3 Types of Senior Legal Services Available to You
As you head toward age 65, the time may be right to think about getting your financial and health affairs in order. Do you know where to start? How can you prepare yourself and your children for the eventualities of old age? An elder law attorney can help you navigate through the legalities.
In 2018, 52 million U.S. citizens were 65 or older, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. By 2034, senior citizens will outnumber children under age 18 for the first time in U.S. history. For this reason, the country’s older population may increasingly use attorneys who specialize in elder law.
What Is Elder Law?
Elder law is a legal practice that specializes in issues that affect those reaching senior citizen status. Attorneys who practice elder law advocate for the rights of seniors by helping with matters that change as they get older.
This legal specialty encompasses a wide range of other areas of law, which include family law, tax law and estate law. Senior legal services provided by an elder law attorney may comprise:
- Long-term health care issues, such as nursing home and retirement communities
- Age and disability discrimination
- Retirement issues, such as survivor and pension benefits
- Grandparents’ rights
Other legal services involve help with health insurance, end-of-life care and nursing home abuse. These last three matters may be the most concerning to the aging population. As you get older, using an experienced elder law attorney can guide you through these confusing and sometimes stressful issues.
A knowledgeable attorney who specializes in senior legal services seeks to maintain your lifestyle as much as possible as you get older. Part of these legal services focuses on disability planning, including the use of living wills and powers of attorney.
Now may be the time to make preparations if you become unable to care for yourself. An attorney can help you fill out an Advance Health Care Directive. The advance directive is a legal document that goes into effect if you cannot speak for yourself because of a medical issue. It helps doctors and loved ones carry out your desires if you are terminally ill, seriously injured, in a coma or have dementia. Two elements of an advance directive include a living will and a power of attorney for health care.
- Living Will
A living will is a document that details the medical treatment you want and other preferences, such as pain medication and organ donation. Do you want the doctors to keep you alive by any means necessary? Those means can include:
- Cardiopulmonary resuscitation
- Mechanical ventilation
- Tube feeding
- Antibiotics, antiviral or pain medication
- Power of Attorney for Health Care
A power of attorney is another document to add to your advance directive. With this document, you name a person who you want to make medical decisions for you if you are unable. This is a big decision, so choose carefully. You want to trust that this person follows your wishes.
Each state has its own forms and requirements for creating an advance directive. Depending on where you live, you may need to have the document witnessed and notarized. To make sure the directive is correct and legal, speak with an experienced elder law attorney.
Figuring out the maze of future income and health insurance is both frustrating and scary. Do you need supplemental insurance in addition to Medicare? What if you are on disability and have little income? An attorney who specializes in elder law can look over your insurance options with you and explain the process.
Those who are 65, disabled or in end-stage renal disease qualify for Medicare. Whether you automatically get Medicare depends on your current situation.
- Depending on if you already receive Social Security benefits, then you will get Medicare Part A and Part B automatically and need not sign up.
- If you are not getting Social Security benefits, then you will need to sign up.
- If you continue working after 65, then you will need to apply. Depending on the size of your employer, you may be able to delay without having to pay a penalty when you enroll.
Medicaid is for individuals and families with low income. Federal law requires states to cover benefits such as nursing facilities, home health services and transportation to medical care. States can add optional benefits like prescription drugs, occupational and physical therapy, and respiratory care services.
You can qualify for both Medicare and Medicaid. If you have both, then most of your health care costs may get covered. You do have the option of getting a Medicare Supplemental Insurance plan that may help cover coinsurance, copayments or deductibles.
According to the National Council on Aging, about 1 in 10 Americans 60 years and older have experienced some form of elder abuse. Some research states that every year around 5 million seniors are the victims of abuse.
Elder abuse is the intentional act or failure to act that causes or creates a risk of harm to an older adult. Abusers may be a caregiver, family member, friend or any other person an elder trusts. In almost 60% of the cases, the abusers are family members.
The United States Department of Justice’s Elder Justice Initiative lists five types of abuse. These include:
- Physical abuse
- Financial fraud
- Scams and exploitation
- Caregiver neglect and abandonment
- Psychological abuse
- Sexual abuse
How To Report Elder Abuse
If there is an immediate threat of abuse, then dial 911. If you suspect a loved one or other older adult is a victim, then contact a local Adult Protective Services office or the police. You can also use the ElderCare Locator, a service of the U.S. Administration on Aging. Enter the ZIP code or city and state in the search bar at the top of the page. You can also call ElderCare Locator at (800) 677-1116.
Work With an Experienced Elder Law Attorney
Do you need someone to explain how social security works? Do you believe your loved one is the victim of nursing home abuse? You and your loved ones can get help to navigate the confusing legalities of elder law as well as all the legal services you need as a senior. Connect with an experienced elder law attorney who will give you the answers to your questions and will advocate for your rights as a senior citizen. Submit an online request or call us today at (866) 646-5559 to get in touch with an elder law attorney near you.