Thankful for the “Helpers”

In this season of Thanksgiving, it occurs to us that we regularly have the privilege of working with and knowing some pretty selfless and incredible “helpers” in our community.

Our clients are grandparents, aunts, uncles, moms, dads, and dear friends who care for vulnerable children, enable elders to remain in their homes, serve as legal guardians, and support people with disabilities (while still encouraging their autonomy.)

It’s very possible that YOU are one of these people.

If so, we want you to know that we see you. We are grateful for you.Your efforts are not invisible. They are, in fact, life-changing.

We are thankful for your hands that help.

Wishing you and yours a lovely and peaceful Thanksgiving…

Independence and Autonomy: Supported Decision-Making for People with Disabilities

Although we regularly assist families with adult guardianship proceedings, our first line of inquiry is always how we can best encourage the independence and autonomy of a person with a disability.

Supported Decision-Making (SDM) is a way that some people with disabilities (or any of us, really) can use available supports to make their own choices and direct their own lives.

In SDM, the person with a disability chooses a group of people (“supporters”) who help the person make decisions. The person with a disability, however, makes the final decision.

The relationship between the person and his or her supporters can be written in a Supported Decision-Making Agreement. The agreement can then be used to show other people (like schools, doctors, or service providers), who can be involved in the decision-making process. It also helps to make sure that the person’s supporters are all on the same page about how to best support them.

SDM can be used alone or even in the context of a guardianship, where another person is appointed by a court to help.

Questions about Supported Decision-Making or guardianships?

We can help.

A Word about Ethics and Elders

Are you a kinship caregiver providing care to a senior family  member or friend?

It’s normal for families to have a myriad of questions about issues such as long term care, estate/Medicaid planning and guardianship when they first enlist the services of an elder law attorney.

One important ethical consideration for families to understand is that elder law advocates must clearly set forth who the actual client is. Depending on the circumstances, the client may be the se­nior, the caregiver, or even both (the family).

This delineation is very important because it will inevitably affect the way that an attorney can interact with involved parties. Keep in mind that, under the vast majority of circumstances, an attorney can’t share information about his or her client with another party without the client’s (preferably written) permission to do so. That said, the attorney may still be able to accept information from you without providing information to you.

This can be a delicate proposition for parties on both ends of the phone, but we always do our best to respect a senior client’s right to client confidentiality and self-determination while recognizing that, as time passes, roles can change.

 

 

 

Talking about Health Care Choices Won’t Kill You-Changes to Indiana Medical Consent Laws

July 1st, 2018 marks the implementation of several common-sense changes that the Indiana Legislature recently made to Indiana’s medical consent statute (I.C. 16-36-1-1 et. seq.)

If a person becomes incapable of making their own health care choices and doesn’t have written advance directives in place, Indiana law now has the following “priority order” of people who can make these choices on an individual’s behalf:

  1. A judicially appointed guardian of the person
  2. Spouse
  3. Adult Child
  4. Parent
  5. Adult sibling
  6. Grandparent
  7. Adult grandchild
  8. Nearest relative in next degree of kinship who is not listed in sections 2-7
  9. Friend who:
    1. Is an adult;
    2. Has maintained regular contact with the individual and;
    3. Is familiar with the individual’s activities, health and religious or moral beliefs.
  10. The individual’s religious superior, if the individual is a member of a religious order

If there’s more than one member of a voting group, then they must try to reach a collaborative consensus.  If they can’t agree, then the majority rules.

The new law also specifies that the following people can’t make health care decisions:

  1. A spouse if the individual legally separated (or the spouse is the reason that the individual is hospitalized.)
  2. A person who is subjected to a protective order involving the individual
  3. A person who is subjected to pending criminal charges involving the individual
  4. A person the individual intentionally excluded when he or she signed advance directives

So, what practically happens when there is no advance directive and a person can’t consent to healthcare?  In that case, the person’s care providers are required to conduct a “reasonable inquiry” to determine who can consent.

The good news?  By naming a health care representative or a health care power of attorney, you can take charge of these choices yourself and decide who will speak for you if you can’t. We can help.

Good health is such a very precious thing. So eat your veggies, do some yoga, and be empowered!

Talking about health care choices won’t kill you.

 

 

Elder Mediation

Elder law attorneys regularly have a unique vantage point into the reality that, even the healthiest and most functional of family roles and relationships can become very complicated very quickly when an elder loved one starts needing additional care.

As needs and long-held roles within a family change, many of our clients benefit from learning new ways of coping with evolving relationships and new realities.

In many cases, elder mediation can be a helpful and empowering tool. Mediation provides an opportunity for the elder and all involved members of a family to participate in thoughtful and collaborative decision making. It can provide a valuable opportunity for family members to attack the issues at hand instead of each other.

Once the family has settled on a plan, then we can often help by drafting the documents needed to put that plan into action.

A core value of our practice is the dignity, autonomy, integrity, and protection of elders and their families. So give us a call if you have questions about elder mediation, supported decision making, or long term care planning on behalf of an elder loved one.

We can help.

Carefully Consider Your Gifts

Our clients are people of generosity.

They love to give (and receive) gifts during their lifetimes and they are committed to leaving legacies of generosity in the hearts of their families and in the bodies of their estate plans.

But beware- If you believe that you may need help paying for long term care in the future, then you should be extra mindful about gift-giving during your lifetime. Under federal Medicaid law, if you transfer certain assets within five years before applying for Medicaid, you will be ineligible for a period of time (called a transfer penalty), depending on how much money you transferred.

Gifts, loans, or charitable donations over a certain threshold can result in “penalizable transactions.”

If you’re an elder thinking about helping with tuition, loaning an adult child money for a down payment on a home, or giving other gifts, give us a call.

We can often walk you through different strategies that can reduce your risks while still accomplishing many of your generous goals.

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Home for the Holidays?

Planning travels to see family in the coming weeks?

In between cookie baking and movie marathons, many clients have shared that these visits are a good time to take stock of any changes in an elder loved one’s health, appearance, or environment.

If you notice changes during your visit, try to gently assess the circumstances while you’re together to determine if help is needed.

We’re here to serve as an elder law resource, but we’re also happy to serve as “connectors” to other community resources for your family.

Safe travels and warm wishes during your holiday season . . .

News/Community Involvement

As an extension of her law practice, Stasia regularly performs at musical events benefitting local organizations who support elders and individuals with special needs.

“Pam’s Party: A Joy’s House Open House” will be held on the evening of Thursday, July 27th @ 6:30pm at Joy’s House in Broad Ripple Village. It’s a celebration to honor caregivers and Guest/potential new Guests.

This open house is free to attend, but you may wish to bring cash for supper and activities, which will be available for purchase.

Hope to see you there!

 

The Wisdom of the Aged (and why we love what we do.)

One of the best things about elder law is that it gives us the opportunity to forge relationships (and learn valuable lessons) from some very wise elders.

While some of our conversations do center around planning for the eventuality of illness, death, or loss, an equal amount of time is often devoted to the legacies of love, connection, accomplishment, and meaning.

We learn so much in the process of helping.

We love this quote from this recent New York Times article:

” A paradox of old age is that older people have a greater sense of well-being than younger ones — not because they’re unreservedly blissful, but because they accept a mixture of happiness and sadness in their lives, and leverage this mixture when events come their way. They waste less time on anger, stress and worry.”

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Speaking of Grief . . .

Much of our practice is devoted to elder care planning, estate planning, probate, and guardianships.  This means that we are regularly invited into tender conversations about transitions, grief, and loss.

We are well-equipped to help with the legal implications that accompany these transitions.  But we are also grateful to be able to offer other resources to families.

Have you ever wondered what to say to a person who is grieving?

Therapist, Brooke Randolph, LMHC, recently shared this blog post with us, which offers some practical insights into ways that you can support a friend or loved one who is grieving.

No one is intended to navigate these types of hardships alone and, while a team of loved ones might provide emotional and spiritual support and nourishment, a thoughtfully assembled group of professionals can help too.

Showing up for a friend who is grieving is vitally important, even if you’re not quite sure what to say.

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