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Healthcare Proxy

Be Leery of Generic Health Care Proxy Forms.

Be Leery of Generic Health Care Proxy Forms.

If you go to the hospital, you may be presented with a health care proxy form to sign on being admitted. While it might seem easy to sign a generic health care proxy form, having a document that is specifically tailored to your needs is very important.

A health care proxy form, also known as an advance medical directive, allows you to appoint someone else to act as your agent to make medical decisions for you when you are unable to make them yourself. It should also include a Living Will that states what your wishes are for end of life care.

An advance medical directive takes effect only when you require medical treatment and a physician determines that you are unable to communicate your wishes concerning what that treatment should be. Appointing someone to serve as your agent helps ensure that your wishes will be carried out when a crisis occurs.

While an advance medical directive serves to appoint an agent to speak for you, you can also use it to give the agent guidance about your medical wishes. The following are some issues that can be addressed in an advance medical directive:

  • The name of the person authorized to act for you. It is good to appoint an alternate as well in case your primary agent is unable to assist you.
  • If you are terminally ill, in a coma, or have brain damage with no hope of recovery, you can explain the kind of treatment you do not want. For example, do you want to be kept alive by machines if you are in a persistent vegetative state?
  • Under what circumstances you want pain medication to be administered.
  • Whether you want to donate your organs.
  • Whether you want to be cremated or buried and where and how your remains should be disposed of.

Whatever choices you make, you should take time to consider your health care wishes before drafting an advance medical directive. For this reason, signing a generic hospital form is not a good idea, as such a form will not take your individual wishes into account. Instead, you should work with an estate planning attorney to have a proper advance medial directive prepared that reflects your personal wishes. In addition, if you already have an advance medical directive as a part of your estate plan, the generic form will revoke your more personal advance medical directive.

Read  more related articles here:

Be Cautious of Generic Health Care Proxy Forms

All You Need To Know About Naming A Health Care Proxy

Also, read one of our previous Blogs here:

Why Do I Need an Advanced Healthcare Directive?

Click here to check out our On Demand Video about Estate Planning.

Click here for a short informative video from our own Attorney Bill O’Leary.

 

Elderly orphans

Elder Orphans. What Happens If An Elderly Person Has No One To Take Care Of Them?

What Happens If An Elderly Person Has No One To Care Of Them?

When an elderly person has no one to take care of them, they may opt to take care of themselves and continue living in their own home. Programs for seniors without family are available, as are nursing homes and assisted living. Some states will enlist a guardian for seniors who can no longer keep up with daily tasks of living or make decisions for themselves.

We have a lot to unpack in this article as we explore a senior’s options when they’re old, their physical health is declining, or they have dementia or memory loss, but they have no family (and possibly no money as well). Make sure you keep reading for lots of helpful information!

What Happens To Elderly Living Alone?

According to a 2013 report from AARP called The Aging of the Baby Boom and the Growing Care Gap: A Look at Future Declines in the Availability of Family Caregivers, the AARP estimated that by 2030, a whopping 16 percent of women up to 84 years old will have never had children.

For others – well, it’s hard enough losing the people we love as we get older. But for some seniors, they may lose family members or become estranged from those who were closest to them in their younger years – their spouse, their kids, and their friends.

For other seniors, it could be that they are close to family, but their loved ones have moved to another part of the world.

Either way, these “elder orphans” only have themselves to rely on. It can be a really tough situation to be in, but there are ways to cope.

Here is what can happen to them.

They Continue Living Alone

No rule says an aging senior has to change their lifestyle just because they’re getting older.

They should consider their care options, but due to fear of the unknown or stubbornness, they might decide to continue caring for themselves like nothing is wrong.

This can be highly dangerous, as we’re sure we don’t have to tell you. If an elderly person living alone slips and falls and is not wearing a medical alert device and is out of reach of the phone, then they have no way to call for help.

NOTE: if you don’t want to wear a medical alert device, a voice-activated Amazon Echo Dot or a smart watch, such as an Apple watch, can be used instead. There is even medical alert jewelry that looks like a regular necklace.

Without anyone checking in on them, the senior would have to force themselves to get to a phone or risk being stranded.

This happened to my mom – she fell and broke her shoulder and could not get up to reach the phone that was on the counter just above her. Thankfully my dad came home and found her after a couple of hours, but I still shudder to think about what would have happened if she had lived by herself.

Sadly, many older people will go through this trauma alone (and, in some cases, their quality of life will be severely impacted or they will not survive).

 

They Move Into An Assisted Living Facility Or A Nursing Home

After a drastic change in their physical condition, such as one slip and fall without anyone to help them, a senior might change their tune and decide that they need assistance in their day-to-day lives.

They could move into an assisted living community or even a nursing home.

Usually, adult children or other family members would encourage this decision for the elderly, but not in this case.

They Enter A Conservatorship

Of course, we should note that both assisted living and nursing home care are anything but cheap.

According to Where You Live Matters, a resource for seniors, as of 2018, the yearly cost of assisted living was $48,000. We’re sure the costs have only continued to climb in the years since that data was released.

Senior Living.org states that, as of 2021, the monthly cost of nursing home care is $7,756 for a semi-private room and $8,821 for a private room. The costs would be between $93,072 and $105,852 a year.

Keep in mind too that Medicare doesn’t often pay for these services, which means a senior would have to rely on different insurance or other financial means.

That’s a lot of money to ask of anyone, let alone an elderly person who likely hasn’t worked in decades.

So what happens when a senior can’t afford to live in a facility and they have no family who can step in and help?

Well, in some states, such as California, a senior could receive assistance. The state could offer a conservatorship where someone is assigned the role of the senior’s guardian.

They likely wouldn’t know the guardian, but the guardian still makes financial, health, and medical decisions for the senior.

Usually, this only happens if a senior is unable to make decisions for themselves.

Not every state offers conservatorship services though, and even for the ones that do, it’s not easy to obtain these services. The conservators who step in on a senior’s behalf are doing so on a volunteer basis, after all.

How Do You Plan For Old Age With No Family?

Aging is inevitable. Even with a full support system of beloved family, aging can be scary. Once you remove that network, the prospect of facing old age alone is daunting.

We don’t recommend an elderly individual does it alone, for their own health, safety, and mental well being.

Instead, these should be the pillars of planning as a senior determines how they’ll proceed through the years without a spouse, partner, or adult children.

Put Your Affairs In Order

One of the best things you can do for yourself is to make sure your legal and financial affairs are in order before you have a health problem or cognitive decline. You’ll make better decisions when you aren’t under stress.

If you live alone, this is especially important, as there may be no one else who knows your wishes or how to access your accounts.

Good legal planning with the help of an elder care lawyer is an important part of ensuring that your wishes are carried out in the event that you are unable to make or communicate decisions on your own behalf.

Here are some key elements of legal planning to keep in mind:

  • First, take inventory of existing legal documents, such as your will, power of attorney, and health care directive. Review these documents and make any necessary updates.
  • Second, make legal plans for your finances and property. For example, you may want to consider establishing a trust or setting up a beneficiary designation.
  • Third, put plans in place for enacting your future health care and long-term care preferences. This may include making decisions about end-of-life care, guardianship, and long-term care insurance.
  • Finally, name another person to make decisions on your behalf when you no longer can. This person, known as your agent or proxy, will be responsible for carrying out your wishes according to the terms of your legal documents. In order to do this, start by designating someone you trust as your power of attorney. This person will be able to make financial decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated.

Many people don’t think about appointing a power of attorney until it’s too late.

Whether you’re dealing with an illness, injury, or just the natural aging process, there may come a time when you can no longer make your own decisions. That’s why it’s so important to have a power of attorney document in place.

This document allows you to appoint someone you trust to handle your financial and other affairs if you’re ever unable to do so yourself. You can also name successor agents in case your original choice is unavailable or unwilling to serve.

And it’s important to remember that power of attorney does not give the person you appoint complete control over your life. You still have the right to make your own decisions, as long as you have the legal capacity to do so.

So don’t put off appoint a power of attorney – it could be one of the most important decisions you ever make.

You should also write a will or talk to an attorney who can help with estate planning to outline how you would like your assets to be distributed after your death.

While these may not be pleasant topics to think about, making these plans now will give you peace of mind knowing that your affairs are in order.

End Of Life Wishes

Many people choose to avoid thinking about end-of-life care or funeral arrangements, but it’s an important topic to consider. End-of-life care can encompass a wide range of issues, from medical treatment to funeral arrangements.

Ideally, it’s best to express your wishes now while you are able to make decisions for yourself.

Addressing your wishes with your care team or a legal professional will ensure that your expressed requests will be followed when appropriate.

By taking the time to plan ahead, you can ensure that your wishes will be respected and that others will not have to make difficult decisions on your behalf.

Build Social Bonds

If you thought it was hard to find friends after college, it can be even more difficult in one’s senior years, but it has to be done!

A senior can find new friends in all sorts of places, from the doctor’s office waiting room to the post office.

Talk to neighbors, too, especially younger neighbors or neighbors with families. Explain the situation to them.

The point of being sociable is to build a support network. A senior should have people around them who will notice if they don’t pick up their phone. They need someone or several people who know the senior’s routine and can thus determine if they’re not following it.

These people will check in on the senior so that if, goodness forbid, a situation transpires where a senior has fallen and can’t get help or is otherwise unresponsive, the support network can step in and get the senior the proper medical care they need.

Mail carriers are also helpful if you ask them to keep an eye out for trouble. There are plenty of stories about mail carriers who asked for a home welfare check after someone who regularly picked up their mail stopped doing so. You can actually register to get this service.

Move Into A Joint Household

Assisted living can be expensive, but an informal joint household is usually a lot more affordable.

What is a joint household? This housing arrangement includes friends or extended family members of the senior who live under one roof. Collectively, they provide care for the senior.

This is a win-win-win situation. A senior doesn’t have to deal with the isolation of living alone, they’re surrounded by people they love, and they’re receiving care.

Find Other Family

Families are often bigger than we give them credit for and sometimes just need to reconnect. A senior should look into their family lineage if they’re fearing the years ahead without any care.

They just may have extended family in the area that they never realized were so close! For example, when I moved to Colorado, I was able to reunite with an elderly uncle who had been estranged from the family for several years.

Programs For Seniors Without Family

Another option for an older person is to seek the assistance of social services and programs designed for seniors without families. Here are some programs to look into.

Senior Centers

According to the National Council On Aging, a senior center serves “as a gateway to the nation’s aging network—connecting older adults to vital community services that can help them stay healthy and independent.”

They can put you in touch with your local Area Agency On Aging for things like meal delivery, financial assistance and help with personal needs.

AmeriCorps Senior Companion Program

The AmeriCorps Senior Companion Program provides companionship to nearby seniors living on their own. The companion program is about building friendships between volunteers and the elderly.

The goal is to “keep seniors independent longer.”

No Wrong Door

No Wrong Door in association with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the Veterans Health Administration, and the Administration for Community Living offers seniors and others in need community-based support.

Equality Conversion Mortgage

The Home Equality Conversion Mortgage or HECM  through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development allows a senior to use some of their home equity, none of which accrues interest or has to be repaid as long as they live in their home.

To be eligible for the HECM program, a senior must be at least 62 years old and have significant equity.

What Happens To Dementia Patients With No Family

After a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or other dementia, it’s natural to feel overwhelmed. Suddenly, there are a lot of decisions to be made and new challenges to face.

If you have dementia, or are caring for someone with the condition, you may be worried about what will happen if you have no family members who can help you if you can no longer care for yourself.

After all, you may be able to manage perfectly well in the mild / beginning stages of the disease, but dementia is a progressive condition and it can lead to a decline in physical and mental abilities over time.

This can make it difficult to do everyday tasks and may eventually make it impossible for you to continue to live independently.

If you don’t have any family or friends who are able to help you, there are still options available to you. There are also many support services available for people with dementia.

Housing Options

One option is to move into a dementia-specific care facility. These facilities provide 24-hour care and support, and the various programs in this type of community can help to delay the progression of the condition.

The goal is to receive in-home support. This can include help with cooking, cleaning, and personal care.

Financial Considerations

The sooner you start planning, the more control you will have over your finances and the less stress you will feel. There are a few key things to keep in mind when financial planning with dementia.

Begin by collecting all of your important financial documents in one place. This should include bank statements, investment accounts, insurance policies, and wills or trusts.

Once you have gathered everything together, sit down with a trusted friend or accountant to review your finances and make a plan for the future. It may seem daunting at first, but taking these steps will help to ease your anxiety during an uncertain time.

Financially, consider the cost of the type of care you may need for memory care issues (such as home health aides or nursing home care) which can be extremely high. Even informal care, such as help from friends, can come with a significant financial cost, as it often requires hiring outside help to cover regular tasks like cooking or cleaning.

To help ease the financial burden:

  • Investigate any long-term care insurance that may be in place.
  • Also, if you are a veteran, you may be eligible for benefits that can help.
  • If you are younger than age 65, SSI (Supplemental Social Security) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) may be able to help.
  • You may also qualify to get help from Medicaid (there are income and asset qualifications to meet).
  • If you own a home, a reverse mortgage may be of assistance.

Put A Care Team Into Place

A care team is the group of people who you’ll partner with and rely on to provide you help, care, support and connection throughout the course of the disease.

The team may include your friends, co-workers or trusted neighbors. It also may include your doctor, nurses, social workers, geriatric care managers, clergy or therapist.

The goal of the care team is to provide physical, emotional and spiritual support. The care team also can provide important practical assistance, such as transportation to doctor’s appointments or help with household chores.

Begin to assemble a care team by making a list of everyone you can think of who may be willing to help.

Then, tell them about your diagnosis and let them know what you might need in the future (transportation to the grocery store or medical appointments, help preparing food, etc).

If they agree to help, add their names and contact information to your care team list.

Legal Paperwork

Put legal paperwork into place so that your wishes are carried out for both medical care and end of life care.

It is crucial to do this before you begin to experience cognitive decline, so if you have a family history of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, it’s a good idea to put plans into place “just in case” you are ever diagnosed.

Regardless of a dementia diagnosis, you’ll need to appoint a power of attorney for both your financial and medical needs.

A power of attorney is a document that allows you to appoint someone to make decisions on your behalf. This can be useful in a variety of situations, such as if you become incapacitated or are unable to make decisions for yourself.

The person you appoint is called an attorney-in-fact or agent. It’s important to choose someone you trust, as they will have a lot of responsibility.

You should also name a successor agent, in case the person you originally choose is unable or unwilling to serve.

Keep in mind that even though you are giving the person you designate as your power of attorney the authority to make decisions, you still have the final say. They are there to help you, not override your decisions.

Power of attorney is a valuable tool that can give you peace of mind knowing that your affairs are in good hands.

How Do You Help An Elderly Person Who Lives Alone?

It can be tough for elderly people to get by without any family nearby. They might not have anyone to help them with yard work, grocery shopping, or even just keeping the house clean. And if they live alone, it can be easy for them to become isolated and lonely.

But there are some things you can do to help.

Check On Them

Just a quick check-in every now and then can make a world of difference in their lives. Something as simple as a phone call, a cup of coffee, or even simply waving to them from the sidewalk can help them feel connected and valued.

Checking in also gives you an opportunity to make sure that they are safe and comfortable. If you notice any problems, you can alert the proper authorities or provide assistance yourself.

Help Them Out

You could also offer to help out with practical tasks like grocery shopping or yard work.

If they don’t have transportation, you could give them a ride to appointments, social events, grocery shopping or medical appointments.

Visit Often

Solo seniors who struggle with mobility or age-related conditions like dementia probably don’t have the biggest social circle. They may not see or speak to anyone for days especially if they’re living alone.

By visiting the senior several times per week and spending companionable hours with them, you could improve their mental health and well being just through your presence.

Listen

Considering that a senior who lives alone might not have many people to talk to, they likely will have a lot to say when you two talk.

Sometimes, the senior may use you as a sounding board whereas other times, they’ll want to have an everyday conversation.

Let the senior talk, as this could be their only opportunity. Listen to them and respond thoughtfully and helpfully if you can.

Do Activities Together

Making your time together meaningful will have a senior looking forward to seeing you again.

You can engage in senior-friendly arts and crafts, watch old films or listen to old music together (which can invoke memories for dementia patients), or even get outside and take a walk if the senior is able to leave the house while under your care.

Conclusion

More seniors today are facing the prospect of getting older with no one to care for them.

Whether they never married and are childless, or divorced and childless, or their family moved away, or a tragic loss occurred, these seniors have to go through their most difficult years without family.

This never means that a senior is alone though. Through programs, conservatorships, community volunteers, friends and neighbors, and even long-distance family, a senior can almost always find a way to have someone looking out for them!

Read  more related articles here:

‘Elder orphans,’ without kids or spouses, face old age alone.

Elder Orphans Hiding in Plain Sight: A Growing Vulnerable Population

The Rise of Elder Orphans: What You Should Know

Also, read one of our previous Blogs here:

When Do I Need an Elder Law Attorney?

Click here to check out our On Demand Video about Estate Planning.

Click here for a short informative video from our own Attorney Bill O’Leary.

 

 

Cremated Remains

Ashes in the Mail — Dealing with the Loss of a Loved One has Changed in the COVID Era

Ashes in the Mail — Dealing with the Loss of a Loved One has Changed in the COVID Era

Jason Oszczakiewicz, a Pennsylvania funeral home director known as “Oz,” has become accustomed to delivering the ashes of recently deceased persons as it has begun to occur about 9 or 10 times a month.

Oz stated, “I seem to be mailing a lot to Georgia, North Carolina, Florida, New York.”

The pandemic has  not only changed how things are done during life, but also in death.

Memorial services have been postponed, eulogies delivered over zoom, and many people are moving towards cremation in order to skip the process of burying bodies. Since out-of-state relatives have been unable to travel and pick up remains, the U.S. Postal Service has become the middle man in delivering ashes to doorsteps.

In order to safeguard the remains, you must send them Priority Express Mail, and they require a signature.

This process has become so popular that the USPS is having a hard time keeping up with their bright orange sticker that reads “CREMATED REMAINS.”

The USPS is struggling to keep up with the demand for its Label 139, a bright orange sticker it requires on these packages that reads “CREMATED REMAINS.” The Postal Service also offers a kit for human ashes that comes with a sealable plastic bag, bubble wrap and cardboard box. The USPS website warns of delays “due to high order volume.”

See Mary Jordan, Ashes in the mail: Dealing with the loss of a loved one has changed in the covid era,
T
he Washington Post, March 3, 2021.

Read more related articles at: 

Cremate and wait: How COVID-19 is changing the way funeral homes do the business of life and death

Shipping Cremated Remains and Ashes USPS

Also Read one of our Previous blogs at:

What If Grandma Didn’t Have a Will and Died from COVID-19?

Click here to check out our On Demand Video about Estate Planning.

Estate Battle with Millions at Stake in New Orleans

Estate Battle with Millions at Stake in New Orleans

Jessica Fussell Brandt filed an eviction petition against her daughter, Julie Hartline, her son-in-law Darryl Hartline and two grandchildren, Alexis and Zachary Hartline. She is pitted against them in a legal fight over an estate valued at more than $300 million, reports nola.com in the article “In Ray Brandt estate battle, widow tries to evict family from Old Metairie compound.”

Before auto magnate Ray Brandt died at age 72 from pancreatic cancer, the entire family shared a compound that includes two mansions located next to the Metairie Country Club. Brandt has been trying to sell the property which belongs to the estate, as its executrix. The family members living there don’t want to move, even taking down “For Sale” signs from the lawn.

Her attempt to evict them comes after she won a case in her attempt to maintain control of her late husband’s estate, which includes a large number of auto dealerships and collision centers across Louisiana and Mississippi.

On January 25, a Jefferson Parish judge invalidated the last will and testament that Ray Brandt signed just weeks before his death and another last will drafted in 2015. The district judge ruled that both last wills contained a flaw in how they were notarized: neither notarization specified that Ray Brandt, the witnesses, and the notary were together when it was signed.

The decision is being appealed, but it appears to leave the fate of Brandt’s empire to a last will he made in 2010. Unlike the others, this last will places Jessica Brandt in full control of his estate and trust, including the auto dealerships, until her death.

Ultimately, Ray Brandt directed that her grandchildren, who he legally adopted as adults before he died, would split the estate’s assets.

Despite issuing a statement saying that Jessica was “pleased with the prospect beginning the healing process,” after the Jefferson Parish decision, the eviction filing revealed that Jessica’s attorneys sent an email urging family members to leave the property by January 31, 2021.

Jessica made a statement that her wish to evict family members was a result of the multiple citations issued by Jefferson Parish for continuing violations at the compound. The latest one was for a trailer and mud buggy parked in a driveway on a vacant lot. She also said that the family members own two other homes, one in Metairie and one in Fort Beauregard.

The compound where the family settled seven years ago is estimated to be worth more than $8 million.

The heart of the dispute pits Jessica Brandt against Archbishop Rummel High School principal Marc Milano, who Ray Brandt named as a trustee to oversee the auto group and the rest of the estate until Jessica Brandt dies. Milano has accused Jessica of taking money from the estate and trying to claim an ownership interest in the dealership. She sued him for defamation.

Now the grandchildren have filed their own legal action, challenging a petition to put Ray Brandt’s last will into effect. Their argument is the trust that Ray Brandt set up in 2015 makes it clear that he meant for Milano to oversee the assets.

This estate battle will no doubt keep the Jefferson Parish courts and newspapers busy for some time. It’s a lesson to keep your family’s business private, by ensuring that your estate plan is properly prepared and up to date.

Reference: nola.com (Feb. 3, 2021) “In Ray Brandt estate battle, widow tries to evict family from Old Metairie compound”

Read more related articles at:

Fate of Ray Brandt’s auto empire in doubt amid roiling family squabble over estate

‘Stop all of this!’ Ray Brandt’s widow bemoans the family battle over his massive estate

In Ray Brandt estate battle, widow tries to evict family from Old Metairie compound

Also, read one of our previous Blogs at:

Celebrity Estates: Battle Over Inheritances

Click here to check out our On Demand Video about Estate Planning.

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