Tuesday evening I was privileged to participate in a lively panel at the JCC in Scotch Plains that was answering questions on a wide range of elder care/ elder law issues. The panelists were terrific — Michele Morandi, D.O., geriatric physician based in Union and affiliated with Center for Hope Hospice https://centerforhope.com/ ; Chris Kaiser, MSW, LCSW, Director of the Older Adult Services at Jewish Family Services http://jfscentralnj.org/services-older-adult.php ; Dale Ofei-Ayisi, MA, of the Rutgers U. COPSA dementia assessment program in Edison http://ubhc.rutgers.edu/services/geriatric/ and Donna Farrell of the Union County Division on Aging. http://ucnj.org/government/human-services/division-of-the-aging/senior-services/
There were certain major themes that crossed the lines from medical to legal to social services: invest the time to plan ahead; failure to plan can cause great expense and trouble at a time of crisis; a thorough medical evaluation should be part of the dementia assessment process; the caring family members need to be practical and objective to help an aging person deal with their increasing limitations; there are many governmental services available but none that pay for 24/7 care in the home.
At the end of the program, I said that although issues are intertwined, an aging person needs a team for advice. The elder law attorney evaluates the Medicaid eligibility and designs an estate plan, creates the documents to implement a plan, and pursues any needed court proceedings. The accountant/CPA prepares the income taxes and evaluates & advise you on tax issues. The life insurance advisor gets you the insurance you may need to fund special needs trusts for disabled family members or to otherwise take care of those left behind. The reverse mortgage specialist gets you access to your home equity when the liquid assets are gone. The long term care insurance specialist helps you in that middle 40 – 70 age bracket so you have insurance to pay for home health care in the event of dementia or a catastrophe. The physician follows the patient over time and manages the health issues. The dementia assessment specialist can help you identify the nature of the dementia (diagnosis) so it can be understood and properly handled. The financial advisor guides your decisions about investments and use of specific assets. And the geriatric care manager (GCM) can assess the safety of your home and oversee/coordinate the delivery of care for you in your home. Then of course, you need close family or friends to be there for you as well, whether as your fiduciaries (power of attorney etc) or caregivers or companions.
There may even be a need for more help: a Medicare gap policy/ choice plan specialist; a medicare appeals specialist; an interior designer who is familiar with universal design to keep your house safe for you. The bottom line is, you need a team, and careful planning can prevent a crisis
Call for a consultation to start planning for your elder care legal needs: 732-382-6070