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Helping Families Deal With the Financial and Emotional Costs of Dementia

As many of you know, May is National Elder Law Month.  The National Association of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA) has declared this month the time for Elder Law attorneys across the nation to take time out of their busy practices to help educate the public about Elder Law and how an Elder Law attorney can help seniors and their families by offering solutions to the unique issues that come with aging.  This issue of The ElderCounselor™ will discuss a debilitating condition that many Americans eventually face as they age:  dementia.  First, we will describe what dementia is and what it isn’t.  Then we will turn our focus to its costs to the individual, the family and our nation.  As Elder Law attorneys we are specially situated to help find solutions to many of the problems this condition brings with it.  While we can’t stop dementia, we can help protect those in its clutches while the medical world continues to seek prevention, treatment and reversal of the condition.

Dementia Defined

The Alzheimer’s Association defines dementia as, “a general term for a decline in mental ability severe enough to interfere with daily life. Memory loss is an example. Alzheimer’s is the most common type of dementia.

Dementia is not actually a specified disease.  It describes, instead, a general decline in memory or other thinking skills and is identified through a variety of symptoms.  Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 60 to 80 percent of dementia cases.  In order to be characterized as dementia, at least two of the following mental functions must be significantly impaired:  visual perception; reasoning and judgment; memory; communication and language; or ability to focus and pay attention.  Dementia is not a normal part of aging as the terms “senility” or “senile dementia” infer.  If a loved one is having trouble with any two or more of these mental functions, it’s a good idea to get it checked by a doctor.  Dementia is progressive and typically takes over the mental functions over time.  In this way, it provides the individual and the family with time to plan for its disastrous affects.[1]

Cost to the Individual

The cost to the individual with dementia is difficult to quantify.  Because dementia is a progressive condition and one where aging is the greatest risk factor, it is logical that at the beginning and younger stages of dementia, the cost to the individual is minimal.  As dementia progresses, so does the need for assistance with daily activities.  This assistance often comes in the form of meal preparation, help with grooming and hygiene, transportation assistance, as well as help with many other daily activities.  Dementia patients can become so mentally challenged that they may place themselves in dangerous situations, such as roaming neighborhoods and getting lost.  While the individual affected by dementia may need only a few hours of help per week at the beginning of symptoms showing, soon they may need around the clock supervision, not only for assistance with daily activities, but to protect them from themselves.  The individual’s costs will include medical expenses as well as paying a caretaker.

Caretaking for one with dementia varies depending on the quantity of care required.  An in-home caretaker may charge up to $21 per hour or higher.  Adult day care can run as high as $18,200 per year or more.  When an individual can no longer live alone but is not quite ready for a nursing home, Assisted Living facilities are available but may cost as much as $42,600 per year or more.  When around the clock care is needed, a nursing home can cost an individual up to $90,520 per year, or higher.  To view costs in other states and national average costs of long term care, see the MetLife Survey of Long Term Care Costs, https://www.metlife.com/mmi/research/2012-market-survey-long-term-care-costs.html#keyfindings.

Cost to the Family

Where the individual with dementia is fortunate enough to have family nearby, the family will often step up to assist the ill loved one with their daily activities.  Again, the process can be gradual and before the helpful family member realizes it, they may find themselves missing work and, finally, quitting their job altogether in order to give proper care to the dementia patient.  Obviously, the cost to the family includes the loss of income from this family member’s job.

The less recognizable cost to the family, however, is the emotional strain that is placed on the family member caretaker.  In order to save the family money, many family members will work nearly twenty-four hours, seven days per week.  The ramifications are physical, mental and emotional health problems to the caretaker.  The medical costs and possible future psychological costs to the caretaker, then, must be considered.

It is important that family members take a step back from the situation and assess this cost.  Providing a caretaker with time off every day, week and year is a must to ensure the caretaker’s health.  The caretaker must have appropriate support in order to keep caring for the loved one.

Cost to the Nation

As a nation we have begun to recognize the devastation that dementia has caused and will continue to cause.  Organizations such as the Alzheimer’s Association have been effective in lobbying for monies to be put towards the research of dementia treatment, prevention and reversal.  The cost of dementia to our nation has been a great motivator for politicians to fund such research.

A study conducted by RAND Corporation in 2013, estimated the national cost of dementia to be between $159 billion to $215 billion (including an estimate for the monetary value of informal care provided).[2] The majority of the costs associated with dementia are for institutional and home-based long-term care and not medical services.

Medicare and Medicaid pay for some of this cost, which amounts to a taxpayer burden.  According to the Alzheimer’s Association March 2013 Fact Sheet, in 2013 it is estimated that Medicare and Medicaid paid approximately $142 billion in caring for those with Alzheimer’s or other type of dementia.[3]

It is clearly in the best interest of the nation’s economy to continue research on prevention, treatment and reversal of dementia.

Conclusion

The costs of dementia can be devastating to the affected individual, their family and the nation.  While scientists continue to search for solutions to the debilitating condition, the families affected with it must face its challenges.  It is recommended that those families seek emotional support by way of a therapist or support group.  In addition, seeking out an Elder Law attorney can benefit the affected individual and family members in several ways.  Elder law attorneys can guide families to important resources available for the financial and other challenges they will face.  Elder law attorneys can also ensure that the family’s assets are being used in the most efficient manner considering other available resources and the family’s individual goals.

Getting an Elder Law attorney involved in planning for the challenges ahead is one of the MOST important steps a family facing the impact of dementia will take.  If you or someone you know is affected by dementia, we can help and we welcome the opportunity to do so.


[1] http://www.alz.org/what-is-dementia.asp

[2] http://www.rand.org/news/press/2013/04/03.html

[3] http://act.alz.org/site/DocServer/2012_Costs_Fact_Sheet_version_2.pdf?docID=7161

category: Elder Counselor (Newsletter)

Elder Counselor Newsletter A Review of Important Elder Law Stories From 2013

As Happy New Year! 2013 was an important year for news that affected our senior, Veteran and disabled populations. Many stories affecting these groups made national headlines. This edition of the ElderCounselorTM will review some of the top stories that made headlines in 2013 and why they may continue to do so in 2014.

The DOMA Decision

One of the US Supreme Court’s highlighted decisions of the year was US v. Windsor[1].  This case stemmed from a widow from a same-sex marriage who was denied tax relief under the “Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).”  The Supreme Court determined DOMA to be unconstitutional, ruling in favor of Edith Windsor and striking down the part of the law defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman.  The Court noted that the law deprived same sex couples of both rights and responsibilities.

The well-publicized ruling of this case impacted many federal laws which fell under the Act’s definition of marriage. The affected federal laws include benefits such as Medicaid, Social Security, housing, food, stamps, tax laws, federal employee benefits and Veteran’s benefits. The changes to these laws have already started to impact seniors throughout the country who are in same-sex marriages. Whether there is a change to the individual in a same sex marriage will depend on a few factors. One factor is based on the benefit in question and whether the state in which the individual resides recognizes same-sex marriage. Another factor is whether the couple was validly married in a state that recognized same-sex marriage at the time they got married.

For example, Medicaid will likely not recognize a marriage unless it is being administered in a state that recognizes an otherwise valid same-sex marriage. However, some states do provide hardship protections to a partner of a person in long term care. And, in some states that recognize civil unions or registered domestic partnerships, Medicaid may treat the couple as married. Each state continues to have authority as to whether or not to recognize marriage for same sex couples.

But, where the state recognizes a same-sex marriage, the impact in terms of Medicaid is great. In regards to Medicaid financial eligibility, the change means an increased allowance of assets from that of a single person (approximately $2,000) to those of a married couple (up to $117,920). The sword cuts both ways, though, as Medicaid will consider assets of both parties to the marriage and not just the applicant. Legal counsel can help assess the strategies available to potential Medicaid applicants and their spouses.

 

Affordable Care Act

We have all been inundated by information regarding the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Regardless of your feelings on the new law, your senior clients will likely be affected by its implementation.

More impactful to the senior population than the individual mandate, are the changes to Medicare, the prohibition against pre-existing conditions clauses, nursing home care changes, changes to community-based long term services and supports, and the funding of the ACA.

ACA and Medicare
The changes in Medicare include prescription drug coverage that will eventually reach 25% across the board for all prescription drugs. The increase in coverage will be felt by those who spend more than $2800 per year on prescription drugs. Where there was no coverage by Medicare when the prescription drug expense of an individual was between $2800 and $4550, there will eventually be coverage of 25% for all such expenses for those receiving Medicare.

Another Medicare change under the ACA is increased coverage of preventive care. These now-covered services include annual wellness visits, flu shots, tobacco use cessation counseling, cancer screenings, diabetes screenings and screenings for other chronic diseases.

Finally, the ACA’s changes to Medicare include a cut to Medicare Advantage Plans. The ACA restricts the options that can be provided by these plans. This may result in fewer choices to seniors and it makes uncertain the future of Medicare Advantage Plans..

ACA and the Prohibition Against Pre-Existing Conditions Clauses
The ACA’s prohibition against pre-existing conditions clauses received a great deal of attention in the news. This part of the law prohibits insurance companies from considering health when one applies for health care coverage. It also prohibits insurance companies from charging varying amounts to individuals based on heath, sex, age or other factors. The elderly will benefit from this portion of the law as the risk of insuring them will now be evenly distributed among the entire population, old and young alike.

ACA and Nursing Homes
Another major change affecting seniors under the ACA concerns nursing homes. The ACA requires the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services to provide a consumer-friendly website, posting comprehensive information regarding nursing homes. This website is to provide data regarding the nursing home’s inspections, complaints and number of violations received. It will also identify the owner of the home and show expense reports comparing resident care costs versus administrative costs. In addition, the ACA will make it easier to file complaints against a nursing home.

In the event a nursing home decides to close its doors, the ACA has built in protections for residents of the home. The ACA mandates notice far enough in advance that all its residents can relocate. Further, it requires that the home ensure all residents have successfully relocated prior to closing.

There are other parts of the ACA that will potentially benefit those in need of nursing homes as well, including additional federal funding (at the option of the state) to help with background checks of staff.

ACA and Long Term Care Services and Supports
The ACA provides several options to states to expand home and community-based care under Medicaid. These options will fall largely to the states to exercise and implement.

Funding the ACA
The portions of funding the ACA that will be felt by our senior clientele include: the cuts to Medicare Advantage Plans[2]; a surcharge tax of 3.8% to unearned income[3]; an increase in the floor for medical expense deductions from 7.5% to 10% of AGI; and a .9% Medicare payroll tax on high income earners.[4]

 

Proposed VA Pension Changes

There have been two bills introduced this past year that would make changes to Veterans pension benefits. The house introduced H.R. 2189 and the Senate introduced S. 944. Both bills propose essentially the same changes. The bills, if passed, will affect wartime Veterans and surviving spouses of wartime Veterans who apply for pension benefits in a number of ways.

First, the proposed law would impose a penalty against the claimant who disposes of property for less than fair market value if that transfer reduces the amount of the claimant’s estate. There is currently no penalty if a pension applicant gives away assets and then applies for benefits.

Second, the bill imposes a 36-month look-back period for transfers made prior to the submission of an application. Under this portion of the law, the VA will review the applicant’s gifts and other transactions over the past 36 months to ensure no penalties described in the prior paragraph should apply.

Finally, the bill describes transfers to a trust, annuity or other financial instrument or investment as a transfer of an asset. There are exceptions, but the goal appears to be to discourage some Veterans pension planning strategies that currently exist and, according to bill proponents, are being misused.

There are other aspects of the proposed law that would further affect Veterans, and their spouses, applying for these benefits. However, the bottom line for our senior clientele is that new planning strategies may be required to assist them in obtaining these benefits. We will keep you posted on the progress of these bills. For more information about Veterans pension benefits, please contact our office.

 

Conclusion

Several big changes occurred in 2013 that will impact our senior clientele in the coming months and years. While some of the changes will have a positive impact on the senior and Veteran population, others will not. We can help guide your clients to needed legal resources and information. If you have a client, or know of someone who could benefit from our services, please contact us to see how we might be able to help.


[1] US v. Windsor, 570 U.S. 12 (2013)

[2] The cuts to Medicare Advantage Plans are to be $145 billion over a ten (10) year period.

[3] This surcharge will be applied to unearned or investment income of singles with an annual income of over $200,000 and of couples with an annual income of over $250,000.

[4] High income earners are defined as taxpayers with over $200,000 in earned income for a single taxpayer and over $250,000 for families.

 

category: General Articles

Elder Counselor Newsletter The Affordable Care Act: How It Impacts Our Senior Population

Since its passage in 2010, the Affordable Care Act has been the subject of many heated debates and a cause for some confusion among most of the population. In order to assist you in serving your senior clientele, this issue of the ElderCounselorTM will attempt to shed some light on how the law affects the elderly. No doubt, there will continue to be debates over healthcare reform. Regardless, the law of the land is the ACA. Its far-reaching changes have already begun and will continue in the years to come. Here is how it impacts seniors.

Individual Mandate
Most of us have heard that under the ACA there is an individual mandate to obtain healthcare insurance. In the event that one fails to do so, a penalty will be imposed starting at $95 in 2013 and rising each year until 2016 when the penalty reaches $695. However, for our senior clientele, this is not as big a threat since those over 65 are eligible for Medicare coverage. As long as they enroll in the coverage available, seniors 65 and over will not face the penalty.

Medicare Changes
Although there will be payment cuts to Medicare, there are key benefits that are absolutely protected under the ACA. Medicare Part A (hospitals, hospice care and some home health services) and Medicare Part B (medical insurance) are protected and may not be cut. The changes under the ACA, according to the National Council on Aging, give seniors even more Medicare benefits.

Changes to Prescription Drug Coverage
The new healthcare law decreases the expenditure on prescription drugs for Medicare recipients. Prior to the law being enacted, Medicare recipients were subject to what has become commonly known as the “Donut Hole.” Simply put, the Medicare law previously required recipients to reach a $310 deductible prior to Medicare kicking in to assist. At that point, enrollees starting paying 25% of the drug cost until they reached a total expenditure of $2800. The drug expense from $2800 to $4550 was then paid 100% by the enrollee. Once drug expenses reached $4550 Medicare would kick in again and the enrollee would pay only a small percentage of the prescription at that point. The Affordable Care Act has enacted a provision that requires Medicare to pick up more of the tab and will close the “donut hole” by the year 2020. Eventually, Medicare recipients will pay 25% of all prescription drugs across the board. This is good news for seniors since the number of prescription drugs taken typically increases with age.

Preventive Care Expanded
Another benefit to seniors under the Affordable Care Act is an increase in preventive care coverage. The ACA requires that Medicare cover preventive care procedures and screenings in an effort to reduce possible necessary future treatment. Prior to the ACA, Medicare did not cover preventive services. Such services include flu shots, tobacco use cessation counseling, cancer screenings, diabetes screenings and screenings for other chronic diseases. In addition, seniors are allowed an annual wellness visit. Previously, these services, whether recommended or not, were paid out of the patient’s own pocket. No doubt the senior population sees this change as a benefit.

Changes to Medicare Advantage Plans
When a senior enrolls in Medicare, he or she may choose the traditional Medicare coverage plan or may seek what is called a Medicare Advantage Plan. The Medicare Advantage Plans have their own terms of coverage. They usually cover services not traditionally covered by Medicare such as dental or vision, but may, at the same time, require co-pays or cost-sharing fees for services covered at no out-of-pocket expense under traditional Medicare.

The ACA prohibits Medicare Advantage Plans from charging higher cost-sharing fees for seniors receiving chemotherapy and dialysis. In addition, it limits the amount of expenditures of other than medical services for enrollees. In other words, the Medicare Advantage Plans are now limited as to the amount they may spend on administrative, marketing and other non-medical expenses. While certain additional covered services under these plans may be eliminated, certain required benefits are prohibited from being cut. Presently, 1 in 4 seniors is enrolled in a Medicare Advantage Plan.

The new healthcare law reduces payments to Medicare Advantage Plans by $145 billion over 10 years. Because of these cuts to the Medicare Advantage Plans, the future as to these plans is uncertain. As to whether this is a benefit to the senior depends on your point of view. At any rate, it changes the options currently available to seniors under Medicare Advantage Plans.

Non-Medicare Changes
In addition to Medicare changes that certainly affect seniors, there are other changes written into the law that should be noted as well. Most of these would be considered beneficial to seniors.

No pre-existing and conditions clauses
All health insurance carriers are prohibited from including pre-existing conditions clauses in their plans. This means that health cannot be a factor as when applying for health care coverage. Furthermore, insurance companies are prohibited from charging individuals varying amounts for coverage based on their health, sex, age or other commonly-considered factors. This appears to be good news for the ill, females and the elderly, which are the groups of people who traditionally have paid more for their coverage. Now the cost will be evenly distributed to all.

In addition to those factors that may not be taken into consideration upon applying for coverage, there is also the protection of consumers once they are enrolled in the plan. The healthcare law says that once enrolled in a plan, the insurance company may not dis-enroll a person for becoming ill.

Grants as Incentives to Hospitals
The ACA incentivizes hospitals to take extra care of seniors by providing grants to them for working with seniors who are at high risk for frequent hospital readmissions.

The Elder Justice Act
The Elder Justice Act is aimed at protecting seniors from crimes and abuse including physical and mental abuse and financial exploitation. This was enacted under the ACA.

Nursing Home Care Changes
There are several provisions under the ACA that concern nursing homes. For example, the ACA requires the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services to provide a comprehensive website where consumers may find information regarding local nursing homes, including inspection and complaint reports. From this, the consumer may find the number of violations and complaints a specific nursing home has received. In addition, the consumer will be able to find information about the nursing home such as the owner of the nursing home, how much the nursing home spends on resident care compared to administrative costs, the number of hours of nursing care received by residents and staff turnover rates.

In addition to being able to evaluate a nursing home more completely prior to choosing one, the law has made changes meant to make it easier to file complaints about the quality of care within the nursing home. It also prohibits retaliation for filing such a complaint.

Further, in the event a nursing home decides to close its doors, the ACA imposes new, expanded notice requirements for its residences. Not only must the nursing home provide notice of a closure far enough in advance for its residence to relocate, but it must ensure that all residents have been successfully relocated prior to actual closure.

Finally, the ACA provides all states with the option to enroll in federal grants to pay for criminal background checks on more staff working at the nursing home. This will ensure that not only are nurses and certified nursing assistants background checked, but that any staff coming into contact with patients may be subject to such a safety procedure as well. Again, this is an optional program left to the discrepancy of each state.

Community Based Long Term Services and Supports
The ACA aims to strengthen the emphasis on home and community-based care by giving states several options to expand such programs for Medicaid enrollees.

There are three voluntary provisions for the expansion of home and community-based services (HCBS) under Medicaid. First, a state may choose to offer a community first choice option to provide attendant care services and supports. Second, a state may amend its state plan to provide an optional HCBS benefit. And, finally, states may rebalance spending on long term services and supports to increase the proportion that is community-based. The first and third provisions offer states enhanced federal matching rates as an incentive. Although the new provisions are valuable, the law does not set minimum standards for access to HCBS, and the new financial incentives are limited especially for the many states facing serious budget problems. Wide variations in access to HCBS can be expected to continue, while HCBS will continue to compete for funding with mandated institutional services.

How is the ACA Funded by Seniors
The benefits received under the ACA must be funded. Although too lengthy to detail in this writing, we will outline how our seniors will bear part of the burden of funding the law.

As already mentioned, there will be some cuts to the Medicare Advantage Plans that will support the funding of the ACA. This is in the form of $145 billion over a ten (10) year period. Those seniors enrolled in such plans will no doubt undergo adjustments as the changes are implemented.

In addition, the ACA will be funded with a surcharge tax of 3.8% to unearned or investment income of singles with an annual income over $200,000 and couples with an annual income over $250,000. Therefore, seniors who fall within this income bracket will be subject to the tax.

Another impact on seniors is the increase in the floor for medical expense deductions from 7.5% to 10% of Adjusted Gross Income. This change will impact taxes paid for 2013.

Finally, working seniors may be subject to the additional 0.9% Medicare payroll tax on high income earners (defined as taxpayers with over $200,000 in earned income, $250,000 for families). This additional tax applies to the excess over the stated limits. This change takes place in 2013.

Conclusion
Clearly there are many changes made by the Affordable Care Act that will affect seniors and their loved ones. It is important to have a general understanding of what seniors are facing in terms of their health care coverage. With seniors facing so many changes during a susceptible time in their lives, it is crucial that they be directed to resources that can assist them to make educated decisions about their health, their finances and their care options. Our firm is dedicated to helping seniors and their loved ones work through these issues and implement sound legal planning to address them. If we can help in any way, please don’t hesitate to contact our office.

category: Elder Counselor (Newsletter)

Elder Counselor Newsletter An Overview of the Defense of Marriage Act Ruling

The U.S. Supreme Court delivered a historic decision in U.S. v. Windsor[1] that could have far-reaching effects on seniors, persons with disabilities, and veterans who are married to, or plan to marry, a person of the same gender.  This edition of the ElderCounselor™ will provide an overview of the decision and how it may affect Medicaid recipients in a same-sex marriage.

Overview of U.S. v. Windsor:

An historical decision by the U.S. Supreme Court came down on June 26, 2013, declaring unconstitutional a portion of the Federal law commonly known as the Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”).  In this case, Edith Windsor, the New York resident and Canadian married spouse of Thea Spyer, sought relief from the Court system when she was denied a $363,053 refund for estate taxes she paid when Spyer died.  In denying her request, the IRS relied on Section 3 of DOMA, which defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman.  Because Windsor and Spyer were a same-sex couple, albeit validly recognized under the laws of New York, the Federal law disallowed benefits to them which are available to heterosexual married couples.  Here, the benefit disallowed came in the form of estate tax relief to a surviving spouse.

In the written opinion of the Court, Justice Kennedy focused on the long-established right of the states to determine the laws regarding domestic relations.  The Court pointed out that New York, at the time Windsor and Spyer were married in Canada, may not have allowed same-sex marriage within the state, but its laws protected those who were legally married elsewhere by applying its laws equally to all married people.  It was also pointed out that New York eventually expanded its laws to include same-sex marriage.

In addition to the fact that states have traditionally had the role of determining what the domestic relations laws should be within their own territories, the Court looked at the purpose and impact of DOMA itself.  The Court came to the conclusion that because of the purpose written into the law itself along with the impact of the law, that DOMA has the purpose “to discourage enactment of state same-sex marriage laws and to restrict the freedom and choice of couples married under those laws if they are enacted.”1  The Court concluded that this historical balance between state and Federal law had been negatively impacted when DOMA, Section 3, was enacted.

The Court ruled in this case that DOMA violated the 5th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution because its “demonstrated purpose is to ensure that if any State decides to recognize same-sex marriages, those unions will be treated as second-class marriages for purposes of federal law.”1 This obviously deprives “some couples married under the laws of their State, but not other couples, of both rights and responsibilities.”1

Effect on Medicaid

Section 3 of DOMA, which defined marriage as only a union between a man and a woman, applied to over 1000 federal laws, including benefits such as Medicaid, Social Security, housing, food stamps, tax laws, benefits due to federal employees, and veterans benefits.  In some cases the application of DOMA took away rights of same-sex married couples and, in others, it relieved them of certain responsibilities.

As professionals serving the elderly, it is important to know how the overturning of this portion of the law will affect seniors.  The answer is it will vary depending on what state the couple was married in, and what state they currently reside in.  While the result of overturning Section 3 of the DOMA is far-reaching, it does not completely equalize the playing field.

With regard to Medicaid, whether a couple may be impacted depends on whether they are: 1) validly married; 2) living in a state that recognizes their marriage; and/or 3) In a civil union or registered domestic partnership and the state recognizes the relationship.

Currently 12 states and the District of Columbia recognize same-sex marriages.  In these states, Medicaid will also recognize the marriage.  This means that the Medicaid rules will change for same-sex married elders.  The positive changes for these elders could include an increased allowance as currently allowed for married couples.  Another advantage will be the ability of the ill spouse to transfer assets to the well spouse without penalty and the ability to receive some of the income of the ill spouse once qualified for Medicaid under the Spousal Impoverishment Act provisions.

In a state that does not recognize an otherwise valid same-sex marriage, Medicaid will also likely not recognize the union.  However, some states do provide hardship protections to a partner of a person in long term care.[2]

Finally, in a state that recognizes civil unions or registered domestic partnerships, a couple so joined may be treated as married by Medicaid.  This is a situation which will vary based on several factors and the tax treatment of these couples by the IRS may determine the answer.

Impact on Other Government Benefits

This decision will likely impact Social Security Income (SSI) recipients, as well as veterans receiving either pension or compensation benefits.  It will likely take months before we fully understand the impact of the Court’s decision in these areas, as each agency determines how best to apply the decision.

Conclusion

Medicaid alone is a complex program, even for single individuals.  With the new opportunities that have opened up for married couples of the same sex, the need for the assistance of an Elder Law attorney is even greater.  If we can help someone you know, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Other references:

Supreme Court Boosts Gay Marriage (The Hill – www.thehill.com)

To comply with the U.S. Treasury regulations, we must inform you that (i) any U.S. federal tax advice contained in this newsletter was not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, by any person for the purpose of avoiding U.S. federal tax penalties that may be imposed on such person and (ii) each taxpayer should seek advice from their tax advisor based on the taxpayer’s particular circumstances.


[1] U.S. v. Windsor, 570 U.S. ___ (2013)

[2] LGBT Organizations Fact Sheet Series:  After DOMA What it Means for You https://www.glad.org/current/post/after-doma-fact-sheets

 

 

category: General Articles

Elder Counselor Newsletter The Staggering Cost of Dementia

Most of us know of someone who has been diagnosed with dementia. It is a costly, heart-breaking and life-altering syndrome that is nearly doubling in numbers of people affected worldwide every 20 years[1]. Dementia has affected the likes of Norman Rockwell, E.B. White, Rita Hayworth, Charlton Heston, Ronald Reagan, Charles Bronson, Margaret Thatcher and many other well-known people. It does not discriminate based on station in life, and its effects are widely dispersed. This edition of the ElderCounselorTM will focus on recent findings as to economic, financial and societal impacts of dementia as well as what an Elder Law attorney can do to help.

What is Dementia?

Dementia is a general term for a decline in mental ability, severe enough to interfere with daily life. Memory loss is one such example. Alzheimer’s is the most common type of dementia. Symptoms of dementia can vary greatly, but is diagnosed when at least two of the following core mental functions are significantly impaired: memory, communication and language, ability to focus and pay attention, reasoning and judgment, and visual perception.

These symptoms can be displayed when the person with dementia has problems with short-term memory, keeping track of his/her purse or wallet, paying bills, planning and preparing meals, remembering appointments, or travelling out of the neighborhood. These often progressive symptoms will likely eventually necessitate assistance with daily activities, resulting in increased expense and stress on the individual, their family members, and society at large.

The RAND Study[2]

The RAND Corporation recently concluded a nearly decade-long study on close to 11,000 people. The study sheds light on dementia statistics including rates of diagnosis and costs to society. The results of this study were recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine in early April 2013. The study’s reliability is significant—it was led by an independent, non-advocacy group and financed by the federal government.

The Cost of Dementia to Society

According to the RAND Corporation’s study, the cost of caring for those with dementia is projected to double by 2040 and is currently higher than caring for those with heart disease or cancer. The direct costs of dementia, including the cost of medicine and nursing homes, was $109 billion a year in 2010 compared to $102 billion for heart disease and $77 billion for cancer. This cost is pushed even higher, to $215 billion, when support from family members or other loved ones is given a cost value. This figure will rise to $511 billion by 2040. Information from the RAND study and from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services indicates that, by 2020, dementia patients will account for about 10% of the elderly population while direct medical spending on them will equal about 17% of all spending projected for Medicare and Medicaid devoted to the aged[3].

The cost of dementia to society is great and is headed for a huge increase. In light of that, President Obama recently signed into law the National Alzheimer’s Project Act, which calls for tracking of financial costs of dementia as well as increased efforts to find new treatments and better care for those with dementia.

The Cost of Dementia to the Family

While the cost to society is great and will likely have a substantial impact on all of us, the costs to individuals diagnosed with dementia and their loved ones is even more significant. As evidenced by the RAND study, each individual case of dementia costs between $41,000 and $56,000 a year. In addition to the financial drain on families, dementia increases the stress on the caregiver loved one. In fact, caregivers have been found to be at increased risk for depression and anxiety and long term medical problems, which impose a further financial burden on the family.

Conclusion

Dementia poses higher costs to society and individuals than heart disease or cancer and these costs are projected to continue rising. Most significant is the cost of care for the patient with dementia. The dementia-ridden person will progressively need more and more help with daily activities and this is the biggest cost of the debilitating syndrome. With the proper attention given to improvements in medicine with regards to dementia, society will be able to get a handle on this costly condition. And, with help from an Elder Law attorney, the family of those afflicted with dementia can obtain the support they need to care properly for their loved one.

An Elder Law attorney can help clients prepare or deal with an immediate need to find appropriate resources in dealing with dementia. We can support the loved one in making sure the dementia patient has access to the care and medical attention they need. Please contact us if you have a client or their loved one who has been diagnosed with dementia or is at risk for developing this debilitating syndrome. We would be honored to help.


[1] www.alz.co.uk

[2] http://www.rand.org/news/press/2013/04/03.html

[3] The Wall Street Journal, Dementia Will Take Toll on Health-Care Spending, April 8, 2013

 

category: Elder Counselor (Newsletter)