Today in the United States there are roughly 40 million people over the age of 65. As the baby boomers continue to age, that number is expected to grow to a whopping 89 million people by year 2050. (Population Reference Bureau).
Senior citizens often require specialized medical care on a tight budget and have unique social and psychological needs. It can be difficult for a family to navigate the maze that is MediCare, MediCal, SSI, veterans benefits, skilling nursing facilities and in home care, not to mention the side effects of diseases like dementia. It is easy for a senior’s estate plan to simply be overlooked because the family is so overwhelmed by the immediate need to make sure their loved one is safe and healthy.
As an estate planning attorney, I have the unique role of determining whether my senior citizen client has the capacity to sign a legal document, and, whether I believe there is any undue influence being exerted by family members, friends or caregivers. This can be incredibly difficult, particularly if only one adult child lives nearby and I don’t get the chance to meet with any other family members or learn about the history of the family’s dynamics. Receiving a report from a physician doesn’t really help either, because even a client with on-set dementia may have moments of clarity and lucidity where he or she is perfectly capable of signing estate planning documents.
Recently I was introduced to a field of private caregivers dedicated to helping families navigate this difficult time. Some take on the role of a private caseworker- assessing the biological, psychological and social needs of a senior citizen and then working with their family to implement a plan of action regarding in-home care, transfer to an assisted living facility or applying for MediCal, among countless others. Others will provide around the clock care themselves, accompanying the senior to doctor appointments and assisting with feeding, bathing and other necessities. While this is of course another cost to the family, I highly recommend working with an educated professional who can help guide your family and make sure your aging loved one receives the care they need. (Check out www.aginglifecare.org for more information).
What can you do to prepare for this inevitable stage of life? Talk to your parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles today about their estate plan. Important questions like “Do you have a power of attorney and advanced health care directive?” and “Do you know if you have long term care insurance?” can get the conversation moving in the right direction. As always, I recommend you seek out the advice of a compassionate and experienced estate planning attorney before making any decisions.
The information on this website is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this site should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship. Brittany Britton is licensed to practice law in the state of California only.