Advance Planning Key for Alzheimer’s Patients

A retired physician and his wife have allowed a local television station to report their family’s journey with Alzheimer’s over the course of the last four years. The series continues with WCCO CBS Minnesota’s article “’All Lined Up Before You Need It’: Alzheimer’s Association Shares Steps for Estate Planning,” with four steps to take, if you notice that a family member is having memory lapses or trouble with simple tasks.

The Quinn family—Dr. Paul Quinn and his wife Peg—had some tough conversations years ago, when Paul’s memory was better, and when he was able to be completely honest with his wife about his wishes and what the couple would need to do moving forward.

Peg Quinn said that getting everything lined up long before it’s needed, is very important.

If there’s any sign of cognitive decline, there are legal and financial steps that must be pursued. Start with addressing the family budget and projected medical costs for long term care. If possible, gather all family members together for a planning session.

If they live in different parts of the state, or of the country, ask the family members to travel for a weekend family meeting. This is the kind of planning that is better when everyone is physically present.

Start by naming a power of attorney. It needs to be someone who is aware of the situation and will be able to make decisions on your behalf. An estate planning attorney can assist with making this decision.

Next, establish an advance directive with a focus on medical decisions. This may be the toughest part, since it is impossible to know how long someone will live with Alzheimer’s. The average patient lives four to eight years, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. The cost of care can add up fast—as much as $5,000 to $7,000 a month in some cases.

That’s why the next step—selecting an elder law estate planning attorney is so important. Planning for long-term care, qualifying for Medicaid and other benefits, is a complex challenge.

Dr. Quinn expressed his wishes to stay in his home as long as possible. However, his wife admits that he can’t stay focused on any projects for very long. The familiarity of their home makes life much easier for both of them, so they agreed early on to have in-home care, if it’s ever needed.

An estate planning attorney will help the family, by drafting estate planning documents and creating a plan as early as possible. A last will and testament must be created and executed before the person is legally incompetent. The same goes for a power of attorney and any health care power of attorney documents. Medicaid planning should be done as soon as possible, since there is a five-year look back period concerning transferring any assets.

Reference: WCCO CBS Minnesota (July 23, 2019) “’All Lined Up Before You Need It’ : Alzheimer’s Association Shares Steps for Estate Planning”

Identity Thieves Continue to Aim at Seniors

We are all vulnerable to identity thieves but much of the action seems to focus against seniors, according to My Prime Time News in “Senior Identity Theft: How to Stay Safe.”  More than a third of complaints to the Federal Trade Commission in 2017 were from seniors.

Why are seniors more vulnerable to theft? There are a number of reasons. One is that you are a far more interesting target for thieves now, than you might have been earlier in your life. You’ve got a lifetime of savings set aside for retirement. While you’ve got that nice nest egg, it’s possible that you may not be up to date on all of the latest ways that thieves use technology to scam people.

Not all seniors know that caller ID can be fooled into showing that a call is coming from Social Security, when it’s really coming from overseas. Email design is so sophisticated that it is easy for an email to be created using logos and typefaces that make it appear like it does come from a big bank—but it’s from a spammer.

Prevention is the best medicine when it comes to identity theft. There are several steps you can take to protect yourself:

  • Be smart about your personal information. Never give your personal information out to anyone, don’t answer calls from phone numbers you don’t recognize and don’t reply to emails from unknown senders.
  • Prevent checks or personal information from falling into the wrong hands, by ensuring that Social Security benefits, pension funds and any other retirement income checks are direct deposited into your accounts. All it takes is one paper check from the mailbox for someone to do serious financial damage to your life.
  • If you are the caretaker of a family member, proactively protect their finances from fraud. If you have power of attorney, monitor their credit reports to ensure that no new accounts are opened in their name.
  • If a loved one has accidentally given out personal information, have an initial fraud alert placed on their accounts for one year. If they’ve already been a victim of identify theft, have an extended fraud alert place on their accounts.

Identity theft is rampant in this brave new world, and can happen even when we are watching for it.

Reference: My Prime Time News (June 2, 2019) “Senior Identity Theft: How to Stay Safe”

How Do We Protect Seniors From Abuse?

Earlier this year, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau analyzed more than 180,000 Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) submitted by financial institutions to FinCEN, the federal government watchdog agency, from 2013 through 2017. The CFPB found that “financial exploitation of older adults by scammers, family members, caregivers and others is widespread in the United States.”

ABC 15 Phoenix’s recent online report, “Protecting seniors from financial predators,” says the trend is not surprising to many estate planning and elder law attorneys. Unfortunately, they hear from many families who are seeing elderly loved ones being taken advantage of financially.

Families reach out to these attorneys who specialize in senior issues, because they’re concerned that a grandparent or parent is being scammed.

For example, there are hundreds of cases listed on the Arizona Adult Protective Services Registry. The registry lists the names of suspects and circumstances of substantiated or uncontested claims of the exploitation and abuse of vulnerable adults.

Nearly all of these cases involve people the victims should have been able to trust, such as a caregiver or someone with power of attorney. The cases also include forging checks, using credit cards and selling a victim’s home and pocketing the proceeds.

Experts think the problem will only get worse as the population ages. Families are cautioned to pay extra attention after a major life change, like a medical diagnosis or the death of a spouse. People who have suffered a loss or a frightening life event are lonely. When someone enters their life, they’re just excited to have someone to talk to.

Warning signs include a change in behavior. That sometimes shows as a new person is entering their life and is actively isolating them, or suddenly, they’re not sharing information with you as before.  There may also be items that go missing around their house. These thefts often begin with small loans that aren’t paid back, or money for helping around the house. However, this eventually increases as time passes, and the exploiter gets braver.

In Arizona, the State Department of Adult Protective Services investigates elder financial abuse complaints, but these cases are rarely criminally prosecuted. Families frequently have to use the courts to undo damage and prevent future problems, especially if the family member is in denial about being exploited.

Family members can petition the court for conservatorship, guardianship or ask that a guardian ad litem be assigned to the senior—a court-appointed attorney that acts only on the victim’s behalf.

Reference: ABC 15 Phoenix (June 4, 2019) “Protecting seniors from financial predators”