10 Early Warning Signs of Dementia and Legal Tools to Help

Increasing rates of dementia are creating unique challenges when it comes to aging in the United States. Currently, there are 5.7 million people living with Alzheimer’s in the U.S. It is expected that 1 in 6 women and 1 in 10 men living past the age of 55 will develop the disease at some point. Between 2000-20015 deaths from Alzheimer’s increased 123%!

Our Elder Care Advisors work with families every day who are facing the challenges of living with dementia or living with loved ones suffering from dementia. We encourage you to give them a call at 217-726-9200 if you are struggling with an aging loved one.

10 Early Warning Signs of Dementia

The Alzheimer’s Association is a great organization providing research and support. They’ve released a checklist that details the early warning signs of dementia (and compares them with what are “normal” age-related changes):

  1. Memory loss that disrupts daily life
  2. Challenges in planning or solving problems
  3. Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work, or at leisure
  4. Confusion with time or place
  5. Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships
  6. New problems with words in speaking or writing
  7. Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
  8. Decreased or poor judgement
  9. Withdrawal from work or social activities
  10. Changes in mood and personality

Download the checklist here

Legal Planning Tools That Can Help When Someone Develops Dementia

Comprehensive and effective legal planning for families dealing with dementia is vitally important. Living with the challenges of dementia is hard, but without proper planning life is EVEN HARDER. And nobody wants to make things harder. At the very least, effective legal planning should include these three things:

  1. Making plans for healthcare and long-term care. Oftentimes, people with dementia get to the point where they can no longer safely live at home. At that point, expensive memory care is needed. Planning ahead for this massive cost can make things a little easier when the time comes.
  2. Making plans for finances and property. People with dementia often begin to have trouble with numbers, so it is very important that plans are put in place to protect them from the financial difficulties that can occur. These difficulties can arise from them being unable to properly handle their own finances or from others trying to manipulate them and gain access to things like bank accounts. (Read our series on Elder Fraud here.)
  3. Naming another person to make decisions on behalf of the person with dementia. Getting a Power of Attorney in place is an incredibly important first step in protecting the person and the finances of the one developing dementia. Read more on the topic here: 9 Issues to Consider When Choosing Your Healthcare Power of Attorney.

Edwards Group Elder Care Advisors Are Here to Help

Our firm has watched as a growing number of families we know struggle with the challenges of aging. That’s why we created the Elder Care part of the firm. As we encountered more and more families who were stressed to their max, overwhelmed with the decisions that come with this time of life, and plagued by the guilt of “Am I doing the right thing for my loved one?” we knew there had to be a better way. We also saw tangible ways that our team, with their unique mix of experiences, could help make life a little easier for these families.

You can read more about what our Elder Care Advisors can help with here. If you’d like to speak to one of them, we encourage you to call 217-726-9200 to find out more about how they might be able to help your family.

Living Longer: It’s a Blessing, If You’re Prepared

Here’s some good news: people are living much longer these days! So much so that there’s a new field in estate planning. It’s called Life Care Planning. This type of planning doesn’t focus solely on a “death plan.” Instead, it focuses on using strategies to make the last decade of life a little easier and less stressful.

In this 4-minute video, Attorney David Edwards talks with NewsChannel 20 about the benefits of Life Care Planning. If you’re over 55 and concerned about the challenges you’ll face as you age — from paying for long-term care to protecting your hard-earned assets — you should consider putting together a Life Care Plan. It will give you peace of mind knowing you’ve successfully prepared yourself for the extra years you may experience.

We’d love to help you with this process. Give us a call at 217-726-9200. We can answer questions and help you set up an Initial Meeting. We hope to hear from you soon!

long-term care insurance

Should I Buy Long-term Care Insurance?

The outrageous cost of care is one of the biggest risks to those getting older. This question looms large in the mind of many who are of retirement age…

How will I (we) pay for care costs?

And many clients ask us…

Should we buy long-term care insurance?

There is a lot of confusion and fear around the long-term care insurance industry, but we still believe that long-term care insurance is the #1 best way to protect yourself from exorbitant care costs.

When we see a client who needs care and has long-term care insurance, it is usually a big relief! Their family already has plenty of things to sort out as far as the details of the care and the medical needs that are happening. When it comes to how to pay for it, all they do is sit back and let the insurance company write the checks. It’s a big load off for the family! And they get to focus on other important things during a really difficult time.

There are legal tools, like Nest Egg Trusts and VA and Medicaid benefit planning, that can be used to help plan for care costs. Long-term care insurance is just another financial tool that can be used. Some clients rely mostly on the legal tools and some rely mostly on the financial tool of long-term care insurance. Some clients rely on both types of tools — a kind of “belt and suspenders” approach to planning. We generally believe the more tools you have in the toolbox, the more effectively you can build a planning strategy.

How Does Long-term Care Insurance Work?

The industry has been in flux recently, creating a lot of fear around this topic. Currently, there are two types of long-term care insurance. One is kind of on its way out, and the other is more effectively addressing the problems that have emerged in the industry.

  1. Traditional long-term care insurance. You pay a premium on this policy, and when you need care, the insurance company pays so much a day or so much a month, for so many months OR until a set maximum amount of money is used up. (Some old policies have unlimited benefits, but in more recent years insurance companies have stopped selling the unlimited benefits kind.) With the traditional LTC insurance, what happens if you don’t need care? Do you get your money back? No, the insurance company keeps your money, and you’re out of luck. (Except in very rare and unique policies.)
  2. Hybrid long-term care insurance. This is a life insurance policy that has a special rider to allow you to tap into the money prior to death in order to pay for care. If you don’t end up needing long-term care, then the money goes to your family or beneficiaries just like life insurance would. Most people who buy LTC insurance these days are getting the hybrid type.

There are very few companies still selling traditional policies, and most people prefer the hybrid policies anyway, so there isn’t nearly as much risk as there used to be for the consumer. After some bumpy times, it appears as though the industry has figured out a better way to stay in business and provide a service to clients.

Should I Buy LTC Insurance?

Yes, it is a great idea for most people. If you can qualify medically, and if you can afford it, it is certainly something we urge you to strongly consider. As you age or as you begin to develop more health issues, the policies get more expensive. At some point, you may not be able to get a policy at all.

It is generally a good idea to consider buying LTC insurance in your 50’s or 60’s. It’s not necessarily too late if you’re in your 70’s, but it really depends on your health.

One great thing about LTC insurance is that it provides resources to pay for care at home. Care at home is very limited under Medicaid benefits, and yet the majority of people we speak to have strong preferences about staying at home as long as possible. You can get care at home under VA benefits, but sometimes the VA benefits are not enough to pay for all the care that is needed. A good LTC insurance policy will let you get plenty of care to stay at home as long as possible while you continue to age.

If you don’t qualify for LTC insurance, then you may want to pursue legal options such as a Nest Egg Trust to protect your assets and help you more easily qualify for future benefits that will help pay for care.

If you do qualify for LTC insurance, you may still want to consider a Nest Egg Trust as additional protections.

Over 55 years old? Here are three things you should know about nursing home care.

 

How Do I Check Into LTC Insurance?

If you are interested in checking into LTC insurance, you should chat with your financial advisor who can explain the various policies available. They can tell you some general options and estimated prices based on your situation.

To get more specific pricing and see if you qualify, you will need to go through underwriting. This involves a medical check up (such as taking blood samples, blood pressure, etc.) and also giving the insurance company permission to get copies of your medical history. Once the insurance company has this information, then they can give you a more specific price quote and options, which you can discuss with your financial advisor.

One last thing… WE DO NOT sell insurance. We are a law firm. However, we are familiar with a lot of advisors and can often recommend someone if you don’t have an advisor you’re already working with. Just give us a call at 217-726-9200.

Senior safety

4 Safety Categories for Seniors You Should Be Aware Of

Preserving independence and control as one ages is a major goal of many people we talk to on a regular basis. And with seniors who have a strong desire to preserve independence, come families with big concerns about safety. Is it possible for their aging loved one to remain independent AND safe?

Click on the video below to hear Elder Care Advisor, Sandy Eisenmann talk about safety for seniors and the main four categories you should be aware of. (This will take you to NewsChannel 20’s site.) Sandy is trained as a physical therapist, so she often helps families who are concerned about their loved ones safety at home.

Four categories of safety for seniors, along with a BONUS area to watch out for:

  1. Driving
  2. Cooking
  3. Falling
  4. Medication management
  5. [BONUS] Financial

In the video, Sandy shares what to look for and how to know if there might be a problem, as well as what you should do if you think a loved one’s safety or well-being is at risk. As always, if you have questions or concerns about an aging loved one, please give one of our Elder Advisors a call at 217-726-9200. You can read more about our Elder Advisors and what they do here.

safety; seniors; aging in place

Nest Egg Trusts: A Tool to Protect Your Property and Life Savings

There's a real problem facing Americans over the age of 65 -- the cost of nursing home care. It's expensive and often unavoidable. A lucky few have enough income to cover the $80,000 per year cost. But how does the average person afford it?

Unfortunately, many "spend down" their property and savings so they can qualify for benefits. But...

There is another way.

You may have heard of an irrevocable trust, or what we call a nest egg trust. This common tool helps many families who want to protect assets and plan ahead for future aging and care costs.

Aren't Trusts Just for Wealthy People?

It's a common misconception that trusts are only for the wealthy. However, a nest egg trust is designed for regular, hardworking folks who have saved a bit for retirement. Many families who want to protect assets and plan ahead for future aging and care are deciding that a nest egg trust is the right tool for them.

So, What's a Nest Egg Trust?

A nest egg trust is an irrevocable trust that protects your hard-earned savings and also helps you qualify for care benefits if you need some form of long-term care. There are many different types of trusts, and each depends on a person's goals and situation. But the bottom line is they protect your property and savings so you can get the care you deserve without losing your entire financial legacy. You can read more about trusts and how they work here.

Isn't That Too Good to Be True?

You qualify for Medicaid benefits AND you get to keep your hard-earned savings and assets? Yes, you do, but the nest egg trust involves a trade-off. To protect your assets, you must give up some control of them. What does this mean? It means any assets you put into the trust have some restrictions, so you can't spend them any way you want anytime you want.

Of course, no one wants to give up control of their assets, but many families find that it is well worth the trade-off to protect their financial legacy (and save things like the family farm). They even find that the control they give up is much less than they expected.

How Do I Set Up a Trust -- Isn't It Complicated?

If you were to do it on your own, yes, it would be complicated. But with the help of an experienced and trusted elder law attorney, it's not that complicated. And it's well worth your effort. Properly planning for your future is one of the greatest gifts you can give your loved ones (and yourself!). Knowing your financial legacy is safe gives you a priceless amount of peace of mind.

How Can Edwards Group Help?

In addition to setting up a trust, we will help guide you through making decisions around the trust. We have more than a decade of experience in creating this type of trust for people -- we know the problems to anticipate and address; we know how to make the decision-making process a bit easier; and we know the right questions to ask to make sure YOUR trust works for YOU and your unique family and circumstances. If you think a nest egg trust might be right for you, we encourage you to give us a call at 217-726-9200. We will be happy to review your situation with you and counsel you as to whether a nest egg trust is best for your circumstances and the goals you want to achieve.

To learn more on your own about nest egg trusts, download this FREE resource -- Nest Egg Trusts: A Good Tool to Protect Property and Savings.

save family farm

Over 55 years old? Three things you should know about nursing home care.

You may be a couple decades away from needing nursing home care, but the sooner you can understand and plan for the costs involved, the better.

Here are three truths every senior should know about nursing homes:

 

1. You’ll probably need nursing home care.

The likelihood you’ll need to pay for this type of care is high: 70% of Americans 65 and older will need some form of long-term care, and 35% will spend time in a nursing home.

2. It’s going to be expensive.

The odds that this care will be expensive? 100%.

Nursing homes in Central Illinois cost about $80,000 per year. That’s roughly $6,500 per month! Most people don’t have that type of monthly income during retirement.

3. Without proper planning, you’ll lose your hard-earned life savings.

If you don’t have enough income to cover the cost of care as you age, you will need to use your life savings and other assets to pay for nursing home care. That means your financial legacy, including things like the family farm, could disappear without proper planning.

Thankfully, with proper planning you can prepare, save your legacy, and get the kind of quality care you or your loved one deserves. Here’s one way to do it.

As a response to the challenges of aging in our current time, our firm has developed a process to plan ahead for the last decades of life, when so many people face financial and physical challenges. Life Care Planning looks ahead to the various stages that individuals and families may go through during the aging process, and creates a plan to make navigating that time a little easier and less stressful. Learn more about the 5 Stages of Life Care Planning here. If you’d like to take the first step toward planning, give us a call at 217-726-9200, and we’ll help you schedule your Initial Meeting.

2 Types of POAs: What They Can and Can’t Do

There are two types of power of attorney documents that you can use depending on what you might need done:

  1. healthcare power of attorney is able to help arrange your medical care or make healthcare decisions for you when you are unable to do so yourself. As long as you are able to talk to the doctor yourself, then you will still decide your care. But if you can’t make decisions, someone else will have to help decide what  type of treatment or surgery you need, what prescriptions to get, where you will live, and even when to disconnect medical machines if you are being kept alive artificially. Your healthcare POA agent is legally bound to follow your healthcare preferences to the extent that they are aware of them. Your healthcare preferences should be made explicit through a conversation with your healthcare agent.
  2. You can also name a power of attorney for property. This person is responsible for decisions regarding your finances and assets. You can give this person as much or as little control as you like. They can be responsible for tasks like depositing checks, filing your taxes, managing your investments, or selling your property. Your financial POA agent can also hire accountants, attorneys, or financial advisors to help you and pay them through your accounts. The agent is legally bound to act in your best interest, doing only things that are best for you under your circumstances. They usually have access to handle your assets until your death or until you change your power of attorney document.

You may have heard of something called a durable power of attorney. In Illinois, every power of attorney is durable unless you specifically choose otherwise. So what does that mean? It means that if you get sick, the power of attorney is still valid and the agent you named can take action on your behalf. If it was not durable, then the power of attorney would expire after you got sick. Generally, you want powers of attorney to be durable because it is not helpful for them to expire when we need them most.

Also, keep in mind that the authority of your power of attorney ends at your death. The power of attorney is used to help someone act on your behalf while you are alive but unable to handle things yourself. Once you pass away, the power of attorney is no longer valid to take action. Instead your executor (or successor trustee) will take over and handle the after-death issues for your family.

What Happens if You Don’t Have a POA in Place and You Need One?

What happens if you never get around to signing a power of attorney, and you suddenly have a stroke and are not able to make decisions? Without a power of attorney, your family will have to ask a judge to name a guardian for you. This is a time consuming and expensive process that requires a doctor’s report, court filings, and official legal steps.

In the long-run, choosing to appoint a trustworthy power of attorney agent is a decision that will help protect your finances, your healthcare preferences, and even peace within your own family. Deciding about a POA ahead of time can help your family through emotionally draining decisions if you become incapacitated. Because of the importance of this document, it is a good idea to review your POA every couple years with your attorney. Creating an effective power of attorney document takes special care and attention, but is well worth it. If you would like to revisit your POA, you should schedule an appointment with your attorney.

Our website has a lot of great information on choosing good helpers like power or attorney agents:

If you’re ready to get your POAs in place, please give us a call at 217-726-9200 to set up an Initial Meeting.

Increase Your Quality of Healthcare With These 5 Steps

When you or a loved one are dealing with a lot of medical issues, or even “just one” complex issue, the paperwork can become overwhelming.

Over the years, Edwards Group has evolved into a comprehensive, interdisciplinary resource for families facing the challenges of aging. 

Elder Care Advisor Sandy Eisenmann recently discussed with me what people should consider when it comes to medical records and managing that information. “It really depends on the unique situation of each family, but these are a few of my generic recommendations…”

5 Ways to Organize Medical Records and Increase Your Quality of Care 

1. Keep all records until the charges associated with the procedure or diagnosis have been resolved. This is the minimum amount of time that you should keep the records or notes.

2. Keep ALL surgical and pathology reports. The surgical reports can be helpful if more related procedures are needed in the future. Pathology reports are important in case a disease recurs, but they can also be helpful to other family members who may need them as a reference.

3. Create a lists of ALL doctors, their speciality, and/or what they treated you for. It’s helpful to have this all gathered in one place, especially if you or your loved one are seeing multiple specialists.

4. Keep an updated and thorough history/timeline to help you explain the complex condition or to help other doctors more easily understand what has transpired.

5. Keep a current, up-to-date medication list. Many people may not think of this as “medical records,” but it is vital to receiving accurate care. Doctors’ offices don’t communicate with each other as much as you may think, so if you have multiple doctors, it’s important for you to know at all times what medicines you are taking and what the dosages are.

If there are generic or hereditary considerations, then all of these things can be especially important to keep track of so future family members can have better information if they themselves have to be treated for the same condition.

You may also want to consider starting a 3-ring binder to help you organize paperwork and track tests and appointments if the condition is complex or chronic. That way you can have ALL information connected to the condition in one place — doctors notes, test results, EOBs, co-pay receipts, support organizations, etc.

If you or a loved one needs help with the challenges of aging or dealing with chronic illness or disability, we encourage you to give us a call at 217-726-9200. Our Elder Care Advisors will be more than happy to discuss your situation and see if there are ways we can lessen the burden for your family.

Review Your Medicare Part D Coverage

Feeling confused about your Medicare Part D coverage? Wondering if you picked the wrong plan or if you’re spending too much?

You’re not alone. In fact, Beth Monnat, our Benefits Specialist, has helped 38 clients review their coverage this enrollment season, and only 4 of them were enrolled in the correct plan!

With her expertise, she’s helped those 38 clients save a total of $34,872.01. That’s an average of almost $1,000 per person!

And she can help you too. Book an appointment with Beth today. But hurry! Open enrollment ends Decemeber 7.

You’ll be in good hands with Beth. She has more than 30 years experience in Social Security and Medicare. And she has 12 years experience working almost exclusively with Medicare Part D.

Cut through the confusion and save money––call (217) 726-9200 to book your appointment or click here to learn more.

4 Things You Can Do to Avoid a Messy Guardianship

You may have read in a previous post that Buzz Aldrin has been fighting with his children over his own competency. Aldrin’s children are concerned that he is not able to make good choices any longer… In that same article we talked with Attorney Amanda Lundeen about what everyone should know about adult guardianships. In that same conversation, she gave us four tips to avoid an ugly guardianship yourself.

How to Avoid a Messy Guardianship

1. Get good Powers of Attorney in place while you’re well.

Planning early is more effective than planning during a crisis. Research is pretty clear that decision-making ability and cognition start declining as people age. It is important to think about comprehensive planning before this becomes problematic — somewhere around 60-65 is typically a good rule of thumb.

2. Keep your Powers of Attorney (and your plan) up to date.

It is a pain, but many institutions will not honor a Power of Attorney that is more than a year or two old. We say this all the time, but estate planning is not a one-time deal. Keep your plan up to date with the 3 L’s of Estate Planning, or join our Dynasty Program and be sure your plan will be ready for action when the time comes.

3. Use a professional who understands down-the-road needs of seniors.

Experienced elder law attorneys should be able to help you anticipate what needs may arise in the future. In addition, they should have effective planning tools that can help address those needs.

4. Communicate with your family.

Tell them who you’ve named and consider explaining your thinking on that decision. It’s also important to discuss how you want things dealt with. One of the biggest challenges as we age is discussing with our children things that we’ve never discussed with them before — finances, healthcare, end-of-life preferences, etc. The sooner you can start having those conversations, the easier it will be when things become difficult and an acute problem crops up. The more your children understand your feelings on these issues, the better they will be able to make the decisions you’d want made. This sets them up for success, and certainly will benefit you in the long-run as well.

As usual, planning ahead and thinking through the challenges of aging before they happen is the best way to make sure you and your family can face these difficulties without creating extra stress or expense. Most people don’t know how to manage all the issues that arise with aging loved ones, so Edwards Group developed a holistic way to help families think through the legal, financial, and care issues that develop as someone ages.

In addition to a thorough and effective estate plan, a Life Care Plan offers the option of partnering with us to plan for your care and help you navigate decisions on your journey through the aging process. Our latest workshop, Aging With Confidence: 9 Keys to Wise Planning and Peace of Mind, is a great place to start learning about the components of an effective plan that will effectively address the challenges of aging while protecting your legacy. Call us at 217-726-9200 to RSVP for an upcoming workshop.