Archive for the ‘Elder Law’ Category

Stay Socially Engaged As You Age

Tuesday, 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People often become socially withdrawn as they age, but that is something that should be resisted as much as possible.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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Seniors Affected By Housing Debt

Wednesday, 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

Tuesday, 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

Monday, 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

Wednesday, 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

Wednesday, 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

Monday, 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

Thursday, 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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Changes in Medicare Advantage Plans

Thursday, April 30th, 2015

Medicare Advantage plans are used by more than 16 million elderly and disabled people. The system, an alternative to traditional Medicare, allows private insurers to manage health care benefits.

Reimbursement rates for insurers are announced by the government each April, allowing health insurance companies to plan which options to provide and in which areas to compete. The increase comes after Medicare Advantage payments had been cut for several years in a row, due to changes under the Affordable Care Act and declining spending on health care costs. The government said that the increase in payments was in response to expected growth in health care spending.

Payments that the U.S. government makes to health insurance companies operating Medicare Advantage plans will go up by 1.25 percent in 2016, a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced. In February, the government proposed a 0.95 percent cut in payments to insurers.

The increase is good news for insurers, and perhaps for health care consumers as well. Health insurance companies had warned that cuts in payments could harm the elderly, because fewer insurers would find it profitable to compete in the marketplace, reducing consumer choice.

People who are eligible for Medicare have the opportunity to switch from original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan, or vice versa, or switch from one Medicare Advantage plan to another, during the open enrollment period from October 15-December 7.

Home Sharing May Be A Viable Option for Seniors

Wednesday, April 15th, 2015

By Bernard A. Krooks, Certified Elder Law Attorney

As baby boomers enter retirement, a trend is emerging: more and more single seniors are choosing to live with roommates.

This living arrangement may be especially attractive to widows or widowers in retirement who own a home that is too large or expensive for one person. Other options such as selling the home to move into a smaller one, moving into a retirement community, or living with an adult child, may not be as appealing as staying put and welcoming a roommate.Littman Krooks Elder Law

People in retirement find home sharing to be a viable option because it allows a certain lifestyle to be maintained, preserves one’s independence and adds the positive element of companionship. Loneliness and isolation are significant problems for many single people in retirement, and home sharing can be a solution. Many people living in a home sharing situation cite the sense of community as a positive factor. Simply having someone to ask how one’s day is going or help out with little things can make a huge difference in one’s outlook.

Saving money is a big motivator as well. A shared household is more efficient, and single individuals whose adult children are grown may find that paying all of the expenses of a household on their own is not feasible. Roommates can share in all household expenses. This reduction in costs makes it possible for single seniors to stay in a larger home and can be an important way to preserve their financial advantages.

Of course, living with roommates often requires accommodation. Seniors may not have lived with a roommate since their college years and adapting to different personalities and lifestyles may take adjustment. Some seniors in a group housing arrangements have found it useful to hold house meetings and set house rules.

Setting up a household with another single friend may be the most common set-up, but cooperative households have been formed by seniors who did not know each other previously. Home sharing is being organized through websites, workshops and meetings for potential housemates to get to know each other. In considering potential roommates, it is important to talk beforehand about expectations and potential differences in lifestyle to determine whether compatibility exists.

Although it may be common for one roommate to move into a home owned by another and pay rent, other groups of seniors have invested in a home together. Joint ownership of a home and joint checking accounts for roommates may not be the norm, but they have worked in some instances for close friends committed to living cooperatively.

Overall, home sharing can be a practical and enjoyable option for seniors. “The Golden Girls” may have had the right idea after all.

 

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