“myRA” announced to boost retirement savings
February 5, 2014
Filed under: Aging,Elder Law - General
— Andrew Sykes @ 10:44 pm
In a visit to the Pittsburgh area last week, President Obama signed a presidential order directing the Treasury Department to create “myRA,” a new vehicle for retirement savings. The proposal was originally announced in the State of the Union address to Congress.
According to the White House Fact Sheet, myRA will work like a Roth IRA account, but have principal protection “so the account balance will never go down in value.”
The new proposal is targeted to workers with low to moderate incomes. Initial investments start at $25, and contributions can be made in amounts as low as $5 through payroll deductions. It will be available to households earning up to $191,000 a year.
With reports showing many Americans are not saving enough for retirement, any new program encouraging retirement savings should be welcome news indeed.
Articles give tips on “Protecting Mom & Dad’s Money”
March 3, 2013
A detailed article in the January 2013 issue of Consumer Reports investigates financial abuse of the elderly “by neighbors, friends, employees, and relatives – the very people entrusted to care for and protect seniors.”
From the high profile case of philanthropist Brooke Astor, whose son Anthony D. Marshall was convicted of defrauding and stealing from her, to everyday occurrences across the country, the problem is widespread. “In a national study from 2009, 5.2 percent of older Americans said they’d been victimized by family members, and 6.5 percent said they’d been exploited by others,” the article said.
An article in the Washington Post in 2012 reported similar findings in a survey by the Investor Protection Trust, which found that “more than 7 million Americans – one out of five citizens over the age of 65 – have been victimized by a financial swindle.” The Post reported on a survey conducted by IPT, a nonprofit devoted to investor education:
“In a recent poll of 756 state securities regulators, financial planners, health-care professionals, social workers, adult protective services, law enforcement officials, elder law attorneys, and academics, IPT found that the top three financial exploitation problems identified by experts were: theft or diversion of funds or property by family members, followed by caregivers, and then financial scams by strangers.”
The Post article cautioned readers to watch for warning signs such as:
“∙Social isolation. Con artists look for seniors who seem lonely. Their desperation for companionship often makes them an easy target for exploitation.
∙Concerns about a caregiver. A senior may complain that she gave the caregiver if $50 for groceries that should have cost no more than $20 and didn’t get change back.
∙The senior complains that the son he gave his power of attorney who won’t tell him what’s going on with his finances. ‘It’s a red flag if you hear the senior say, “When I ask about my money the person says, ‘It’s too complicated, you really don’t want to know,’”’ [IPT chief executive Don] Blandin noted.”
Here are some additional red flags from Consumer Reports:
“∙Missing property, large unexplained withdrawals from bank accounts, or transfers between accounts.
∙Excessively large reimbursements or ‘gifts’ to caregivers or friends.
∙New authorized signers on a person’s bank account.
∙Changes in banks or attorneys.
∙Bank statements and canceled checks no longer coming to the person’s home.
∙Changes in spending patterns, such as purchases of items the senior doesn’t need.
∙Changes in documents such as a will or power of attorney, or a change in beneficiaries that the senior can’t completely explain or comprehend.”
Consumer Reports recommends precautions the elderly and their families can take. The first is:
“Hire the right professionals. Engage a CPA or certified financial planner to handle such concerns as how much money you can withdraw safely from retirement funds. Hire an estate-planning attorney with elder-law expertise to write your will and power-of-attorney documents; they can also craft trusts, which can limit relatives’ access to your money.”
Other recommendations from Consumer Reports include obtaining background checks for caregivers; shredding documents with identifying information; setting up direct deposit of checks and automated payment of recurring bills; listing and photographing valuables; and having financial institutions “send statements and alerts to a trusted person who has no access to any of your accounts to check for fraud.”
Help available for caregivers, NBC reports
August 16, 2012
Filed under: Aging,Caregivers
— Andrew Sykes @ 9:00 am
On last night’s broadcast, NBC News reported on the loneliness and isolation felt by millions of Americans who provide care to elderly relatives.
NBC spotlighted findings from a new AARP study, including the fact that 42 million Americans age 40 to 60 spend time each week caring for an older adult. Of those, 29% devote more than 40 hours a week to caregiving.
The burden on caregivers can be overwhelming at times. AARP has sponsored public service announcements to call attention to the issue, and to let caregivers know there is help available, NBC reported.
AARP provides a Caregiving Resource Center website, with links to an online support group, a place to submit questions to a panel of experts, and basic information for caregivers and their families.
“Assisted living” in Pennsylvania: terminology confusion ahead
December 17, 2011
Filed under: Aging,Elder Law - General
— Andrew Sykes @ 4:38 pm
What does “assisted living” mean in Pennsylvania now?
It’s getting harder for consumers to know.
When I have visited assisted living facilities in the past year, I have been struck by the wide variation in the services offered. One place may offer a narrow range of services and expect its residents to be nearly independent, while another may keep residents who require help with most activities of daily living.
New regulations that took effect in the state in January appeared, at first, to offer a solution. Licensed “assisted living” facilities would have to offer certain core services. Facilities would also have to provide, or arrange for, certain “supplemental health care services” which would be “packaged, contracted and priced separately from the resident agreement.” Thus, consumers could compare facilities and prices more transparently.
A licensed facility would also have to meet certain requirements in its physical site, staffing, and training. So if you moved into a licensed assisted living facility, you would generally know what you were going to get.
But the regulations would only apply to a facility that chose to use the term “assisted living” in its name or written materials.
Regulators expected hundreds of facilities to apply but few have, according to a news report. Gary Rotstein of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has reported that state officials predicted there would be at least 150 assisted living residences licensed by now, but there are only 10 (with only one in Western Pennsylvania). Since facilities fall under the new regulations only if they describe themselves to consumers using the term “assisted living,” it seems many are choosing to avoid that term and thereby escape the regulatory requirements, the article said.
These developments are a sure-fire recipe for confusion.
Consumers know the well-branded term “assisted living” as a place where a person can receive help with activities of daily living in a home-like setting, instead of going to a nursing home. But where can a person find that service? The 10 licensed facilities cannot possibly serve the demand in Pennsylvania. People will be unsure if what used to be called the XYZ Assisted Living Residence is providing the same service now that it’s called the XYZ Personal Care Residence. Terms like “personal care” are so vague that many consumers may not know what services the facility offers.
When the regulations went into effect in January, it was hoped they would give meaning to the term “assisted living” and help consumers find the services they need. Now it appears the use of that term may become increasingly rare and consumers will be left to wonder what services are offered at which facilities, and where they can find the right mix of help they need.
Doctors: Can you tell the family when a patient needs a guardian?
November 11, 2011
Let’s suppose you are a doctor, or other similar health care provider. Every time you see your patient Joe his memory has worsened.
Joe struggles to recall whether he took his medications this morning, and if so, what they were. He used to ask about your children, but now he seems not to recognize you. Yesterday he left his coat – containing his wallet and keys – in the waiting room.
You believe Joe now needs someone to look after him.
Can you tell the family?
If a family member or friend of Joe’s calls to ask whether you think he needs a guardian, can you answer the question?
Thankfully, the regulations under HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) provide an answer.
In certain circumstances, HIPAA allows a health care provider to furnish information relevant to a patient’s care to “a family member, other relative, or a close personal friend” of the patient, or to “any other person identified” by the patient for involvement in health care matters.
One circumstance appropriate for such disclosure is when the patient agrees to disclosure, or at least does not object when provided the opportunity. For example, if Joe brings his caregiver daughter to his appointment, he may agree to let you discuss his condition with her.
A health care provider may also make this type of disclosure if the patient is unable to agree to disclosure “because of the individual’s incapacity” and the provider determines that “disclosure is in the best interests of the individual.” In that case, disclosure may be made even if the patient is not present and has not agreed.
In either of these circumstances, the provider may “disclose only the protected health information that is directly relevant to the person’s involvement with the [patient]‘s health care.”
(The regulation discussing these circumstances may be found in the Code of Federal Regulations at 45 C.F.R. §164.510(b).)
You can therefore tell an appropriate person in Joe’s life that you believe Joe can no longer make and communicate decisions effectively and is unable to manage his financial resources or meet essential requirements for his physical health and safety.
So HIPAA not only protects Joe’s patient information when he has all his mental faculties, but also allows his doctor to notify an appropriate person when Joe has lost capacity and needs guardianship.
When you see Joe next, you may have more peace of mind knowing that someone else is in charge of his finances and health care decisions.
A version of this blog post originally appeared in the Western Pennsylvania Hospital News.