The average adult’s life expectancy is higher now than ever, thanks to innovations in healthcare and technology. Because more people are living in to their 70s, 80s, 90s and beyond, the need for long-term care in assisted living or skilled nursing facilities is also rising. In fact, the number of persons in long-term care facilities is expected to double by the year 2030.
For those nearing the age of retirement, it is important to communicate your beliefs about assisted living with your loved ones, and to put a plan in place before your health is compromised. Remember, it is never too early or too late to begin long-term care planning. If you need help talking with a family member, or if you have not taken the proper legal steps to prepare for your own well-being, consider these top three reasons to begin the process today:
1. Elderly Adults are More Likely to have Significant Health Issues
As we age and experience new aches and pains, we are likely to need assistance with Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) such as eating, bathing and getting around the house. A child or other family member may sometimes provide this assistance. Yet the presence of a chronic illness or other health condition may increase the amount of assistance that an individual requires to maintain independent living.
Medicare statistics show that 66 percent of recipients have three or more chronic health conditions. Of this group:
- 31 percent have cognitive or mental impairment
- 21 percent have functional limitations (2+ ADL limitations)
- 17 percent have permanent disabilities before age 65
- 13 percent are age 85+
Many elderly adults experience declining health. Because of this, approximately three-quarters of adults age 65-plus will need long-term care at their home or in a skilled facility. As they age, this likelihood continues to increase.
2. Proper Planning Can Help Prevent Family and Financial Crises
Tensions run high when a loved one is suffering. If your family member is hospitalized or disabled, the last thing you want to think about is what they might have wanted or how to best keep them comfortable. This can also lead to disagreements among family members, and contentious legal battles.
The Terri Schiavo case is a highly-publicized example of what can happen to a family when important legal documents like a living will or power of attorney have not been put in place. At the age of 26, Terri experienced a cardiac event that put her in to an irreversible persistent vegetative state. For more than a decade, Terri’s husband and parents fought over the right to make medical decisions on her behalf before ultimately disconnecting the feeding tube that was keeping her alive.
Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare and Durable Power of Attorney for Finances are vital tools to protect the desires of individuals in regards to their care decisions and financial matters. These documents clearly outline a person’s wishes for who should manage their assets and who will carry out their healthcare wishes for end of life circumstances – and can help save time, aggravation, court costs and attorney’s fees.
3. You May Need to Consult with a Legal Professional
The long-term care planning toolkit is complex, and includes estate planning, wills and trusts, asset protection planning, trust administration, and more. Regardless of an individual’s life stage, it is important to take a hard look into the future and plan accordingly. In doing so, you may find that you would be best equipped to go through the process with an experienced professional.
When searching for legal counsel to assist with long-term care planning, look for an attorney who specializes in elder law. He or she can evaluate an individual’s circumstances and draft documents specifically designed to meet their needs and concerns for the future.
Families should be educated about their long-term care options, so they can be prepared for any unanticipated health issues. With a solid plan in place, everyone knows what to expect should a loved one become incapacitated or pass away. This means there will be much less stress on all members of the family, and everyone can move forward with the confidence that they are carrying out their loved one’s wishes.
What to Expect When You Consult an Elder Law Attorney
Gathering information about long-term care planning is a great first step to proactively make plans to empower your loved ones before your health is compromised. When you are ready to move forward and put a plan in place, an elder law attorney can help ensure you have all the proper documentation.
It takes a lot of courage to reach out to an expert in an area where you may have little to no knowledge. If you are feeling uncertain about consulting with an attorney, here is what you can expect from the consultation process:
- Complete Intake Assessment and Schedule Appointment
When you have selected an elder law attorney to assist you with preparing documents and strategies to carry out your wishes, you will likely speak with an intake specialist over the phone to schedule an appointment.The specialist will perform a short assessment to make sure the attorney can provide the assistance you are looking for. This assessment will include some personal and demographic information, as well as some basic financial information. Once it is determined that the attorney could help you accomplish your goals, the appointment will be scheduled.
- Fill Out Law Firm Questionnaire
The law firm’s office will mail out a packet of information, depending upon what you shared over the phone about your needs, and will include a questionnaire for you to complete. The questionnaire will be very thorough regarding legal documents you already have completed, your financial situation, and your desired beneficiaries.The more information you are willing to share, the better the attorney will be able to help you. Just like going to the doctor for a health condition, the attorney needs to know your background and current information to suggest a suitable course of action.
- Attend Consultation and Discuss Next Steps
Most elder law attorneys will provide a free initial consultation. This allows the attorney to determine the type of services you need and whether or not it can be provided by the attorney. Equally important, it allows you to meet the attorney and determine your comfort level in working with him or her.Assuming a productive consultation takes place and a clear need exists, the attorney will outline the services they recommend and provide a fee schedule for those services. At this point, it is the client’s decision as to whether or not they would like to move forward.Some prospective clients have “sticker shock” when they are quoted for the long-term care planning services they need. You have every right to ask for an explanation of these fees, as well as an explanation of all the steps that need to be taken to accomplish your goals. You should clearly see the value in the services you are paying for.
Getting Started with Long-Term Care Planning
At Beck & Lenox Estate Planning & Elder Law, we believe in open and honest communication with our clients. It is vital for us to develop a trusting relationship with our clients in order to work productively together.
If you are ready to begin planning your long-term care and need the services of an elder law attorney, contact our office today. Together, we can help you and your family achieve peace of mind.