Caring Attorney Helping Austin Families Take Care of their Elderly Loved Ones

Statistics from recent reports show that the population age 65 and older has increased by 80% between 1975 and 2010. Those over 85 have tripled in that span of time. It is estimated that by 2050, one-fifth of the U.S. population will be age 65 and older, a 12% increase from 2000. With an increasingly older population comes legal and social issues affecting the elderly, their children, and close family members.

In this article, we will discuss various legal issues that affect the elderly. Austin probate lawyer Farren Sheehan can help prepare an estate plan and assist the family with common issues encountered when caring for elderly parents, such as guardianships and long-term care planning.

Common Legal Issues Affecting the Elderly

Seniors tend to have questions about end-of-life decisions and estate planning. Many elderly people will seek legal guidance from probate and elder law attorneys for help with estate planning documents. Typical legal estate-planning documents may include a:

  • Will
  • Statutory Durable Power of Attorney
  • Medical Power of Attorney
  • Advance Directive or Living Will

Sometimes, an elderly person has not planned ahead. In the event the elderly individual becomes incompetent and unable to make decisions for himself, someone will need to step in and make those decisions for him. In situations where the senior has not named surrogate agents to make healthcare or financial decisions for him in Powers of Attorney, the family may need the assistance of a probate attorney to set up a guardianship.

Guardianships are legal proceedings where a court designates a person to make decisions for an incapacitated individual, and oversees the actions. A guardian may be appointed to act on behalf of the person or the person’s estate or both. Guardianships can be expensive and time-consuming because the court is actively involved in the findings and services authorized by the guardian on the ward’s behalf.

Healthcare for the Elderly

The expectation is that the growth in elderly will bring a surge in people with functional and cognitive challenges. Functional limitations are the inability to perform daily activities such as bathing, dressing, eating, preparing meals, and paying bills. Cognitive limitations include loss of mental capability that restricts a person to act independently. The Congressional and Budget Office (CBO) reports that approximately one-third of people age 65 and older and two-thirds of people over 85 have functional limitations.

The burden of caring for the elderly population typically falls on their children. Healthcare for the elderly is one of the largest concerns. The CBO report studying trends in costs for the elderly found that more elderly are using home and community-based service options, privately paid and Medicaid-funded. Such options include residential care facilities, community-based housing, and at-home care provided by family. Use of community options is particularly prevalent for people 85 and older.

The report found that more than half of the care given to the aging population is donated or informal care. This is care by family members and friends at home at their own expense, often provided by children and spouses.

Medicaid Nursing Home Care for the Elderly

Many seniors reach the point where they need long-term care in a nursing facility. Some have long-term care insurance or can privately pay, but often the cost of care exceeds their personal savings. The Medicaid program is a safety net health care payer for people who have exhausted their life savings. The largest Medicaid cost for the older population is for nursing home care. Over half of Medicaid expenditures for aged beneficiaries (55%) go towards paying for nursing home care.

Medicaid is a means-tested, federal-state, individual entitlement program, with extensive financial and non-financial rules for determining eligibility. The Medicaid program’s emphasis is on helping certain categories of low-income individuals. Therefore, the eligibility tests tend to focus on income and resource (asset) levels.

Medicaid is a very complicated area of the law. There is a wide range of statutes, rules, and regulations that govern the Medicaid program. Because Medicaid is not a uniform federal program like Medicare, there are substantial variations in eligibility policy from state to state. Also, the federal laws are combined with each state’s laws resulting in rules that are different in each state. These laws and rules change over time, and a state governmental agency oversees the administration of the program, ensuring that the specific state rules are followed.

Contact Austin, TX Sheehan Law, PLLC

The elder law attorneys at Sheehan Law, PLLC are experienced in the maze of federal and state laws and regulations, which allows them to help their clients become eligible for Medicaid assistance to pay for long-term care costs. Contact our offices for the legal assistance you need in caring for your elderly parents.