Experts tell us that by the year 2030 one in five Americans will be retirement age. Just 20 years later, in 2050, those same experts predict that the number of older Americans (age 65 an older) will outnumber their younger counterparts (age 21 and younger) for the first time in history. As the senior population grows at a historic rate, the rest of the country cannot help but pay closer attention to issues and concerns the elderly have, some of which are unique to the elderly. To address the needs and concerns of the elderly and those who care for them, a new area of the law evolved known as elder law. The following questions and answers for an elder care attorney may help you familiarize yourself with elder law issues.
- Can an elder care attorney help me pick a safe and caring nursing home? Sadly, nursing home abuse does occur with frightening regularity, which can make anyone hesitant to put a loved one in nursing home care. The good news though, is that there are also a number of nursing homes that provide safe and loving environments for residents. You may wish to begin your search by asking friends, family members, and co-workers for a referral. In the State of California, you can also check the California Department of Public Health’s website and/or navigate to the official U.S. government website for Medicare where you will find the Medicare Compare website which is a searchable database that allows you to look for facilities and/or research a specific facility.
- What is the difference between Medi-Cal and Medicare? Although Medi-Cal (California’s name for its 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.
- How can I recognize elder abuse and what can I do if I am concerned that an elderly loved one is a victim? Vigilance is the key to recognizing the signs of elder abuse. Unfortunately, many victims of elder abuse do not report the abuse, making it even more important for you to be aware of changes that may indicate abuse, such as:
- Bruising around wrists or ankles from restraints
- Mood swings
- Weight loss
- Angry outbursts
- Urinary/bladder infections
- Attempts to isolate
- Personal items missing
- Medication missing/lost
- Bills unpaid
Fortunately, you do have several options if you are concerned that a parent is being abused. Elder abuse is now a separate 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 against a caregiver and/or facility.
- What is 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 Medicaid.
Contact Sacramento Elder Law Attorneys
Please download our FREE estate planning checklist. If you have additional questions or concerns about elder care or legal issues that impact the elderly, contact us at the Northern California Center for Estate Planning & Elder Law to find out today by calling (916)-437-3500 or by filling out our online contact form.