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Hearing Loss May Bring These Health Risks

The findings from a 10-year study by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) have reported a link between hearing loss and health risks. The risks include a 50% greater risk of dementia, a 40% greater risk of developing depression and a nearly 30% higher risk of accidental falls. While hearing loss is becoming more prevalent in younger people due to the use of earbuds and noise pollution, it is the elderly population who are more quickly and significantly affected by adverse health risks because of their hearing loss.

There is a wide range of reasons that account for hearing loss. Some are genetic while others include noise exposure, medications, head injuries, and infections. While hearing loss is a frustrating experience for those who have it, along with their loved ones, the worst option is to ignore the condition. The sooner your hearing is tested, the better your ability to proactively save yourself from associated health risks due to hearing loss. According to Johns Hopkins University, brain scans indicate that loss of hearing has even been associated with more rapid rates of brain atrophy.

One of the first symptoms of hearing loss is trouble detecting high-pitched or soft sounds. This form of hearing loss is associated with stereocilia, which is the damaging of the fragile hair cells that convert sound waves into electrical signals your brain can understand. For example, high-pitched sounds might include children’s voices while soft sounds include phone conversations or background noise in a restaurant. If you are having any trouble hearing these softer or high-pitched sounds, make an audiologist appointment for a hearing assessment to get a baseline reading. Loss of hearing contributes to social isolation and the longer you wait to address hearing loss, the greater the risk of cognition problems. Meaning, you may hear the words but not be able to process their meaning.

Other than cost, there is no downside to hearing aids anymore. They are discreet, easy to learn how to use, and professionally adjustable over time to compensate for increased hearing loss. Once you factor in the cost of a potential fall, increased risk of dementia, social isolation, and depression, the cost of a hearing aid is comparatively minimal. If your hearing loss is profound already, there are cochlear implants, which are devices implanted into the inner ear to stimulate the auditory nerve. These devices can help to restore sound perception in adults with more extreme hearing loss. Your walking motor skills are dependent upon your hearing to pick up subtle cues that help you maintain your balance. Hearing loss mutes these critical cues and makes your brain work harder to pick up sounds, which can then interfere with some of the mental processes needed for safe walking.

While it is not yet proven that treating hearing loss can prevent dementia, unintended falls, or social isolation and depression, it is important to investigate as more than two-thirds of adults over the age of 70 have significant hearing loss that can impact their everyday quality of life. Older adults with hearing problems left untreated also incur substantially higher overall costs of health care. At the ten-year mark of untreated hearing loss in older adults, the incidence of hospitalization increases by 50% or so. There are also higher rates of hospital readmission and an increased likelihood of emergency room visits when compared to those elderly adults without hearing loss.

Communication between patients and health care providers is also problematic for those adults with hearing loss. A patient has less participation in their health care plan and can often become confused as to their diagnosis and possible courses of action for treatment.  Also, following instructions post-appointment or hospital discharge can be problematic. Costs associated with untreated hearing loss have prompted both health care companies and insurers to find better ways to serve patients with hearing loss.

Nearly 27 million Americans age 50 or more have a hearing loss while only one in seven uses a hearing aid or implant device. Hearing is often the most overlooked of the five human senses: taste, sight, touch, smell, and sound. Your ability to hear is incredibly important and the longer you put off addressing a hearing problem, the greater the possibility of associated adverse health events. Make good hearing part of your overall plan to age successfully. Like retirement planning and elder law planning, the sooner you address the issue, the better the outcome will be.

Contact our Reno office today by calling us at (775) 853-5700 and schedule an appointment to discuss how we can help you with your planning.

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The Benefits of Inter-Generational Living

Master plans for inter-generational community living models are changing the shape of the aging experience from the ages of 8 up to 80 years of age and beyond. Dubbed “new urbanism” it is the belief that a living environment with high standards can have a positive effect on the quality of life, local economy, and public health. The goal of new urbanism for older adults is the offering of an active lifestyle enhanced by a vibrant and bustling community composed of varying ages and ethnicities. This can help keep the brains of aging adults more agile as they challenge themselves to socialize with new people of all ages, backgrounds, and world views.

Inter-generational living is similar to multi-generational homes, just on a larger scale. Many of today’s older Americans want to maintain a connection to their community at large; offering their life experiences, knowledge, wisdom, and skill sets that can enhance lives for people of all ages. While living in a multi-generational home provides the same opportunity, the scale and needs of the people change when it is opened up to those outside of a nuclear family system. While some aging Americans prefer a retirement community of similarly aged people, many older adults are finding increased vitality and quality of life mixing with children, teens, young adults, and middle-aged people. Many aging adults prefer the stimulation of being associated with a non-homogenous group, and with their life expectancies increasing and overall health levels improving these inter-generational communities are becoming a popular lifestyle solution.

Decades ago, these types of multi-generational homes and communities would have been the norm. The Pew Research Center has reported that in the 1900s, fully 57 percent of Americans 65 and over lived with their children, grandchildren, and other family members. Communities were highly integrated into everyday life. However, the post World War II era ushered in an increase in education and loans to buy homes and start businesses. The opportunities scattered many families across the US in search of building a more prosperous life. By 1990 another Pew Research report found that only 17 percent of those 65 and older lived with their families. Now, nearly in 2020, the downward trend is reversing due to several reasons.

Immigration is one factor that explains the trend reversal. It is very commonplace around the world that multi-generational family systems live together and communities are very integrated. Longer life expectancy and the cost of continuing care retirement communities and long term care are other reasons families seek to live together. A delayed marriage pattern of younger people, as well as “boomerang” youth, are other reasons for the pattern reversal. Many children coming out of college have student loans and often wind up moving back in with parents or grandparents until they can get out of debt.

Inter-generational communities are not complex to build. Thoughtful designs of parks where park benches face each other to encourage conversation, dog walking parks, festivals, live music, art programs and more are just some of the uncomplicated techniques that help break down barriers between different age groups of people and help aging adults stay vital and integrated into life. Older Americans can experience reduced depression and loneliness, better mental stimulation, more daily activities, and can build relationships that will help them learn to rely on others, as others learn to rely on them.

Tasks like grocery shopping can be simplified if an older adult provides a shopping list to a younger community member and watches over their children while groceries can be obtained for both the younger family and the older adult. Oversight by community developers can create programs that encourage this sort of “bartering” of tasks because just plunking people in the same physical space does not necessarily build connections.

Building these inter-personal partnerships in an inter-generational community will help older adults continue to age in place and rely on community rather than a big bank account to pay for much of the help they might need. While many people opt for aging in place at the age of 50, some are interested enough in this movement of new urbanism and its many benefits, committing to the process in their thirties.

Nobody wants to have to leave their lifelong home because of aging. Many seniors are finding every day to be an adventure with never a dull moment living in inter-generational communities. Aging Americans can lead fuller and happier lives by staying invested in the process of being connected to all ages.

If you have any questions or need guidance in planning for yourself or a loved one, please don’t hesitate to contact our Reno office by calling (775) 853-5700.

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More Seniors Affected by Data Breaches

Data breaches have been one of the hot topics this year in the wake of the Capital One data breach which compromised nearly 100 million Americans. 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 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. Get in touch with our Reno office by clicking here to send us a message or by dialing us directly at (775) 853-5700.

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The Need for Long-Term Care Insurance

Long-term care insurance is very beneficial for the elderly or disabled person who need services or support to meet their personal care or health needs.  However, it is important to understand long-term care insurance before the time comes when the benefits are needed. Unfortunately, many people wait and then miss out on what long-term care insurance can offer.

Should I get long-term care insurance?

There are a few things to consider before you go out and purchase long-term care insurance. First, consider your age. Age is important because it is much cheaper to get long-term care insurance at a younger age. Older adults and those who already have existing health conditions may have more difficulty getting long-term care insurance and the premiums are guaranteed to be costly.

Second, consider your support system. In other words, do you have family who will be able to help provide for your care needs in the future? If so, then you may not need long-term care insurance. This is definitely a good time to sit down and talk about the future with your family.

Third, consider your savings and investments. This is where a financial adviser or elder law attorney can help you understand ways to pay for long-term care and whether or not long-term care insurance is right for you.

What is the cost of long-term care insurance?

The cost of long-term care insurance cannot be attached to specific numbers. The cost depends on age, gender, marital status, the insurance company, and the amount of coverage. The younger a person is when they get long-term care insurance, the lower the premiums will be. Generally speaking, long-term care insurance policies are less expensive for men than women. This is due to the fact that women generally live longer and therefore are more likely to make claims on the long-term care policies. Married people have lower premiums than single people. Just like with any type of insurance, rates for long-term care insurance will vary from one company to the next. It is important to shop around and compare the costs of long-term care insurance with a variety of carriers. The amount of coverage desired greatly affects the cost of the long-term care insurance. Better coverage with fewer restrictions will come at higher premiums. Be sure to do your homework, talk to your financial planner, and elder law attorney to help determine long-term care insurance needs.

What does long-term care insurance cover?

Once you have a long-term care policy, you are eligible for benefits if you have dementia or another cognitive impairment or you are unable to perform at least two of six activities of daily living. These activities include bathing, dressing, eating, toileting, caring for incontinence, and transferring. When a policyholder is eligible and in need of filing a claim on a long-term care insurance, a variety of services may be covered. Nursing homes and assisted living facilities may be covered services. Within those services, policies may only cover room and board or they may cover more extensive services. Long-term care insurance also covers adult day care services for those who need a program for health, social, and other support services during the day. Home care is also provided under some long-term care insurance. This service helps with activities of daily living in the policyholder’s home. When home adaptations are necessary, such as ramps or grab bars, long-term care insurance can cover these services. Care coordination and future service options are also available services with within long-term care insurance policies. You will need to understand your specific policy to determine the specifics of the services covered and to what extent they are covered.

Long-term care insurance can seem very complicated. Remember there are professionals who specialize in helping to determine long-term care insurance needs and coverages. A great place to start is with your financial advisor and elder law attorney.

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

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GAO Reviewing VA’s Nursing Home Rating System

Ranking member of the Senate Committee on Veteran’s Affairs, Senator Jon Tester (D-Montana), along with Senators Edward J. Markey and Elizabeth Warren (both Democrats from Massachusetts) are requesting a formal review by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) of the rating system of Community Living Centers (CLC) operated by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The letter prompting this review request alleges “reports indicating poor quality ratings as well as disturbing anecdotal stories of substandard treatment and conditions at some” nursing homes throughout the years. The GAO response letter agrees to accept the request and work within its scope of authority to address concerns.

VA Community Living Centers currently use a star rating system. Survey stars, staffing stars, and quality stars are independent categories, as is the category of improvement quality measures. All of these categories combine for the overall star rating. This rating system is an adaptation of the version that Medicare uses. However, the Senators’ letter indicates a lack of public transparency about the detailed and specific methodology employed by the VA for developing the star ratings. GAO’s task is to examine how the star evaluation method and data extraction came to be. Responsibilities of a VA CLC are not solely intended for a veteran’s end of life care. It also is a residence where veterans can recover from a mental health crisis like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), or post-surgery recovery, and even respite care. The VA operates over 100 CLC’s across the country, serving thousands of veterans.

Recently some facilities have experienced bug outbreaks. In Atlanta veteran residents at a VA CLC were subjected to an ant infestation. Eagle’s Nest CLC officials confirm that ants bit as many as three veterans and that these ants were considered an outbreak in the facilities rooms. Sadly, a veteran and dying cancer patient was recorded to have more than 100 ant bites in the days before he died. While disciplinary and corrective action was taken at the CLC, the bug problem is not unusual. According to an internal email from the system’s director Barbara Oemcke, a Prescott, Arizona VA CLC reported an issue with bedbugs. A spokeswoman for the Prescott VA Mary Dillinger “reported the incident to pest control officials, who followed protocol by conducting preventive measures throughout the hospital and resolving the issue. No patients were found with bedbugs on their person, and this incident did not negatively affect patient care in any way.” While the bedbug infestation was quite limited, it is not unusual. According to the National Pest Management Association, about 60 percent of exterminators claim they encounter bedbugs in nursing homes. However, bug infestations are only one part of the overall problems facing CLCs.

The VA first released data using star ratings in 2018. According to the Senators’ information release, at that time, almost half of these centers received the lowest one-star rating. Current data is showing improvement, but vast improvements need to continue in support of our veterans. The VA countered the information put forth by the Senators’ showing data reflects 11 communities with one-star ratings at that time and that most facilities had scores of 4 or 5 stars. Somewhere there is a disconnect in the data.

VA spokeswoman Susan Carter has said the VA welcomes the GAO oversight. In defense of VA facilities, Carter writes, “Like any health-care provider — including those in the private sector — VA nursing homes sometimes encounter isolated problems, and when we find them, we fix them,” she said. “But overall, VA’s nursing home system compares closely with private-sector nursing homes, though the department on average cares for sicker and more complex patients than do private facilities. Many of our patients carry the wounds of war.”

All three Senators admit to appreciating the VA’s CLC disproportionately complex resident population who suffer from challenging medical conditions that tend to be multiple and chronic. The GAO review is tasked to identify what tools, resources, and staff training need to be in place to improve the quality of veteran care. They also must unravel the current star rating system to make its data-gathering methodology more transparent and assure accuracy in reporting. This GAO review can establish CLC national trends and find common problematic areas where fixes can be implemented on a large scale.

Advances in medical technology are allowing our veterans to survive injury and live longer lives with complex medical conditions. Excellence in facility standards, coordination of care, favorable outcomes, and transparency in the process of facility ratings are achievable with the proper oversight. The GAO review, prompted by Tester, Markey, and Warren, will provide much-needed information to assess the best way forward to support our veterans in CLC facilities.

If you are a veteran in need of help with your earned benefits, please don’t hesitate to contact our Reno, Nevada office by clicking here to send us a message or by calling us at (775) 853-5700.

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Identifying and Preventing Financial Elder Abuse

Elder financial abuse has been a growing problem in the past decade. The financial exploitation of older or vulnerable adults can take many different forms. This portion of the population can be exploited by strangers of professionals who deal with their assets and even trusted family members and friends. It is a problem to which a solution has been difficult to find because many exploited people are ashamed that they were able to be taken advantage of and therein do not report the crimes. Unfortunately, this type of abuse not only affects the finances of the victim but also their mental and physical well-being. Let’s take a look at the types of financial elder abuse and some measures that can be and are being taken to prevent this type of abuse.

Types of Financial Elder Abuse

The first type of financial elder abuse is committed by strangers. This often includes phone scams. The grandparent scam is one tactic stranger use for the financial exploitation of seniors. In this scam, the senior is called and told his or her grandson is in jail and needs money immediately. Many seniors fall prey to this scam because they want to help their grandchild.

Charity scams are another common phone scam. The scammer calls and asks for money for what seems to be a very good cause in order to get money from the senior. Disasters are often used in this type of scam.

Home repair con artists are another way vulnerable adults succumb to financial abuse. They promise to provide a service and ask for payment upfront. Then they never return to provide the service.

Financial elder abuse can also be committed by “professionals”. These predators often use lending schemes to pressure elders into taking inappropriate loans or reverse mortgages that do not benefit the senior. Email scams concerning false bank accounts are used to siphon money from vulnerable adults. Investment schemes are also used to manipulate seniors into believing they will get unrealistic returns on certain investments. Identity theft is another way that these so-called professionals take advantage of senior adults. They use the identity of the senior to fraudulently open credit card accounts. Medicare scams are some of the costliest scams by professionals.

Finally, financial elder abuse is commonly committed by family members and close friends. These scams can take many forms. Some caretakers will begin small, keeping the change from running errands. Often the Power of Attorney will use the power given by the individual to control the finances as an opportunity to steal the elder’s money and use it for his or her own purposes. Family or close friends also commit financial elder abuse when they use ATM cards or steal checks to gain access to money from the vulnerable adult. There are many variations on these types of abuse.

Protecting Our Elders

One way to help stop financial elder abuse is to let our elderly loved ones know that there is no reason to be ashamed to report possible financial abuse. These thieves and scammers are smart and know how to play the game to take advantage of people. Another way is to stay on top of accounts and work with law enforcement and banking officials to keep track of accounts and to report anything that looks suspicious. It is important for family members and friends to have checks and balances when taking control of someone else’s money and assets. Have more than one person who looks at account information and possibly shares control. Recently the Senior Safe Act was signed into law. This is a step by the federal government to help protect elders from financial abuse. Under the Act, banks, credit unions, investment advisers, broker-dealers, insurance companies, and insurance agencies are protected from being sued for reporting suspected fraud, but their employees must be trained to understand the warning signs. It empowers financial service representatives to identify warning signs and help keep vulnerable adults from becoming victims of financial abuse. There is no easy answer, but it is hopeful that awareness will help financial elder abuse to decline.

If you have any questions about something you have read or would like additional information, please feel free to contact our Reno office by clicking here to send us a message or by dialing (775) 853-5700.

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Technology Empowering Seniors and Caregivers

Technology is changing so fast today that it can seem overwhelming for even the most tech-savvy to keep pace. For many seniors, these changes can be so daunting that they tend to avoid technology altogether.

While seniors have increasingly embraced technology in recent years, data from Pew Research shows that as many as one-third of those over the age of 65 do not use the Internet, and nearly half do not have home broadband services.

Still, technology can be a key aspect of keeping seniors — who tend to spend more time alone than their younger counterparts — engaged and connected. It can also help caregivers to stay connected to their patients or loved ones.

Let’s take a look at some of the benefits of tech apps for the aging population.

Staying connected. Social connections are healthy for people of all ages, and this can be especially true for seniors. While there is no substitute for human interaction, technology can help to fill the gap for seniors who are away from family members or friends. Whether in person or online via video or messaging technology, social interaction can potentially lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer’s, according to medical professionals. Apps such as Facebook and Instagram can help seniors connect with loved ones and caregivers.

Keeping active. There is no shortage of apps to help people stay active these days and seniors can certainly benefit from this technology. For those who can no longer drive or who do not have a neighborhood rec center with fitness classes, technologies such as those provided by the Nintendo Wii can help to get seniors moving wherever they are. Whether it’s tennis or yoga, these apps also offer fun activities for seniors and their loved ones or caregivers to do together.

Staying mentally sharp. Mental exercise is just as important as physical for the elderly. We’ve all heard how crossword and Sudoku puzzles can help thwart memory problems, but today there are countless other online games and mobile apps seniors can use to help stay mentally sharp. Not only can seniors do a crossword puzzle on the computer or mobile device, they can also play solitaire, trivia, and memory games.

Managing medical records and medication. Today just about every doctor’s office offers records and correspondence online. This makes it easier for seniors to keep track of appointments and health records. There are also plenty of apps available — such as Medisafe — to help seniors keep track of medication dosing, schedules, and pharmacy refills. These types of apps help seniors make sure they don’t miss a dosage or inadvertently double up on medication if they’re having trouble keeping track due to memory problems or illness.

Keeping seniors safe at home. Most seniors want to retain their independence for as long as possible. That means remaining in their own homes as they age. By using technology they can better ensure their safety and their loved ones’ peace of mind while remaining independent.  Seniors living alone should always have some type of a personal emergency response system or PERS. These are devices that help a person call for help by pushing a button, and connected mobile apps can alert family members or caregivers in the event of an emergency. These technologies activate the appropriate emergency response, helping seniors to avoid the frightening situation of trying to handle a medical or other emergency on their own and giving their loved ones’ peace of mind.

Managing finances and bills. Seniors are often reluctant to hand over the reins when it comes to managing their budget and finances. Maintaining that control helps instill a stronger sense of independence. Apps like Mint can help seniors manage these tasks and help ensure due dates aren’t missed or payments aren’t overlooked altogether. These apps can also help caregivers maintain a repository of their loved ones’ budget and financial obligations.

While tech apps can seem daunting for seniors (48 percent of those over 65 say that they need assistance using new technologies and devices), with the proper support and training they can be a powerful tool for helping seniors maintain their health and independence.

If you’d like to learn more about empowering yourself and your loved ones with proper care and planning, our firm can help. Contact our Reno offices today by clicking here to send us a message or by dialing us at (775) 853-5700.

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Veterans’ Unique Health Challenges

The United States veteran population is some 20 million strong, many of whom face health challenges separate from non-Veterans. Due to their military training, Veterans have a well-defined culture that is strong on values, codes of conduct, respect of superiors, and customs to name a few. Due to this culture, Veterans face different health challenges that family, friends, and health professionals need to be aware of. Advances in medicine have allowed many more Veterans to survive once-fatal injuries. However, this often comes at the cost of mental health. A successful transition from the battlefield to civilian life rests on being able to spot the many health issues Veterans face and assisting them in getting the help they need.

A study titled “US Veterans and their unique issues: enhancing health care professional awareness” published in the US National Library of Medicine and available here, identifies several health issues specific to United States Veterans:

Mental Health Disorders

33% of Veterans are diagnosed with at least one mental health disorder. According to the US Government Accountability Office, 2.1 million Veterans received mental health treatment from the Department of Veterans Affairs from 2006 to 2010. Only about one-third of those diagnosed with a mental health issue actually seek treatment. Often, Veterans will feel embarrassed or shame about needing mental help. It is important for family and friends to help change this stigma and ensure Veterans get the help they need.

Substance Use Disorders

The extreme stress of military service causes Veterans to often seek out a vice, which may take the form of alcohol, tobacco, or drugs. A 2013 study titled, “Enhancing veteran-centered care: a guide for nurses in a non-VA setting” found that both cigarette and alcohol consumption is higher among Veterans than the general population. Treatment of an underlying condition, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), has been found to reduce tobacco and alcohol consumption in some Veterans. Sometimes, long term care is required.

PTSD

PTSD results from directly or indirectly experiencing a traumatic event. Military personnel are nearly four times as likely to be diagnosed with PTSD. The American Psychiatric Association diagnoses PTSD with the presence of four symptoms: intrusive symptoms (flashbacks), avoidance of reminders (isolation), negative thoughts and feelings, and exaggerated reactivity symptoms. Social support is a large facet of the treatment plan for Veterans with PTSD.

Depression

Depression is among the most treatable mental health disorders that Veterans face. Although likely underdiagnosed, the National Alliance on Mental Illness states that the depression rate for Veterans is 14%, but the treatment success rate is between 80-90%. If you know a Veteran who you believe is suffering from depression, it is vital that you assure them there is nothing “weak” or embarrassing about seeking help, and that depression is often treatable.

Veterans often have a challenging time acclimating to civilian life after being at war for any length of time. However, providing them with a strong support system, along with all of the help available to them through private care and the Department of Veterans Affairs, a smooth transition to civilian life can be achieved. If you would like to learn more or would like help with your current situation, please do not hesitate to contact our office in Reno, Nevada by clicking here to send us a message or by calling us directly at (775) 853-5700.

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The 2020 Social Security Increase Will Be Smaller than 2019’s

The Social Security Administration has announced a 1.6 percent increase in benefits in 2020, nearly half of last year’s change. The small rise has advocates questioning whether the government is using the proper method to calculate the cost of living for older Americans and those with disabilities.

Cost-of-living increases are tied to the consumer price index, and a modest upturn in inflation rates and gas prices means Social Security recipients will get only a small boost in 2020. The 1.6 percent increase is lower than last year’s 2.8 percent rise and the 2 percent increase in 2018. The average monthly benefit of $1,479 in 2019 will go up by $24 a month to $1,503 a month for an individual beneficiary, or $288 yearly. 

The cost-of-living change also affects the maximum amount of earnings subject to the Social Security tax, which will grow from $132,900 to $137,700. 

For 2020, the monthly federal Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payment standard will be $783 for an individual and $1,175 for a couple.

The smaller increase may mean that additional income will be entirely eaten up by higher Medicare Part B premiums. The standard monthly premium for Medicare Part B enrollees is forecast to rise $8.80 a month to $144.30. According to USA Today, advocates are questioning the method used to calculate cost-of-living increases. The Bureau of Labor Statistics uses the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers to set the inflation rate. This method looks at prices for gasoline, electronics, and other items that younger workers rely on. The advocates suggest using a different index (the Consumer Price Index for Elderly) that puts greater emphasis on medical and housing expenses. 

Most beneficiaries will be able to find out their cost-of-living adjustment online by logging on to my Social Security in December 2019. While you will still receive your increase notice by mail, in the future you will be able to choose whether to receive your notice online instead of on paper.

For more on the 2020 Social Security benefit levels, click here.

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Older Adults Are Re-Entering the Workforce

Many of the 50-year-old and older workers are raising children and helping aging parents, and it is putting a strain on budgets. There are over 3 million seniors or near-seniors looking for full-time employment and millions more looking for part-time work. Seniors are finding that to make ends meet and have a financially secure retirement they need additional income especially now that people are living longer than ever before. The good news is jobs are available, companies are hiring “seasoned” workers, and there are programs to help those aged 50 and older find the type of work that is right for them.

If you are age 50 or more, the American Association for Retired Persons (AARP) runs a program called BACK TO WORK 50+ that targets workers who previously worked at moderate-income level jobs but who may lack the education level and computer skill sets that presents a barrier to employment in situations that lead to better economic security. There is also SCSEP, the Senior Community Service Employment Program, which is the only federal program targeted to help older workers. AARP works in conjunction with SCSEP and provides employers with qualified candidates who are pre-screened for placement. These programs support the employer in finding a skilled worker at a low cost and allow the senior to bypass the interview process. Both of these programs will train seniors to give them the skills and confidence they need to find a job so that they can provide for themselves financially. According to AARP, senior employment is becoming so prevalent that by the year 2022, workers aged 50 or more will comprise thirty-five percent of the workforce.

If you are a senior with a college degree and solid computer skills, AARP can also help place you in a meaningful work environment. More than 500 companies nationwide have signed the AARP Employer Pledge “We believe in equal opportunity for all workers, regardless of age, and that 50+ workers should have a level playing field in their ability to compete for and obtain jobs. Recognizing the value of experienced workers, we pledge to recruit across diverse age groups and to consider all applicants on an equal basis as we hire for positions within our organization.” This pledge affirms the value of an experienced senior worker and many companies are on board. The belief is that a workforce that leverages talent from all age groups is a stronger workforce. Jobs AARP and other employer resources connect 50+ job seekers with employers who recognize the value of experience that comes with a more senior and seasoned worker. These companies who have signed the pledge are on the AARP job boards, in the job search tools, and even participate in online recruiting fairs.

As more seniors are becoming computer savvy, remote work opportunities are becoming more popular and mainstream. Companies do not have to provide a physical workspace and employees have no commute and no need to spend money on proper work attire; overhead is lower for the employer and the employee. Seniors can use AARP tools to find legitimate online job prospects. If a senior prefers to work with people for socialization purposes as well as earned income, the senior living industry has excellent opportunities and needs workers. Senior living facilities management acknowledges the expertise, dependability, and worth ethic that is common in the mature workforce. Currently, there are high rates of staff turnover in senior living environments, and a senior employee can make a positive difference in the rate of employee retention.

There is an undeniable benefit to remaining active as you age and work is a significant component of that activity. Old notions of ageism are changing at precisely the right moment to help you create a better retirement living situation for yourself through additionally earned income. If you are 50+ and looking for work, take advantage of these national programs to identify the right job for you.  There is no better time than now to look forward to your own retirement needs and have the peace of mind that additional income brings.

It is essential to meet with an attorney to ensure that you are increasing income without reducing the benefits available to you. You don’t want to cross a threshold that would deny you a government benefit unless it would be financially beneficial.  Many components need to be considered to plan a successful retirement.

Contact our Reno office today and schedule an appointment to discuss how we can help you with your planning by clicking here to send us a message or by dialing (775) 853-5700.