Elder Law Attorney

Buzz Aldrin’s Capacity Case Illustrates Need to Plan for Aging Issues

The case of Buzz Aldrin, who is taking his son and daughter to court on charges of fraud, conspiracy and exploitation of the elderly, is a tough one.

Even when planning for competency issues is in place, there can still be problems. When a highly-intelligent public figure makes decisions his kids thinks are wrong, who is right?

Buzz AldrinThe case of Buzz Aldrin, who is taking his son and daughter to court on charges of fraud, conspiracy and exploitation of the elderly, is a tough one. He’s accusing his adult children and his longtime manager of slandering him, by telling others he has dementia and Alzheimer’s diseases, using his money for their own gain and undermining romantic relationships.

The 88-year-old astronaut’s lawsuit illustrates the reason it's important for families to plan ahead for an aging parent. However, cases like Aldrin's can be hard, because it can be difficult to determine when someone has a deteriorating mental capacity, explains Good 4 Utah in the recent article,“Buzz Aldrin lawsuit shows need to plan for aging parents.”

Aldrin's children deny the claims in the lawsuit, which was filed just weeks after they petitioned for partial guardianship over their father.

An elderly person who doesn't think they need a guardian should contest it. If someone brings a guardianship case against an elderly person who believes he still has capacity, then that senior shouldn't be afraid to push back.

In Utah, any elderly person who’s being partitioned for guardianship must be given an attorney to make certain their rights are being protected. If you have a plan in place regarding your choice of guardian, it can help.

Here are a few tips for dealing with this issue, whether you are the aging parent or the adult child.

  • Make sure your planning is in place. Decide for yourself who you want to take responsibility for your affairs if you cannot, and make sure that an elder lawyer documents your wishes.
  • If you have many children, or children from multiple marriages, you may want to select a third party to become your guardian. Children often fight over care and financial decisions.
  • Work with an experienced elder law attorney to get all of the necessary documents prepared well in advance.
  • If your family has a history of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s or dementia, don’t wait. Do this now.

Reference: Good 4 Utah (July 3, 2018)“Buzz Aldrin lawsuit shows need to plan for aging parents”

Finding the Right Assisted Living Facility for Now and the Future

People moving into an assisted living facility should do a lot of research to make sure they get the quality care and the services they need.

People moving into an assisted living facility should do a lot of research to make sure they get the quality care and the services they need. Their lives may depend on it.

MP900407501Life in an assisted living facility is a welcome alternative to aging seniors who are no longer able to remain in their own homes, but don’t want or need to live in a nursing home, which often feels like living in a hospital. They can receive the services they need, while enjoying a full roster of activities and the companionship of their peers. It sounds like a good plan, and in many cases, it is.

However,Consumer Reports’recent article, “5 Steps for Choosing the Right Assisted Living Community”says that finding the right residence can be a huge challenge.

Right off the bat, the cost is high. In 2017, the median fee for a private one-bedroom was $45,000 a year, according to Genworth, a long-term care insurer. Most residents pay out of pocket, although some qualify for Medicaid. Medicare generally does not cover long-term care services.

In addition, shortfalls in caregiving can be a problem for assisted living residents. A 2017 survey of state long-term-care ombudsmen conducted for Consumer Reports, which monitors senior living facilities nationwide, found the most common complaints dealt with understaffing and delays in response to calls for assistance. Ombudsman data show that complaints about assisted living have gone up 10% in recent years.

For families looking at into assisted living facilities for a family member, there are ways to find a facility that delivers quality care in a comfortable setting. The key is to conduct thorough research. You should egin by asking these five key questions:

  1. What Kind of Care is Required?Remember that different facilities offer varying levels of care. Is there a registered nurse on staff? Without this basic level of care, your loved one might end up going to the ER more often.
  2. What is the Quality of Care?Look at the residence’s licensing and inspection records, to see if there are any issues. To get a feel for the way things work, make several visits to the facility. Go for meals and during the weekends, when fewer staff are on duty. You should also talk to residents and their families about their experiences.
  3. Uncover the Real Costs of the Care. Get a written list of fees and charges from the residence and be sure that they’re included in the contract. It is recommended that you hire an elder law attorney, who’s familiar with local facilities, to review the terms of the contract.
  4. Can Your Parent or Family Member Age in Place? Find out what scenarios might trigger a discharge, and whether you could hire private aides, if more care is required. You should also ask what assistance the facility would be able to provide, if a move is needed.
  5. Is an Advocate Available? If family and friends are not able to visit on a frequent basis, the potential for problems increases. Care issues, from cleanliness to patient treatment, may not be readily apparent to an elderly resident, especially if they are suffering from dementia. Consider hiring an aging life-care expert or social worker to make frequent visits, if you are unable to. If the facility’s management knows someone is keeping a watchful eye, the quality of care will be better.

Reference: Consumer Reports (April 16, 2018) “5 Steps for Choosing the Right Assisted Living Community”

Guardianship Nightmares Surge in Unregulated Environment

With a growing population of elderly, the lack of regulations and oversight has led to a disastrous situation for adults who lose civil liberties via guardianship proceedings.

With a growing population of elderly, the lack of regulations and oversight has led to a disastrous situation for adults who lose civil liberties via guardianship proceedings.

MP900442275A review by the Reading Eagle of court documents in three Pennsylvania counties show that when it is necessary for Adult Protective Services to intervene, agencies prefer having professional guardians rather than family members.

The story, “Finding solutions to Pennsylvania's troubled system of naming guardians,” reports that over the past two decades, filings statewide have risen 28%, faster than the increase of people 60 and older—the demographic most likely to be in a guardianship. In fact, the system in Pennsylvania already shows signs of strain: the Philadelphia Orphans Court is willing to retain a felon convicted of financial fraud as guardian to dozens of incapacitated adults, because of a shortage of professionals able to assume her caseload.

Advocates for reform say that finding solutions is critical, because of the explosive growth in a cottage industry of paid professionals that has supplanted roles traditionally held by family members.

"You can lose your civil rights," said Sam Brooks, senior attorney for Community Legal Services of Philadelphia, one of the leading advocates for the elderly in the state. "There needs to be some sort of system that ensures less invasive steps are taken."

Advocates call it supported-decision making, the process of accommodating individuals with disabilities or cognitive deficits (the most common justification for guardianship) by including family, friends, and other social support to enable life decisions without restricting the adult's autonomy.

 However, in many cases, the adult who’s alleged to be incapacitated is not present or not represented by an attorney in many of these proceedings. In many instances, judges will waive the attendance requirement with a doctor's testimony on behalf of the petitioner, that being present would be harmful to the senior in the guardianship proceedings. When counsel is appointed, Pennsylvania doesn't require attorneys to resist a guardian appointment and instead allows them to decide what is in their client's best interest.

Many adults in guardianship without resources are put in nursing homes and other facilities. However, advocates say that reform might save the state money because of the institutional costs.

Advocates also want standards established that would professionalize the industry and create a post-appointment monitoring system to filter out bad actors. For example, Philadelphia judges repeatedly appointed Gloria Byars, a convicted felon, to serve as guardian to vulnerable adults. This wasn’t against the law, because Pennsylvania doesn't have any standards for becoming a guardian. The state also doesn’t require a background check.

A statewide system to manage the industry is hoped to be in place by the end of this year. The hope is that this system will be able to effectively flat unscrupulous guardians, whether they are family members or professionals.

Reference: Reading (PA) Eagle (March 6, 2018) “Finding solutions to Pennsylvania's troubled system of naming guardians”

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