What You Need to Know About Hospice

At Edwards Group we believe that education is foundational to navigating the issues of aging with as little stress as possible. And with all the misinformation out there about hospice, we thought it would be good to do an article on the topic.

Elisa Cottrell, a former hospital chaplain who handles our marketing and communications, sat down with Kathleen Sgro, founder of Alterna-Care Home Health (and former oncology nurse), and Joseph Sgro, Chief Development Officer for Alterna-Care, to talk about hospice. What is it? Who needs it? And why is it such a powerfully positive experience when done well?

What is hospice?

Hospice is a type of comprehensive and compassionate care for someone facing an advanced or terminal illness. Hospice care addresses the physical, emotional, social and spiritual needs of the patient, while also helping the family with their emotional and spiritual needs. Hospices employ nurses, social workers and chaplains to meet these needs. Primarily, hospice is a home health benefit. This means that patients get to stay in the comfort and familiarity of their own home while they receive hospice services. The nurses, chaplains and social workers come to you and your family.

Who needs hospice?

In addition, if your disease is causing great pain, hospice nurses are experts in managing pain. They also have a much better outcome than nurses who have not been trained in hospice care.

Generally, if you have been given a prognosis of 6 months to live, then you will qualify for hospice. This DOES NOT mean that you are giving up or that you will get “kicked out” after 6 months. You can receive hospice services for as long as you are declining. It is a coordinated effort between all of your medical team to determine if you still need hospice. Sometimes people get better and get discharged. While you receive hospice though, you may not go to the ER. Hospice is about quality of life and making life as good as it can be while you have an advanced disease.

Why should you use hospice?

In addition to effective pain management, there are other very good reasons why hospice needs to be viewed as a good thing and not something negative.

Going in and out of the hospital trying to get acute care, which is only going to cause more stress and pain in the short run, is not a good way to spend the end of life. Most people, if given the choice, would rather die peacefully at home instead of experiencing a series of acute hospital stays or ER visits for the last few months of their life. Yet, that’s what many people inadvertently do because they don’t understand hospice.

Hospice gives patients and families great comfort in a time of great stress. It shouldn’t be done at the last minute when it is too late to provide meaningful moments between the patient and family. During our conversation, Joe Sgro said he “routinely argues that oftentimes hospice is more for the family than the patient.” It gives everybody the time and space to do what needs to be done relationally at the end of life, and that is so very powerful. Frequently, the patient will be ready to stop “fighting” via active treatments of their disease, but the family isn’t ready for that. Hospice can help facilitate that tension and make more meaningful moments possible. Because of the spiritual care and the social workers, hospice is an amazing support system for those dealing with the hardest, and ultimate, transition in life.

Should I wait until my doctor recommends hospice?

Doctors are trained to save lives, and because of that they have a hard time telling patients that it’s time for hospice. According to Joe Sgro, “Doctors are trained to heal. They don’t want to ‘give up’ either,” which is why it is so important to fight the misconception that hospice is “giving up.” Hospice gives people a sense of dignity, and it gives families meaningful time with their loved ones – time that can make the end of the life transition easier and less traumatic.

“Even as someone who has training in end-of-life spiritual care and knows how deeply effective and positive hospice can be, I had trouble getting a real conversation started with doctors and family when my father-in-law was diagnosed with Stage IV cancer,” says Elisa Cottrell. “I knew the important work we all had to do in saying goodbye. In making sure all those things you want to say to your loved ones get said, but it was a hard sell. In the end, we thought we had a few months left with my father-in-law, but we only had five weeks. He never made it to hospice. I still feel very strongly that my father-in-law’s oncologist robbed us from having meaningful time that could have made the transition easier. There are many long-term complications of grieving that will linger with the family because they didn’t have the chance to properly face the situation. Nobody was able to be at peace with what was happening. They were all fighting it. It made for a lot of extra stress then and now.”

And that’s one of the most important things hospice can do. In addition to walking families through the stages of grief and helping them to understand the process better, Kathy Sgro feels that the most important thing Alterna-Care can do is to get the family and patient to the peace stage. This is the truly revolutionary part of hospice that most can’t understand unless they’ve been through it before.

For more on end of life issues, read our article, Approaching End of Life Issues With Forethought here. And check back next week for our upcoming post, 5 Misconceptions About Hospice.

Threats to Medicaid: Can You Prove It?

Cash payments or informal caregiver arrangements can affect your loved one’s ability to qualify for Medicaid upon going into a nursing home. Here’s what you need to know…

Giving Money to Family Can Jeopardize Medicaid Eligibility

When someone applies for Medicaid, the state looks back 5 years to see if any money was given away to the family. If so, the state imposes a penalty, or a delay of benefits. Sometimes money was clearly given to the family. Other times, it was used for the loved one, but the family can’t prove it. Check out the case below for a specific example.

Michigan Family’s Benefits Delayed – No Proof of Expenses

Betty Jensen was aging and suffering from dementia. She remained in her own home, but started needing more and more assistance to stay there. In May of 2011, her grandson (Jason) acted on her behalf and hired someone to be Ms. Jensen’s caregiver.

When he hired the caregiver, Jason did so informally without a written contract. For nearly a year, Jason paid the caregiver using almost $19,000 worth of Ms. Jensen’s assets. In March of 2012, Ms. Jensen’s dementia progressed to the point where she had to enter a nursing home.

In April of 2012, Jason applied for Medicaid benefits to help offset the cost of his grandmother’s care. While she was found eligible for benefits, the Department of Human Services (DHS) penalized her for “divesting” funds. They classified the payments to the caregiver (along with some other “gifts”) as “divestments.” That meant her Medicaid benefits were delayed for 7 months and 2 days.

Sadly, Ms. Jensen died before Medicaid started covering her nursing home expenses. (In Central Illinois, this delay would have cost Ms. Jensen and/or her family approximately $35,000!)

Her grandson appealed the ruling and lost, because the payments were made to the caregiver without a written agreement that should have been put into place before care began. The case was appealed several more times with varying results, but ultimately the courts sided with DHS, stating that an agreement with a caregiver needs to be written and official.

Caregiver Agreements in Illinois

The above case happened in Michigan, but the same thing could have easily happened in Illinois. The problem with paying cash for caregivers or hiring home help without any documentation is that there is no proof where the money went. Any “gifts” can cause a delay in benefits. And if a family member is taking out large amounts of cash or writing checks without documentation, the caseworkers may assume they are gifts.

Read more about ways elder law attorneys like us can help with in-home care: 9 Ways Elder Law Attorneys Can Help with In-home Care

The Complex World of Medicaid

Medicaid is our country’s largest healthcare benefits program, paying 70% of all nursing home bills in the US. One in six Americans are covered by it. The laws governing Medicaid are some of the most complex and confusing laws in existence. They are often nearly impossible to understand without highly experienced legal assistance. Without proper planning and advice, many people unnecessarily jeopardize their future care, their well-being, and the security of their family.

Medicaid Planning Can Help Even if You’re Already in Nursing Care

Medicaid planning (or what we here like to call Life Care Planning) ideally should be started when you are still able to make sound legal and financial decisions. (Somewhere around the age of 65.) That way you can still have control over what you want and how you want to live.

What many don’t know is that even if you’re already in a nursing home, it’s rarely too late to do planning that can save some of your financial resources. Read our article, “7 Ways an Elder Law Attorney Can Help Even if Your Loved One is in a Nursing Facility

To find out more about avoiding the crushing costs of long-term care, make plans to attend one of our upcoming workshops – Avoid Nursing Home Poverty: 13 Misconceptions About Long-term CareIf, after attending the workshop (where you won’t be pressured at all) you decide to work with us, you’ll receive $200 off your initial meeting fee if you schedule it within 30 days of attending the workshop. Give us a call at 217-726-9200 to sign up for our next workshop.

life care planning

2 Types of Help You May Need

Last week we gave you a secret test you could give a named helper (or potential helper) to see if they might be up to the task. But what sorts of things might you need help with? There are generally two categories…

Help With Finances

A recent National Institutes of Health study showed a decrease in decision-making skills between the ages of 56-85. We also know, statistically, that if you reach the age of 65 you will, on average, live 19.2 more years. Therefore, many of us will need help with complicated financial decisions that occur in the last few decades of life.

A Power of Attorney for finances will allow someone to help you pay bills, manage your investments and make financial decisions. This may sound very scary, but we help our clients make good choices about financial POAs on a daily basis. That’s why you see the word “Counselor” in our name.

Help With Healthcare Decisions

As you age, you may want input from others about your healthcare. We all know how complicated the medical care world is to navigate these days.

A Power of Attorney for healthcare will allow someone to help you make decisions about a variety of medical issues:

• Medical treatments – like chemo and radiation if you’re diagnosed with cancer. Sadly, doctors and nurses can’t always be relied upon to recommend the best course of action. It can be extremely helpful to have someone else listening to the options, the pros and cons, and then helping you make sense of the process.

• Surgery – whether it’s really needed or not.

End of life decisions – do you want to be hooked up to machines? Do you want to spend your last days at home if at all possible?

• Where to  live – should I downsize, stay put (age in place) or is there another alternative?

• How to get the best care – marketers are very savvy and they know that seniors are an easy target. It would be very helpful to have someone who can help you weed through all the “flash” of advertisements and get down to the real useful information so you can make informed choices.

• When to sign a “Do Not Resuscitate” order.

Learn more about what exactly helpers do in our post, “12 Duties of a Helper.”

How Edwards Group Can Help

We help families choose good helpers everyday. This is a difficult decision and one of the most important you’ll ever make. You don’t have to do it alone. We can guide you through the process of deciding who is best. While you’ll only do this once in your lifetime (maybe twice), we’ve helped hundreds of families since 2008. In that time, our firm has been solely dedicated to estate planning and elder law. We’ve seen A LOT and gained a lot of wisdom from the families we help on a daily basis. We can help you know what to do and what NOT to do.

Give us a call at 217-726-9200 and plan to attend an upcoming workshop today. If you attend one of our workshops, you’ll receive $200 off your initial meeting fee (if you schedule your appointment within 30 days of the workshop). We do this so you’ll know, before spending your hard earned money, if we’re the right firm for you. Attending a workshop makes the planning process easier and more effective.

The greatest threat to an effective estate plan is not taking any action at all, so take your first step today and call us at 217-726-9200.

The Secret Test for Your Named Helper

Naming a helper for your plan is one of the most important decisions you’ll ever have to make, but you don’t have to do it alone. Read on for guidance in choosing your executor, trustee or power of attorney.

Be Careful Who You Choose

I heard another heartbreaking story the other day – an older couple, the man has a terminal illness and he’s worried about his wife after he’s gone. (That part’s normal.) The heartbreaking part is he’s worried because his wife can’t say no to their youngest son (and the son has been named executor because he lives so close by), but the son is taking advantage of his mom financially even while the husband is still alive. The husband is wondering, “What on earth will happen after I’m gone, if he’s already caused this much damage with me keeping an eye on her?”

Every plan needs a good helper. We talk about it ALL the time because it’s vitally important. Everyone will come to a point in their life where they will need some sort of helper, whether that be a power of attorney, a trustee or an executor.

About two years ago we created a paper newsletter with expanded information on choosing good helpers. Even now, we still use it because it’s full of great information. If you’d like a copy of our paper newsletter on choosing good helpers, you can get instant access to it by clicking this link. But if you’d prefer, you can call us at 217-726-9200 and ask us to mail you a copy.

The Secret Test for a Helper

So, what’s the secret test for a named helper? How can you know if you can’t trust a potential helper to make decisions for you when you can’t make decisions yourself?

The secret test of a helper is to look at them and see how they handle their own lives now.

  • Are they organized?
  • Do they have things “under control”?
  • Do they make wise decisions?
  • Are they handling their own money well?
  • Are they generous and kind?

People will generally handle your money worse than they handle their own. They will generally be more difficult to deal with in serving as your helper than they are in dealing with their own lives. This is just the cold, hard truth that we’ve seen over and over.

Being a helper is stressful (especially since if often happens after a crisis or death), and the stress leads people to act worse than they normally do.

So, however they’re handling things now, they’ll actually do a worse job after you’re gone. Does that give you cause for concern? If so, you should pick a different helper. As you think about someone to be a helper, consider these duties they will possibly help with. And learn more about “7 Types of Helpers to Watch Out For” here.

How Edwards Group Can Help

We help families choose good helpers everyday. This is a difficult decision and one of the most important you’ll ever make. You don’t have to do it alone. We can guide you through the process of deciding who is best. While you’ll only do this once in your lifetime (maybe twice), we’ve helped hundreds of families in the seven years our firm has been solely dedicated to estate planning and elder law. We’ve seen A LOT and gained a lot of wisdom from the families we help on a daily basis. We can help you know what to do and what NOT to do.

Give us a call at 217-726-9200 and plan to attend an upcoming workshop today. If you attend one of our workshops, you’ll receive $200 off your initial meeting fee (if you schedule your appointment within 30 days of the workshop). We do this so you’ll know, before spending your hard-earned money, if we’re the right firm for you. Attending a workshop makes the planning process easier and more effective.

The greatest threat to an effective estate plan is not taking any action at all, so take your first step today and call us at 217-726-9200.

The Top 2 Concerns of Planning

When a loved one is facing long-term care the first concern people have when they come to us for planning is how to get the best care possible. The second concern is how to pay for it.

Getting Good Care

People come to us worried about an aging family member or friend all the time. Their primary concerns are making sure their loved one is provided for, making sure they’re safe and getting the medical care that they need, while helping them have quality of life as much as possible. And these are the primary goals for our firm as well. We want to help decrease stress, increase quality of life and preserve family relationships during the last decades of life.

Paying for Care

This is the issue that usually adds the most stress for families because they don’t know where to turn or where to get good advice about the options that are out there. The scary truth is that a lot of people are given wrong information and think there’s nothing that can be done if you can’t afford care on your own.

In reality, there are many planning tools that we can use to protect assets and gain benefits, even if someone is already in a nursing home. Our firm finds ways to maximize benefits available to pay for care, and protect some of the assets that mom hoped she would leave her family someday. Even if somebody’s been in a nursing home for months or years, it’s oftentimes not too late to get benefits to pay for care.

As long as somebody is writing personal checks to the nursing home every month, it is not too late to plan and save some of those assets.

The key is working with an experienced elder law attorney. Most “estate planning” attorneys just do what we call “death planning” (last will and testament, etc.), but elder law attorneys (like Edwards Group) have specialized training and expertise, and that means we deal with Medicaid and VA benefits every single day. We help you use the legal tools to their full advantage. And that means, in most cases, we can qualify someone for benefits faster than they ever expected, get more benefits than they ever expected, and in the end, protect much more of their life savings than they thought possible!

Medicaid Application

6 Reasons You Should Not Do a Medicaid Application On Your Own

While it may seem like a good idea that things like Medicaid applications and Veterans benefit apps are accessible and do-it-yourself, as with many things relating to government, it’s really not that simple.

Here are six reasons you should not do a Medicaid application without the help of an experienced elder law attorney:

 

1. You’ll lose all your hard-earned money.

Typically, when someone goes into a nursing home, the admissions people or case workers at the home tell people, “Spend all your money and then let us know when you’re ready to apply for Medicaid.” The best solution they can offer families is to “spend down” every dime of their hard-earned money on the astronomical price of nursing care! Planning with an experienced elder law attorney oftentimes results in protecting 50% of the life savings so it can be used for later expenses or as a legacy for your family.

2. You’ll go crazy with the stress of the complex and bureaucratic process.

If you’ve been an adult for any amount of time then you know how difficult it can be to deal with government agencies. We have endless stories of families who get caught up in the paperwork, losing money and time with their aging loved ones while they “fight” the process trying to qualify for help. (The picture above is an actual Medicaid application before we sent it off for approval. It’s A LOT of paperwork!)

3. You (or your loved one) will be left with $1 a day to live on.

Without proper Medicaid planning, all your funds will have to be “spent down” in order to allow the Medicaid benefits to begin. This basically means that your family will have to spend their own money if you need something outside of the included costs of the nursing home. Learn more about that when you subscribe to our Medicaid Planning e-course.

4. You may not qualify for benefits because of a simple error.

Again, we have a lot of stories about families who filled something out wrong, didn’t get something in on time or didn’t phrase something just right. We also have stories about the caseworkers themselves making mistakes that disqualified the families. These mistakes are just too costly.

5. Your application will likely be delayed, costing tens of thousands of dollars.

People who apply for benefits on their own can take 6 months (or longer) to jump through all the hoops and qualify so they can start receiving money to pay for care. With the cost of nursing care in Central Illinois, this means families are losing a minimum of $30,000 while they wait to be approved!! On average, we can qualify people for benefits much quicker, in about 2 months. We also have 2.5 team members who are dedicated to this process alone, and they are experts at what they do. (Read about our Benefits Coordinator, Melissa Coulter.)

6. You won’t have anyone to turn to for help.

Filling out a Medicaid app is unlike anything you’ve ever done before and much more difficult than most people imagine. You don’t have to do it alone. Relying on the knowledge and expertise of a trustworthy elder law attorney who has been down this road hundreds of times before is invaluable. We know this because we have people come to us all the time who have tried to do the apps on their own and failed. We absolutely hate to see this. We also hear from grateful clients on a regular basis who are so glad they turned to us for help. (See a testimonial like this below.)

Medicaid Planning is Some of the Best Money You’ll Ever Spend

The cost of an elder law attorney who helps you plan for Medicaid is more than offset by what you save in out-of-pocket nursing home costs. Without an attorney, all of your family’s money will inevitably go to the nursing home. With the help of an elder law attorney, even after legal fees, you’ll be left with more money than if you had done the app on your own. If the money is going to disappear anyway, why not use that money to pay an attorney who will guide your family through the stressful benefits process as quickly as possible, maximizing the money available to pay for care?

With good planning, you are more proactive; therefore you get much better results. (It’s a lot like using an accountant to make sure you don’t pay too many taxes.) Working with an elder law attorney insures that you get the best possible result instead of the worst possible result. And the worst possible result is what most people believe they HAVE TO DO when it comes to paying for nursing care — spend all their money until it’s gone. The best possible result means pursuing all the benefits that are legally available (like taking all the possible tax deductions when working on your taxes), and protecting your hard-earned money so it’s available to you and your family to use later on.

Here’s what one of our clients had to say about the process after it was done:

“I want to thank you again for all your hard work in helping my family. It has meant so much to have someone to answer questions, explain things and especially hold my hand through this amazing journey. I had moments where I wondered, ‘What am I doing spending [so much] of my parent’s money?’ Then I would wonder if we were ever going to get everything transferred, completed and filed. [When] I began to see the light at the end of the tunnel, I knew in my heart we had made the right decision. The professionalism shown by Edwards Group, which includes [Melissa] and Dave, has far exceeded my expectation. On behalf of my family, thank you again for all the phone calls, emails, texts, and especially the support. You have been amazing.”  DC from Glendale, MO

If you’d like to continue learning more about Medicaid Planning and how an experienced elder law attorney can help make the process faster and less stressful, be sure to check out our FREE Medicaid Planning e-course. You’ll receive several emails in succession telling you about the Medicaid application process while also giving you tangible steps you can take to begin the process. If your family is in a nursing home crisis situation, please call us right away at 217-726-9200. Our staff will be happy to assist you and answer your questions.

4 Periods of Planning for a Nursing Home

We got another one of those calls the other day. It went something like this: “Mom has been in the nursing home for 3 years now and her money is gone. Is there anything we can do?” Our hearts sink when we hear this, because for this family, it’s too late for a lot of planning options.

How do you deal with a parent or spouse who can’t stay at home anymore? It’s one of the most stressful things a family can face. Few know what to do because they have never faced this issue before.

The key is the earlier we can plan, the more we can do, the more assets we can protect, and the easier we can make it on the family.

Generally, we see 4 different periods of planning. How much we can do declines as time passes.

1. Too late. When the money has all been spent on the nursing home over several years, it might be too late to protect assets. But we can help the family deal with all the mountains of paperwork and complete the Medicaid application. Oftentimes, our Medicaid team spends 40-50 hours completing a Medicaid application! How long would it take someone less experienced? We can help take the stress off of the family.

2. Not too late. “Mom’s Medicare coverage for nursing home care runs out in about 3 weeks. What do we do?” At this point, the family hasn’t spent any of mom’s money, but in 3 weeks they will start spending A LOT of her savings on the nursing home. (Around $6500 per month in Central Illinois.) We can still do a lot for this family. We call this a “crisis plan” and we move quickly to maximize Medicaid and VA benefits. Often we can still protect 50% or more of mom’s assets.

3. Protect your nest egg. What if mom is still living at home, but her health is going downhill? The family sees a point in the future when she will need care. So how do you plan ahead? One option is to create a special kind of trust, a Medicaid Asset Protection Trust, to protect the nest egg. The nest egg includes the assets she doesn’t plan to need or spend during her life. Maybe we protect the house or some savings or investments, while still leaving enough for her to continue to live well. Whatever assets were placed in the trust will be 100% protected once 5 years have passed.

4. Best option. The absolute best option is to buy long-term care insurance when you are still young and healthy. Often it’s too expensive or not available once you hit retirement age. Those who buy good long-term care insurance can rest easy, knowing the insurance company will help pay for their future care, instead of it coming out of their family’s inheritance.

For more details on how nursing home crisis planning works, click here to read a case study.

To find out when our next free workshop on long-term care planning will be held, click here.

3 Ways to Pay for a Nursing Home

It’s difficult to face, but statistics show that 70% of people who reach the age of 70 will need some sort of long-term care (like a nursing home). The need for long-term care can arise because of stroke, dementia or any number of health problems. When that happens, you and your family will have to figure out a way to pay for it. There are really only three ways to pay for long-term care:

1. Use your own assets or income to pay for care. You could use your savings, your pension, your Social Security, your IRA, your investments or sell your house to pay for care. Even the wealthiest of people generally have trouble doing this for any length of time because the average cost of nursing care in Central Illinois is around $6500 per month! With the average nursing home stay lasting nearly 2.5 years, that’s $195,000!

2. Let the insurance company pay for it. If you buy long-term care insurance, or buy a life insurance policy with a long-term care rider, when the time comes your family won’t have to use their own savings. If you can purchase long-term care insurance early enough, this can be a good option for helping pay for care. However, there will come a point in life when purchasing LTC insurance just isn’t an option.

3. Use benefits paid for by your taxes. Many people do not want to rely on government help as they age, yet 70% of nursing home residents rely on Medicaid to pay the exorbitant costs of care. Until something changes, this benefit will continue to play a vital role in making sure people get the care they need as they age. You’ve paid a lifetime of taxes. Why not use this benefit just like you use Medicare or Social Security? Another very important benefit in paying for long-term care is the Veteran’s Pension and Survivor’s Pension Programs (often called “Aid and Attendance”). This benefit is available to a wide range of Veterans who often do not even know about the program. (Only 28% of those eligible actually take advantage of the program.) It is a great help in providing in-home care or nursing care.

The key is to plan ahead as to which of these options you hope to use to pay for your care. The tragic family situations regarding long-term care happen when people don’t plan ahead and then are surprised or having an immediate crisis which results in a worst-case scenario of depleting their life savings.

aging alone

Aging and Alone: 7 Steps to Protect Yourself

In a previous post, we talked about a growing segment of people who are aging alone without the help of their adult children (either because they don’t have children or their children live very far away). These seniors face unique challenges in their 70’s and 80’s. To read about those four challenges, click here. With proper planning, guided by an experienced elder law attorney who has faced these issues many times before, you can achieve peace of mind and have a plan in place if you do not have close family nearby.

7 Steps Every Senior Should Take if Aging Alone

1. Make a plan while you are still sharp (physically and mentally).

A study by the National Institutes of Health found decreased cognition and decision-making impairment begin around the age of 60. Research has also shown that the ability to make sound investment decisions sharply declines at 70. Because of this, it’s important to plan ahead.

2. Make sure your plan is a comprehensive plan and not just a will.

An effective Life Care Plan should include documents like Powers of Attorney (for health and finances), advanced directives for end of life medical issues, etc. It should also address questions such as how will you pay for long-term care, how do you want care decisions to be made, and do you want to stay at home if at all possible?

3. Set up structures to protect yourself.

With the help of an experienced elder law attorney, you should anticipate future issues and how you want them handled. (For instance, if you don’t have kids, consider a professional helper such as an attorney, CPA or bank to handle your finances.)

4. Be open to changing your living arrangements.

If you’re willing to alter your living arrangements earlier on, then you’ll be able to make changes on your own terms, deciding what’s most important to you. If you wait until crisis strikes, others may have to dictate where you go, or your medical issues may dictate where you have to live.

If you start to become isolated in your house, having difficulty taking medicine or eating properly, there needs to be a fail-safe in place so that you don’t suffer and linger too long in the house on your own.

5. Create a plan with ongoing maintenance.

In the last few decades of life things can change rapidly. That’s why a plan with ongoing maintenance is especially helpful. Crafting a flexible plan, through an attorney you trust, insures that adjustments can be made as circumstances change.

6. Gather a list of contacts who can help you.

Identify what tasks you need help with (cooking, cleaning, yard work, etc.) and then match the tasks with people (friends, neighbors, nieces, nephews, church members) who might be able to help you with those specific jobs.

7. Find local resources to help.

There are several good resources that can help seniors, or their distant children, get the help they need.

Illinois Department on Aging     1-800-252-8966

Area Agency on Aging     1-800-252-8966    (Here’s a more detailed listing for Sangamon County)

Senior Services of Central Illinois     217-528-4035

Aging is not something any of us wants to think about, but by thinking and planning ahead, you can save yourself a lot of grief, stress, dignity and money.

If you are facing the prospect of aging alone and are concerned that you don’t have an adequate plan in place, don’t hesitate to give us a call at 217-726-9200. We are always happy to help in anyway that we can!

4 Challenges of Aging Alone

There’s a growing segment of people who are aging without the help of their adult children (either because they don’t have children or because their children live far away). Read on to learn more about the challenges this group faces.

People are living longer than ever before in history. People are having less children. And those children often live out of town or in other states. Because of all these factors, 1 in 4 Americans over the age of 65 are at risk of becoming “elder orphans.”

Many don’t like this term. “I’ve lived just fine on my own nearly all my life!” However, it is a quick and clear way to describe a growing number of people who are getting older without the immediate support of close family. And it is a HUGE challenge – one our firm is seeing more and more often.

4 Challenges of Aging Alone

It used to be that a will was an adequate estate plan for most people, but a will only works after a person’s death. A will cannot help with the challenges that present themselves when a person is in their 70’s and 80’s. And if that person does not have children, or has children halfway across the country, then the challenges of the last two decades of life can make things even harder.

So what are 4 important things to consider if you find yourself in this situation?

1. Who’s gonna be in charge?

Of course, you would like the answer to be yourself, but what happens if you have a stroke, start to experience the signs of dementia or develop cancer? When the time comes (and it will come for the vast majority of people), who will pay your bills for you? Who will help get you to doctor visits or treatments? Who will help you get groceries or cook? Read about choosing good helpers here.

2. Who will even know if you need help?

Oftentimes, we don’t recognize the need for help in our own lives. More often than not, at our firm, it is the adult children who notice that their parents need help. It is nearly impossible to notice a slow decline in your own life without someone else’s perspective.

3. What if you get help from all the wrong places?

Sadly, there are more ways to scam seniors than ever before. Dishonest caregivers have always been able to steal money, change the will, etc. but now there are mail order scams, and tech scams on iPads or via email. It is really hard to know who to trust (read about 7 Types of Helpers to Watch Out For here), which brings us to the next challenge…

4. What if you reject good advice because you don’t know who to trust?

While it is really hard to know who to trust, there are still some really good, honest people out there who are passionate about helping seniors. We work with these types of advisors everyday. They are out there, but if you’re on your own, how will you know if you can trust them?

Aging is not something any of us wants to think about, but by thinking and planning ahead, you can save yourself a lot of grief, stress, dignity and money.

If you are facing the prospect of aging alone and are concerned that you don’t have an adequate plan in place, don’t hesitate to give us a call at 217-726-9200. We are always happy to help in anyway that we can!