead of swallowing it, in some cases causing pneumonia.

For this kind of condition, ask your lawyer to prepare a specific directive tailored for advanced dementia, using the directives created by End of Life Washington or End of Life Choices New York.

If, however, you suffer from a neurological illness like Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS) or advanced Parkinson’s, even though most of us would decline mechanical treatments, those same treatments may be important aids to preserve the quality of life for people with those conditions.

Again, remember that you must create these documents while you still have the capacity to communicate your wishes. Living wills should be reviewed every six months because wishes can change depending on the progress of the illness.

6. POLST or MOLST

This is a brightly colored, short-form document that is primarily intended for emergency responders when the patient is frail and is likely to die within a year. It is designed to be immediately recognizable by hospitals and EMS personnel, to express that when the patient is unresponsive, cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and other aggressive treatments are desired or not desired (DNR).

This document should be filled out in consultation with the patient’s physician. The acronyms stand for “physicians’ orders for life-sustaining treatment” or “medical orders for life-sustaining treatment.”  Many states provide for this kind of document.

7. Make Your Documents Known

When it comes time to use your documents, they must be readily available. Give a copy of them to your agent or proxy, make sure they are included in your medical records, and, if you are in need of the POLST or MOLST, post it beside your bed or on your fridge where EMT knows to look for it. If your documents can’t be found, or if your agent or family don’t understand them or ignore them, you will have spent your time, effort, and money in vain.

But if all goes according to your wishes, you will have done your best to create a good death, one that is as meaningful as possible for all concerned.

If we can assist in helping you with any of the documents above, we would be honored to do so. You may get in touch with Schulze Law Group at our Reno, Nevada office by sending us a message here, or by calling (775) 853-5700.

Uncategorized

The Keys to Staying Mentally Sharp

Age comes with wisdom. Unfortunately, it also comes with some forgetfulness. Fortunately, there are things you can do to keep the brain sharp, small daily habits which can reduce the risk of cognitive decline.

Exercise is one such daily habit. It increases blood flow, and thus oxygen to the brain; it also protects brain cells against destructive chemicals in the environment. Exercise also supports the production of new brain cells. Furthermore, research in the 2000s showed a relationship between cardiovascular risk factors and Alzheimer’s. Anything which can impair blood flow can cause strokes leading to cognitive decline, otherwise known as vascular dementia. The same activities that one would consider as beneficial to the heart, such as regular exercise, can therefore also be effective in protecting the brain. And, of course, there are other benefits to exercising regularly: it helps with energy levels, decreases anxiety and depression, and can help with sleep.

Sleep is another factor in maintaining a healthy mind. But as many as half of adults 60 and older are affected by insomnia, which can result in memory loss, depression, and other symptoms. It’s important, then, to pay attention to sleep hygiene and sleep schedules to ensure sufficient duration and quality. If it takes more than 45 minutes to fall asleep, or you have trouble staying asleep, it may be worth looking into treatment.

Eating well is another way to protect the mind. It’s important to ensure you’re getting enough vitamins A, B, C, D, E, folic acid and niacin. The USDA and the HHS describe two eating plans: the USDA food patterns or the DASH Eating Plan. Foods like nuts, fish, and wine have also been linked to a healthy brain.

Art, music, reading, writing, learning, and puzzles… these are also good for keeping the brain sharp. Art has been used as an Alzheimer’s treatment and to restore memory, and arts maintain and improve dexterity and fine motor skills! Adult coloring books have become popular in recent years and can be found in many stores and online; watercolors and pastels are also relaxing.  Meanwhile, music has been linked to improved memory and cognition, and can both elevate your mood and lower blood pressure. Learning and intellectual challenges like puzzles exercise the brain and improve its capacity. Mental exercise is thought to maintain and stimulate brain cells. This includes the pursuit of a hobby, learning new skills, using brain training apps, or taking on other new kinds of projects at work.

Read more at:

If you or a loved one live in the Reno, Nevada area and need help in establishing a long-term care plan, contact the Schulze Law Group by sending us a message here, or calling us at (775) 853-5700.

Uncategorized

Powers of Attorney: A solution or a problem?

A durable power of attorney is one of the most important estate planning documents you can have.  It allows someone who you appoint (your agent) to make decisions on your behalf in the event you become incapacitated. If you have not appointed an agent then your friends and family may not have the authority to make decisions on your behalf. In that case, a judge may have to appoint someone for this task, which can require a court process that is expensive and tedious. 

While a durable power of attorney (POA) is one of the most common estate planning documents, it is also one of the most misunderstood. This article will break down some of the common misconceptions regarding POAs and help you understand what you need to create a valid POA.

Misconception:Technology is so great now, there is no need to speak with an attorney, I can just create my own POA online. 

Truth: POAs are not one-size-fits-all. Each person’s situation is unique.  If you use a cookie cutter program it may not cover specific transactions.  In order to conduct many financial transactions specific language must be used to grant proper authority.  Elder law attorneys create these documents regularly which gives them valuable experience in unique situations and can make sure you have all your bases covered. 

Misconception:POAs are one-and-done documents. Once I create it I will never have to touch it again.

Truth: POAs are documents that should be updated regularly. Laws change and if you have not regularly updated your documents you may find out too late that your POA is not valid. Further, some financial institutions may not accept a POA that was not updated in the last few years for fear of a lawsuit. 

Misconception: I shouldn’t make my POA active until I become incompetent (a “springing” POA).

Truth: While the timing of granting agency through a POA is a matter of personal preference an immediately effective POA should be considered.  A springing POA usually requires a finding of incompetency by at least one doctor and sometimes two.  However, there may be an emergency where a doctor will not sign off that you are incompetent. Making your POA effective immediately removes the need for a doctor to declare you incompetent.  

Misconception: I don’t need a POA, I’m young and healthy, plus I don’t have many assets.

Truth: Every single person over the age of 18 should have a POA. You never know when something catastrophic may happen.  You need to have a plan in place to take care of you in the event you become incapacitated unexpectedly.  If you do not have these documents in place then you have no control who will be making decisions on your behalf.  It can be expensive and time consuming for your loved ones to go through the court to have one of them appointed by a judge.  POAs are absolutely essential documents that everyone should have. It is important to consult an elder law attorney who can examine your unique situation to create your POA and to keep it updated. Please do not hesitate to contact our office if you would like to speak with an attorney about creating your own POA.

Uncategorized

Drug Abuse is on the Rise for Seniors

Many seniors are from a generation that, on the whole, still scorn drug abuse and stigmatize those people who engage in such activities. However, as the baby boomer numbers increase in senior living environments, they bring with them a more freewheeling attitude about drug use and misuse rooted in the culture of the 1960s and onward. Many of the senior baby boomers have experienced illegal drugs first hand, and because of a sense of nostalgia, their views may be more tolerant to the overuse or abuse of drugs.

The opioid epidemic in America is now firmly rooted in the senior population. Statistics indicate that opioid addiction has been growing as fast or even faster among seniors compared to other age groups. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) estimates 115 Americans die every day from overdosing on opioids and according to 2014 report by the government Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, the rate of hospitalization for opioid overuse among those people 65 and older has increased over five-fold since 1993 and continues to worsen.

The crisis has grown mainly from doctors prescribing opioids like OxyContin much more frequently beginning in the mid-1990s under guidelines and assurances from pharmaceutical companies that opioid pain relievers were not as addictive as previously reported. However, this opioid class of drug is highly addictive, and many patients prescribed the medication end up abusing their prescriptions. Based on controversial research in 2009, the American Geriatric Society (AGS) announced that they were in favor of prescribing opioids, asking doctors to consider opioids for any senior with moderate or severe pain. Since seniors often have multiple chronic pain conditions, it is easy to see how addiction rates can skyrocket among the senior population. But, it is more than just opioids.

According to the Drug and Alcohol Dependence Journal, of the 63% of senior study participants who had an alcoholic drink over the course of one month, 13% had engaged in binge drinking, which is defined as having five or more drinks in a single session of imbibing. Bars and pubs are becoming one of the new normal amenities in life plan communities, and it can put seniors at significant risk. Stumbling and falling after having too much to drink or driving a small golf cart while impaired can have disastrous consequences. There is also a danger of mixing prescription medications with alcohol, which can be fatal.

Beyond opioids and alcohol, there is marijuana. As more and more states legalize medicinal (and recreational) marijuana and provide them in edible forms, more seniors are turning to pot as a painkiller and anti-nausea treatment. Contrary to what many believe it is not harmless, especially in a geriatric patient. The strains of marijuana available are potent and can create confusion, delirium, and even psychotic episodes in seniors and their interactions with legally prescribed medications are often hard to assess.

Professional staff in the aging services industry are trained to look for signs of drug misuse and abuse. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) is now recommending doctors to opt for short-term, fast-acting medications instead of long-lasting drugs and prescriptions.  But seniors who experience multiple, chronic pains may find this means they take more pills as their conditions are usually degenerative.

The best way to solve the problem is through education. As a senior, one should be aware of their medications and the proper doses to take. Encourage each doctor to prescribe the lowest necessary dose and look to alternative options to address pain. Never exceed the recommended dose as prescribed and follow the instructions given by the doctor.  Do not take prescription medication with alcohol. If a senior is having trouble understanding their medications or gets confused with the dosage, encourage them to talk to a trusted family member. Consider drafting a medical power of attorney document that will allow someone the senior trusts to be their advocate for a safe and happy senior life.

Call our office today at (775) 853-6700 to schedule a consultation, or click here now to send us a message! Let’s discuss how we can help you with your planning.

Uncategorized

Why You Should Be a Tech-Savvy Senior

Although the “digital divide” is closing, there are still many senior citizens who remain apprehensive about jumping into technology use. However, technology can be a very useful tool in the hands of seniors. Let’s discuss the benefits of becoming a tech-savvy senior.

Social Connections

Technology is an excellent way to maintain social connections, even when seniors may not be able to get out and about. Social media is an excellent way to keep in contact with family and friends. Many seniors are finding their way to online social media sites like Facebook. Family and friends can share photos and videos and send messages. Texting is another excellent way to stay connected to family and friends. In fact, many grandparents are realizing that if they want to communicate more with their grandchildren, they must learn to embrace texting. Another excellent way to preserve social connections is to use video communication like FaceTime and Skype. These allow the senior to see the person while talking to them.

Safety

Technology provides many options for the safety of senior citizens. Medical alert technology helps seniors in trouble to access the help they need in the event of an accident, such as a fall. Of course, security systems provide safety for seniors against break-ins and home invasions.  Apps that provide medication reminders can be very beneficial to seniors. For example, if a senior has an app to remind them to take medication, they do not run as much risk of forgetting to take the medication or forgetting they have taken the medication and overdosing himself or herself. Technology that provides safety for seniors helps them maintain their independence.

Convenience

Technology can make tasks easier for senior citizens. Let’s take, for example, online grocery shopping services. These services allow seniors to order groceries and household needs online. Then the senior can go to the store, pull into the designated area, and the groceries are brought right to their car and loaded for them. This cuts down on the amount of lifting and can help those who have mobility issues. Online shopping is another use of technology that brings more convenience to the lives of seniors. Many seniors are unable to get out and about or just prefer to avoid crowds on the road and in stores. For this reason, online shopping can be very appealing and convenient.

Exercise

Technology is a useful tool for seniors who want to stay active. Devices like the Fitbit or other step trackers can motivate seniors to get up and get moving. There are also a number of apps for cell phones and iPads or other tablets that provide seniors with exercise programs and tracking. In addition, the internet also offers many programs to help seniors get exercise.

Entertainment

Technology provides entertainment for people of all ages, including senior citizens. Services provide access to movies and music. Devices have apps for many kinds of games that seniors can play. Many of these activities can be done virtually with friends and family as well. Kindles and other e-readers can make books more readily available to senior citizens. Many books are available in electronic format for free through libraries and others are available to buy online. The print is adjustable which helps with poor eyesight. Not only do many of the apps provide entertainment, but they can also keep the minds of seniors sharp. Crossword, Sudoku, and other puzzle and brain games can be entertaining and keep seniors’ minds alert.

Seniors should not be afraid of technology. It can make life easier, more convenient, and more fun. Seniors can find new ways to keep up with busy family and friends. If technology makes you or a senior you love apprehensive, look for free classes at your local library, senior center, or through community education.

If you have any questions about something you have read or would like additional information, please feel free to contact us for a consultation.

Uncategorized

Giving Gifts While on Medicaid Can Be Risky

Mabel’s children were concerned that Mabel would need long-term nursing-home care in the near future. It was the holidays, and Mabel always got a lot of joy out of generosity. But her children had heard that people in Mabel’s circumstances should not give gifts.

The concern is real. For Medicaid to cover the huge expense of nursing-home care, Mabel would have to show that she owned nothing more than around $2,000. And she must also show that she had not given away money or assets over the prior five years (2.5 years in California). That Medicaid rule – the “look-back period” or the “transfer penalty” – would charge Mabel dearly for her generosity. Depending on the size and number of gifts, the penalty could be substantial.

Many wrongly think that there is no penalty for gifts of up to around $15,000 annually. That misunderstanding confuses tax law with Medicaid law (and it also misstates tax law, but that’s another subject). The Medicaid rules are entirely different from the tax rules. In the Medicaid context, gifts of any amount that are given during the look-back period can be penalized.

There are exceptions. These include gifts to spouses and siblings under certain circumstances, disabled children, and children who are caregivers and who live at home with the elder for a span of time. But overall, gifts and Medicaid do not go together. The Medicaid rules are complicated and the consequences for mistakes can be very costly. There are a number of options to protect assets and still qualify for benefits, but these options must be weighed with great care. This is why it’s best to consult attorneys who, like us, are qualified by experience and expertise in Medicaid law.

There is one harmless deception Mabel’s children might consider, to keep Mabel happy and still satisfy the Medicaid rules. The children might help Mabel fill out checks for all the gifts she’d like to give, together with a greeting card for each gift. Everybody could thank Mabel, tear up the check later, and tell her what they “bought” with that amount. It may be that that little device would be worth it, so Mabel could enjoy the holidays too.

Otherwise, the sooner you consult a qualified elder law attorney, the more other options may be available. If we can be of assistance, please don’t hesitate to reach out for a consultation.