How Can Caregivers Find Time for Self-Care?

Family caregivers need to take time out for self care.
Family caregivers need to take time out for self care.

It’s not uncommon for a caregiver to start their journey in a crisis when a family member gets a devastating diagnosis—like Alzheimer’s, cancer, or heart disease—that causes physical or cognitive restrictions on independent daily living.

Considerable’s recent article entitled “How family caregivers can use a Monday routine to reinvent self-care” reports that more than 34 million Americans are caring for a loved one over the age of 50.

Although many caregivers take on their role willingly, they may be forfeiting much needed time for self-care. These sacrifices can accumulate over time, since most caregivers spend an average of four years and 80-160 hours a month in their caregiving role. For individuals taking care of a person with dementia or Alzheimer’s, it can be double that with additional stress.

Creating a routine can give calm to caregivers. A program that is based on a healthy weekly routine is Caregiver Monday, part of The Monday Campaign’s nonprofit public health initiative.

Most caregivers have their regular routines drastically changed, when caring for a family member, This gives caregivers a feeling of a loss of control. When added to the inability to control the disease or disability that impacts loved ones, caregivers can suddenly feel overwhelmed with increased anxiety and chronic stress. This psychological state is called loss of locus of control and has two paths: (i) internal locus of control; and (ii) external locus of control. Caregivers can’t gain external locus of control over the situation or disease, but they can increase internal locus of control—that’s the response they have to these situations. Creating a new routine is part of reestablishing internal locus of control.

A routine can help caregivers cope with change, focus on healthy habits and decrease their stress. It can also help restore balance in a caregiver’s life. Monday gives us a natural refresh point, because it’s part of our cultural DNA. Monday is the start of the work week and the school week, so it makes sense that caregivers can use Monday as the start of a sustainable effort towards improved self-care.

Caregiver Monday provides self-care practices and promotion, and focuses on physical, emotional and social health behavioral change, by helping caregivers commit to weekly efforts. A 2019 survey of 1,000 adult Americans conducted by Data Decisions Group for The Monday Campaigns found that 64% of respondents said if they begin on Monday with a positive frame of mind, they’re more apt to remain positive for the rest of the week. Those surveyed reported they were also more likely to start exercise routines, eat healthier and make doctor’s appointments on Mondays.

Here are three ideas to begin a Caregiver Monday routine. Instead of the Monday blues, caregivers can use Monday as their personal “Fun Day,” to focus on themselves. Caregivers can:

  • Follow Caregiver Monday on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram for ideas every week on finding self-care practices.
  • Get involved with the caregiving community on these social sites to feel less alone.
  • Ask friends and family to assist with respite care to get a self-care break.

Even with the disruption and the distress, caregivers can use Monday to have a little fun. You can don your favorite color on Mondays or watch YouTube videos of baby animals (a scientific study shows that this can have a positive effect on mood and productivity). Most importantly, thank yourself with little self-care activities and be grateful you can be there for your family member every day.

For more information on issues of concern for the elderly see  https://www.galliganmanning.com/elder-financial-abuse-is-increasing/.

Reference: Considerable (May 11, 2020) “How family caregivers can use a Monday routine to reinvent self-care”

 

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Removing your House from your Trust

There are ways to remove your house from your trust, but work with an estate planning attorney to do so while preserving the trust benefits!

Occasionally clients ask for assistance in removing their house from their trust.  They do so to facilitate refinancing the house, the client wants to add a relative to the title, to ensure the home is considered a residence for Medicaid purposes or some other similar issue.  There are a number of issues to consider before doing so as the recent nj.com article entitled “I want to revoke a trust on my house. What do I do?”  points out.  Whether it is a good idea to remove your home from your trust and actually doing so will require the assistance of an experienced estate planning attorney.

The answer to a question about how to get a house out of your trust is going to be in the trust terms themselves. However, if the terms of the trust are silent, the answer may be found in the trust laws in the state statutes.  If answering the question in general terms, the primary concern is whether the trust is revocable or irrevocable.

The first step is to determine whether the trust is revocable.   Most clients use revocable trusts, so assuming it is a revocable trust, the trustor (person who set up the trust) has the right to remove the house from the trust.  The trustee (probably the same person) can execute a deed conveying the property from the trust to the trustor.  That takes the property out of the trust.

In the majority of cases, this will solve the problem.  Also, if the property was removed to refinance, you can safely convey it back to the trust once the refinance is done.  Similarly, if a client wants to add someone to title to change where the property goes at death, it is often better to just change the trust terms to leave the residence to the beneficiary.  This is often better for taxes as well.

If the trust is irrevocable, it means that the house can’t be removed from the trust unless the terms of the trust permit it.  There are exceptions, such as asking a Court’s permission to revoke the trust or remove the property, or in some cases, terminating the trust with agreement of the trustee and beneficiaries, but these are more difficult options and not guaranteed.

Next, let’s look at the reason why the home was initially put in a trust.  It is important to keep these ideas in mind as removing the property from the trust may negate important benefits.   See here for the benefits https://www.galliganmanning.com/category/trusts/page/6/      There may be alternatives which accomplish the same goals as well.

If the purpose was to lower estate taxes, it may make sense to remove the house from the trust. This is especially the case if the property is in a state that doesn’t have state estate taxes.  Very few states still do.  An estate rarely meets the threshold for federal estate taxes, so clients actually save taxes by removing the property from trust.

If the property is owned by an irrevocable trust for asset protection in long-term care planning, it might make sense to keep the property in the trust.  However, if you are using a revocable trust and want to consider asset protection in long-term care planning, it is often better to keep the property in your name. This is because Medicaid may exempt your residence if you own it personally.  In our office, we prepare “Lady Bird deeds” for Texas residences which allow a client to own the residence personally, and transfer it to the trust automatically when they pass away.  This works with both asset protection planning and probate planning.

If the trust owned the property for probate avoidance, the property often will be put back into the trust or conveyed at death to the trust such as with the Lady Bird deed.

In sum, there are some reasons to remove property from a trust, but doing so should always involve an experienced estate planning to preserve the benefits of the trust and to ensure your goals are met.

Reference: nj.com (Feb. 4, 2020) “I want to revoke a trust on my house. What do I do?”

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When Should I Consider Long Term Care Insurance?

Many people haven’t adequately planned for long term care costs. Consider long term care insurance early as a way to cover those costs.

You can bet that you won’t need long term care in your lifetime, but you’ll probably lose that bet: about 70% of seniors 65 and older require long term care at some point. That could be just a few months with a home health aide or it could mean a year (or more) of nursing home care. You can’t know for sure. However, without long term care insurance, you run the risk that you’ll be forced to cover a very large expense on your own.

The Motley Fool’s recent article, “75% of Older Americans Risk This Major Expense in the Future,” says many older workers are going into retirement without long term care coverage in place. In a recent Nationwide survey, 75% of future retirees aged 50 and over said they that don’t have long term care insurance. If that’s you, you should begin considering it, because the older you get, the more difficult it becomes to qualify, and the more expensive it becomes.

If you do not purchase long term are insurance, but need to pay for long term care, there are other options, such as government benefits like Medicaid.  I’ll focus on insurance in this article, but see here for more information about long term care and how to pay for it.  https://www.galliganmanning.com/long-term-care-whats-it-all-about/

Long term care insurance can be costly, which is why many people don’t buy it. However, the odds are that your policy won’t be anywhere near as expensive as the actual price for the care you could end up needing. That’s why it’s important to look at your options for long term care insurance. The ideal time to apply is in your mid-50s. At that age, you’re more likely to be approved along with some discounts on your premiums. If you wait too long, you’ll risk being denied or seeing premiums that are prohibitively expensive.

Note that not all policies are the same. Therefore, you should look at what items are outside of your premium costs. This may include things such as the maximum daily benefit the policy permits or the maximum time frame covered by your policy. It should really be two years at a minimum. There are policies written that have a waiting period for having your benefits kick in and others that either don’t have one or have shorter time frames. Compare your options and see what makes the most sense.

You don’t necessarily need the most expensive long term care policy available. If you’ve saved a good amount for retirement, you’ll have the option of tapping your IRA or 401(k) to cover the cost of your care. The same is true if you own a home worth a lot of money, because you can sell it or borrow against it.

It’s important to remember to explore your options for long term care insurance, before that window of opportunity shuts because of age or health problems. Failing to secure a policy could leave you to cover what could be a devastatingly expensive bill.

Reference: Motley Fool (September 23, 2019) “75% of Older Americans Risk This Major Expense in the Future”

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