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.

Monday, June 1, 2015

What are the Duties of an Agent under an Advance Medical Directive?

When a person names an agent under an Advance Medical Directive it is important that they discuss their religious values, beliefs or preferences related to their medical care with their agent. Remember that an agent only has authority to act on behalf of a patient when it is determined that the patient is incapable of making an informed decision.

When an agent acts on behalf of the patient, the agent has the duty to base the agent’s decisions on the beliefs, values, and preferences of the patient, to the extent possible. That’s why having that conversation with the agent prior to your incapacity is beneficial. If the beliefs, values and preferences of the patient are unknown, the agent has the duty to make a decision in the patient’s best interests.

The agent has the responsibility to determine the risks and benefits of and any alternatives to any proposed health care. Furthermore, the agent cannot refuse or fail to honor the person’s wishes for anatomical gifts or organ, tissue or eye donation. Having the conversation with your agent about your religious values, beliefs or preferences is difficult, but knowing that your agent will act upon your preferences when you can’t act for itself will make the conversation worth it.

Written by Heather W. Winter, Esquire

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

How Do I Use a Power of Attorney for Mom or Dad?

You or your parent should give a notarized copy of the power of attorney to each bank or financial institution where mom or dad wants you to have authority. It is possible that if mom or dad wants you to have access to their accounts, the bank or financial institution may require them to sign their own authorization form and a signature card for you as their agent. Checking with the banks and financial institutions about their requirements before mom or dad’s health declines will help to avoid future difficulty in using the power of attorney.

When you sign as an agent on your parent’s behalf, it should always be clear that you are signing as the agent. The signature should look similar to this:

__________ (Your parent’s name) by __________(Agent's name), agent for _________(Your parent’s name).

This signature or something similar indicating you are acting as an agent is preferable because it will be clear that you are signing on your parent’s behalf only and you will not be liable for the transaction.
Written by Heather W. Winter, Esquire


Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Caring for Mom & Dad

Americans are living much longer lives and considerable growth is expected in the older population (aged 65 years and older). In 2012, the estimated population of older people was 43.1 million. The population aged 65 years and over is projected to almost double by 2050 to 83.7 million people. As Americans age, many older people will need assistance with activities of daily living such as bathing, dressing, eating, toileting and/or medical tasks. Today, family members are providing much of the care for their parents. This Thursday, May 7, 2015, PBS is airing a new hour-long documentary called “Caring for Mom & Dad,” narrated by Meryl Streep. The documentary explores the emotional, health and financial challenges that many caretakers experience on a daily basis. The special follows eight families as they struggle with these issues and offers solutions and tips to other families who may experience caregiving in their future. Check your local listings to see when PBS will be airing the documentary in your location. 

Written by Heather W. Winter, Esquire