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.

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

How to Sign Up For Medicare — A Free Workshop

Signing up for Medicare can be fairly straightforward, but for many people it gets complicated. Or seems that way at first. You may only need certain parts of the program, you may want extra coverage, or you may want to forego certain coverage. Though this might seem overwhelming, learning a few basics about Medicare will help you feel comfortable and confident as you start making decisions.

Join us for our for our free workshop How To Sign Up for Medicare: Make Wise Choices and Reduce Your Stress. We’d love to help you understand your options and get enrolled in the best plan for you. You’ll learn the answers to these questions and more:

  • Do I need Medicare at 65?
  • How do I sign up for Medicare?
  • What does Medicare cover?
  • What is the difference between a Medicare Supplement vs. a Medicare Advantage plan?
  • Will prescription drugs be covered?

Here's what people had to say about previous Medicare workshops with our Benefits Specialist, Beth Monnat:

"I wish I had attended a workshop like this before I signed up for Medicare."

"This workshop was spot on with everything I've experienced [with Medicare]."

We offer the following locations, dates, and times for our free workshop:

Decatur Office 2905 N. Main, Suite C, Decatur, Illinois 62526

May 2, 2019  | 10:00 - 11:30 a.m.

We’d love to see you there! Give us a call at 217-726-9200 to RSVP.

 

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.

Mom Is Having Memory Trouble and the Family Is Worried

Every week we talk with several families who are worried about the challenges of aging and call us for help. Recently, a family was concerned about mom’s declining memory and dementia.

Mom is mostly unaware of her inability to handle things on her own and really wants to keep control of her keys and the checkbook. She has handled these things for years and is not about to give them up.

Dad is worried about Mom. He’s concerned she’ll wander off or drive somewhere and get lost. He’s increasingly uncomfortable leaving her home alone, worried she’ll try to use the stove and not remember to turn it off. At the same time, he feels terribly guilty when he thinks about taking away the car keys. He feels really stuck and unsure of what to do.

The daughter lives only five minutes away. She is worried sick about her parents, and the situation is adding a lot of stress to her life. She knows her mom is unsafe, so she does all she can to help, but she has a family of her own and works full time. Because her dad is stuck and doesn’t know what to do to keep her mom safe, she is feeling immense pressure to be the parent of her own parents. This is a really uncomfortable spot for her.

The son lives really far away. (Let’s say Florida.) He tries to come home every year, but it’s been almost 18 months since he’s been back. He thinks his sister is trying to be too controlling and take over everything. He knows his mom and dad have slipped some, but they seem fine when he calls them every few weeks.

So, here we are. We’ve got issues of:

  • safety,
  • feelings of guilt,
  • changing family dynamics,
  • and sibling friction

all mixed up together in a big, stressful situation.

How can we bring this family together to make the right decisions?

This situation is hard. But this situation is a common one.

To maneuver more easily through these types of life changes, families need help with legal, financial, and care decisions. This is what we do every day.

Are you facing a situation with an aging loved one where you could use some guidance from someone who has walked through these issues before? Or do you know someone who is struggling with a similar situation and doesn’t know what to do?

We encourage you to call our office for immediate help. Our Elder Care Advisors will be happy to speak with you at 217-726-9200.

Who Needs a Life Care Plan?

In a recent blog post, we talked about the challenges that our extended lifespan creates these days. Because people are living into their 80’s and 90’s on a regular basis, this creates financial, physical, medical and emotional struggles. Seeing families struggle with massive amounts of financial and emotional stress on a daily basis as their loved ones age caused us to ask, “What can we do to help? Because there must be a better way!”

As a result, the role of Elder Care Advisors were born and this interdisciplinary team now works to identify existing and potential care needs, locate appropriate care, preserve family wealth to the greatest extent possible, and support the family during this incredibly stressful time. They do this by creating a Life Care Plan. You can read more about all that here.

So, who needs a Life Care Plan?

Oftentimes, a Life Care Plan comes about after a trigger event — a serious incident (or series of events) that leaves family members concerned about their loved one’s future. Trigger events can be any of the following:

  • A diagnosis of cancer, Alzheimer’s or any other chronic condition
  • A catastrophic event such as a fall, medication mishap, fire, accident in the home, or car accident
  • Discovering that your loved one is wandering, malnourished, dehydrated, or unable to care for him/herself due to functional limitations
  • Prolonged or frequent hospital stays or emergency room visits
  • A serious medical event such as a stroke, heart attack or aneurysm
  • Burnout of the loved one’s primary caregiver

While trigger events like these are the most common motivator for seeking the help of an Elder Care Advisor, some people plan ahead and create a Life Care Plan before crisis strikes. (Read about the different life stages of planning here.) Planning beforehand allows you to be more thoughtful and more proactive in developing a plan for aging. Decisions made beforehand tend to be better than decisions made quickly during the stress and chaos of a crisis.

What services does a Life Care Plan include?

Each Life Care Plan is customized to meet the needs of the individual and family. Most Life Care Plans will include one or more of the following services, but are not limited to these, either. Our team truly tries to identify the most pressing need for the family/loved one and does whatever it takes to help. (They’ve even been known to help with estate sales while clients transition to assisted living.)

Care Coordination

Many families who need help protecting an elder loved one’s assets also need help finding and coordinating care. They may also need help with decision-making as the elder’s condition progresses. For example, one of Edwards Group’s Elder Care Advisors is a physical therapist by training, so she assists families in deciding how long their loved ones can safely stay at home, or what can be done to make the home a safer place. No matter the unique issue your family faces, our experienced team will guide you through these stressful transitions and decisions, helping you make the best choices possible.

Identifying Financial Resources for Care

Nursing homes and long-term care are incredibly expensive, and many families struggle to find and pay for good care for their loved ones. One of our top priorities is helping those families who are facing this urgent issue. We want to give families peace of mind by reviewing ways to pay for care, which might include restructuring assets or investments, understanding Medicare, making claims on long-term care insurance, and pursuing public benefits like Medicaid or VA Aid & Attendance. In addition, we can help with intimidating medical bills, EOBs, and insurance forms. Our Elder Care Advisors can help with, and resolve, many important issues related to healthcare and long-term care.

Legal Services

The legal issues created by aging, illness, chronic conditions, or disability can be terrifying. That’s why every Life Care Plan includes a customized mix of legal services designed to protect the loved one’s interests and to provide for dependents and other family members now and in the future. Your Life Care Plan will include elder law, estate planning, and advocacy services that are appropriate for your loved one’s circumstances. You and your family can relax knowing that you are surrounded with legal support from an experienced team who are familiar with every aspect of your situation.

Client Advocacy

Aging loved ones have a legal right to safe, effective, and patient-centered care, whether that’s in the hospital or a long-term care facility. A Life Care Plan protects those rights. Our attorneys and Elder Care Advisors work together to provide advocacy services that empower family caregivers and protect quality of life for seniors.

If you or a loved one are struggling with the challenges or expense of aging, Edwards Group can help! Just give us a call at 217-726-9200 and ask to speak with one of our Elder Care Advisors. You don’t have to struggle on this journey alone. Help and support is available today.

helper; trustee; executor

Elder Care Advisors: Helping People Age Well

These days, our extended life span creates a lot of challenges when it comes to managing the financial, physical, medical, and emotional reality of aging in America. We recently asked those who are facing retirement, or beginning to struggle with the challenges of aging, what their top concerns were. Here is what they said:

  • I want to stay in my home as long as possible.
  • I’m concerned about navigating the long-term care system and finding good care.
  • I’m worried about not being able to drive anymore and being isolated and lonely.
  • How do I maintain my independence for as long as possible?
  • I’m concerned about how to find quality care I can afford.
  • I’m worried about health issues and paying for healthcare.
  • I want to preserve my options as I age — financial, medical and quality of life.
  • I’m worried about finding good assisted living or nursing homes when the time comes.
  • What will I do if my family isn’t nearby and I need them? My kids live in New Jersey and Arizona.

We know there are thousands of families struggling with these issues on a daily basis in Central Illinois, and it’s why we’ve developed a solution. When Attorney David Edwards started his own law firm in 2008, he knew he wanted a firm solely dedicated to effective estate planning and the tremendous peace of mind it can bring to families. What he didn’t know was that his journey would lead to helping families achieve peace of mind through more than just legal planning. As we helped more and more families navigate the challenges of aging, find ways to pay for good nursing care for loved ones, and helped Veterans obtain benefits to pay for in-home care as they aged, it became apparent that nearly every family struggles with this time of life. We think it’s the most stressful time of the lifespan!

What is an Elder Care Advisor?

As a result, we’ve formed an interdisciplinary team that works together to identify current and potential care needs, locate appropriate care, preserve family wealth to the greatest extent possible, and support the family during this stressful time. As a part of that interdisciplinary team, the Elder Care Advisors serve as guide, encourager, counselor, resource gatherer, and advocate during the journey. Our Elder Care Advisors include a nurse, physical therapist, social worker, EMT, etc. Each one has unique experiences that equip them to support families and create personalized plans that confront the challenges those families face.

What is a Life Care Plan?

A Life Care Plan defines, organizes, prioritizes, and mobilizes every aspect of an elder’s care. The goal of Life Care Planning is to promote and maintain the health, safety, well-being, and quality of life for those who are struggling with the challenges of aging. Every Life Care Plan is designed to do three things:

  1. Preserve Quality of Life

    Make sure the elder loved one gets appropriate care (whether at home or in a residential facility) in order to maintain the quality of life that he or she desires.

  2. Pay for Care

    Find solutions to help pay for long-term care and guide families through the issues created by the high cost of care.

  3. Offer Peace of Mind

    Offer peace of mind that results when the right choices are made to ensure loved ones are safe and getting the right care while preserving family resources.

Read more about WHO needs a Life Care Plan here.

If you or a loved one are struggling with the challenges or expense of aging, Edwards Group can help! Give us a call at 217-726-9200 to schedule a meeting or a phone consultation with an Elder Care Advisor. You don’t have to struggle on this journey alone. We walk this path with you. Help and support are available. Give us a call today!

medicare

New Medicare Cards Continue to Be Mailed Out

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) continue to mail out new Medicare cards to residents of Illinois. The rollout started in June, but continues into July.

Sadly, along with any big wholesale change like this (affecting roughly 60 million seniors across the country), we see people trying to take advantage of the situation. Experts have been warning for some time that there will be scams and schemes related to this nationwide rollout of new Medicare cards.

Here are 5 tips taken from a former fugitive hunter:

  1. Medicare will NEVER call, email or text you to ask for personal information, especially your social security number — protecting your social security number is the biggest reason behind the change in cards.
  2. The new cards cost NOTHING. If you’re asked to pay a fee to expedite delivery of your new card, it’s a scam. If someone contacts you asking you to pay for anything related to your new card, it is a scam. You will receive your card at no cost to you when your name/address comes up in the government’s schedule.
  3. Medicare will not contact you via phone, email or text to discuss your “new” benefits or to find out if you’ve received your new card. If you get communication like this, it’s a scam!
  4. If someone calls, emails or texts you and claims your Medicare benefits are in jeopardy of being cancelled unless you do something, this is a scam.
  5. Medicare does not accept payment in the form of gift cards, wired money or credit cards.

If you receive a call or another kind of communication where you are being asked personal information or are being “threatened” (i.e. “give us this or else your benefits will be canceled”), just HANG UP. People who prey on seniors do so because they know you’ve been taught to be polite and kind. After hanging up, immediately call the Illinois Senior Medicare Patrol at AgeOptions at (800) 699-9043.

For additional information, check out this tip sheet, New Medicare Cards: What YOU Need to Know. You can also check the status of the card mailings in your area, and sign up to get an email notification when your new card is in the mail at medicare.gov/newcard.

As always, if you have any questions, or we can help you with anything related to the challenges of aging, give our Elder Care Advisors a call at 217-726-9200.