June 9, 2010
It’s happening all around the country as families prepare to relax and have fun over the summer months.
Because of time and distance, changes in older loved ones become more noticeable. Uncle Bob seems a little slower to respond to our questions and it takes him longer to move from room to room or up the stairs. Mom’s house, which she took pride in keeping spotless, isn’t as clean as it used to be, newspapers are piling up everywhere, and the yard is looking shaggy. Then there’s Aunt Katie whose kids have noticed that she doesn’t pay the bills on time or pays them more than once and she’s donating to charities that she has no idea what they do. The mail has become a daily event for her since Uncle Steve died.
The summer also may be a time when families face the difficult decisions about finding care for their older relative. Here are some of the changes that may indicate your loved one needs some extra help.
If you notice changes that are of concern, a physical and neurological exam should identify any medical issues that your loved one is facing. After the medical issues are in hand, a good Geriatric Care Manager (GCM) can help your family assess what types of options are available to assist your loved one live a full, fruitful and safe life. GCMs are professionals who specialize in assisting seniors and their families with the issues surrounding aging. Suggestions may include a home health aide, adult day care, or a bill paying service.
If your loved one can no longer live on his or her own, then the issue of where the person will live has to be discussed. A family member’s home, assisted living, senior housing, or nursing home are all possible options. These choices have many consequences. This is where having a good elder law attorney can provide much needed assistance.
If nursing home care is needed, Medi-Cal planning should be done to assist the loved one in qualifying for Medi-Cal as soon as practicable and thereby preserving as much of the loved one’s assets as possible. Many families incorrectly believe that all savings will be lost and the home will need to be sold, or worse yet taken by the State, to pay for a nursing home stay. This is simply not true.
A good Sacramento elder law attorney should be able to protect all the assets of a married couple and a good portion of a single person’s savings.
Last, but certainly not least, your loved one should consult an elder law attorney to ensure that all alternative decision making documents such as an Advance Healthcare Directive, Durable Power of Attorney and HIPAA Release are in place and valid. All of these documents allow family members to assist an older person who is facing physical or mental challenges.
It’s not only our older relatives who need these important legal documents. Every adult should have these documents in place in case they become incapacitated unexpectedly, whatever their age. If you have not chosen alternative decision-makers the court will choose one for you through the conservatorship process. This process is complicated, time consuming, emotionally draining, expensive, and public.
The summer is a time of joy and stress. If you come home to find your loved one needs some help, don’t worry. There’s lots of support out there for caregivers. Contact a Sacramento elder law attorney right away to start the process. Most likely the attorney will have good referrals to the other services you may need.