The number of older adults in the United States has grown significantly in recent years and experts tell us that growth will not slow down in the decades to come. In fact, by the year 2050 those same experts predict that for the first time in history, the older population (age 65 and older) will outnumber their younger counterparts (age 21 and younger). The growth in the senior population has caused an increased interest in elder care issues and concerns. While seniors face many of the same legal problems that younger generations face, they also have some unique legal issues. The following questions and answers may help you to recognize when you could benefit from the assistance of an elder care attorney.
- Are elder care attorneys certified? The National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, or NAELA, was formed in the late 1980s as a way to better serve this growing segment of the population. Five years after the creation of NAELA, the National Elder Law Foundation was formed. The purpose of the non-profit NELF was to help improve the professional skills of attorneys who choose to focus on elder law. Toward that end, NELF then developed a national certification program for attorneys known as the Certified Elder Law Attorney, or CELA, certification program. Attorneys who wish to gain certification in the area of elder law may do so through a rigorous and selective certification program recognized by the American Bar Association and administered by NELF.
- How do I pick the right nursing home for my spouse/parent/loved one? You have likely heard at least one nursing home abuse horror story, making you very leery of putting a loved one in nursing home care. While nursing home abuse and neglect does occur, the good news is that there are also a number of nursing homes that provide skilled and compassionate care. You may wish to begin your search by asking friends, family members, and co-workers for a referral. Once you have a list of possible facilities or providers, do some research. In the State of California, nursing home complaints are handled by the Licensing and Certification Division of the California Department of Public Health. You can also use the Medicare Compare tool online, which is the official U.S. government site for Medicare, to search for and evaluate nursing homes.
- What can I do if I can concerned that a parent is the victim of elder abuse? For many adult children, this is one of their worst nightmares. Fortunately, you do have several options if you are concerned that a parent is being abused. Elder abuse is now a unique criminal offense in most states so reporting your suspicions to law enforcement is one option. In addition, elder abuse can also form the basis of a civil lawsuit.
- What is the difference between Medi-Cal and Medicare? Although Medi-Cal (California’s Medicaid program) and Medicare are often referred to interchangeably, the programs are not related. Both Medi-Cal and Medicare provide healthcare coverage and are funded by the federal government; however, the similarities top there. Medicare is what is referred to as an “entitlement” program because if you have paid into the program during your working years you are automatically entitled to benefits when you retire. Medi-Cal, on the other hand, is a “needs based” program, meaning you must demonstrate a financial need for benefits to be eligible to participate. Medicare comes in four parts with basic Medicare offered at no charge. If you wish to participate in the other three parts of Medicare you will pay a monthly premium. There are no monthly premiums for Medi-Cal.
- Can an elder care attorney help with Medi-Cal planning? Most basic health insurance plans will not cover the costs associated with long-term care nor will Medicare. Unless you have the resources to cover the high cost of nursing home care out of pocket and indefinitely, you will likely find yourself turning to Medi-Cal for help. To be eligible, however, you must contend with very low “countable resources” limits that can put your retirement nest egg at risk if you failed to plan ahead. An elder law attorney can help you incorporate Medi-Cal planning into your overall estate plan to ensure your eligibility when the time comes that you need to qualify for Medi-Cal.
- What is the Veteran’s Aid & Assistance Program (VA&A)? The Veteran’s Aid & Attendance program is intended to provide additional monetary assistance, above and beyond that provided by other VA programs such as the VA pension program. The additional assistance is intended to help cover the cost of someone to help you with daily tasks of living, such as dressing, bathing, or cooking.
How You Can Help
To prevent elder abuse, understand and address the factors that put people at risk. You can report abuse or suspected abuse to local adult protective services, long-term care ombudsman, or the police. If you’re not sure where to turn but you suspect someone is the victim of abuse, start by talking to an attorney who focuses on these matters.
Southern California’s Premier Elder Care Law Firm
If you have additional questions or concerns regarding your estate plan, elder or tax law, or probate, contact the experienced and trusted team at Sandoval Legacy Group, A division of Holstrom Block & Parke, A Professional Law Corporation, by calling (888) 513-9876 to schedule an appointment. No other law firm in Southern California has the knowledge and experience relating to estate planning, special needs planning, elder care, probate, conservatorships, business succession planning, tax planning, and trust administration as our lawyers and paralegal staff.
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