Estate Planning Tips for Caregivers

You may be one of the many individuals who is putting off the process of planning their estate but it’s important for anyone who is a caregiver for an elderly person or a parent of anyone with disabilities to initiate a head start. Unfortunately, when you’re putting together a will, many individuals will think of the material items that they will leave behind to others. But what happens if you are caring for someone with a disability? There are many different needs that someone with a disability may cope with as they get older and things that parents need to know in order to have these things in place for their future.NJ caregiver estate planning

A caregiver should have a plan in place both for themselves and for the elderly or disabled person they are caring for. A sudden change in the life of either person could trigger serious problems, so planning ahead is essential.

Consulting with a knowledgeable estate planning attorney about putting together a special needs trust, for example, can be beneficial. In addition, a caregiver may wish to have a life insurance policy in place that could pay off the proceeds to a trust or directly to an individual who is coping with special needs. Bear in mind that additional planning may need to be done in order to include the fact that most individuals who have disabilities or on government programs that the qualification for these programs should not be jeopardized by giving an outright gift. Consulting with a knowledgeable estate planning lawyer can help.

What To Do When Your Elderly Parents Move In With You

More and more, elderly parents are moving in with their grown children. With the increasing costs of nursing homes, this makes financial sense for many people. But what should you and your parents do to prepare for such a dramatic move?

English: My parents.
English: My parents. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Issues that must be considered range from the financial to the emotional, according to an article on

The first thing to consider is the financial details. If the adult children who are taking in their parents have siblings, they should work something out so that the other siblings (those not taking in the parents) contribute something towards the costs of rooming and boarding the parents.

Costs can mount up. Besides food, one may need to do renovations or hire a home care aide.

Consider having your parents sign a contract under which they pay their children for taking them in. Maybe the parents can contribute to the remodeling or gift their own house to their children. There may be tax consequences to these actions to consider.

To avoid or reduce resentment and guilt down, family members should discuss everything out in the open at the outset. An elder law attorney can help work these things out.

Once the decision has been made, one should consider making the home senior-friendly. This may involve putting on an addition to the home, installation of  grab bars in the bathrooms, installation of ramps or conversion of a room on the first floor into a bedroom if necessary.

You may also be able to take a tax deduction by claiming your parents as dependants.

And make sure to seek out support from organizations such as local agencies that work on aging issues.

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Dealing with Early-Stage Alzheimer’s

Currently, the sixth leading cause of death in the United States is Alzheimer’s disease. Between 2000 and 2010, the number of deaths caused by Alzheimer’s disease increased by 68 percent. By 2050, the number of Americans with Alzheimer’s disease is set to increase to 13.8 million. As a recent article explains, Alzheimer’s could quite possibly become an epidemic, if it is not one already.

English: PET scan of a human brain with Alzhei...
English: PET scan of a human brain with Alzheimer’s disease (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If a loved one in your family begins to display the signs of Alzheimer’s disease, the first thing a family should do (beyond medical attention) is be sure that the family member has executed a will, durable financial power of attorney, and health care power of attorney. These documents allow the person to direct how his or her assets will be distributed upon his or her death, and also to direct who should make medical and financial decisions for him or her when he or she is no longer capable.

Importantly, a person diagnosed with early-stage Alzheimer’s may still be able to sign these legal documents. When a loved one is suffering from short-term memory or vocabulary loss, but still has a grasp on reality, he or she can often show the necessary mental capacity to create legal documents.  Although it is best if these documents are created prior to the early-stage dementia, if that is not possible, have a geriatric psychologist evaluate the person immediately prior to signing.

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Long-Term Care for Your Cat

All too often, cats are surrendered to animal shelters because their owner either died or had to enter a long-term care facility where the cat was not allowed. In order to avoid this fate, a recent article argues that cat owners need to have a long-term care plan in place for their pet. Importantly, this care plan can be simple and easy to create.

The first step in creating a long-term care plan for your cat is selecting a trusted friend or relative who may be willing to care for the cat in your absence. Discuss your designation with that person to make sure that he or she is up for the task. If you have an estate plan, you can insert a clause that gives your cat, and some money for its care, to the designated caregiver. If you do not have an estate plan, you can simply make a care arrangement with that person.

English: Portrait of a female feral cat (Felis...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In your will or care arrangement, be sure to outline your cat’s routine. This may include feeding and exercise habits. Also include all medical information, including your cat’s veterinarian, where his or her medical records are located and any current medications.

Importantly, provide the designated caregiver with a spare key to your home or apartment. This will allow the person to enter your home if you suddenly become incapacitated. Finally, be sure to set some money aside for your cat’s care. When determining how much money to provide, consider that your friend will need to pay for food, veterinarian bills and any other necessary care expenses.

“Safe at Home: New Programs Aim at Helping Senior Citizens to ‘Age in Place’”

The vast majority of senior citizens aspire to “age in place,” or remain in their home for as long as possible. This desire can often be problematic, however, as most homes are not equipped to safely house an aging senior citizen. A recent article discusses a study currently being conducted to determine how to assist seniors in their goal of aging in place.

85 years
85 years (Photo credit: jaded one)

The purpose of the study, which is being conducted by researchers at the Johns Hopkins University, is to show that older Americans can delay an impending nursing home stay for at least a year. The delay is effectuated through assisting the seniors with inexpensive housing modifications and customized strategies for daily living.

Known as the Capable Project, the project will send handymen, occupational therapists, and nurses to 800 senior citizens. These professionals will implement minor safety improvements on the homes, as well as provide the seniors with individualized strategies for daily living. Each senior participant will receive approximately $1,100 in home improvements, which may include new banisters, grab bars in bathrooms, wider doorways, and better lighting. Seniors will also be given tools to address common challenges such as managing medications and cooking for themselves.

If senior citizens are successfully kept independent longer, taxpayers will save millions that would have been spent for nursing home care. In addition, senior citizens will have more personalized care and attention while enjoying their familiar lifestyle and home environment.

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Consider a Care Contract When Caring for Your Parents

Many adult children are living with and caring for their elderly parents. As a recent article explains, it would be beneficial for both parties to create a care contract for these services. Through a care contract, the parties can agree that the caregiver will assume responsibility for, and accept a specified payment from the loved one.

A care contract is especially important if the person receiving the care anticipates eventually requiring a nursing home stay. When a person applies for Medicaid coverage, representatives for Medicaid will consider all of the money that he or she has available to pay for his or her care. A person will not be provided with coverage unless he or she has depleted all of his or her financial resources. If that person has a care contract in place, all the money that he or she spent on care will count towards his or her “Medicaid spend down.”

Without a care contract in place, Medicaid representatives may consider the money given to the caregiver to be a “gift” or “transfer of assets.” If this happens, the money will be factored back into a person’s assets and he or she could be denied coverage.

It is also important to have a care contract from a caregiver’s perspective. Without a care contract, other heirs may think that the caregiver offered his or her services for free and may attempt to reduce the caregiver’s inheritance accordingly.