Disability and special needs

You can pick your friends, but you can’t pick when you need your healthcare directives

Peace of Mind: Can you access your important documents 24/7?

I am writing this from Nashville, Tennessee, where I am on a family vacation. Every year, we spend a week with my parents, brother, sister in law, and nephew.

Being out of town reminded me of an important part of planning for emergency health or disability issues. Suppose you work with me to plan for those issues, and we prepare healthcare powers of attorney and a living will. Then you are on a trip, maybe to Nashville or somewhere else out of state. If something happens and you end up in the hospital or emergency room, will you have access to your important legal documents? If the doctors ask for proof that your spouse or loved one has authority to make decisions on your behalf, will you be able to provide it? Will the doctors even talk to your loved one without written permission because of the privacy laws?

Do you travel with copies of your powers of attorney and living will? If not, then if something happens you may not have access to the documents when you need them. When we are talking about legal decisions regarding healthcare or end of life issues, lack of access to the documents at the right time means the documents are worthless at that moment.

If you don’t have immediate access to the documents you need, what are your options?

  • Deal with it without using the legal documents. This means that your decisions and the helpers you have designated to carry out those decisions may not be followed, or at least won’t be followed as easily, quickly, or accurately.
  • Try to get a copy of the documents from your attorney. Not a bad plan, but most law offices aren’t open 24/7. What if you are injured in the middle of the night during a holiday weekend? Or maybe you are in Hawaii with a big time difference and the law office is closed when you contact them? Our office is always glad to provide copies of documents, but we can’t guarantee we can get them to you around the clock.
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    Neither of these options is adequate. So, how do we make sure that you have quick access to the documents when you need them? For our clients who are members of our Dynasty Program, we provide a membership to DocuBank.

    What is DocuBank? It’s a business that was created to help people have immediate access to their legal healthcare documents when they need them. They have solved the exact problem we are talking about. For an annual fee, DocuBank will get copies of your documents to you, anytime, day or night, no matter where you are.

    How does DocuBank work? As part of the planning process, our clients sign a DocuBank application that provides emergency contact info and important medical information. We then send that application to DocuBank, along with copies of the client’s healthcare power of attorney and living will. The client will later get in the mail a wallet card they can carry at all times that explains how to access those documents. By calling an 800 number or logging in to a web site and putting in a PIN # (that is listed on the wallet card), DocuBank will provide the legal documents within minutes, either via the web or fax. Check out more info at www.docubank.com.

    Do you know someone who would appreciate the kind of peace of mind that a DocuBank membership provides? Have them give us a call today at (217) 726-9200.

    Aging – There’s Only One Alternative

    Getting older. We are all faced with it. As my dad has said, if you don’t want to grow old, there is only one other option. (You know, die young…)

    As I work with clients, I am constantly confronted with aging and death. How the circle of life comes around and all of us, eventually, will face declines in our health, mental ability, independence, etc. Depressing, isn’t it? Well, it can be, I guess, but also involves not just death but how we live our lives now and the legacy we leave behind. And it makes us confront our ultimate spiritual reality and what we think happens after we leave this earth.

    I am an avid newspaper reader. I often read most of the paper. I always make sure I look at 3 things: Dilbert, Dear Abby, and the box score from last night’s Cardinal baseball game or Illini basketball game (depending on the season).  Here was a letter I saw in Dear Abby.

    Dear Abby: I am a single woman in my 60s who lives alone. One of my greatest fears is developing dementia. Because there is no one living with me, there would be on one around to notice changes in my behavior. I am still able to balance my checkbook, do my grocery shopping, drive myself to the dentist’s office, etc. If I ever need assisted living, how would I recognize the fact so I could make other arrangements before requiring someone else to make them for me? –GROWING OLDER IN SAN DIEGO

    Abby had an answer for her: ask your doctor to check you over during each annual physical exam. That’s an OK answer, but I have better one.

    Dynasty Program Membership

    By planning with me and becoming a member of our Dynasty membership program, a person would have the best disability planning options available. We help clients name a “disability panel” that consists of both loved ones and at least one doctor, who will decide when the person needs help managing their affairs. Because our office has contact with each client at least once a year and most often several times a year, we are also able to watch for signs that a person needs assistance. In fact, we probably know our clients better than their doctors as to the daily living issues. We have spent hours and hours with them over the years.

    Once assistance is needed, our clients have already set out instructions in legal documents that outline how they want to be cared for toward the end of life.

    Powers of Attorney?

    Maybe you are thinking “isn’t a power of attorney enough to plan for disability?”  Well, a power of attorney is important, but pull them out and see what instructions are included in there. There are a lot of powers given in those documents, but very few instructions. Where in the power of attorney does it talk about whether you have a preference to be cared for at home rather than a nursing home? Do you have an opinion about that issue? If so, does it make sense to have it written down somewhere in your estate plan?

    The Nursing Home – 5 Ways to Pay For It

    How will you (or your parents or grandparents) pay for a nursing home? People work hard their whole lives saving money, living frugally, hoping to pass something on to their kids and grandkids. Then reality sets in as age and health issues force that money to be used for healthcare instead.

    Maybe you have wondered, “What are the options for my family to pay for nursing and long term care costs?”

    There are 5 basic ways to handle it.

    1. Stay at home without outside help. As long as one spouse is healthy, this works fine. But too often I see the caregiver spouse start having health issues, possibly brought on by the stress of 24-hour care for their loved one.

    2. Move in with family and avoid the expense altogether. Just tell them to get your room ready, you’re on your way! This option works great for some families, but not so great for others. And it’s not just the younger generation that has the concerns. Often, my older clients say they don’t want to be a burden to their kids or put stress on them. Plus, there are some health concerns that are just beyond what a family can handle at home on their own.

    3. Spend your life savings, either on nursing help at home or in a facility.

    4. Let the government pay for it. Too many times, I have heard people say, “I’ll give all my stuff to my kids and let the government pay for my nursing home.” Unfortunately, there are some kinks in this plan.

    If you give your money away, you really have to give it AWAY. This means your kids can waste it all, the money can be exposed if your child gets divorced, or can be at risk if they have financial problems such as getting sued, having a downturn in business or getting laid off.

    You can’t just give all your money away and then apply for Medicaid to get the government to pay for your nursing care. If you give assets away, it may impact your application if you apply within 5 years after the gift (5 years according to federal law – Illinois is still at 3 year “look back” because they are late in complying with the federal requirement).

    Even if you get on Medicaid, you have limited options. The government won’t pay for home care and only pays for the bare minimum of care in a nursing home that may not have been your first choice. I’m sure it’s no surprise that the nicest nursing homes don’t take government aid, they only take private payments.

    5. Buy long term care insurance. If you need long term care, whose money would you rather spend? The insurance company’s or yours (which was intended to be your kid’s inheritance)? Plus, certain long term care policies allow you to use the funds to hire help at home, so you can avoid a nursing home altogether. In addition, many people are exploring hybrid long term care benefits, where they purchase an annuity or life insurance policy that can be accessed for nursing costs if necessary.

    We can help you sort out these options.  The earlier you start planning the better. If you would like to start planning now for nursing home costs, our popular Long-Term Care Essentials Workshop is a great place to start. This free workshop will talk about planning for care, protecting your assets and myths about Medicaid qualification. Find out more about the workshop HERE.

    However, it’s never too late to plan.  Even if you have a loved one in a nursing home using their savings to pay for it, call us at (217) 726-9200. There are legal and financial strategies that may be able to protect some of the funds for the family.

    For more information about general planning, check out our article “Getting Old Ain’t For Sissies: 10 Things to Consider As You Get Older” HERE.