• Last month we joined the Seniors group at the Bedford-Central Presybyterian Church on the edge of Crown Heights and Bed Stuy for their Christmas celebration.

    Mr. Haynes, the group leader, asked the members to reflect on something they would have changed in the previous year.

    Several wished that Hurricane Sandy hadn’t come to the area. Others were more introspective, wishing they had taken more time to talk to strangers or offer guidance to wayward youth, or that they’d made different choices in relation to their families and homes.

    Yesterday we met up with the group again. This time we were hoping to offer some practical tools to meet the next year on solid ground.

    We started by describing three neighbors:

    Mr. and Mrs. Smith, in their early 70s, are a retired city worker and nurse. They have three grown children, two well established with families and jobs, the third still seeking his place in the world. They own a brownstone in the rapidly gentrifying neighborhood near the church, and struggle with tenants who often don’t pay the rent. They have modest pensions and some savings.

    Mrs. Rogers is a widow with no children. She is in her late 70s, though you’d never know it – she looks and feels healthy. She is a retired teacher with a good pension and small savings. She lives in a rent controlled apartment near the church, and her landlord is eager to get her out so he can raise the rent dramatically.

    “So, what are some of things that could happen to these three that would change their lives or make them and their families make tough decisions?” we asked.

    Everyone had an example: Illness. Stroke. Death. Drop in income.

    “OK, which should we focus on today?”

    From there we played a game of Choose Your Own Adventure, with our resident Elder Law specialist, Yana Feldman, as guide.

    The group chose to focus on the path of sudden illness.

    Yana explained how Powers of Attorney (POA) authorize someone to make legal and financial decisions if you are not able to, and how you can choose how much authority to grant someone. We talked about how POAs work for financial matters and for health-care decision-making. We talked about how to choose someone as POA and when to consider changing one.

    We talked about why POAs are so important and what happens if you pass away without one, or without a will.

    We talked about long-term care costs: what Medicare covers (up to 100 days), and the other ways long-term care can be paid for:

    -privately, which is likely to eat up savings very quickly;

    -long-term care insurance, which difficult to obtain after age 60; and

    -Medicaid, the government program that has strict income and asset restrictions.

    Following questions from the group, we talked about different kinds of trusts that can be used to protect assets, including a home, when long-term care costs become exorbitant. (See resources on Supplemental Needs Trusts here)

    Once we introduce the main issues, we’ll be setting up consultations with Seniors and their families to help them put together comprehensive plans. The goal is to help them stay secure in their homes and communities as long as possible.

    Along the way we’ll keep writing about the questions that come up, and linking resources to help answer them. Our aim is to use individual experiences to create a roadmap through the labyrinth of aging.

    Have questions? Want to get involved? Let us know here:

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    This entry was posted on Thursday, January 17th, 2013 at 6:17 pm and is filed under Communication & Planning. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
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