Our population is aging; more women are at work; baby boomers are working past retirement; others are re-entering the workforce in their 50s, 60s, 70s and many adults with disabilities are seeking ways to enhance their personal and financial independence.Medical advances, better health habits and behaviors are extending our lives; hospital stays are shorter; families are smaller and our society is more mobile.
The need, the problem: Fewer family members at home to help needy relatives who want to remain at home and in the community and little to no advance planning as to how this can be accomplished. The need, the problem: A long-term health care system that provides a wide spectrum of care settings, multiple agencies and providers within our health care spectrum that often do not effectively collaborate or coordinate services for seniors or disabled adults, rendering the system of long-term support and services fragmented, duplicative and complex.
One of the primary challenges for family caregivers of seniors and disabled adults is facing caregiving responsibilities with little or no warning, little or no knowledge about available care services, care settings and costs involved; little or no time to research alternative resources or prepare their family or employer. The physical, emotional and financial stresses of caregiving begin, and depending on the location and care needs of the loved one, life as the caregiver knew it may be over for the next several months, or for the next several years.
Family caregivers are challenged as they navigate through the tough, complex, multiple service systems, departments and agencies which often do not coordinate screening, eligibility or care assessments. Stakeholders and consumers, trying to access information, referral and assistance for long-term care services, are forced to call and/or visit different agencies, repeat their story often, complete different applications and other forms several different times and produce the same eligibility documentation several different times.
A third challenge is the failure of seniors to prepare for their long-term care needs while cognitive and before a crisis. People plan educational goals, careers, marriage, family and retirement. Most plan for who will get their assets and property after they die; few plan for what will happen if they don’t die. What will they do if they have a stroke, chronic illness or other condition necessitating long term health care? Where will they live? Who will provide care? How much will care cost? How will costs get paid? Most seniors have failed to plan for this part of their lives, failed to talk to their family about their finances, true health conditions, wishes as to long-term care and end-of-life preferences. Ill-prepared family members, already fearful, must then navigate the treacherous waters of a fragmented, complex difficult-to-maneuver long-term care system. Numerous questions plague and overwhelm.
As a part of its important pro bono services to our community, the Elder Law Center-Surgeon Law Firm is hosting a series of free seminars to provide much needed information and services. Each seminar will be at 10 a.m. and repeat at 6 p.m. and will be held at the Robeson County Public Library’s Osterneck Auditorium 102 Chestnut St.
The dates and topics are: Sept. 12, Medicaid Planning for Long Term Care, Wills and Living Wills; Oct. 24, Asset Protection, General Powers of Attorney, Health Care Powers of Attorney; and Nov. 14, Don’t Go Broke in a Nursing Home; Medicare – Medicaid; Veterans Benefits
At these seminars here is some of what you will discover: how to avoid having your life savings wiped out by a nursing home spenddown; how the new law restricts protection of assets and the planning strategies to consider now; the asset protection language that most people don’t have in their power of attorney documents, which can help protect their life’s savings; how to qualify for the hidden veteran’s benefits that most people know nothing about; how Medicaid works … and the steps you need to take now to protect yourself and your family under the current rules.
Attendance is free, but seating is limited. You can reserve your spot to the seminar series by calling 910-272-0121. For pre-registrants, we will also be distributing a free copy of “The Consumer’s Guide to Medicaid Planning, and Division of Assets.”
Diane Surgeon is a lawyer and owner of The Elder Law Center — Surgeon Law Firm.