Some of us age gracefully. Our hair silvers – it doesn’t gray. We are blessed with grandchildren – and then great-grandchildren. Our thriftiness from having been raised in a more careful, more responsible age pays off, and we have piles of money in the bank.
Some of us age awkwardly. First one knee goes, then the opposite hip. There are many medical bills. We spent so much of our lives supporting our children – and then our grandchildren – who were raised in a reckless, indulgent society, that we have little left to live off of in retirement. The self-same family members we struggled to support are rarely financially stable enough to return the favor.
Some of us age ordinarily. We have a family that loves us, with a few black sheep whom we try to help. We have some burgeoning health concerns, but nothing that’s broken the bank yet. We saved our pennies for retirement, but our pension plan was cut and there really isn’t going to be enough money. We’re hopeful we’ll figure things out – we always have – but we’re worried, because we’re also realistic.
However we age, all of us do it. Because aging is such an inevitability of any population, an entire branch of law – called “elderly law,” or “elder law” – has formed to help senior citizens deal with unique concerns that do not necessarily affect a younger generation.
The most obvious example is the making of a will. An elder law advocate will be well-versed in how the states’ laws vary, and can help a senior citizen avoid any pitfalls or loopholes when he plans his bequest.
And elder law advocate can also recommend a financial advisor whose practice is specific to those people who need to live off of savings, pensions, or social security. Small amounts of money can go a longer way when they are well-managed, and can go even longer when an advisor knows the tax laws and can help to minimize or off-set any losses.
Another more specific example of elder law is when an elder law advocate can help a senior citizen protect his finances from a family member that may be swindling him. A lack of understanding of online banking and internet trading can lead a senior citizen to rely on a savvier spouse, a grown child, or even a grown grandchild to handle his finances. The financial abuse of an elderly person is a far too common sight seen in elder law cases, and the abuser is, sadly, usually one of the closest family members. The senior citizen’s naiveté about the internet can make him a sitting duck, and any creeping confusion, forgetfulness, or dementia only makes his victimization easier.
The reach of elder law has even extended to the continuing education of medical professionals, who are often trained how to spot an abusive family member or caretaker. A senior citizen, who may be suffering from mild, undetected dementia, might never vocalize a problem he’s having in his home, but his general practitioner or even his dentist has a chance to chat with him one-on-one and assess any red flags. They also have an opportunity to glimpse at person in the waiting room, who is usually the family member or caretaker drove the patient to the appointment. There are several warning signs that an elderly person may be suffering from abuse or neglect, and elder law advocates have programs in a growing number of states to allow medical professionals – often the people whom a senior citizen sees the most often – to be the first line of defense against victimization.
A final example has to do with retirement homes or nursing homes. An elder law advocate can educate a family on their options for financing a nursing home, and how the law differs from state to state. Sometimes, gift-giving cash or real estate before entering a nursing home will disqualify an applicant. An elder law advocate can help a senior citizen plan when to enter a nursing home, and how to avoid nursing home disqualification.
About the Author
This article was contributed on behalf of Maryland Elder Law lawyer Adam J. Roa. Sometimes professional consulting is needed. If you need consulting in elder law, please consider the author or contact your local lawyer