Elder Abuse Continues as a Billion-dollar Problem

Elder abuse continues to be a problem for seniors, but individuals can take steps to protect themselves in their estate plans and finances.

Aging baby boomers are a giant target for scammers. A report issued last year from a federal agency, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau highlighted the growth in banks and brokerage firms that reported suspicious activity in elderly clients’ accounts. The monthly filing of suspicious activity reports tied to elder financial exploitation increased four times from 2013 through 2017, according to a recent article from the Rome-News Tribune titled “Financial abuse steals billions from seniors each year.”

When the victim knew the other person, a family member or an acquaintance, the average loss was around $50,000. When the victim did not have a personal relationship with their scammer, the average loss was around $17,000.  See this recent blog for more background.  https://www.galliganmanning.com/elder-financial-abuse-is-increasing/

What can you do to protect yourself, now and in the future, from becoming a victim? There are many ways to build a defense that will make it less likely that you or a loved one will become a victim of these scams.

First, don’t put off taking steps to protect yourself, while you are relatively young. Putting safeguards into place now can make you less vulnerable in the future. If you are suffer bad health and lack of capacity later, it may be too late.

Create a durable power of attorney as part of your estate plan. The power of attorney names a trusted person you name as your legal representative or agent, who can manage your financial affairs if need be.  You should also consider using a trust which owns assets during your lifetime.  While it is true that family members are often the ones who commit financial elder abuse, you’ll need to put your trust in someone. Usually this is an adult child or a relative. You may also consider a bank as a trustee.  They will charge for their services, but their professionalism makes a bank an excellent choice.

It may also help to bring your agent, trustee and other loved ones into the discussion about assisting with your finances well before incapacity and be open with them about what you want your fiduciaries to do.  Of course, many people are hesitant to discuss finances openly, but as Justice Brandeis remarked over a hundred years ago, “Sunshine is said to be the best of disinfectants.”  Having multiple people aware of what is happening and what your fiduciaries are doing may prevent one bad actor from attempting or getting away with elder abuse.

Consider the guaranteed income approach to retirement planning. Figuring out how to generate a steady stream of income as you face the cognitive declines that occur in later years might be a challenge. Planning for this in advance will be better.  Social Security is one of the most valuable sources of guaranteed income. If you will receive a pension, try not to do a lump sum payout with the intent to invest the money on your own. That lump sum makes you a rich target for scammers.

Consider rolling over 401(k) accounts into Roth accounts, or simply into one account. If you have one or more workplace retirement plans, consolidating them will make it easier for you or your representative to manage investments and required minimum distributions.

Make sure that you have an estate plan in place, or that your estate plan is current. Over time, families grow and change, financial situations change and the intentions you had ten, twenty or even thirty years ago, may not be the same as they are today. An experienced estate planning attorney can ensure that your wishes today are followed, through the use of a will, trust and other estate planning strategies.

Resource: Rome News-Tribune (April 27, 2020) “Financial abuse steals billions from seniors each year.”

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Does Medicare Cover COVID-19-related Medical Expenses?

Seniors need to know what Covid-19 related expenses are covered by Medicare.
Seniors need to know what Covid-19 related expenses are covered by Medicare.

Knowing the way in which Medicare is offering coverage for COVID-19 can help seniors protect their health and their finances at the same time.

Motley Fool’s recent article entitled “How Will Medicare Cover COVID-19? Your Top Questions Answered” answered some common questions seniors have about the COVID-19 pandemic.

Will Medicare cover COVID-19 testing? The testing for the coronavirus can be difficult to obtain, depending on where you live. However, the good news is that Medicare Part B will pay for this. In addition, Medicare Advantage plans must also cover COVID-19 testing.

How much must Medicare enrollees pay to get tested? While COVID-19 testing may be a stressful process, if you’re on Medicare, you won’t pay to get the results. There’s no cost for your actual test and no co-pay for seeing a doctor who can order one.

Does Medicare pay for COVID-19 treatment? There’s no standard treatment for the coronavirus, but some patients with severe symptoms are being hospitalized. Medicare Part A will usually cover inpatient hospital treatment. As a result, if you’re admitted because of COVID-19, you’ll have your normal deductible under Part A ($1,408 per benefit period). Note that coinsurance won’t kick in during your first 60 days of consecutive hospital care, but beyond that, you’ll pay $352 per day until you reach the 90-day point in the hospital. If you have supplemental insurance, your Medigap plan may cover the cost of some of the out-of-pocket costs you have for getting hospital treatment.

Does Medicare cover a COVID-19 vaccine when it’s available? While a vaccine is at least a year out, if one becomes available, it will be covered by Medicare Part B and you won’t have a copay for it.

Will Medicare cover mental health services? Many seniors are having a hard time coping with the pandemic and its effects. Some are feeling isolated in their homes, and others are feeling anxious. Medicare does cover mental health services, and you may be able to meet with a professional remotely via telemedicine. Generally, you will be subject to your Part B deductible, plus 20% coinsurance. Seniors who are struggling with mental health issues can also call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s Disaster Distress Helpline at 1-800-985-5990.

The COVID-19 crisis has been especially tough on seniors.

Knowing what to expect from Medicare could make a this a little easier.

If you’re interested in the CDC’s recommendation for Care Plans for older adults, see https://www.galliganmanning.com/covid19-update-cdc-recommends-care-plans-for-both-older-adults-and-caregivers/

Motley Fool (April 30, 2020) “How Will Medicare Cover COVID-19? Your Top Questions Answered”

 

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The Symptoms of Early-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease

Here are 7 key symptoms of early-onset Alzheimer’s Disease.

Many people face cognitive challenges as they age, such as memory loss.  Some suffer from dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, and some even have early-onset Alzheimer’s.  Considerable’s recent article entitled “7 surprising early signs of Alzheimer’s” provides us with some signs of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.

Theft or other law-breaking. Any behavioral change as people age is of concern, but this can be a sign of Frontotemporal Dementia (FTD), another progressively damaging, age-related brain disorder. FTD usually hits adults aged 45-65. People’s executive function—their ability to make decisions—can be impacted by FTD, which may explain why they become unable to discern right from wrong.  I have had clients in the past discover this condition after an arrest or fine lead to a medical exam.

Frequent falls. A study of 125 older adults asked them to record how frequently in an eight-month period that they fell or tripped. Researchers examined the brain scans of those who fell most frequently and saw a correlation between falls and early-onset Alzheimer’s Disease.

Forgetting an object’s function. We all forget where we put the keys. However, if you can’t remember what a key is for, or where dirty dishes are supposed to go, then it may be the first signs of Alzheimer’s Disease or dementia.

Inappropriate diet. Prior to the onset of Alzheimer’s, patients typically to eat more (roughly 500 calories more a day) than their aging counterparts but they still tend to lose weight. Doctors think this is a metabolic change. Some elderly actually eat inanimate objects prior to their diagnosis, but researchers don’t know the reason. Because Alzheimer’s and dementia affect the brain’s memory, it may be because their brain receives hunger signals but is unable to discern how to react to them. Some patients eat paper or other inedible objects.

Inability to recognize sarcasm. If you fail to recognize sarcasm or take it very literally and seriously, it may be a sign of atrophy in your brain. A study at the University of California – San Francisco found that Alzheimer’s patients and those with Frontotemporal Disease were among those who couldn’t recognize sarcasm in face-to-face encounters. The brain’s posterior hippocampus is impacted, which is where short-term memory is stored and where a person sorts out such things, like sarcasm.

Depression. If someone has never suffered from clinical depression but develops it after age 50, it could be an early sign of Alzheimer’s. It doesn’t mean if you’re diagnosed with depression in older age that you will develop Alzheimer’s or other cognitive decline. However, get treatment soon because some researchers believe that hormones released in the depressed brain may damage certain areas of it, leading to the development of Alzheimer’s or other dementia.

Unfocused Staring. Alzheimer’s Disease is a change in cognitive and executive functioning in the brain. This means that your ability to recall facts, memories and information is compromised, as well as the ability to make decisions. The brain becomes unfocused and staring in a detached way may be an early sign of so-called “tangles” in your brain.

If you are interest in this topic, I also wrote a blog on early onset dementia more generally which you can find here.  https://www.galliganmanning.com/what-do-we-know-about-early-onset-dementia/

These symptoms may be signs of early-onset Alzheimer’s Disease, or they may be the signs of other underlying issues. If you or any of your loved ones have any of these signs, consult your doctor.  This may be a sign of something else but talk to your doctor to be safe.

Reference: Considerable (May 12, 2020) “7 surprising early signs of Alzheimer’s”

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