Q. I am a caregiver for my husband of 10 years, Frank, who is 75 and has dementia. As his dementia is worsening, bills are piling up and decisions about long-term care need to be made. I am feeling alone, exhausted, and overwhelmed, and could use some help from my husband’s two adult daughters from his previous marriage. So far, asking them for assistance has been difficult, to say the least. When I call them on the phone, I get a lot of advice but no solutions and no offers of help from either one of them. I even called a family meeting to discuss how to manage things, but no one showed up. Is what I am describing common, and what do you suggest I do?
A. Every year, nearly one million people over the age of 65 marry for the second time, and many become the primary caregivers when his or her spouse develops a geriatric disease or dementia. In many instances, as in your situation, when they reach out to the spouse’s children from the previous marriage they often find little help.
In your question, you didn’t mention the relationship your stepdaughters have with their father. Maybe your husband’s children are unwilling to help because they feel anger towards their father as a result of their parent’s divorce. Maybe your husband’s children blame you for their family pain, or disagree with decisions you have made concerning his care. Alternatively, maybe his children are simply focused on raising their own families and building their careers. Even if your husband’s children want to help, they are often limited in what help they can provide.
A recent study published in The Journal of Marriage and Family confirms that those who remarry later in life face some unique challenges when dealing with an ailing spouse. Researchers interviewed 61 women for the study and found cases where adult stepchildren refused to believe a diagnosis of dementia or refused to participate in decision-making about caregiving. Some women had had lawsuits filed against them by their husband’s adult stepchildren, claiming money was being misspent. Generally, these women felt that their stepfamilies created conflict or that their support was minimal or nonexistent.
Dr. Carey Wexler Sherman, one of the researchers who conducted the study, hopes that by shedding some light on the difficulties faced by these caregivers, professionals can help them come up with strategies to get the support they need. Having gained some insight into the spouse’s point of view, Dr. Sherman hopes to conduct a similar study from the stepchildren’s perspective.
The results were not completely stark, however, and there is hope for you and your stepdaughters. Fifteen women felt that their relationships with their stepfamilies were working. Some even framed the new reality with their husbands as a time of healing between their stepchildren and them, or between the father and his children. Relationships that were once strained between parent and child were often healed during this time of convalescence. The adult children are able to re-establish familial ties with their parent, while building a stronger relationship with their stepparent.
So, how can you get to a place with your stepdaughters where they are willing to step in and help?
The answer is that you need to find a way to come together and find common ground. It can be done, but sometimes it takes a great deal of effort on all sides. So, how do you reach those who are at arm’s length?
- Build the Bridge — Call on the phone and send a personal letter. As long as the topic is focused on their father, it may be possible to gain the communication and assistance of your stepdaughters, depending on the situation.
- Peaceful Discussions — Moving their father to a long-term care facility is a taxing prospect and each stepdaughter may have a varying opinion. Neutral third-parties, such as Certified Geriatric Care Managers and Certified Elder Law Attorneys can be especially effective in these cases, able to field concerns and emotional outbursts, to lay out all the details and help point to the most effective solution, both emotionally and financially. Hopefully you and your husband have already done Estate Planning so that your husband’s wishes are in place, and it’s very important to know whether you and your husband entered into a premarital contract before you got married, which is something that all people should consider when entering into a second or subsequent marriage.
An additional and equally important option for spouses experiencing these issues is to find positive emotional and practical support elsewhere: from friends, professionals, and their own loved ones. Persons with dementia and their families face special legal and financial needs. At The Fairfax and Fredericksburg Dementia Planning Law Firm of Evan H. Farr, P.C., we are dedicated to easing the financial and emotional burden on those suffering from dementia and their loved ones. If you have a loved one who is suffering from dementia, we can help you prepare for your future financial and long-term care needs. We help protect the family’s hard-earned assets while maintaining your loved one’s comfort, dignity, and quality of life by ensuring eligibility for critical government benefits. If you have a loved one, such as your husband, who is nearing the need for long-term care, and if you’re done with mediation, or if you’re a family everyone already gets along, please call The Fairfax and Fredericksburg Elder Law Firm of Evan H. Farr, P.C. at 703-691-1888 in Fairfax or 540-479-1435 to set up an appointment for a no-cost consultation.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only 35% of Americans over 65 are considered physically fit. Many people don’t realize the countless benefits of exercise, including how it helps: reduce the risk of many diseases; stave off depression; manage stress; and keep our minds sharp. In some instances, exercise can even lower the risk of falls and improve peace of mind, particularly for seniors with canes.
Relying on a cane was once considered a sign of an aging, weakened body. Today, some seniors are finding empowerment through their canes by using them for both exercise and self-defense, through a technique known as “Cane Fu.”
Cane Fu is a form of martial arts, that provides seniors who use canes with a way to exercise, gain better balance, and learn self-defense. At Cane Fu classes, seniors are taught to walk tall and not to look like victims. They’re taught to avoid conflict, but also to feel secure that they have a cane at their side.
Mark Shuey, who created Cane Fu, is a 65-year-old martial arts expert who is trained in all manners of fighting techniques. Ten years ago, he noticed his elderly father refusing to use his cane because of the stigma it created. Around that time, he learned that several elderly people near his brother’s house in Florida were robbed while carrying their canes. This inspired Shuey to invent his specialized martial arts program for seniors.
Today, there are more than 300 instructors around the world teaching Cane Fu. Not all Cane Fu students are senior citizens, but it’s still most popular among seniors.
According to Cane Fu veteran Barbara Fender, “This is an opportunity for us to be able to take care of ourselves. With the cane, I feel safe.”
At the Fairfax and Fredericksburg Elder Law Firm of Evan H. Farr, P.C. (www.VirginiaElderLaw.com), we are excited to share exercise techniques, such as Cane Fu, and how they promote good health, well-being, and peace of mind. Our firm is dedicated to helping protect seniors and individuals with special needs by preserving dignity, quality of life, and financial security. If you have not done Long-Term Care Planning, Estate Planning, or Incapacity Planning (or had your Planning documents reviewed in the past several years), or if you have a loved one who is nearing the need for long-term care or already receiving long-term care, call us at our Virginia Elder Law Fairfax office at 703-691-1888 or at our Virginia Elder Law Fredericksburg office at 540-479-1435 to make an appointment for a no-cost consultation.
Mary is a caregiver for her mother, Charlotte, who is in the early stages of dementia. She has seen her mother’s symptoms of forgetting who family members are, having difficulty communicating and remembering the right words to use, and becoming irrationally suspicious of those around her. She has witnessed her mother forgetting how to turn on the oven one day, and successfully roasting a turkey the next. Mary feels that if she could truly understand what is going on, she could be a better caregiver to her mother.
If a loved one has dementia, you may find certain symptoms frustrating, baffling, and sometimes frightening. But what is it like for a person to forget almost everything he or she ever knew? By asking experts – and people who are themselves in the early stages of dementia – we can get some idea. Here are some things that could help shed some light on dementia behavior:
• Memory loss, the essential dementia symptom, can be anxiety-provoking and frightening for those experiencing it. Whether the person is in the early stages of dementia and very aware of their problems, or in the middle stages, life can feel constantly uncomfortable because nothing is familiar anymore.
We’ve all experienced the frustration of losing our keys right after we had them in our hands. Imagine that frustration, magnified and repeated constantly throughout the day. Imagine a memory completely fading out and fading back at a later time (as in our example with Charlotte and her ability to turn on the oven and roast a turkey).
• Difficulty following conversations/loss of vocabulary: Mary Becklenberg, 62, who suffers from early dementia, describes how words drop out of her vocabulary, although she often covers it up well. “Sometimes, it really is easier to go along – to laugh and pretend that I know what a person is talking about,” says Becklenberg. “I guess you could say I’m doing it to save face.” As the dementia progresses, and these symptoms worsen, there often comes a point where those with dementia have difficulty articulating even basic needs. Often times, the best a caregiver can do in these situations is guess.
• Wandering: When a person has dementia, even the house he or she lived in for decades might suddenly become unfamiliar. Confused, he or she may wander to get out and search for a place that is recognizable and feels safe. “Sometimes people who wander from their homes say that they’re trying to go home,” says Beth Kallmyer, MSW, director of client services for the national office of the Alzheimer’s Association in Chicago.” It confuses caregivers, but the person might mean a different home – maybe the home he or she grew up in.” If you have a loved one with dementia who wanders, please read our article on new technology that can prevent you from losing your loved one.
In addition to the symptoms above, people with dementia often feel bored and depressed, experiencing a sense of loss and anxiety, knowing that they have an incurable, degenerative disease. They also may feel fear, anger, and at times, aggression, since even their closest family members seem like strangers to them. They may also feel paranoid at times, thinking completely irrational thoughts, such as someone stealing their wallet. Read more about dementia symptoms on the Alzheimer’s Association website.
Now that you have heard first hand from an expert and someone who has dementia, how can you truly walk in their shoes. The Virtual Dementia Tour® (VDT®) is an interactive learning experience designed to help those caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias to identify with and better understand some of the challenging behaviors someone with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias might demonstrate.
By walking in their shoes, albeit briefly, we can develop a sense of how we might feel and what might make us more comfortable if we were the ones with dementia.
Created by P.K. Beville, a specialist in geriatrics, this valuable, easy to follow experiential kit is designed to instill hope in professional and family caregivers, providing them with a tool to move from sympathy to empathy and better understand the behaviors and needs of their loved ones and patients. The VDT® has been used by 500,000 people worldwide, 25 universities, and 16 medical schools to stimulate dementia.
The VDT® can be taken by individuals, in a group, or in a community setting. From start to finish the tour can be completed in less than 30 minutes.
If taken in a community setting, this is what someone would experience:
• Prior to starting the tour, test administrators temporarily alter the participants’ physical, sensory and cognitive abilities with props and circumstances to simulate changes associated with aging and dementia.
• Participants are then given instructions to complete 5 simple tasks during their 10 minute tour while their behavior and responses are observed.
• After experiencing the tour, participants are encouraged to share their reactions to and their feelings about the tour during a debrief session.
• Finally, participants are given reference materials and ideas on what we can do to create a better environment for those we care for who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias.
Find out more about the Virtual Dementia Tour®.
Persons with dementia and their families face special legal and financial needs. At The Fairfax and Fredericksburg Dementia Planning Law Firm of Evan H. Farr, P.C., we are dedicated to easing the financial and emotional burden on those suffering from dementia and their loved ones. If you have a loved one who is suffering from dementia, we can help you prepare for your future financial and long-term care needs. We help protect the family’s hard-earned assets while maintaining your loved one’s comfort, dignity, and quality of life by ensuring eligibility for critical government benefits. If you have not done Long-Term Care Planning, Estate Planning or Incapacity Planning (or had your Planning documents reviewed in the past several years), or if you have a loved one, such as your mother-in-law, who is nearing the need for long-term care or already receiving long-term care, call us at 703-691-1888 in Fairfax or 540-479-1435 in Fredericksburg to make an appointment for a no-cost consultation.
Nearly 300,000 Veterans have been found to have brain injuries since 2000, according to the Department of Defense. If you are a Veteran living with traumatic brain injury (TBI) who also has Parkinson’s, dementia, depression, unprovoked seizures, or certain diseases of the hypothalamus and pituitary glands, you now have an easier path to receive additional disability pay under new regulations developed by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
The new regulations, printed in the Federal Register, say that if certain Veterans with service-connected TBI also have one of the five illnesses described above, then the second illness will also be considered as service-connected for the calculation of VA disability compensation.
Eligibility for expanded benefits will depend upon the severity of the TBI and the time between the injury causing the TBI and the onset of the second illness. However, Veterans can still file a claim to establish direct service-connection for these ailments even if they do not meet the time and severity standards in the new regulation.
“Any veteran who believes they may be affected by this new regulation should contact their local National Service Office as soon as possible,” said National Service Director Jim Marszalek. Veterans who have questions or who wish to file new disability claims may also use the eBenefits website, available at www.eBenefits.va.gov/ebenefits. Information about VA and DoD programs for brain injury and related research is available at www.dvbic.org.
Please also read our recent blog post for additional changes that are being made to VA benefits that affect Veterans who are in need of medically-related assistance with activities of daily living.
Evan H. Farr is an Accredited Attorney with the U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs who understands the Veterans Aid and Attendance Pension Benefit and the Medicaid program and the interaction between both benefit programs (please note that Mr. Farr does not work with clients seeking service-connected compensation). Mr. Farr works with clients to obtain the financial assistance to which they are entitled and enables veterans and their spouses afford the type of long-term care that they need, whether home care, adult day care, assisted living care, or nursing home care.
If you are a Veteran or spouse of a Veteran who served 90 days active duty, and at least one day during a period of wartime, and you need physical assistance with your activities of daily living, be sure to make an appointment ASAP for a no-cost consultation at the Fairfax and Fredericksburg Elder Law Firm of Evan H. Farr, P.C. We can work with you to evaluate if you qualify for the Veterans Aid and Attendance Pension Benefit and/or Medicaid (or if we can get you qualified) and we will handle the filing of all the tedious and technical paperwork. Call us at our Fairfax Virginia Elder Law office at 703-691-1888 or at our Fredericksburg Virginia Elder Law office at 540-479-1435 to make an appointment today.
An estimated 5.2 million Americans of all ages have Alzheimer’s disease. This includes an estimated 5 million people age 65 and older and approximately 200,000 individuals younger than age 65.
When Alzheimer’s disease touches someone close to you, it’s natural to want to honor or remember the person in a special way. Now, you can create an online Tribute page to celebrate your loved one with Alzheimer’s, while showing your support for the fight against the disease. A Tribute is a special Web page that enables you to share the story of a loved one with family and friends.
How can you set up a tribute?
- Visit the Alzheimer’s Association website and click on “Create Your Tribute.”
- Write a personal story, share memories, add a picture, create photo albums and ask others to do the same.
- E-mail family, friends and co-workers about your Tribute.
- You will have access to update your page, send e-mails and check the progress of your Tribute.
- You can even find others pages using a search function on the site.
Note: You can also create a Tribute as a personal fundraising page too.
People create tribute pages to be used for birthdays, anniversaries, and even memorial services, to honor a friend or family member living with the disease or someone who has lost their battle.
At the Fairfax and Fredericksburg Elder Law Firm of Evan H. Farr, P.C. (http://www.virginiaelderlaw.com), our firm is dedicated to helping protect seniors and individuals with Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia by preserving dignity, quality of life, and financial security. If you have not done Long-Term Care Planning, Estate Planning, or Incapacity Planning (or had your Planning documents reviewed in the past several years), or if you have a loved one who is nearing the need for long-term care or already receiving long-term care, call us at our Virginia Elder Law Fairfax office at 703-691-1888 or at our Virginia Elder Law Fredericksburg office at 540-479-1435 to make an appointment for a no-cost consultation.
Q. My 70 year old mother-in-law, Geraldine, is a lot like the character “Rose” from the 80’s sitcom, Golden Girls. Although she was always a kind and gentle person, she is becoming more and more naïve and trusting. You would never believe that just five years ago, she was a successful business owner who made sound decisions. Now my husband tells me the doctor thinks she is in the early stages of dementia. We are very concerned about her decision-making capabilities.
I was over at her apartment one day with my son, who was home from college, and she picked up a call on her cell phone from a telemarketer. Next thing I know, she was giving him her personal information. I signaled for her to stop and hang up. When she got off the phone, she told me that the caller was promising the “investment opportunity of a lifetime.”
She will be moving in with our family soon, but the calls may not stop, since many of them are on her cell phone. I might not always be around to stop her from giving her information out. How can I convince her, before it is too late, that calls such as the one we witnessed are most likely fraudulent?
A. Sadly, with the increasing proportion of aging baby boomers, such as your mother-in-law, criminals are under the impression that they have a wealth of potential victims. According to a survey on elder fraud from Investor Protection Trust, 20% of unsuspecting retirees become victims of financial fraud. The same study reveals that one in every five Americans over 65, or about 7.5 million people, has lost money through financial fraud.
As we age, our ability to discern the credible from the not-so-credible decreases. And retirees in the early stages of diseases like dementia or Alzheimer’s, such as your mother-in-law, are more prone to fall for illegitimate phone, mail, or email-based money-grabbing schemes.
As a rule of thumb, if it seems too good to be true, it’s probably a scam. With that in mind, since you can’t be around all the time, gently remind your mother-in-law not to sign up for sweepstakes, travel giveaways, or suspicious free gift offers. According to the National Consumers League fraud center, once the scam bait has been taken, her contact information may end up on a “suckers list,” where it’s collected and then sold to outside parties. From that time onward, she will likely find herself receiving a plethora of fake mailings and phone calls.
The following are some common scams that target seniors:
• Telemarketing or mail fraud: Dishonest scammers use the phone to sell seniors goods that either never arrive or are worthless junk. In addition, they often conduct investment and credit card fraud, lottery scams, and identity theft. Telemarketers take in an estimated $40 billion each year, bilking one in six American consumers. AARP claims that about 80% of them are 50 or older.
• Health Care/Medicare/Health Insurance Fraud: In these types of scams, perpetrators may pose as a Medicare representative to get older people to give them their personal information, or they will provide bogus services for elderly people at makeshift mobile clinics, then use the personal information they provide to bill Medicare and pocket the money.
• Grandparent Scam: Since she has at least one grandson in college, she should be aware of a frightening scam that comes as a call from someone pretending to be a family member needing money. The criminals often do intensive research on the potential victim’s family, so their story may sound credible. If this happens to her, tell her to ask the person if you can call them back later and immediately check the facts with your family. Suggest to your mother-in-law that she should NEVER give money to anyone without verifying their identity.
• Using Fraudulent Legal Documents: Many scammers cloak their actions in legal authority, procuring a power of attorney or will or other legal document giving them access to a senior’s property. They get seniors to sign these documents by lying, intimidation, or threatening of the seniors. To ensure that this does not happen, make sure that your documents are done in a safe and ethical manner by a Certified Elder Law Attorney, such as myself. Make her aware that any other estate planning or incapacity documents presented as hers are not authentic.
Of course, there are plenty of other scams out there, including phony charities asking for donations, advance-fee loans, fake checks and identity theft. Read the FBI Common Fraud Schemes Web page or the Better Business Bureau Scam Stopper Web page for more details and be sure to report any scams to the Better Business Bureau.
You mentioned that your mother in law was diagnosed with dementia. Persons with dementia and their families face special legal and financial needs. At The Fairfax and Fredericksburg Dementia Planning Law Firm of Evan H. Farr, P.C., we are dedicated to easing the financial and emotional burden on those suffering from dementia and their loved ones. If you have a loved one who is suffering from dementia, we can help you prepare for your future financial and long-term care needs. We help protect the family’s hard-earned assets while maintaining your loved one’s comfort, dignity, and quality of life by ensuring eligibility for critical government benefits. If you have not done Long-Term Care Planning, Estate Planning or Incapacity Planning (or had your Planning documents reviewed in the past several years), or if you have a loved one, such as your mother-in-law, who is nearing the need for long-term care or already receiving long-term care, call us at 703-691-1888 in Fairfax or 540-479-1435 in Fredericksburg to make an appointment for a no-cost consultation.
LGBT married couples can now celebrate another important victory in their fight for equal rights. The U.S. Justice department will soon grant them the same rights in legal matters as married heterosexual couples. These new guidelines are the latest effect of the Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage that struck down the Defense of Marriage Act in June of 2013.
What does this mean for LGBT couples? Under the new guidelines, LGBT couples will not be forced to testify in court against their spouse and will receive the same visitation rights as other married couples in prison. The Justice Department’s policy will also allow same-sex married couples to apply for federal programs such as the Sept. 11 fund to compensate victims of the terrorist attacks.
The Justice Department has already approved policy changes by other federal agencies to extend federal benefits to LGBT couples.
- Last summer, the Office of Personnel Management announced that federal employees in LGBT marriages could apply for health, dental, long-term care, life and retirement benefits.
- The Department of Health and Human Services said that legally married LGBT seniors on Medicare would be eligible for equal benefits and joint placement in nursing homes.
- The Social Security Administration will pay death benefits to survivors of a LGBT marriage.
- The Department of Homeland Security will treat LGBT spouses equally for the purposes of obtaining a green card if the spouse is a foreign national. And the IRS has begun treating same-sex marriages equally for tax-filing purposes.
While laws are changing to promote greater equality for LGBT seniors, whether you are gay or straight, if you haven’t done so, now is the time to get started with planning for your future and for your loved ones! We here at The Fairfax and Fredericksburg LGBT Law Firm of Evan H. Farr, P.C. have strategies in place to help LGBT couples. With advance planning, each person, regardless of sexual orientation, can retain the benefit of the money, income and assets it has taken a lifetime to accumulate. Learn more at http://www.LGBTelderlaw.com, or call us at our Virginia Elder Law Fairfax office at 703-691-1888 or at our Virginia Elder Law Fredericksburg office at 540-479-1435 to make an appointment for a no-cost consultation.
Every year, thousands of Medicare patients spend time in the hospital for “observation,” but are not officially admitted. Many Medicare recipients don’t realize that the time they spend in the hospital under “observation” status cannot be counted towards the 3-day inpatient hospital stay required for Medicare coverage. In these cases, Medicare will not cover any medications the hospital provides for pre-existing health problems. In addition, the biggest problem is often that any subsequent short-term rehabilitation services in a skilled-care facility are not covered if the patient was not formally admitted for at least 3 days.
Starting April 1, 2014, Medicare officials will start to enforce a new rule that will require doctors to admit patients they anticipate will stay longer than two nights. Those patients expected to stay for a shorter period of time will still be classified as “observation” patients.
The chance of being admitted varies depending on the hospital, the inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services has found. Medicare doesn’t require hospitals to tell patients if they are merely being observed, which is supposed to last no more than 48 hours to help the doctor decide if someone is sick enough to be admitted.
Medicare officials have urged hospital patients to find out if they’ve been officially admitted. Below are some suggestions regarding this matter:
- To increase the likelihood of being formally admitted, “get yourself in the door before midnight,” advised Dr. Ann Sheehy, division head of hospital medicine at the University of Wisconsin Hospital in Madison, Wisconsin.
- “I would talk to anyone who would listen to me,” said Terry Berthelot, a senior attorney at the Center for Medicare Advocacy, which offers a free self-help packet for observation patients. “Make as much noise as you can, because it’s much easier to change your status while you’re still in the hospital than to go through Medicare’s appeals process later.”
- Ask your regular physician to speak with the doctor treating you in the hospital about why you need to be admitted, based on your medical condition and risk factors.
If the situation isn’t resolved while you’re in the hospital and you require follow-up care at a skilled-care facility, you’ll have to pay the bill of often thousands of dollars, unless you file a successful appeal. The appeal process is long and arduous, and it requires beneficiaries to first receive and pay for the care — often an expensive proposition — before seeking reimbursement.
If you or a loved one is nearing the need for long-term care, in order to protect your family’s hard earned money and assets from these catastrophic costs, the best time to create your long-term care strategy is NOW. Generally, the earlier someone plans for long-term care needs, the better. But it is never too late to begin preparing. Even if you are already in a nursing home receiving long-term care, it is nottoo late to do Long-term Care Planning, also called Lifecare Planning and Medicaid Asset Protection Planning. To make an appointment for a no-cost consultation, please call the Fairfax and Frederickburg Medicaid Asset Protection Law Firm of Evan H. Farr, P.C. at 703-691-1888 in Fairfax or 540-479-1435 in Fredericksburg.
Q: My mother, Sally, 62, owns a home in Fairfax that is valued at $500,000 and the amount owed on her mortgage is still $300,000. When my mother retires in 3 years, the monthly mortgage payment will be unaffordable for her, but she would still like to remain in her home. She is considering refinancing her current conventional mortgage to turn it into a reverse mortgage, but I heard that some changes have recently gone into effect that may make reverse mortgages harder to get. Is this true? Also, my grandpa lost his house when he had to go into a nursing home several years ago due to Alzheimer’s. I understand now (from reading your website) that we could have protected grandpa’s house had we come to you. But now I’m concerned about my mom maybe getting Alzheimer’s and needing nursing home care. Would a reverse mortgage cause a problem with getting her eligible for Medicaid?
A. Many homeowners understandably want to remain in their homes as they age because they want to remain independent and because they have spent many years making their home everything they wanted it to be. Reverse mortgages have assisted many senior homeowners over the years to stay in their homes when their financial position changed.
A reverse mortgage is a loan for people age 62 or older. It provides money from the equity in your home through a line of credit, monthly payments or a lump sum. It does not require repayment of the loan until you move, sell the property, or pass away, and the homeowner is still responsible for property taxes and insurance. Reverse mortgages were initially developed as a tool to assist individuals to remain in their homes and communities as they grow older, by allowing homeowners to tap their equity without selling their homes. As you mentioned, however, the rules about reverse mortgages recently changed, making them harder to obtain.
In August of 2013, the President signed HR 2167 – “The Reverse Mortgage Stabilization Act of 2013” – giving the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) the authority to make necessary changes to the reverse mortgage program. According to the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the changes “reduce their risk and make the program easier for seniors to use responsibly.” For the homeowner, the changes will make it harder to qualify for a reverse mortgage, but will provide additional protections.
Until now, getting a reverse mortgage loan required no credit history and no minimum income requirement. Due to problems with homeowners failing to maintain their property tax and home insurance payments, starting on January 13, 2014, the FHA began requiring lenders to verify that homeowners have the ability to pay their taxes and insurance and that their credit history demonstrates a commitment to paying obligations.
To qualify for a reverse mortgage, lenders now must analyze all income sources — including pensions, Social Security, IRAs and 401(k) plans — as well as credit history. They also look closely at how much money is left over after paying typical living expenses.
If a lender determines that you are not be able to keep up with property taxes and hazard insurance payments, they are now authorized to set-aside a certain amount of funds from your loan to pay future charges. The amount of the set-aside is based on the life expectancy of the youngest borrower. If set-aside funds run out, you must continue paying property charges using whatever funds are at your disposal.
If a lender determines that you have sufficient income left over, then you don’t have to worry about having any funds set-aside to pay for future tax and insurance payments.
These changes, along with the reduced benefits adopted in September of 2013, mean that many seniors will not qualify for a reverse mortgage to make their homes affordable.
Why the new rules? Some seniors who obtained reverse mortgages with rather harsh terms found they were unable to either live off the loan for long or pay it back entirely. The FHA’s changes to its reverse mortgage program sets out to encourage homeowners to tap their home’s equity slowly and steadily. “What regulators are trying to do is shift behavior so that people are more thoughtful and methodical about how they draw the money,” says Peter H. Bell, president of the National Reverse Mortgage Lenders Association. “The changes are intended to put the program back on track and encourage people to take what they need and no more.”
You also asked if a reverse mortgage might affect Medicaid eligibility for your mother. The answer is no. Keeping money in a reverse mortgage line of credit in Virginia, and in most other states, will not count as a resource for Medicaid eligibility purposes so long as the house itself is an exempt resource, which it would be for your mother so long as she is living in the home and receiving home-based Medicaid services. However, transferring money from the reverse mortgage line of credit to a bank account and leaving it there past the end of the month would convert the exempt home equity into a countable resource and that would make her lose her Medicaid eligibility. This important distinction between countable resources and exempt assets is not a simple black and white issue — if you or your loved one is facing the possible need for long-term care, you should get an opinion from a Certified Elder Law Attorney, such as myself. To make an appointment for a no-cost consultation, please call the Fairfax and Frederickburg Medicaid Asset Protection Law Firm of Evan H. Farr, P.C. at 703-691-1888 in Fairfax or 540-479-1435 in Fredericksburg.
Parkinson’s disease is a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system that impairs motor skills and speech. In its advanced stages, sufferers could become disabled, with problems feeding themselves, talking, and walking. Nearly 1.5 million Americans live with Parkinson’s disease (PD), and there is no cure.
In a recent study published in Neurology Magazine, researchers found that a number of common pesticides could increase the risk of Parkinson’s disease measurably. The study showed that the odds of developing the condition are two to five times higher for people who are exposed to certain pesticides and who are “genetically vulnerable,” meaning individuals who possess a certain genetic variant.
For the study, researchers examined 360 people with Parkinson’s and 816 people without the disease, all from three rural California counties. The researchers measured the people’s exposure to pesticides at home and at work, and identified 11 pesticides that seemed to increase risk of Parkinson’s, all of which are used in farming.
Some of the findings were as follows:
- Certain pesticides seemed to increase risk of Parkinson’s more than others; for instance, the pesticide benomyl increased Parkinson’s risk 65 percent, while the pesticide dieldrin raised risk six times.
- The more pesticides a person was exposed to, the higher the risk of developing Parkinson’s — people had a 3.5 times higher risk of developing the condition if they were exposed to at least three of the pesticides at home and work.
“We were very surprised that so many pesticides [seemed to increase risk of Parkinson's] and at quite low concentrations, concentrations that were way below what was needed for the pesticides to do their job,” study author Dr. Jeff Bronstein, a professor of neurology and director of the Movement Disorders Program at UCLA, said in a statement. “These pesticides are pretty ubiquitous, and can be found on our food supply and are used in parks and golf courses and in pest control inside our buildings and homes.”
Studies such as this one and another about Alzheimer’s and DDT confirm the dangers of pesticides and hopefully will help give researchers more insight into treatments for people who develop diseases from these dangerous chemicals.
Are you or a loved one suffering from Parkinson’s Disease? At The Fairfax and Fredericksburg Elder Care Firm of Evan H. Farr, P.C., we are dedicated to easing the financial and emotional burden on those suffering from Parkinson’s Disease and their loved ones. We can help you prepare for your future financial and long-term care needs. We help protect your hard-earned assets while maintaining your comfort, dignity, and quality of life by ensuring your eligibility for critical government benefits. Please call us at 703-691-1888 in Fairfax or 540-479-1435 in Fredericksburg to make an appointment for a no-cost consultation.