How Bad Is Caregiver Burnout?

COVID-19 has created unprecedented burdens for caregivers. This is especially true for those in the “Sandwich Generation” who live in multigenerational households with their older parents and their own children.

A record 41 million Americans are serving as caregivers for an elderly parent, spouse or someone who struggles with day-to-day tasks, according to KIII TV’s recent article entitled “Senior care providers give insight on worker fatigue, how it impacts their health.”

According to a new survey by Seniorly, a national network of senior care advisors, besides losing members of the workforce who give up their jobs to take care of others, over the past six years, the percentage of family caregivers who say their own health status is fair or poor nearly doubled, going from 12% to 21%.

Clint Rendall with Aadi Bioscience, biopharmaceutical company, agrees that being a caregiver can place a lot of mental strain on individuals.

“We get so stressed personally,” Rendall said. “Whether that’s with the workplace, or providing care for someone that we stop caring for ourselves and then it’s sort of a vicious cycle.”

For example, the 65-plus population in Texas is projected to grow from 3.9 million to 5.6 million by 2030, according to AARP.

Other key findings in the Seniorly survey say that among states, Texas is number three in multigenerational households at 4.9%, and the nursing shortage has made the state the ninth highest in the country in nursing care workers to the number of seniors.

Among the 54 million Americans 65 or older, there is a 70% chance that at some point, a senior will need long-term care services. For most people, that care is provided in their homes and often by those who are unpaid, such as spouses, adult children and other loved ones.

One relief program designed for caregivers is respite care, where a loved one can be cared for without family aid for up to several hours or days a week.

Mary Ann Mondragon, who is a caregiver specialist at Caregivers SOS, a WellMed charitable foundation program, said there is lots of help available.

“We have training. We have classes for the caregivers. We have a stress busting class that will actually be starting in April. And it’s a nine week class,” Mondragon said.

“And it helps the family caregivers learn how to take care of their loved ones. How to take care of themselves more importantly.”

Reference: KIII TV (March 29, 2022) “Senior care providers give insight on worker fatigue, how it impacts their health”

 

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Is Your Incapacity Plan in Place?

Wise incapacity planning usually includes the execution of a power of attorney.

This is a document that appoints an agent who can legally sign checks, pay bills and make other financial decisions on your behalf, as the principal, in the event incapcity by illness or an accident.

A power of attorney is also used when the principal is unable to be present to sign necessary documents.

The designated agent can be given broad legal authority or limited authority to make decisions about the principal’s property, finances, or medical care.

FedWeek’s recent article entitled “Putting an Incapacity Plan in Place” suggests that, rather than a “regular” power of attorney, you may prefer one of the following:

A durable power of attorney can name a trusted friend, relative, or advisor to sign papers, if you are unable to make knowledgeable decisions.

These documents remain in effect if you become incapacitated.

Springing power is a durable power of attorney that will go into effect only if there is incapacity. One or more doctors must declare that you are incompetent or that you cannot perform some “activities of daily living,” such as being able to get dressed and go to the bathroom.

A springing power will not go into effect as long as you are competent.

Some financial institutions also may not accept your power of attorney because they require the use of their own forms.

Send a copy of your power to each of your banks, brokers and other accounts to see if there is an issue. Some companies will also not recognize old powers.

Add an expiration date on the document and update it every year or two, so it expresses your current wishes.

A power of attorney can also end for a number of reasons, such as when the principal revokes the agreement or dies, when a court invalidates it, or when the agent can no longer carry out the responsibilities outlined.

In the case of a married couple, the authorization may be invalidated if the principal and the agent divorce.

Reference: FedWeek (Feb. 1, 2022) “Putting an Incapacity Plan in Place”

 

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What Do I Need to Know About Long-Term Care Insurance?

Long-term care insurance covers nursing homes, assisted living and home health care expenses, explains WCAX 3’s recent article entitled “What to consider before you invest in long-term care insurance.”

A long-term insurance policy helps cover the expense of that care when you have a chronic medical condition, a disability, or a disorder, such as Alzheimer’s disease.

Most policies will reimburse you for care given in a variety of places, such as:

“If you live a long life, the chances of needing long-term care are high, but long-term care insurance is not an option for everybody. You need to start thinking about it generally before you turn 65,” said Jesse Slome, the director of the American Association for Long Term Care Insurance.

You should consider any assets you want to pass onto your children and whether it is worth paying the premiums. Planning ahead is recommended. It is best to be prepared for what can happen. You cannot always predict what will happen.

There are also medical requirements for some plans, and you must be medically eligible. Therefore, if you have serious illnesses or the beginnings of dementia, you will not be able to obtain long-term insurance.

Experts also say that your income and savings, what you want to pass on to the next generation and what role your family will play in your care are all factors to consider when taking out a policy.

Long-term care insurance policies are complex, and they vary significantly.

It really requires you, the consumer, to do some comparison shopping or ideally work with a specialist who understands and can do the comparisons for you.

Selecting long-term care policy is a lifestyle and financial decision.

Talk to an experienced estate planning attorney, if you have questions.

Reference: WCAX 3 (April 11, 2022) “What to consider before you invest in long-term care insurance”

 

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How to Get Started on an Estate Plan

CNBC’s recent article entitled “67% of Americans have no estate plan, survey finds. Here’s how to get started on one” reports that just a third of Americans have put an estate plan in place, according to a new survey from senior living referral service Caring.com.

That means that 67% are leaving what happens to them and their assets in case of disability or death up to others, including the state.

What is the biggest reason why they don’t have an estate plan? They just have not gotten around to it, according to 40% of survey respondents.

Meanwhile, 33% say they do not have enough assets to pass on to their loved ones, 13% said the estate-planning process is too costly. A total of  12% said they do not know how to get a will.

Those who have had a serious case of COVID-19 are 66% more likely to engage in estate planning compared to those who have not, according to Caring.com. About 41% of those ages 18 to 34 now see greater need for a will or other estate-planning documents following the onset of the pandemic.

Of course, there’s room for improvement, said Jim Rosenthal, CEO of Caring.com, noting only 48% of people who had a severe case of Covid have a plan in place.

“Even with the big scare of potential impending death, people still don’t run out and take care of what’s not that challenging to take care of,” Rosenthal said.

You should know that you do not need to have a lot of assets to decide where you want the assets you do have to go when you die, or to stipulate your preferences for your end-of-life or other care should you become incapacitated.

The first step is to become as educated as you can and consider consulting an experienced estate planning attorney.

Reference: CNBC (April 11, 2022) “67% of Americans have no estate plan, survey finds. Here’s how to get started on one”

 

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POA – What Estate Planning Documents are Used to Plan for Incapacity?

The chief reason for a Power of Attorney ( POA ) is to appoint an agent who can make decisions about business and financial matters if you become incapacitated, according to an article “Estate planning in case of incapacity” from The Sentinel-Record. For most people, the POA becomes effective at a later date, when the person signs a written authorization to act under the document, or when the person is determined to be incapacitated. This often involves having the person’s treating physician sign a notarized statement declaring the person to be incapacitated. This type of POA is referred to as a “Springing POA,” since it springs from a future event.

The challenge with a springing POA is that it requires reaching a point in the person’s life where it is clinically clear they are incapacitated. If the person has not yet been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia, but it is making poor decisions or not able to care for themselves, it becomes necessary to go through the process of documenting their incapacity and going through the state’s process to activate the POA.

For a more immediate POA, your estate planning attorney may recommend creating and signing a Durable Power of Attorney. This allows you to appoint someone to manage personal and business affairs immediately. For this reason, it is extremely important that the person you name be 100% trustworthy, since they will have instant legal access to all of your property.

A Power of Attorney can be customized to include broad powers or limited to a specific transaction, like selling your home.

This is not the only way to allow another person to take over your affairs in the event of incapacity.  However, it is easier than seeking guardianship or conservatorship. Another method is to place assets in a revocable trust, which allows you to maintain control of the assets while alive and of legal capacity. The trust includes a successor trustee, who takes over in the event you become incapacitated or die.

The successor trustee only has control of the assets owned by the trust, so if the purpose of the trust is planning for incapacity, many, if not all, of your assets will need to be retitled and put into the trust.

A properly created estate plan will often use both the Durable Power of Attorney and a Revocable Living Trust, when preparing for incapacity.

Sadly, many people fail to have these legal tools created. As a result, when they are incapacitated, the family must go to court to have a person appointed to manage their affairs. This is usually referred to as a “legal guardianship.” The proceeding to obtain a guardianship is lengthy and complicated. Once the guardianship is established, the guardian must file annual accountings with the court documenting how all of the funds are used. The guardian must also post a surety bond, designed to protect assets in case of improper use.

Guardianship and its costs and time-consuming tasks can all be avoided with a properly prepared estate plan, including planning for incapacity.

Reference: The Sentinel-Record (March 27, 2022) “Estate planning in case of incapacity”

 

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What Types of Rooms are in Assisted Living Communities?

“An assisted living community is housing for seniors that provides long-term senior care, including daily support around personal care services, like meals, medication management, bathing, dressing and transportation,” explained  Sue Johansen, executive vice president of the community network A Place for Mom, a senior referral service based in Seattle in an interview with WTOP News’ in an article entitled “Types of Rooms in Assisted Living Communities.”

These communities also offer a wide range of activities to help seniors live vibrant and enjoyable lives. If you (or a loved one) are looking to move into an assisted living community, there are a number of factors to consider in choosing the right one. One of these is deciding on the type of room you will move into. Let’s look at the most common types of rooms in assisted living:

Private apartments. In many assisted living facilities throughout the country “residents live in their own units, which may include a living quarter, private bathroom and sometimes a small cooking or food storage area,” says Dr. Susan D. Leonard, a geriatric medicine specialist at the UCLA Medical Center. These can have many different setups or layouts and can be furnished or unfurnished. Private apartments typically cater to “seniors who want and are able to live independently, but may require some assistance,” Johansen says. They may be studios or one-bedroom assisted living apartments. Two-bedroom assisted living apartments are also a common option.

Condos. Some communities now offer high-end options, which can be very comfortable and feel more like a luxury condominium than a bare-bones apartment. These let residents have a bit more privacy when it comes to receiving care, which can be delivered on a schedule the resident prefers by a consistent staff.

Private rooms. Some communities offer assisted living rooms rather than entire apartments. In these communities, seniors may have a private bedroom, which may or may not include a private bathroom. “The option of a private room caters to the senior for whom privacy is important,” Johansen says. Any other living spaces, like a sitting room or kitchen, would be shared with other residents.

Shared rooms. This has two or more seniors in a single bedroom in a dorm-style setting. This option is the most affordable living space. A shared room “can also provide more of a social aspect or even a companion to the senior,” notes Johansen.

Memory care rooms. These are designed to support seniors who have dementia and may contain certain kinds of equipment.

Johansen remarked that the style and quality of the options available “can depend significantly on the community. It’s important for a senior who is making the transition from living on his or her own to living in an assisted living community to make sure to find the optimal living option that meets his or her needs.”

Reference: WTOP News (April 3, 2022) “Types of Rooms in Assisted Living Communities”

 

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Can My Ex Get Some of My Estate?

For many people, their will is their final communication to the world.

A will states how their property should be distributed upon their death. CNBC’s recent article entitled “Your ex-spouse could inherit your money. How to avoid this and other estate-planning mistakes” says that depending on how you plan, it may have a few some surprises for those who are close to you.

There are a couple of situations where you could inadvertently leave money to people you no longer intend as heirs, much to the surprise of other heirs.

An ex-spouse could get some of your money when you die, if you do not update your beneficiaries under a retirement plan.

Divorce does not automatically change a beneficiary designation, unless the divorce decree includes a stipulation to change it. IRAs are the same, so it is not uncommon for an IRA owner to die without having changed the beneficiary designation after a divorce. It’s usually just a simple oversight.

However, most state laws provide that once a married couple is divorced, ex-spouses lose all property rights.

However, pensions are governed by federal law, formally known as ERISA or the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974. As a result, state rules do not apply.

Pensions are not the only accounts that people tend to forget to update. Bank account beneficiary designations are often hard to find, and circumstances may change from when you first set them up.

While it may be tempting to disinherit someone to whom you are no longer close, it can be a bad idea. That is because it can invite all kinds of issues, like a will challenge.

There is always the chance you may reconcile, even on your death bed, at which point it will be too late to update your will and estate plan. Therefore, leave something less to them and do not say anything bad.

To ensure your wishes are carried out the way you want, work with an experienced estate planning attorney.

Reference: CNBC (Jan. 9, 2022) “Your ex-spouse could inherit your money. How to avoid this and other estate-planning mistakes”

 

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Read more about the article Is Succession Planning Necessary for Family Business Entities?
Colleagues Applauding Senior Businessman ca. 2003

Is Succession Planning Necessary for Family Business Entities?

Failing to have a succession plan is often the reason family businesses do not survive across the generations. Creating, designing and implementing a succession plan can protect the family’s legacy, according to the article “Planning for Success: How to Create a Suggestion Plan” from Westchester & Fairfield County Business Journals.

Start by establishing a vision for the future of the business and the family. What are the goals for the founder’s retirement? Will the business need to be sold to fund their retirement? One of the big questions concerns cash flow—do the founders need the business to operate to provide ongoing financial support?

Next, lay the groundwork regarding next generation management and the personal and professional goals of the various family members.

Several options for a successful exit plan include:

  • Family succession—Transferring the business to family members
  • Internal succession—Selling or transferring the business to one or more key employees or co-workers or selling the company to employees using an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP)
  • External succession—Selling the business to an outside third party, engaging in an Initial Public Offering (IPO), a strategic merger or investment by an outside party.

Once a succession exit path is selected, the family needs to identify successors and identify active and non-active roles and responsibilities for family members. Decisions need to be made about how to manage the company going forward.

Tax planning should be a part of the succession plan, which needs to be aligned with the founding member’s estate plan. How the business is structured and how it is to be transferred could either save the family from an onerous tax burden or generate a tax liability so large, as to shut the company down.

Many owners are busy with the day-to-day operations of the business and neglect to do any succession planning. Alternatively, a hastily created plan skipping goal setting or ignoring professional advice occurs. The results are bad either way: losing control over a business, having to sell the business for less than its true value or being subject to excessive taxes.

Every privately held, family-owned business should have a plan in place to establish what will happen if the owners die or become incapacitated.

An estate planning attorney who has experience working with business owners will be able to guide the creation of a succession plan and ensure that it works to complement the owner’s estate plan. With the right guidance, the business owner can work with their team of professional advisors to ensure that the business continues over the generations.

Reference: Westchester & Fairfield County Business Journals (March 31, 2022) “Planning for Success: How to Create a Suggestion Plan”

 

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Does an Elder Orphan Need an Estate Plan?

Estate planning for the future is even more important for elder orphans than for those with a spouse or family members, according to this recent article “Savvy Senior: How to get help as an elder orphan” from The Virginia Gazette. There is no one single solution, but there are steps to take to protect your estate, health and provide for long-term care.

Start with the essential estate planning documents. These documents will protect you and ensure that your wishes are followed, if you become seriously ill or when you die. These documents include:

A durable Power of Attorney to designate someone to handle financial matters in the event of incapacity.

An Advanced Health Care Directive, including a Living Will, to tell your health care provider what kind of care you want if you become incapacitated.

A Health Care Power of Attorney, naming a person of your choice to make medical decisions on your behalf, if you are unable to do so.

A Will to direct how you want your property and assets to be distributed upon your death and to name an Executor who will be in charge of your estate.

Your best option to prepare these documents is an experienced estate planning attorney. Trying to do it yourself is risky. Each state has its own laws for these documents to be valid. If the documents are not accepted, the court could declare your will invalid and your directions will not be followed.

People with families typically name a responsible adult child as their power of attorney for finances, as executor or for health care decisions. If you do not have adult children, you may ask a trusted friend or colleague. Name a person who is younger than you, organized and responsible and who will likely be available and willing to service.

If the person you name as executor lives in another state, you will need to check with your estate planning attorney to see if there are any special requirements.

If you do not have a friend or even a distant relative you feel comfortable assigning this role to, your estate planning attorney may be able to suggest alternatives, such as an aging life care manager. These professionals are trained in geriatric care and often have backgrounds in social work or nursing.

If you are reluctant to complete the legal documents mentioned above or start having them prepared and then fail to complete them, you may face some unpleasant consequences. A judge may appoint a guardian to make decisions on your behalf. This guardian is likely to be a complete stranger to you. They will be legally empowered to make all decisions for you regarding your health care, end-of-life care and even your burial and funeral services.

Unless you are comfortable with a court-appointed person making health care and other decisions for you, call an estate planning attorney and start making plans for the future.

Reference: The Virginia Gazette (April 1, 2022) “Savvy Senior: How to get help as an elder orphan”

 

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What Happens to a Pet when Owner Dies?

Pet trusts are a legally binding arrangement in which the donor (the person creating the trust) formally outlines their wishes for how they want their pet to be cared for.

A few more people are involved in a pet trust, according to the article “’Paws-ing’ to plan: How you can ensure your pet’s future well-being with pet trust planning” from The Gilmer Mirror. A trustee oversees the way trust funds are dispensed, a caretaker, who is in charge of the pet’s care and an enforcer, who makes sure the donor’s wishes are followed. Donors may appoint a caretaker of their choice, or work with an agent to find someone suitable for their pet.

Unlike an informal promise to care for a pet made by a well-meaning friend or family member, the pet trust is legally enforceable, giving it more “teeth” than a verbal promise. There is nothing to stop the person you leave your pet with from doing whatever they wish with the pet, from leaving the pet at a shelter to selling the pet. With a trust, all parties are bound to use the money for its intended purposes and to follow pet care instructions.

What can you ask your pet’s caretaker to do? Anything you feel is necessary. It can be as basic or as detailed as you wish. The pet could be cared for as they were by you, with the same kind of food, attention and affection. They can also continue to be seen by the same veterinarian, if one is named in the trust.

Pet planning has become increasingly popular, as more people see their pets as members of the family. However, these trusts are not just for house cats or dogs. Work animals, show animals, specially trained service and companion animals and animals used for breeding are also protected by pet trusts.

A pet trust could ensure the future of a highly trained show jumper, or to ensure a working dog ends up at a farm where she continues to herd sheep.

Pet trusts are especially important for people with service animals. A blind person who has bonded with a seeing-eye dog may only wish another blind person to inherit a seeing-eye dog. The trust could ensure that animals who have been trained to provide emotional support, or to detect health conditions like seizures, should go to individuals with these same challenges.

Individuals who live with highly trained service animals should consult an experienced estate planning attorney along with the organization that trained the animal to ensure a trust is created within the scope and requirements of the organization, as well as the wishes of the owner. The organization may be better able to place the animal, while adhering to the pet trust’s requirements.

A pet trust helps protect our beloved animal companions and provides peace of mind for their humans. It should be part of your overall estate plan and should be updated regularly.

Reference: The Gilmer Mirror (March 23, 2022) “’Paws-ing’ to plan: How you can ensure your pet’s future well-being with pet trust planning”

 

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