Elder Law is Not Just for the Elderly

March 30, 2012
By Ettinger Law Firm on March 30, 2012 6:00 AM |

Some mistakenly dismiss elder law issues as something with which they need not concern themselves until they personally need help getting by each day. However, our New York City elder law attorneys have worked with many local residents on these issues decades before they need care themselves. That is because many adult children are forced to deal with these concerns on behalf of their parents--many of whom have serious health concerns that arise quite quickly.

With demographic changes leading to a boom in the elderly population, the need to care for aging parents is catching more and more adult children by surprise. According to the AARP, more than 42 million individuals (usually adult children) provide caregiving for elderly friends and family. Another 61.6 million provide partial caregiving support at various times throughout the year. A story from Life Stages discussed the very serious worries faced by those who are unexpectedly forced to wade through a myriad of confusing and complex issues (including many related to elder law) when their parents can no longer get by on their own each day.

The story profiles one woman whose story is shared by many in our area. Her eighty three year old mother had a massive stroke last summer which led to her becoming paralyzed. Her father, also eighty-three years old, was unable to provide the care that she needed. The hospital recommended that the mother be moved into a nursing home. Before taking that step, the daughter wanted to learn if she had any other options.

The daughter soon discovered that other options did exist, but procuring the extra help needed to keep her mother out of the nursing home was made difficult without elder care planning having been conducted ahead of time. For example, an advanced care directive--including a durable power of attorney, health care proxy, and living will--ensure that children do not run into any stumbling blocks when trying to make quick decisions in the midst of health emergencies.

Beyond ensuring the proper paperwork is in place, many adult children are similarly unprepared to navigate the confusing long-term care system. Understanding the difference between skilled care nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and at-home caregivers is crucial. Each provides different levels of support, but funding mechanisms for each are different. Medicare doesn't cover extended long-term care and New York Medicaid requires the spending down of assets.

Adult children who have already gone through this process note that learning about these issues before an emergency is essential. Not only will it lead to better options for parents but also less stress for child caregivers. This is a very real concern. According to a 2010 MetLife study, caregiver burnout is common--20% of female caregivers over 50 years old reported symptoms of depression.

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