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How to Help Your Loved One Avoid Isolation

Isolation is something that many seniors experience on a regular basis. However, with the COVID pandemic, that isolated feeling is more common than ever. Today, we want to encourage the individuals who know someone living alone to take some small steps to help your loved one socialize.

We always encourage our clients to incorporate video conferencing or video chat to allow the family member to see their loved ones on a regular basis. This could be on a scheduled date and time each week where you have a conversation and catch up, or maybe schedule meals together where you leave the video on while everybody eats. You have to eat anyway and giving the opportunity for your loved one to spend their mealtime talking with their family and seeing familiar faces is a small gesture that could go a long way! Not only will it help them, but it will also give you the chance to assess whether your loved one is having any hearing or sight issues that should be addressed.

Encourage your loved one to join clubs. Many of them are now virtual to allow as many people possible to partake. Having them be a part of these groups will give them interactions outside of your conversations and have stories to bring you when you visit or call.

Although these are very minor suggestions, they can go a long way in helping your loved one not feel so isolated. Please feel free to give us a call if you have any questions or comments at 717-845-5390.

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Keep Our Loved Ones at Home

I have never had a client tell me that they want to go to a nursing home. Almost daily in my practice I hear that my clients want to remain in their home as long as possible. Unfortunately, some clients do not want to bring outside caregivers into the home for a myriad of reasons. The old days of the children taking care of the parents needs to make a comeback. Caring for parents to keep them home is extremely rewarding for both the child and the parent.

Being a family caregiver is one of the most rewarding, amazing experiences that children can provide to their loved ones. I have heard time and time again from children who are able to provide caregiving how rewarding it is, particularly in cases when it keeps their loved ones out of a nursing home.

For a number of reasons, children who provide caregiving should enter into a written caregiver agreement with their parents.

First, it is the best way to ensure that there are not mis-expectations and hurt feelings later.

Second, if done properly, it will actually provide, for both VA purposes Medicaid purposes, a legitimate spend-down of resources which would otherwise go to the government, and the monies paid will not be considered a gift. Therefore, no penalty will be assessed for the money paid to the child.

The one thing to remember is for the child caregiver monies that are received will be income taxable to the child; it is very important that the child claim those monies as income on their tax return so that it clearly shows that it was not intended to be a gift.

However, family caregiving is certainly not without its downsides to caregivers. In most cases the caregivers could make more money if they stayed in the workforce and did not leave to provide care. In a situation where they are trying to continue to work and provide care, the increased stress added to the caregivers can be detrimental their physical and/or emotional health.

There are often cases where family dynamics become an issue, either because one child is doing the caregiving and that child feels like they’re being taken advantage of, or others feel as though that child is taking advantage of Mom and Dad because they are getting paid.
Either way, a lot of times it provides an additional stress to family members that they weren’t expecting. There are times where a caregiver will be out-of-pocket as well for certain costs, and getting reimbursed may surely be an allowable thing under the law, but having other children understand why money is being distributed to one child versus them is often not an easy conversation.

There is no doubt that for those people who are able to provide care to their loved ones, care in the home it is a wonderful gift. However, I highly recommend that everything be put in writing for all of the reasons stated above, but mostly so that there are no missed expectations among the people receiving the care, the people providing the care, and the other family members.

To those who have been able to keep their family members home, thank you for everything, all that you do is appreciated. To those who are considering it, give it a try. It could be the best decision you have ever made.

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When are My Powers of Attorney Active?

Powers of attorney are often drafted differently by different professionals. In our office, we draft our powers of attorney to be effective immediately so that the principal is authorizing the power to be used by their agent now. However, we do not have the agent sign the acknowledgment pages, acknowledging that they are going to act in the best interest of the principal and not steal from the principal and not comingle assets of the principal, and only have them do that at the time when they need to act.

At Bellomo & Associates, we have a document signed by the principal, telling our firm only to give out the originals and to only have the agent sign the acknowledgment when and if the agent actually needs to use them, which would only occur if the principal instructs our firm to give the documents to the agent, or the principal is incapacitated. Yes, we do potentially take on liability because it is up to us to ensure that the agent has not received the documents before they are supposed to, but this is the mechanism that protects that the principle that the agent will not have the documents prior to when they actually need them.

Over 20 years of practice I have found that agents always want to do the right thing for the principal and always want to be there for the person that they are acting for. In the cases that I have found that an agent has taken advantage of their power, it almost is always a situation of the agent becoming desperate for one reason or another, and I have always said “desperate people do desperate things”. It is mainly for this reason that we keep the originals of the documents protected in our office so that the agents do not have them to be subjected to the whims of a desperate situation.

In the event that the agents need or want to use the documents, they will have to sign the acknowledgment pagers prior to using the document. We often receive calls from agents wanting to know why they did not sign the acknowledgements yet, and our answer is because you do not need to act on behalf of the principal yet because he or she is still able and willing to do it themselves.

While there is certainly no perfect answer to the best way to handle this situation, we believe that our solution provides the most effective way to get the document in place, but in such a way that it’s still protected as much as possible until it needs to be used.

It is important that you receive advice from a professional about the best way for you and your family to execute into a power of attorney and whether or not the agent should sign the acknowledgments now or only when and if they need to use them.

If you are looking for advice in regards to powers of attorney, please call our office at 717-845-5390 or click the link here and we will contact you.

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Having “a talk” with your parents about their long term living situation.

No, we are not talking about the birds and the bees but rather talking about having a conversation with your parents about what their wishes are in regards to their long-term care living situation.  I find in my practice that oftentimes parents will think a lot about where they’re going to live as they age and what type of situation they would prefer to be in.  Unfortunately, many parents do not feel comfortable having the conversation with their children ahead of time for many reasons.  I also find that the opposite is equally true: the kids often wonder what will happen but don’t feel that it’s right to bring it up and don’t want to push mom and dad into having to discuss make decisions about that determination.

I cannot begin to tell you how important it is to discuss these situations early and often.  Both parties are hesitant, but it is better for everybody involved to know what mom and dad think and what their wishes and hopes are for their living situation at the end of the day.  To the extent that mom and dad want to remain home, there are plenty of things that can be done including modifications to the home or purchase of a new home to make that happen.  To the extent that they want to go to an assisted living community and live independently now or to a continuing care retirement community, there are many tours and interviews to take with mom and dad to see where they feel the most comfortable.  The options are plentiful and regardless of what mom and dad are hoping for, it is typically pretty straightforward in finding an option.  

A friend of mine recently told me that she does not want to have the conversation because she is afraid that mom and dad are expecting they will be able to move into her house with her and her family.  My response to her was wouldn’t you rather know that now and have the conversation now with them rather than wait until they need assistance and cause not only them extra stress but you and your family extra stress?  She definitely came around after about a 25-minute conversation explaining that it wasn’t about her and her family but rather about her parents’ wishes.  Just because they wanted to do that doesn’t mean that it would work for her and her family nor does it mean that that is what has to happen, but having the conversation will at least open up the dialogue and allow her to express her concerns and reasons why she doesn’t think that would happen or be able to work and look for another alternative.  Ultimately, she did have the conversation with her family, which is not what they were looking for or expecting, so it was nothing more than a miscommunication.  I urge adult children to have a conversation with their parents about aging and their wishes sooner rather than later. This conversation will avoid lots of heartache and misunderstanding later and allow for plenty of time to plan for the future.

 

If you are interested in learning more about long-term care living, please call our office at 717-845-5390, or click the link here to RSVP to our upcoming workshop to learn more about it.

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Why to use Bellomo & Associates for Medicaid Instead of Doing it Yourself

When it comes to filing an application for Medicaid, the process can be quite daunting.  Hiring a professional at Bellomo & Associates can relieve the pressure on everyone. 

To qualify for Medicaid, you must be determined both medically and financially qualified.  To be medically qualified, you must be assessed by the County Area Agency on Aging and the family or Nursing Home physician.  Becoming financially qualified is the tricky part.  For Community Based Services your monthly income cannot exceed the yearly income limit established by Pennsylvania. For skilled Nursing Home Care your income needs to be below the Cost of Care for that facility.  In addition, you must provide statements for the previous five years for all accounts, verify all transactions over $500, and document all closed accounts. 

How can we help preserve excess assets if you sell the home or car, or even if you transferred or gifted assets?   This is done by a process that follows the rules for Medicaid qualification.  We will review the financials and determine what can be done to get Medicaid approval. 

A single person can have one house, one car, and up to $2,400*,  or possibly as much as $8,000* depending upon their income,  in all accounts.  If you have resources within those limits but have transferred assets for less than Fair Market Value or given a gift over $500, you will not qualify.  You are penalized and must pay privately during this period.  We can help determine the penalty period and establish how the payments to the skilled nursing care will be paid. 

A married couple can have one house, one car, and assets are divided in half with the maximum protected at $130,380* for the Community Spouse, this is the Resource Allowance.  As of 2021 the Community Spouse’s retirement accounts are exempt from the Resource Allowance calculation.  If you file for Medicaid and have assets over the established Resource Allowance, you will be denied Medicaid, and will need to spend the excess over that amount, then refile.  Most likely the excess will be paid to the Nursing Home or private care.  This is another time way Bellomo & Associates can help protect assets and assist in obtaining financial eligibility for Medicaid.

Bellomo & Associates can potentially assist in qualify a single person that has excess assets, has previously made gifts and perhaps even leave a legacy for their beneficiaries. We can also protect the excess assets for the Community Spouse so that the Community Spouse can maintain the same lifestyle and the family legacy.  Requesting help from the team at Bellomo & Associates will ease the process and help preserve what you worked so hard to earn.  

If you are interested in learning more about Medicaid crisis planning, please call our office at 717-845-5390, or click the link here to RSVP to our upcoming workshop to learn more about it.

 

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