Experts indicate that by the year 2030 — not that far away – one in five Americans will be retirement age. As the population of older Americans continues to grow at a historic pace, the rest of society has scrambled to try and keep up with their needs. Seniors face many of the same legal issues as their younger counterparts; however, they also have some unique legal needs and concerns. To service those needs, a new area of the law evolved known as elder law. The following questions and answers for an elder care attorney may help you familiarize yourself with elder law issues.
- How do I recognize an elder care attorney? A good way to recognize a dedicated elder care attorney is to check for certification. The National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, or NAELA, was formed in the late 1980s as a way to better serve the growing segment of the population made up of older Americans. Five years after the creation of NAELA, the National Elder Law Foundation was formed. The purpose of the non-profit NELF was to help improve the professional skills of attorneys who choose to focus on elder law. Toward that end, NELF then developed a national certification program for attorneys known as the Certified Elder Law Attorney, or CELA, certification program. Attorneys who wish to gain certification in the area of elder law may do so through a rigorous and selective certification program recognized by the American Bar Association and administered by NELF. CELA certification indicates that an attorney has chosen to focus on elder law issues.
- How do I choose a safe and competent nursing home? You may be leery of putting a loved one in a nursing home because of the horror stories that make the news on what seems like a regular basis. While nursing home abuse and neglect does occur, the good news is that there are also a number of nursing homes that provide skilled and compassionate care. You may wish to begin your search by asking friends, family members, and co-workers for a referral. Once you have a list of possible facilities or providers, do some research. One excellent resource is the Nursing Home Compare search tool on the Medicare.gov website, the official U.S. Government site for Medicare.
- How can I recognize elder abuse and what can I do if I am concerned that an elderly loved one is a victim? Vigilance is the key to recognizing the signs of elder abuse. Unfortunately, many victims of elder abuse do not report the abuse, making it even more important for you to be aware of changes that may indicate abuse, such as:
- Bruising around wrists or ankles from restraints
- Mood swings
- Weight loss
- Angry outbursts
- Urinary/bladder infections
- Attempts to isolate
- Personal items missing
- Medication missing/lost
- Bills unpaid
Fortunately, you do have several options if you are concerned that a parent is being abused. Elder abuse is now a separate criminal offense in most states so reporting your suspicions to law enforcement is one option. In addition, elder abuse can also form the basis of a civil lawsuit against a caregiver and/or facility.
- What is the difference between Medicaid and Medicare? Despite the common misconception, Medicaid and Medicare are not even related programs. They do both provide healthcare coverage though. Medicare is what is referred to as an “entitlement” program because if you have paid into the program during your working years you are automatically entitled to benefits when you retire. Medicaid, on the other hand, is a “needs based” program, meaning you must demonstrate a financial need for benefits to be eligible to participate. Medicare comes in four parts with basic Medicare offered at no charge. If you wish to participate in the other three parts of Medicare you will pay a monthly premium. There are no monthly premiums for Medicaid.
- What is Medicaid planning? As a senior, you will probably rely predominantly on Medicare to cover your health care expenses; however, Medicare won’t pay for long-term care. Unless you have the resources to cover the high cost of nursing home care out of pocket indefinitely, you will likely find yourself turning to Medicaid for help. To be eligible, however, you must contend with very low “countable resources” limits that can put your retirement nest egg at risk if you failed to plan ahead. An elder law attorney can help you incorporate Medicaid planning into your overall estate plan to ensure your eligibility when the time comes that you need to qualify for Medicaid.
- Am I entitled to Veteran’s Aid & Attendance Program (VA&A) benefits? The Veteran’s Aid & Attendance program is intended to provide additional monetary assistance, above and beyond that provided by other VA programs such as the VA pension program. The additional assistance is intended to help cover the cost of someone to help you with daily tasks of living, such as dressing, bathing, or cooking. To be eligible, you must qualify for pension and meet a number of other requirements.
Contact Beverly Elder Care Attorneys
For more information, please join us for an upcoming FREE seminar. If you have additional questions or concerns about elder law issues, contact the Beverly elder care lawyers at DeBruyckere Law Offices by calling (603) 894-4141 or (978) 969-0331 to schedule an appointment.