May is National Elder Law Month. The National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys started National Elder Law Month to acknowledge attorneys who support seniors and their families with their planning needs. And while that sounds great, many people still ask, “What do elder law attorneys do?” “May is Special for Elder Law Attorneys” will explore several ways elder law attorneys help seniors and their loved ones.
Elder law attorneys help seniors and their loved ones plan for the possibility of needing long term care.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 1 in 10 people age 65 or older has Alzheimer’s dementia. The Alzheimer’s Association predicts that this number will double by 2050. Alzheimer’s is also the most expensive disease in the country, with no known cure. In 2017, the average lifetime cost of care for someone with dementia was $341,810.
A diagnosis of dementia can wreak emotional and financial havoc on a family. Elder law attorneys can help discussing options to pay for appropriate care without losing the family home or savings.
The emotional and financial cost to family caregivers is also quite alarming. 83% of all caregiving comes from family members, friends, or unpaid caregivers. 30-40% of family caregivers suffer from depression. In 2011, a MetLife study estimated that women caregivers lose over $324,000 in lost wages and social security benefits over their lifetime. Male caregivers lose an estimated $283,000 in lost wages and social security benefits over their lifetime.
Family caregivers also need a their own legal plan. Elder law attorneys also work with family caregivers to make sure they have legal documents in place, if their health fails, or if they lose their jobs.
If it’s not in writing, it won’t be honored.
Elder law attorneys work with seniors to understand what should happen if they can no longer make financial or health care decisions. For example, if mom develops dementia, who will she want to have authority to access her bank account and pay the bills? What type of care does she want if her dementia advances to the point that she can’t communicate her wishes? Does she want to live at home as long as possible? Does she want a private room if she’s in a facility? These are just a few questions that elder law attorneys discuss with clients, which then get put into legal documents so that mom’s wishes will be fulfilled.
My loved one is in the hospital and can’t come home – now what?
It can be very stressful for a spouse and children when a parent becomes ill and can no longer live at home safely. It can also be very expensive, putting the family’s home and savings at risk.
Elder law attorneys help families find and pay for the best long-term care possible. Unfortunately, 24 hour care at home or in a facility can cost families thousands of dollars a month. Therefore, it is important to look at other funding sources, like Medicaid or Veterans Benefits. Elder law attorneys help families explore options, and make the best decision for the loved one needing the care.
We will continue exploring how elder law attorneys help seniors and their families in Part 2 of “May is Special for Elder Law Attorneys.” In the meantime, if you or a loved one needs help, we’ll be happy to talk with you. Please give us a call today.