Thursday, March 28, 2013

When a Grandparent has Alzheimer's: How to Explain Alzheimer's to Your Child

There really is no easy way to explain to your children how a patient with Alzheimer's acts. With your help, your children can begin to understand what's happening, and even play a role in maintaining the grandparent’s quality of life.

You can simply explain to your children that when people get older, they sometimes need help, because they can't get around very well, they get tired, and sometimes they get forgetful.

Having a grandparent with Alzheimer’s can be a difficult time for you and your child. Depending on how close the relationship between child and grandparent is, the child may feel saddened and may even feel a sense of loss or grief over seeing grandma or grandpa with such a devastating illness. Below are some ideas for what you can do to help:
  • Take the child to visit grandma or grandpa. For so long as your parent recognizes his or her family members, a visit with a grandchild can be one of the most rewarding times for someone with Alzheimer’s.  Don't overload your child or the grandparent. Limit your time for each visit; sometimes grandparents get tired more quickly than children.
  • Get your child to participate in the care giving. Getting grandma a glass of water or telling grandpa a story are all small things that will help both the child and the grandparent in a big way.
  • Be honest with your child. It's fine to tell them that the brain isn't functioning properly and that's why grandma or grandpa forgets. They don't require medical terms, statistics or treatments and procedures. Keep your answers short and simple.
Do you have a loved one who is suffering from Alzheimer’s? Persons with Alzheimer’s and their families face special legal and financial needs. At The Fairfax Elder Law Firm of Evan H. Farr, P.C. we are dedicated to easing the financial and emotional burden on those suffering from dementias such as Alzheimer’s, and their loved ones. If you have a loved one who is suffering from Alzheimer’s or any other type of 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. Call us today at 703-691-1888 to make an appointment for an initial no-cost consultation.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Medicaid Eligibility- What You Can and Can’t Keep

In order to begin to understand Medicaid eligibility, you first need to understand how Medicaid will treat your assets.

When you apply for Medicaid benefits, your assets are placed into two categories: “exempt” and “non-exempt” assets. “Exempt” assets are those that the applicant is permitted to retain and still become eligible for Medicaid.  However, “non-exempt” assets will be counted as available to you and they will have to be “spent down,” or otherwise legally protected, before you will qualify for Medicaid.
In most instances the following assets are exempt:
  • Your home, as long as it is the principal place of residence for the applicant, his or her spouse, or a dependent child;
  • Household and personal belongings, such as furniture and appliances, clothing and personal effects, wedding and/or engagements rings
  • One automobile per household;
  •  Tools of a trade or occupation, and farm supplies, livestock and similar items in some restricted instances;
  • Term life insurance policies and group policies that have no cash surrender value;
  • A prepaid funeral and burial plan, if irrevocable;
  • A very limited amount of otherwise non-exempt assets, which most people choose to keep as money in a bank account. The applicant is allowed to keep resources up to a cash value of not greater than $2,000 in Virginia ($3,000 for a married couple where both spouses are applying for Medicaid). 
Non-exempt “countable” assets that will be counted against you in determining eligibility for Medicaid include just about everything else that you own, such as checking accounts, savings accounts, retirement accounts, certificates of deposit, money market accounts, stocks, mutual funds, boats, recreational vehicles, and more. While there are some minor exceptions to these rules, for the most part, all money and property, as well as any item that can be valued and turned into cash, is a countable asset.
Life Care Planning and Medicaid Asset Protection is the process of protecting “non-exempt” assets from having to be spent down in connection with entry into a nursing home, while also helping ensure that you or your loved one get the best possible care and maintain the highest possible quality of life, whether at home, in an assisted living facility, or in a nursing home. Do you have a loved one who is in a nursing home or nearing the need for nursing home care? Or are you simply looking to plan ahead in the event nursing home care is needed in the future? Call The Fairfax Elder Law Firm of Evan H. Farr, P.C. today at 703-691-1888 to make an appointment for a no-cost consultation.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Pet Trusts: Ensuring Your Pet is in Good Hands

The U.S. Census Bureau estimates 22% of the nation’s dogs and 25% of the cats live in a single-person household. If these people have no spouse or children, what will happen to their pets when they become incapacitated or pass away?

Until around 10 years ago, pet owners had no formal legal way to leave behind money to care for their animals. According to Kara Holmquist of the SPCA, “too many animals are landing in shelters after the owners have died”. “On any given day,” she said, “there are animals in shelters whose owners have passed away or become incapacitated. That’s unnecessary, especially if the owner had the means to provide for the pet’s care because it means the shelter space is not available for another homeless animal.
Unlike a Will, which has to wind through the nightmare of probate, a Pet Trust should be created along with your living trust and should be designed to take effect immediately upon your death so that your beloved companion does not have to linger in a shelter while the courts cut through paperwork. Most pet owners opt to leave pets to family or a close friend. The main value of the pet trust is the fact it’s legally enforceable. If your designated caretaker does not live up to obligations, the courts can step in.
The most famous Pet Trust may belong to Trouble Helmsley, the late Leona Helmsley’s Maltese and the dog that grabbed headlines when a judge slashed her trust fund from $12 million to $2 million. Recent laws won’t prevent the judge from curbing the pet trusts’ dollar amounts if the amount seems “excessive.”
To get started, you should meet with a Certified Elder Law Attorney, such as Evan H. Farr, CELA. After finding out more information, you can decide if the trust makes financial sense for you and your family. Then, you can work with The Fairfax Elder Law Firm of Evan H. Farr, P.C. to include all of your pet’s needs and your wishes for your pet, and name a caretaker and a trust administrator for when the inevitable happens.
Please call 703-691-1888 to make an appointment for a no-cost consultation. While you are in the office, be sure to visit with all of the animals who live here, including Saki and Alley (our Siamese cats), Big Red (our betta fish), and Commander Bun Bun (our lop-eared love bunny) and be sure to read our “Critter Corner” column in our Friday “Ask the Expert” newsletter each week.  If you don't get our newsletter and would like to, sign up here.

Monday, March 25, 2013

How to Plan for Your Special Needs Child

Twenty million American families have at least one member with special needs.  Special needs individuals typically require assistance for disabilities that may be medical, mental, or psychological, and for impairments that could include autism, Down syndrome, mental illnesses, and blindness, among others.

During his or her lifetime, your special needs child may depend on government benefits such as Medicaid or SSI to pay for vital health care and subsidized services.  What if your daughter outlives you and cannot support herself and live independently?  If you were gone and your son was forced to deplete his inheritance, he could be left with the bare minimum provided by government assistance, and no more.

As a parent or guardian, you want to ensure that your child with special needs will remain financially secure even when you are no longer there to provide support. A Special Needs Trust is a vehicle that provides assets from which a disabled person can maintain his or her quality of life, while still remaining eligible for needs-based programs that will cover basic health and living expenses.  No one can replace the nurturing, love, and support that you provide to your child on a daily basis. However, the idea behind a Special Needs Trust is to help fill the financial gap after you’re gone, allowing your child to keep his or her government benefits while enjoying a quality of life similar to the one your child current enjoys.

Do you have a special needs child? The majority of American families who have a loved one with special needs require legal planning to ensure that the needs of their special needs family member are met.  Regardless of the type of disability, The Fairfax Elder Law Firm of Evan H. Farr, P.C. will work with your family to determine legal options for individuals and families of children and adults with special needs to plan for the future.  Learn more about the services we provide on our Special Needs Planning Website at We also invite you to call 703-691-1888 to make an appointment for a no-cost consultation to learn more about special needs planning.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Does your family know your Advance Medical Directives exist (and where to find them)?

Incapacity Planning documents, including a Financial Power of Attorney and Advance Medical Directive, only do what you want them to do if your loved ones know they exist and can locate them when needed.

What if you don’t want to be hooked up to machines or be subjected to other medical heroics when you are in an end-stage medical condition?  If your loved ones or medical professionals cannot find your Advance Directive, the burden is on your loved ones to decide whether or not to begin or continue life support.
At The Fairfax Elder Law Firm of Evan H. Farr, P.C., we offer a service called DocuBank to ensure that that the documents you've completed will be there when you need them most, such as when you are hospitalized.  DocuBank is an electronic storage and access service for healthcare directives.  DocuBank stores all of your Advance Medical Directives, including your Living Will, Health Care Power of Attorney, HIPAA Release, Organ Donor Form, Funeral Arrangements, and All Other Advance Directives, so they are available whenever you need them.

Every adult over the age of 18 should have an Incapacity Plan that includes a Financial Power of Attorney, an Advance Medical Directive, and an Advance Care Plan. If you don’t have an Incapacity Plan in place, now is the time to get started.  Call us today at 703-691-1888 to set up an appointment for a no-cost consultation. 

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Studies show link between Diabetes and Alzheimer’s

In a recent study in Sweden, diabetes in mid-life was found to be associated with an increased risk of developing Alzheimer's in later life. The study tested more than 2,000 men for blood glucose levels at age 50 and then tested them again 30 years later. Those with insulin problems at age 50 were nearly 1.5 times more likely to develop Alzheimer's.

Another study that was conducted last month in Japan had similar findings. More than 1000 men and women above the age of 60 participated in the new study. Researchers found that older people with diabetes were twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s and 1.75 times more likely to develop dementia of any kind.

CNN reports that scientists aren’t exactly sure why diabetes increases the risk of Alzheimer’s, but they have a few ideas. High blood sugar and high cholesterol can harden and narrow the arteries in the brain. This can kill brain tissue, cause strokes, and bring about vascular dementia. Insulin resistance may also hinder the body from breaking down a protein which forms brain plaques that cause Alzheimer’s.

Although more research needs to be conducted to further clarify the relationship between diabetes and Alzheimer's, it seems clear that preventing or controlling diabetes could be very good for your brain. Keeping blood sugar levels in check can lessen or possibly stave off even normal age-related cognitive decline in those that have diabetes and those who do not.

How does one go about reducing the risk for diabetes? A healthy diet and plenty of exercise are essential components of a diabetes prevention or management program -- two lifestyle factors that have also been shown to be good for the brain.

Do you or a loved one suffer from Alzheimer’s or dementia? Evan H. Farr is a Certified Elder Law Attorney with a focus on the financial and legal issues surrounding Alzheimer’s disease. At the Fairfax Elder Law Firm of Evan H. Farr, our Alzheimer’s Planning Team provides life-long guidance, management, and oversight on vital issues such as medical and nursing care, housing opt