Monday, August 29, 2016

What is adult day care and what services are available?

Adult Day Care Centers are intended to provide care and companionship for adults who need assistance or supervision. These programs provide caregivers and family members a temporary rest from caregiving, while the senior adult receives care in a safe environment. The senior adult benefits from staying in the community, structure to his or her daily activities, and social interaction. Placing the senior adult in a day care center allows the caregiver or family member to go to work, run errands, or just relax while their loved one is safe.

            Generally, there are two different types of Adult Day Care Centers: adult social day care and adult day health care. Adult social day care provides a social outlet for the senior and offers activities, meals, recreation, and some health-related services. Social activities can include crafts, cooking, exercise, field trips, and games. Adult day health care offers intensive health, therapeutic, and social services for adults who otherwise may need institutionalized care. Adult day care services can also include counseling, education, physical therapy, medication management, assistance with eating, toileting, and/or walking, and transportation services.

            The cost of day care services vary depending on location, the services offered, and other factors. However, adult day care services are often less expensive than hiring a home health nurse or placing the senior in a facility and day care could be a good option for families to consider. To explore Adult Day Care Centers in Virginia, the Virginia Department of Social Services maintains an online search database that can be found here:

Written by Heather W. Winter, Esquire

Thursday, August 18, 2016

What should I do after a loved one has passed away?

When a loved one passes away, it is an emotional and difficult time. The last thing someone wants to think about are the practical steps that need to be taken care of during this time of grieving. Some practical steps family members and/or friends may want to take during this time include:
  1. Request copies of the death certificate through the funeral home, mortuary or the state’s vital records office.
2.      Locate important papers, such as the decedent’s legal documents, financial records and information. 

3.      Notify any bank or credit unions where the decedent did business, any brokerage firms, and life insurance companies where the decedent maintained life insurance. Find out whether these assets had named beneficiaries or were payable on death. 

4.      Notify Social Security Administration, Department of Veteran’s Affairs (if the deceased was a veteran), Medicare/Medicaid (if applicable) and similar agencies.

5.      Start the probate process, if probate is necessary to administer the estate.

6.      The personal representative should collect the decedent’s assets that are part of the probate estate and follow the state’s laws of administration of the estate. 

7.      Safeguard the decedent’s home and vehicle(s) and protect valuables, including checking on insurance coverage for the estate or heirs for any real estate, vehicle(s) and specifically insured items. 

8.      Forward the decedent’s mail at the post office.
9.      Cancel utilities and other services when appropriate and request final bills.
Written by Heather W. Winter, Esquire

Monday, September 21, 2015

World Alzheimer's Day

Today, September 21st, is World Alzheimer’s Day, which aims to raise awareness about the disease that afflicts 47 million people worldwide. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, a group of disorders that impair mental functioning severely enough to interfere with daily life. In the United States, someone develops Alzheimer’s disease every 67 seconds and the disease is the sixth leading cause of death.

Purple is the official color of the Alzheimer’s movement and we hope you’re wearing purple in support of the movement. There are many different ways to show your support and help those affected by it, such as joining the Alzheimer’s prevention registry, volunteering your time, or thanking a caregiver. More information about Alzheimer’s can be found at 
Written by Heather W. Winter, Esquire

Monday, August 3, 2015

I Am My Mom’s Agent under a Power of Attorney. What are my Responsibilities?

It is important to remember that even though mom named you, her child, as her agent under a financial power of attorney, mom is still able to act for herself. The power of attorney does not take away mom’s ability to take care of her own financial matters. Mom can choose the powers that her agent will have under the document. When you act as agent under a financial power of attorney in Virginia, the agent has four basic responsibilities. The basic responsibilities include the following:

1.      You must act in mom’s best interest
2.      You must manage mom’s money and property with care
3.      You must keep mom’s money and property completely separate from your own
4.      You must keep good records of all transactions

The agent is managing money or property for mom and you’re supposed to enter into all transactions for mom’s benefit, not for your own benefit. You must also be honest and act in good faith. You should carefully read the power of attorney and only do what the document allows you to do. You are under a duty to follow mom’s instructions and wishes. 

Further, it is important that you keep mom’s assets separate from your own. This means that all of mom’s expenses should be paid from her own funds, and not from your own checking account to be reimbursed by mom later. You should keep a detailed list of everything that you receive or spend as agent and additionally keep all receipts and a copy of all financial statements. If mom requests one, you must give mom an accounting of all of the actions you have taken as agent. Acting as agent under a financial power of attorney comes with a lot of responsibility and the agent should know their obligations to avoid any legal problems.

Written by Heather W. Winter, Esquire

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Can I Reduce My Chances of Developing Dementia?

New research published in Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association indicates that people may be able to reduce their chances of cognitive decline with lifestyle changes. Of course, the risk of some cognitive problems is due to genetic factors, but there is also evidence that various lifestyle factors can help keep your brain healthy. Here are some tips from the Alzheimer’s Association that may reduce your risk of cognitive decline:

1. Exercise Regularly. Exercising raises your heart rate and increases blood flow to the brain and body. Consider joining a gym, jogging in your neighborhood, or increasing movement by routine activities like gardening, cleaning, and laundry. Also try parking your car further away in the parking lot while running errands.

2. Keep Your Mind Active. Education helps reduce your risk of cognitive decline and dementia. Stimulate your mind with activities such as puzzles, word games, memory training, reading, or learning something new.

3. Eat Healthy Foods. Eating a healthy diet that is lower in fat and higher in fruits and vegetables can help reduce cognitive decline. Consider following a Mediterranean diet for meals that are full of whole grains, fresh produce, fish, and nuts.

4. Stay Social. Being socially engaged may help your brain health. Studies have shown that the more social we are, the better we perform on memory and cognition tests. Ways to keep an active social life are through volunteering, joining a club or social group, reaching out to neighbors, and getting out in the community.

5. Manage Stress Levels. Severe or chronic stress has a negative effect on the brain, and simple tools can minimize these harmful effects. Try doing breathing exercises, prioritizing relaxation, meditating, or practicing yoga to mitigate the damaging effects of stress.

6. Quality Sleep. Not getting enough sleep can impair your ability to think, problem-solve, and process, store and recall information. Try getting 8 hours of sleep per night by establishing a regular sleeping schedule, creating a relaxing bedtime ritual, and minimizing light and noise before bedtime.

Written by Heather W. Winter, Esquire

Monday, June 22, 2015

How Do I Pay for Long Term Care?

The United States Census Bureau estimates that between 2012 and 2050, the United States will experience considerable growth in its older population. The population aged 65 and older is expected to grow to be 83.7 million people, almost double its estimated population of 43.1 million people in 2012. Americans are living longer and often suffering from debilitating conditions, such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Due to the age and health of our nation, Americans are needing long term care more than ever before. Long term care is expensive and can cause a family to drain all of their assets, creating problems for financial security. The average cost of a skilled nursing facility in central Virginia is $88,480 annually, according to Genworth.

How do people pay for their care? There are essentially five ways to pay the cost of long term care.

1. PRIVATE PAY. Private pay means paying for the cost of a nursing home or assisted living facility or for other needed care out-of-pocket. Many people use this method, often relying on personal savings, pensions or other retirement funds, or income from stocks and bonds.

2. LONG TERM CARE INSURANCE. Long term care insurance pays for many types of long term care. The extent of coverage depends on the type of policy purchased and what services are covered. If you have long term care insurance, it is a good idea to check the terms of the policy and the limits on how long or how much the policy will pay. There are also other products available that combine long term care insurance with life insurance.

3. MEDICAID. Medicaid is a joint federal and state program that helps with the cost of nursing home care for some people with limited income and resources who need help with some activities of daily living, like bathing, toileting, or feeding. There are proper ways to preserve assets and qualify for Medicaid.

4. MEDICARE. Medicare is a federal health insurance program for people who are 65 or older or certain other people with disabilities. Medicare will cover skilled nursing facility care for the first 20 days. Medicare may pay for skilled nursing care for an additional 80 days with a costly coinsurance fee, and Medicare will not pay for skilled nursing care beyond 100 days. Medicare will not pay for custodial care in a nursing home. Skilled care is health care given when a patient needs skilled nursing or therapy staff to treat, manage, observe, and evaluate their care.

5. VETERANS BENEFITS. Veterans Aid and Attendance benefits may be available to offset the costs of long term care for wartime veterans or their surviving spouses who meet certain financial criteria.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

What is probate?

Probate is the legal procedure to administer and distribute an estate through a court-supervised process. The estate includes the deceased person’s property, including real estate, personal property and any other assets owned or controlled by the person who passed at the time of his or her death. Probate in Virginia typically includes recording the Will in the circuit court and having an Executor appointed to manage and distribute the estate according to the provisions in the Will. Probate also includes the administration of an intestate estate where the person who died did not have a Will and an Administrator is appointed by the Court. Sometimes, the probate process could include recording the Will without the appointment of a personal representative.

The Commissioner of Accounts is the person appointed by the Court to supervise the process of administering and distributing the assets of an estate in Virginia. The person administering the estate takes control of the decedent’s assets, pays the debts of the estate, reports to the court through the Commissioner of Accounts of the actions taken, and distributes the remaining assets according to the Will or intestate succession.