Articles Posted in Elder Law

Aging comes with a wide variety of issues and relying on the care of your family is not a resource available to all. Whether it is due to lack of accessibility, estranged familial relationships, or advanced care requirements, many elderly find themselves alone in their older age.

This is not a phenomenon specific to America, it is an issue experienced by countries across the world. Certain cultures are more focused on caring for their elders, much like those elders helped raise them, while others have a less integrated idea of family including care for their elders.

In fact, the issue of elderly abandonment was such a large problem in Japan it was deemed “granny dumping”. While this practice, where senile senior citizens were taken up to the top of mountains and left there by loved ones due to the inability to care for them, is a very old practice, the modern version of abandonment is once against becoming a problem. Today, elderly individuals are being taken to local hospitals, churches and charities, and being left like they used to in the mountains.

Daily, thousands of baby boomers are forced to make the decision as to whether they need care and assistance as they continue to age. Currently, there are 1.4 million adults residing in nursing homes and that number will only continue to grow over the next few decades. Plans for how to cover the millions of adults who thought they would rely on Medicare and Medicaid in their old age as well as where they will live and who will assist in taking care of them if needed, are questions that must be addressed soon.

Thus, it is not surprising that it took four years and thousands of comments in the rulemaking process in order to revise the broad nursing home regulations that were put in place in the 1990s under the Nursing Home Reform Act. Nursing homes must comply with federal nursing home regulations, but some state laws have adopted more strict laws.

What New Regulations?

Another major platform that President Trump ran under was the promise to repeal the widely contested Obamacare plans, and to instead bolster Medicare and Medicaid eligibility and benefits. Since taking office, the businessman has changed his position multiple times regarding whether an overhaul of the system will be made or whether he will keep his promise to leave Social Security and Medicare alone.

Medicare Proposals by the House

House Speaker Paul Ryan has been an avid supporter of overhauling the system, by combining Medicare Parts A and B and also increasing the Medicare age of retirement to that of the full retirement age that one must qualify for with Social Security. Additionally, this proposal would allow Medicare beneficiaries to choose which plan they wish to elect between private plans or traditional plans, based on their health needs, but would not take effect until 2024.

Winter months are difficult on many of those who live in areas that experience great seasonal changes. The National Center for Health Services actually found that death rates are twice as high in the winter than the hottest part of summer. Not only do we have bundle up and face the chilling weather, there is also a major threat of seasonal illness.

Thus, it is not surprising that individuals have the highest risk of dying from natural causes in the end of December and beginning of January. In fact, one study showed that those who die from natural causes, circulatory problems, respiratory diseases, nutritional/metabolic problems, digestive diseases and cancer have a greater chance of dying between Christmas and New Years than any other time of year.

Not Just in America

Recent Recalls

Open heart surgery has saved the lives of thousands of patients across America, as well as the world. Performing this task takes a highly skilled team of doctors well equipped with the right medical devices to assist them. All of these tools require FDA approval and specific cleaning procedures prior to their implementation during surgery. The Center of Disease Control and Prevention announced that a heater cooler unit that has been used in the majority of these surgeries since 2012, could have been contaminated when it was in the manufacturing process.

Heater Cooler Units for Open Heart Surgery

Physician assisted suicide has been a controversial topic across the world, however as the reasoning behind it becomes better understood, many countries have chosen to legalize the practice for reasons outside of terminal illness. In the United States, in the past few decades, the public began to take notice with news headlines such as those regarding Dr. Jack Kevorkian, the Michigan physician who helped assist numerous patients chose when they would die from terminal illnesses and subsequently served eight years for his acts.

Today, physician assistance in dying is legal in Washington, Vermont, Montana, Oregon, with California recently signing in their aid in dying legislation in June 2016, Colorado approving a ballot measure in the most recent November 2016 election by two thirds majority, as well as the District of Columbia signing in their version of the same aid in dying law in December 2016. With a not so surprising passage of these laws comes the realization that Americans as a whole see the reasoning or at least themselves would want the option, in the circumstance they were to become terminally ill.

What is different with the United States’ various aid in dying laws in place is that they are all for those patients that are terminally ill, requiring certain validation steps through physicians and therapists.

When a deceased individual, known as a decedent, leaves a Will, family members and friends that have reason to believe something may be wrong with that Will may be able to have a court rule that the Will is invalid in some situations. The following are examples of common situations in which a person may have reason to ask a court to overturn a Will, most of which can be avoided by working with an attorney to create a valid Will.

The Will Does Not Comply with Law

There are several specific requirements the person making a Will, known as the testator, must comply with for a Will to be valid in New York. Basically, these include:

The Social Security Administration recently released a list of changes to take place in 2017, which included the cost of living adjustment that we discussed in a previous article, as well as a new earnings test limits for those older adults who continue to work but qualify for social security. While the cost of living adjustment came out to a roughly $50 a year increase, the other changes listed by the Administration have encouraged many of those who receive their monthly benefits.

The Earnings Test

In order to provide the most equal distribution based on need, the Social Security Administration has come up with a test in order to determine how much in benefits an individual should be allotted. The earnings test applies to those older adults who have not yet reached their full age of retirement, which is 66 years old, and who are still working. For those beneficiaries who attain full retirement age after 2017, they can claim exemption of earnings up to $16,920 a year, or roughly $1,410 a month.

Nursing Homes

Elderly adults end up in nursing homes for a variety of reasons, including rehabilitation after a hospital stay, voluntary admittance in order to have assistance with their daily care, disability, as well as problematic behaviors associated with mental conditions such as dementia. In order to be admitted and afford to one of these nursing homes, many elderly adults rely on government programs such as Medicaid and Medicare. As a result of their reliance on government funded programs, some nursing homes will end services for an individual if their coverage is running out or they feel that the patient is ready for release, however, the patient may not agree with that same reasoning.

Why Am I Being Discharged?

The cost of living continues to grow every year, making it difficult for those who have saved for the future, but did not anticipate how dramatically their expenses would increase. Several of our previous posts have noted the concern that have been raised regarding our nation’s ability to cover the costs of our aging adults through Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, however a recently released study by the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University further confirms those notions. The study found that there the current generation that has retired or is coming upon retirement is facing greater financial trouble, leading to a lack of accessible and adequate housing, a problem for a population that will double in size.

There are specific elements of housing that need to be considered for the aging population, including accessibility to entrances either by ramp or walk up, single floor housing, whether that is in an apartment or a home, as well as wider entrances and doorways and walk in bathroom units, that are compatible with the size of wheelchairs and healthcare devices. However, according to the Center, only 3.5% of homes right now currently adhere to these elements of architectural design that are critical to elders staying in their homes. While a simple fix that many may propose would be to renovate the home in order to make it accessible, these types of renovations cost thousands of dollars that many elderly individuals cannot allocate out of their budget.

In an effort to maintain their housing situation, some elderly individuals have decided to cut back on transportation, refilling medicine that may be critical to maintain their health, as well as cutting back on buying food. All of these consequences lead elders to seclude themselves, which can further exacerbate health problems. Up to 95% of informal care for elders being taken on by family members, thus, it is important for elders to continue to maintain those relationships and for family members to be able to access their elderly family member and provide assistance in a safe environment.

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