Remembering Our Lonesome Elders

This is my tribute to the elders in our communities who have been so terribly affected by  the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions.

Untouchable; Alone (April 16, 2020 Central Jersey)
(c) Linda S. Ershow-Levenberg , all rights reserved

Untouchable. Alone. He wants his daughter. Every morning she brought coffee and some news.
She would tell him of the books that she was reading, trim his hair, or polish up his shoes.

The cherry blossoms burst in bloom without him.
He couldn’t leave his home to touch those petals with his hands.
The daffodils and hyacinths a memory.
He gazes out the window, but he just can’t understand.

Untouchable. Alone. He wants his daughter. Parcels just get left outside his door.
A step or two, he must sit down, so tired.
The empty streets are yawning; no one’s working any more.

The television’s off – it was relentless. He turns for comfort to his magazines.
Turning all these pages, he can travel –
to Calcutta, to the Tetons or to New Orleans
to Calcutta, to the Tetons or to New Orleans

Still, untouchable. Alone. He wants his daughter.
Every day he tries to find a way to make it new.
There’s solace in the sunshine in the morning.
And he’s breathing. He will find a way to see this through.
He’s breathing. He will find a way to see this through.

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Let’s hope that sooner rather than later our elders will again be able to enjoy in-person visits from their friends, grandchildren and children without fear and risk.

 

Call us about your elder care concerns …… 732-382-6070

Aging in Place: Make a Plan, Assemble your Team

“No matter what, please keep me out of a nursing home!” How often do people hear their parents say this, as the parents enter their most senior years. The reality is that aging in place is a complex but achievable endeavor for most people. Whether you are the person who hopes to “age in place,” or you are the person who will have responsibility to make it happen, you need a plan, and you will need a team. There are so many details to consider, and developing a general plan in advance can really help you and your family when the time comes that you really can’t do it all on your own.It’s crucial that you face the issues honestly and make practical choices.

This post uses “you” as the aging person/parent, but if you are already the power of attorney for them, you need to deal with these issues as well. I’ve included links to some businesses as examples, but I am not specifically endorsing them or vouching for them.

Legal matters: Meet with an elder law attorney. Make sure you have a Durable General Power of Attorney (POA), Health Care Proxy and a Last Will and Testament. Include everything necessary to customize your plan for the lifestyle you want. Discuss your family concerns confidentially with your lawyer so that your plan meets your particular needs and you can try to ward off potential fights among your family members. If you have been appointed to the job of POA, health care representative or Executor of the eventual estate, talk to a lawyer to get a thorough understanding of your responsibilities and the extent and limits of the authority you’ve been given.

Pick your first responder: Who will be the first responder in case of a medical emergency? Be practical. The most beloved eldest child who lives overseas may not be the sensible choice. Fill out HIPPA forms for your doctors and hospital so that your first responder can see the chart or call in for information.

Pick your trusted fiduciary: Who will manage your assets, hire caregivers and pay your bills if you develop dementia? Again, be practical. Being Power of Attorney is a JOB, so make sure the person you select is willing and capable of doing it.

How’s the home? This is the time to bring in someone to examine your premises and help you make all the necessary changes so that you can live safely  in your home over time. Some interior designers specialize in this kind of thing, and bring in the contractors for the necessary safety repairs. Geriatric care managers can also do the assessment and make suggestions. With increased physical frailty or confused thinking there is increased risk of falling, which can cascade into serious disability. Consider everything — Stairs;Railings; Worn out carpet; Hard doorknobs; Grab bars; Walk-in tubs; location of the washer & dryer.

Transportation: Who will take you to your doctors’ appointments?  Find out if any taxi services will  escort you between your door and their vehicle. Have a plan in case you cannot walk well or can’t manage your own wheelchair. How will you get yourself from the parking lot into the doctor’s office, Non-medical Home assistant services are available, and can accompany you to appointments and errands, but usually you have to book them ahead of time on a schedule with a 2-hour minimum per shift.  Often you can find volunteers  through your religious congregation as well.

Grocery shopping: In some locations there are stores that will assemble and deliver the order to your home every week. Otherwise, you need an arrangement with someone to do the shopping for you.

Prescriptions: You may want to use a local or mail order pharmacy that can get all your renewals onto a consolidated schedule and deliver everything to the home. This can take a few months to establish, but can go very far to make the whole medication issue more manageable and prevent medical problems. Some pharmacies will even create blisterpaks with pre-set pill combinations for each time of the day.

In-home services and someone to run your errands: Clothes and shoe shopping can be done on line, and you can often arrange for the returns to be picked up at the house.  Some dry cleaners will do pick-ups and drop-offs. Some hairdressers may make house calls. Some physical therapists will treat the patient in the home. The list goes on and on.

Tidy up and De-clutter: get someone in to help you go through all of the things you’ve accumulated during your long and wonderful life. Call the kids and grandkids and have a celebratory “take it, keep it, or recylce/pitch it out” event.

Careful planning can prevent a crisis. Making sure the home is safe  is crucial. Making sure your legal affairs are organized is crucial. Investigating all the in-betweens that a person needs help with, and making lists of services that you can call upon in a pinch, will make it easier in the event that you suddenly realize that you need help. Even a plan that is partially used is better than no plan at all.

For elder law advice on estate planning and planning for a good old age, call us at … 732-382-6070

Great idea for older folks to help avoid missed insurance payments

There is a New Jersey insurance law which allows a person who is 62 years of age or older to designate an authorized third party to receive Policy Lapse Notices and Late Payment notices from the policyholder’s insurance company. This is a regulation at N.J.A.C. 11:2-19. The process is easy. Many companies will provide you with their own form upon request. For others, just send a written statement, signed and notarized, to your insurance company by certified mail, return receipt requested, designating the person (plus phone number and address) to whom you want the company to send the extra notices. The third party designee needs to also sign that letter to show their willingness to accept these notices.  This notice can be revoked by the policy holder by a written communication, and the third party can, of course, resign by sending a written resignation.

The benefit for aging folks is that if you forget to send in a payment on your insurance policy because you’ve been out of the house during a prolonged illness, or things get worse and a notice of Lapse/termination arrives at the house, you have the comfort of knowing that your third party designee will receive that mail also and can then help you solve the problem. Presumably, your Agent under Power of Attorney can then spring into action on your behalf to prevent the lapse, make the payment or initiate steps to reinstate a lapsed policy.  No matter what, the third party designee does not become personally liable merely because they agree to receive a copy of these notices.

Careful planning can prevent a crisis. Better to have another person on your elder care team who can receive a copy of such urgent mailings, than have to try to undo the damage later on when it may be too late.

Call us out elder law and elder care planning that puts your interests first … 732-382-6070

Celebrating 50 and 20 year milestones at our law firm

Here at Fink Rosner Ershow-Levenberg, LLC, we have just celebrated two major milestones. October 1st 2015 marked the 20-year anniversary of when I “hung out my shingle” as an elder law attorney in Union. After ten years representing state agencies and having my new cases just handed to me, opening a private practice was part “jumping off the diving board” and part “Alice-through-the-looking glass.” A total change of view. Back then, the field of elder law was quite  new, and the local attorneys were confounded by the issues that were facing their long-term clients as they aged. I quickly got to know many fine general practitioners around Union this way. I shared a secretary with another attorney, Steven Merman,  and was situated in a little suite in a building owned by David Zurav Esq. of blessed memory which had several lawyers. There was good comraderie there.

A few years later I met Gene Rosner and Stanley Fink, and we merged practices. They had already been law partners for 23 years. At the end of September this year, we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the day that Stanley opened his law practice in Clark. We now have a team of 16 people. The vast majority have been with us more than 5 years, and many are here more than 10. A great team,  providing great client service, great friendship, and great fun working together.

Onwards and upwards (to infinity and …!)

Call us about your elder law, guardianship, estate and trust, and special needs situations … 732-382-6070

Book Review: How to Care for Aging Parents

I recently read a book I wish I had written myself. It’s called How to Care for Aging Parents (3rd Edition) by Virginia Morris, and was published by Workman Press in its most recent update in 2014. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is stepping up to the plate to assist a parent in later life when physical frailty or dementia are the primary causes for concern. The child often “feels the earth move under her feet” (line from Carole King) when she needs to start managing these problems in an assertive way, especially if the parent is unable to understand the need for changes.

The book’s subtitle is “A One-Stop Resource for all your Medical, Financial, Housing, and Emotional Issues,” and it certainly is. There are chapters devoted to everything from Adapting to New Roles (as a caregiver or first responder or helper), Life at Home (fall prevention, driving, meals, bathing), The Halls of Medicine (understanding and navigating the myriad medical problems as well as hospital systems) and Living with Dementia, to the fundamentals of financial issues (Medicaid, Medicare, preventing financial exploitation and the tools for important estate planning including Wills, Powers of Attorney and Living Wills/Advance Health Directives) and finding the new Home away from Home (nursing home, assisted living, shared living).

Ms. Morris provides “survival tips” such as “Signs that your Parent Needs Help,” and guidance on  how to start the difficult conversations when the parent’s physical decline is creating a new set of substantial risks which not everyone is willing to acknowledge. There are practical suggestions on dealing with siblings, with denial, and with the caregiver’s need to become comfortable with their changing relationship with the fragile parent.

The author also makes it clear that laws do vary from state to state, and relying on bits of legal information from the web are not a substitute to genuine elder law legal advice that is directed at your individual situation.

You’ll no doubt find this book to be a very practical guide to dealing with the challenges of elder care.

For individualized elder law planning and problem solving, contact us at 732-382-6070.