Stay Socially Engaged As You Age

July 21st, 2015

Staying socially active as you age not only makes life more fun, it can be good for your health. Researchers with the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center conducted a study that found that seniors who were highly social had a rate of cognitive decline 70 percent lower than less-social seniors. Interacting with others and keeping your mind stimulated can help ward off depression and dementia in some cases. Perhaps surprisingly, such mental stimulation and social interaction seem to have positive effects even when they take place on the Internet. Researchers from the University of Alabama at Birmingham found a 30 percent drop in symptoms of depression among Internet users.

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There are lots of easy ways for seniors to stay socially engaged and intellectually stimulated. Seniors should, according to their ability, make an effort to attend social events, visit friends and neighbors, and keep in touch with family members, if not in person then by phone, email or social media. Seniors can also play games, such as crossword puzzles, or chess to keep their minds active.

Older individuals may also want to do volunteer work or even work a part-time job for the social benefits. Non-profit organizations like At Home on the Sound are run by volunteers and assist their members with a range of services that are designed and coordinated to empower senior citizens and support their wellness, independence and vitality while aging in place, in their own homes within the community they love.

People often become socially withdrawn as they age, but that is something that should be resisted as much as possible. It is important for seniors to take advantage of opportunities for social interaction, to get more satisfaction out of life, and to stay healthy.

 

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Learn the Facts About Medicare, Medicaid and Long-term Care

July 14th, 2015

More than 40 million seniors rely on Medicare for their everyday health insurance needs, and many mistakenly assume that Medicare will also cover long-term care if it is needed. In fact, there are specific limitations to Medicare coverage for long-term care, and such care is often covered instead by Medicaid, which has eligibility requirements. Therefore, it is important to understand how these two public benefit programs affect long-term care expenses.

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Medicare pays for health care for people age 65 years and older or with certain disabilities. Under certain conditions, Medicare will pay for short-term stays in skilled nursing facilities, hospice care, or home health care. Generally, Medicare focuses on medically necessary care such as doctor’s visits and hospital stays, rather than personal care services associated with long-term care.

Until recently, there was an unevenly enforced “improvement standard,” by which Medicare beneficiaries were denied coverage if their condition was no longer improving. However, the settlement of Jimmo v. Sebelius, a 2013 lawsuit, clarified that no such “improvement standard” can be enforced, and people with chronic conditions can continue to be eligible for Medicare to pay for their medical treatment.

Nevertheless, Medicare generally does not provide for room, board and custodial care such as that offered in a skilled nursing facility. Therefore, people needing such care usually use personal resources, long-term care insurance, and Medicaid. Medicaid has income and asset eligibility requirements, and many seniors will have to spend down some assets to qualify. The financial requirements for Medicaid can be complicated, and the advice of an experienced elder law attorney can be invaluable in planning for long-term care.

 

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The Importance of Asset Protection Strategies

July 6th, 2015

Protecting your assets from creditors is an important part of estate planning. There are several different strategies that may be effective. Because individual situations vary and the laws regarding these strategies can be complex, you should only use them with the advice of an experienced estate planning attorney. With that in mind, here is an overview of some techniques for asset protection:

lawyer-or-notary-with-cl Give certain assets away before any claims arise. When done properly, such a gift may succeed in transferring property while keeping it out of an estate that may face claims from creditors. However, creditors may try to claim the transfer is fraudulent if it is made after claims arise, if the gift makes you insolvent, or if you place limits on the gift such that you still maintain control over the assets.

In the business context, a basic strategy for protecting your personal assets is to operate businesses as limited liability entities, such as corporations or limited liability companies (LLCs), rather than as partnerships or sole proprietorships. However, be aware that if you blur the line between your personal finances and those of your company, you may open your personal assets up to creditors of your business.

At the family level, an important asset protection strategy is for a married couple to hold title to property as tenants by the entirety, rather than as tenants in common. This can prevent one spouse’s creditors from asking the court to partition the property. The laws on this vary by state, but in New York, third parties cannot partition a tenancy by the entirety. However, when a married couple may be subject to estate tax, there are reasons why owning property as tenants in common may be more advantageous.

 

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Seniors Affected By Housing Debt

July 1st, 2015

Housing debt is affecting the retirement plans of a growing number of seniors. Paying off a home mortgage prior to retirement has traditionally been a key part of many people’s plan for their golden years, but today many seniors find themselves still in debt in their sixties and seventies.

According to the Office for Older Americans, part of the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, in 2013 there were 6.5 million seniors paying a mortgage, or 30 percent of all seniors. That is an increase from 22 percent in 2001. Data from the Federal Reserve show that 21 percent of people age 75 and older were carrying home loans in 2011, up from 8 percent in 2001.

Littman Krooks Elder LawAlong with the number of seniors with housing debt, the average debt amount is also growing. In fact, according to the financial protection bureau, since 2001 the average debt has more than doubled for people age 65 and older, from $43,400 to $88,000.

The effects of the Great Recession and accompanying collapse of the housing market are still being felt, and many older homeowners are still “underwater” on their homes, owing more than the home’s value, especially in the cities hardest hit by the housing bust.

Housing debt leaves seniors in a difficult situation: what was supposed to be a nest egg can actually hinder their retirement plans. There are no easy solutions, but seniors are addressing the issue in various ways, such as by working in retirement or downsizing their home and lifestyle.

 

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Planning for Diminished Capacity

June 23rd, 2015

Older investors are at risk for “diminished financial capacity,” or a decline in the ability to manage money and other assets in one’s own best interests. Such a decline is a problem in itself, and it also may make investors more vulnerable to fraudulent investments and other forms of financial abuse. senior couple planning

In a recent bulletin, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) stressed the importance of planning for the possibility of diminished capacity. In order to minimize difficulties for investors and their families, the SEC recommends taking these steps:

  • Organize important documents in an accessible, safe location so that they can be available to loved ones in an emergency, and keep them up to date. This includes bank and brokerage statements and account information, mortgage and credit information, insurance policies, Social Security and pension information, and contact information for your attorneys and financial and medical professionals.
  • Provide financial advisers with trusted emergency contacts. Make sure that investment advisers or brokers have the contact information of a trusted loved one they can contact if they suspect something is amiss or if they are unable to get in touch with you.
  • Consider a durable financial power of attorney. Such a document gives a trusted person the power to make financial decisions on your behalf. It is called “durable” because it remains in effect if you become incapacitated. You may still revoke or alter it while you retain capacity.
  • Consider involving a loved one in your financial affairs. If you become incapacitated, it will be much easier for a loved one to help out if he or she already has some idea of your finances. For instance, you may wish to consider having duplicate statements sent to a friend or relative.
  • Speak up if something is amiss. If you feel that someone is trying to take advantage of you financially, or you are having trouble with managing your affairs, talk about it with someone you trust. General elder abuse can be reported by calling the Eldercare Locator at 1-800-677-1116. Suspected elder financial abuse involving investment advisers or brokers can be reported by calling the SEC at 1-800-732-0330.

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The Profile of the Family Caregiver in America is Changing

June 15th, 2015

According to a new study from AARP and the National Alliance for Caregiving, family caregivers are a varied group. Litttman Krooks Elder Law

The report, Caregiving in the U.S. 2015, found that while the “typical” caregiver is a woman age 49 taking care of a relative, there are some surprising findings as well. Men, who are often stereotyped as failing to take on caregiving responsibilities, actually account for 40 percent of family caregivers and provide 23 hours of caregiving work per week on average. People of the millennial generation, between the ages of 18 and 34, represent nearly a quarter of family caregivers, and they are equally likely to be male or female. Caregivers age 75 or older are likely to be the sole caregiver for their loved one.

Of those who provide more than 20 hours per week of unpaid care work, the typical caregiver has been providing such care for an average of 5 1/2 years and expects to continue for another 5 years. Almost half of these caregivers report a great amount of emotional stress. Caregivers have an average household income of $45,700, and many report financial strain.

According to the AARP and National Alliance for Caregiving, more support systems are needed for caregivers. They warn that as the baby boom generation ages, the amount of caregiving work needed will increase. Caregivers need to care for themselves as well, and take advantage of support systems such as respite care, support groups, stress management and resources and tools to make caregiving in the home easier.

Family caregivers can get support from the New York State Caregiving & Respite Coalition.

 

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Financial Impairment Can Occur In Cognitively Normal Seniors

June 3rd, 2015

Littman Krooks elder law attorneysWhile cognitive declines associated with Alzheimer’s diseases and other dementias are well-known, most people are unaware that seniors without dementia are also at risk for cognitive impairment, particularly in financial issues.

The University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Alzheimer’s Disease Center conducted a study that revealed that different types of intelligence plays roles in determining when people are at their best cognitively. Research showed that fluid intelligence, or the ability to solve new problems, may start to decline as early as age 20. When it comes to financial matters, people tend to peak in their 50’s. Crystallized intelligence, or a person’s wisdom and experience, continues to build until reaching a plateau around the age of 70. At that point, people may begin to have difficulty keeping track of financial matters or are vulnerable to making bad decisions or being exploited.

The research also identified early warning signs of financial decline that adult children of seniors should watch out for, to help prevent financial losses.

The warning signs include:

  • Taking longer to complete ordinary financial tasks, for example, paying bills, filing taxes
  • Paying less attention to financial details, such as an overdue bill, an error in a bank statement
  • A decline in everyday math skills, for instance, calculating a tip in a restaurant
  • A decreased understanding of financial ideas, possibly, interest rates or return on investments
  • Difficulty assessing the risks in a financial opportunity, such as the risk of a scam or poor investment

Seniors can be proactive and authorize their elder law or estate planning attorney to contact a trusted family member or friend if they believe that their cognitive skills are declining.

 

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Consider Carefully in Choosing Between a Lump Sum and an Annuity

May 27th, 2015

If your retirement plan includes a pension, consider carefully in choosing between a lump sum and an annuity

A number of large employers offer the option to cash out pensions to retirees and former employees, providing a lump sum payment rather than an annuity.

This option can be beneficial for some people, and tempting for many others. Individuals should carefully consider their options before opting for a lump sum payment. Choosing a lump sum payment is a permanent decision that cannot be reversed, and it is not appropriate for everyone. Littman Krooks retirement planning

A lump sum payment may be beneficial for if an individual is in poor health and does not expect to live long enough to benefit from the guaranteed income provided by the pension. The lump sum payment can assist with their increased medical and living expenses. A lump sum payment can also be beneficial for those who have not saved enough for their retirement and therefore needs access to funds for basic living expenses.

For most, though, having a guaranteed income from the pension is the best option. When retirees take the lump sum, they become responsible for investing the proceeds and making sure it lasts throughout retirement. Opting to receive a pension places the responsibility to invest retirement funds on the financial company. In addition, the lump sum payout is calculated based on average life expectancy — those who live longer will lose out if they take a lump sum payment. Further, leaving the pension in place may have certain advantages in long term care planning in the event the retiree needs nursing care.

Taking the lump sum can also be detrimental from a tax perspective. Unless the lump sum is directly rolled into an IRA, it is counted as income for the year, which could push the individual into a higher tax bracket. To determine if a lump sum payout is the best option for you, meet with your accountant, financial advisor, and experienced elder law attorney at Littman Krooks LLP.

 

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In Retirement Planning, Timing of Withdrawals is Everything

May 18th, 2015

Planning for retirement can be complicated. Many retirees rely on a combination of Social Security retirement benefits and retirement savings accounts such as IRAs. Knowing when it is in one’s best interest to start taking benefits or withdrawals is crucial: not too early and not too late.  Littman Krooks Elder Law

When it is “too early” to take benefits or withdrawals may be a matter of opinion. After all, if a retiree needs the funds at a certain time, he or she may be have no choice. However, in planning your retirement, it is important to know when taking money too early will carry penalties. With regard to savings in IRAs, if you withdraw funds before age 59 1/2, you will face a 30 percent mandatory withholding: 20 percent prepayment of income tax and a 10 percent penalty for early withdrawal. When it comes to Social Security benefits, keep in mind that taking early retirement benefits at age 62 means that you will receive a fraction of the benefits you would get if you waited until full retirement age or even longer. It’s also important to know that if you take early retirement benefits while still working, the money you earn over a certain amount each year may reduce your benefits, until you reach full retirement age.

At the other end of the scale, withdrawing money “too late” means failing to take your required minimum distributions from an IRA once you reach age 70 1/2. If retirees with pretax retirement accounts wait too long to withdraw retirement income, they can face a 50 percent tax. So whether you need the cash flow or not, be sure to take those required minimum distributions, even if it is only to reinvest the funds.

 

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New NightCare Program for Seniors with Alzheimer’s at Sarah Neuman Offers Respite to Caregivers

May 7th, 2015

Our guest blogger this week is Amy Brandwene, LMSW. She has a Certificate in Gerontology and MBA in Marketing from Fordham University. She has worked with older people and their families in skilled nursing environments, assisted living and continuing care retirement communities.

As the sun sets, anxiety increases for some elders with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia. That’s because of “sundowning,” a condition characterized by increased confusion and agitation which starts in the late afternoon or early evening and often includes nighttime wakefulness, aggression and wandering. The Alzheimer’s Association estimates that some 25% of people with dementia suffer from sundowning. It takes a huge toll on caregivers who must choose between care and vigilance and their own sleep, and so, is a leading reason for people with dementia to be placed in nursing homes.

Littman Krooks Elder LawThe Sarah Neuman Center at Jewish Home has introduced the NightCare program designed to comfort and engage elders with this level of dementia, and to provide respite for their caregivers. Offered several nights per week, from 7 PM to 7 AM, the NightCare program is staffed by experienced, caring professionals like Ruth Mederski, LPC. She explains, “At night when these seniors can become more anxious, we are there to give reassurance.”

In additional to providing a caring and safe environment, the NightCare program offers activities designed to help these elders connect with others; conversation, games, and art, music and recreational programs can all be beneficial. For those who can participate, falls prevention and safe walking programs, as well as Tai Chi and elder-friendly yoga are available. There is a nurse who can administer medication, and if the elder also participates in the Adult Day program at Sarah Neuman, there is coordination between the day and night nurses.

The NightCare program at Sarah Neuman offers dinner after arrival, snacks and breakfast. The program will also include a caregiver support group to help families cope with the strain of dementia care.

Perhaps the most meaningful offering of the NightCare program is peace-of- mind for the caregiver. The son of one NightCare client has shared that “it’s a great relief knowing my mother is safe and cared for at night. I can sleep.”

For more information contact: Amy Brandwene, LMSW at Jewish Home’s Sarah Neuman Center in Mamaroneck, NY 914-864-5804.  She is currently the social worker for the Sarah Neuman Center’s Day Center and NightCare program.

 

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