Carefully Consider the Implications of Moving an Elderly Loved One Closer to You

Carefully Consider the Implications of Moving an Elderly Loved One Closer to YouThese days, family members are often scattered in various cities and states throughout the country. This poses a serious challenge when a loved one requires increased care or assistance. There almost always comes a point in time when long-distance caregivers give serious consideration to moving their loved ones closer to them. This can occur when aging family members are still healthy and able to live independently, following a sudden change in health status, or even once they are already living in an assisted living or skilled nursing facility.

There are obviously logistical and psychological challenges in such a decision. This can include deciding which family member the senior should move to be close to and whether or not this family member is willing and able to meet their loved one’s care needs. However, there are even more significant factors to take into account. Sometimes families do not think through the financial, legal and medical implications of such a move. It is important to consider whether it will cost more for a loved one to live and receive quality care in a different city or state, and these expenses are not always obvious.

Let’s look at some possible scenarios to see what factors might influence such a decision. Keep in mind that these situations can change rapidly, so it is important to give all of the following questions and factors proper consideration, even if they do not apply yet.

Scenario One: The Preemptive Move

At some point in time, multiple generations within a family may sit down together and look at the possibility of everyone living in the same time zone or zip code. This discussion may arise when your elders are still healthy, because visits are few and far between. There are certainly benefits to such an arrangement, but what about the drawbacks and contingencies of moving your elders closer to you?

Considerations

  • What is the availability of primary care physicians (PCPs) in your area?
  • Do available PCPs routinely accept new Medicare patients? Check with your own physicians to see if your family member might have preference in being admitted to their practice.
  • Are there particular specialists that your family member must have access to? Even if your loved one is still living independently, they may have a chronic disease or two that needs more specialized monitoring or attention.
  • Does your family member’s current PCP or specialist have any recommendations for colleagues near you?
  • Does your loved one still drive? If not, or if they lose this ability, how will they access transportation? What are the costs for the bus system, subway, cabs, etc.?
  • What are their expectations in terms of your involvement in their health care and medical issues? Do they want you to accompany them to physician visits, or are they used to doing these things themselves? They may appreciate the opportunity to have you more involved. However, you may see this move as a way to limit the time you need to devote to long-distance travel, not an opportunity to set up a whole list of new responsibilities and obligations!
  • On the other hand, are you assuming they will help you with child care, babysitting or similar tasks?
  • Be clear about boundaries before entering this new situation. Will you be having family meals or gatherings on a regular basis, or will you be taking a “live and let live” approach?
  • If they are going to live with you, will they share expenses?
  • Do they have a houseful of furniture and personal belongings that they will have to move? Are they open to downsizing? How do they plan on moving their things? How much will this cost?

Scenario Two: The Reality Check

After a loved one experiences a significant change in their health status, family members tend to think more seriously about moving them closer to provide support and assistance more regularly and be available on shorter notice. This arrangement also allows for easier monitoring of a loved one’s health and overall situation. Depending on a senior’s current status and prognosis, there are a number of factors to take into account before making a decision.

Considerations

  • If your loved one has been living independently, can they continue to do so safely? Has the family considered assisted living? Are there facilities in your area to choose from? Do they meet your standards? What are the costs?
  • Does your loved one have a long-term care insurance policy or veterans benefits that can help cover the costs of housing and/or care?
  • If they have a limited income, does your community have subsidized or senior housing for which they might be eligible? What is the waiting time? Should you be filling out applications now, even if the move is more than a year away?
  • What is the availability of home care services in your area? Keep in mind that rates and sliding scale fees for personal services can vary greatly from one state or area to another. A person who was eligible for Medicaid in one state will need to reapply in their new state, and they may not qualify. Ask questions! Do not assume that what is available for them now “at home” will be transferable once they change residences.
  • What kind of health insurance do they have now? Areas with large concentrations of seniors often have reasonably priced Managed Care/Medicare Advantage/Medicare Part C plans. If you move your loved one to a rural area or a place with limited choices, you may find that their health insurance expenses will rise because they need to have original Medicare (Parts A and B) and a supplement (sometimes referred to as Medigap). (Please note: Moving from a Medicare Advantage plan to original Medicare is not always easy or possible. Leaving a service area begins a special enrollment period, but the options and pricing for supplemental coverage could be much different than expected. For more information, see the article “Time to Re-Evaluate and Change Medicare Plans.”
  • Following a new diagnosis or illness, a loved one’s health status may require a different type of coverage. If they are seeing lots of specialists, a Medicare Advantage plan that was useful “back home” may not be cost effective at this point. Speaking to a SHIP (State Health Insurance Program) counselor at your local Area Agency on Aging or senior center may be a good place to start. The counselor can give good basic information about plans that are available and projected costs.

Scenario Three: The Facility Move

Many families find themselves balancing life at home and caring for a loved one in an assisted living facility or a nursing home. Unfortunately, distance often complicates this situation even further. If you are thinking about moving your loved one to a facility nearby where you can be regularly involved in their care without extensive travel or disruption to your work or daily life, be sure to consider the following factors.

Considerations

  • If your loved one is already in a senior living facility and they are accessing Medicaid, you need to check with the Medicaid office in your state about whether they can transfer to a new facility and automatically and retain this coverage. Your family member will have to qualify for Medicaid all over again in their new state of residence, and this may involve paying out of pocket for some time before they are approved. You may be reimbursed retroactively, but it might not amount to much. Medicaid regulations vary from state to state, so be sure you understand any differences between programs. It may be wise to contact an elder law attorney just for an informational session.
  • If they must reapply in their new state of residence, are there different asset and income limits for Medicaid eligibility? What are the differences in coverage and benefits between the state programs?
  • If you are taking someone out of an assisted living or continuing care community, are there deposits that were paid that are nonrefundable? Furthermore, are there any contracts that might interfere with a move?
  • Are there similar facilities in your area that only charge monthly fees and do not require another buy-in or down payment? (These monthly fees may be higher than what the individual was paying before.) Can your loved one afford such fees?
  • If your loved one has Alzheimer’s, dementia or another serious condition, will they be able to mentally, physically and emotionally handle a move? Will they require specialized transportation? How much will it cost?
  • Thinking more long term, what are the estate tax and inheritance laws in your state compared to where your family member lives now? If they are considerably different, will your loved one need to reevaluate and update their estate plan and other legal documents? Are there any reputable elder law attorneys in your area to assist with this? What do they typically charge?

There can be many advantages to having a care recipient live closer to family, but it is important to research some of the financial, medical and legal implications before making a commitment. This will ensure that the transition goes as smoothly as possible and minimize the likelihood of surprises. If there are significant concerns, you may want to reconsider such a decision or proceed very carefully.

Source: AgingCare.comhttps://www.agingcare.com

Fall Prevention & Mobility: Practical Safety and Organization Strategies for Seniors

Making a home safe for a senior loved one does not have to be a massive or costly project. There are small changes you can make each day that, over time, will dramatically reduce the risk of falls. For many, it may be difficult to know what changes to make, especially if we have lived in the same home for decades. Things like furniture placement, a lack of adequate lighting, and clutter on the floor are just a few of the commonly overlooked risks that can cause you to lose your footing. These factors should not be taken lightly. According to the National Council on Aging, falls are the most common cause of fatal injury and the leading source of trauma-related hospital admissions among the elderly. The good news is that most of these falls are preventable.

The start of any good fall prevention strategy begins in the home. It’s where seniors most frequently suffer a fall injury. As you get older it’s important to assess your residence for senior safety. You will want to go room to room, scanning the ceiling to the floor for any potential hazards. However, with dozens of hidden dangers, it’s not easy to identify them all. That’s why we’ve written this guide with 100 simple and easy things that you can do to organize your home and make it safe for seniors.

Fall Prevention & Mobility: Practical Safety and Organization Strategies for Seniors

Organize for Safety

The more organized you are, the safer your home will be. However, organization and storage strategies vary in different parts of the home. What you need in your bathroom is going to be very different than in the kitchen. Here, we go room by room providing simple organizational strategies to help prevent falls.

Fall Prevention & Mobility: Practical Safety and Organization Strategies for Seniors

Organize Your Kitchen

  • Store items on the lower shelves where they are easier to reach.
  • Use open shelves and cabinet without doors, if it’s easy to remove the doors.
  • Replace the cabinet knobs with lever style handles to make them easier to open.
  • Use a lazy-susan cabinet to maximize your storage space.
  • Use plastic or wooden dishware instead of glass. This will prevent your dishware from breaking if it falls on the floor.
  • Use a loud cooking timer that is easy to hear. This will help you keep track of anything you are cooking.
  • Use a water-absorbent kitchen mat near the sink. This will prevent any slips and falls after you use the sink.
  • Throw away old or unused items like herbs, spices, and other dry food items to make more room.
  • Throw out unused kitchen equipment like any large platters or plates, especially if you haven’t used them in a year.
  • Clear out the refrigerator of uneaten items. Foods like jams, pickles, and condiments can sometimes last years. They often take up much-needed space. Consider throwing some out.
  • Clear out the freezer of uneaten foods. It’s easy to leave items in the freezer for a long time, but they take up much-needed space.
  • Store frequently used items in easy-to-access drawers. Any utensils or cooking equipment that you use frequently should be kept at waist height. Also, try to keep them near where they are used. For example, you want to keep the pots and wooden spoons near the stove.
  • Put heavy items in easy-to-reach places. Never keep anything heavy stored up high where it can be difficult to take out or put away.
  • Keep your countertop clean and clear. Try not to use this space to store items that could fall off the counter.
  • Keep cords safely tucked away. If you have appliances like a coffee pot or a toaster, make sure the cords are neatly tucked behind the appliance and not near any heat or water sources.

Organize Your Bedroom

  • Put a lamp near your bed. Ensure that it is easy to activate the light. Touch lamps, clappers, or another remote system is ideal. You want to make it as easy as possible for you to see at night. That way you won’t step on the cat or stub your toe on the way to the bathroom.
  • Clear a path to the door. Don’t place any furniture between you and the door. You want to make sure you have an unobstructed path when you need to exit the room.
  • Sleep near the bathroom. If you have a large bed, sleep on the side closest to the bathroom.
  • Adjust your bed height if it is easy to do so. You want to make sure your legs are parallel to the floor when you sit on it. This will make it easier to get in and out of bed.
  • Replace your doorknob. If your door has a round door knob you may want to replace it with a lever-style knob. This will make it easier and quicker for you to move around your home, especially if you feel rushed to use the bathroom.
  • Organize the closet by tossing out any clothes or shoes you haven’t worn in the last year. This will make it much quicker and easier for you to find what you need. You may also want to look into purchasing a closet system that will help keep you organized.
  • Use nails to hang items in your closet, like a sock aid, shoe horn, or dressing stick.
  • Clean out items under the bed and don’t use that space for storage. It will be difficult for you to pull items in and out.
  • Clear out your nightstand. It’s important that you never have too many items on your nightstand that could fall over. You want enough room to place a glass of water and book.
  • Keep a phone by your bed. It’s a good idea to have a phone near your bed, preferably on your nightstand.
  • Use a wireless charging pad or a secure charging dock if you use a cell phone. You will want to check to see if the wireless charging pad or charging dock is compatible with your cell phone model. But if it is, this will make it easier to keep the phone charged.

Organize Your Bathroom

  • Use a water absorbent bath mat that stays in place. Most mats that are designed for the bathroom have a rubber underside so they won’t slip out from under you.
  • Use a non-slip bathtub mat for inside the tub to prevent you from slipping while you shower. You can also have a professional apply a non-slip coating to your bathtub.
  • Install grab bars and safety rails inside the shower to prevent falls.
  • Use a secure shower caddy to hold your soap and shampoo in place.
  • Throw away your shampoo bottles. A lot of people find it difficult to throw out bottles with a small amount of shampoo or conditioner in them. These bottles can take up precious shower space. Consider throwing them out or be better about using the whole bottle before opening a new one.
  • Use a pill box to organize your medication. Pill boxes will make it easy for you to remember to take your medicine.
  • Throw out any empty pill bottles that may take up space, but be sure to keep the dosage instructions in case you need to reference them. Make sure you properly discard any unused medication. Your pharmacy should be able to assist with that.
  • Keep towels near your shower so that they are easy to grab. Make sure you don’t use the towel rack for support. If you find yourself reaching for it, consider installing a grab bar.
  • Properly store electrical appliances like a curling iron or hair straightener. Keep them in a place where water won’t get on them. It’s safer to not have these in your bathroom at all. Make sure you have bathroom appliances with an automatic shut-off timer.

Keep Your Furniture Organized

  • Anchor heavy furniture like a dresser or a bookshelf to the wall. This will prevent it from falling.
  • Reorganize furniture. Do you often have to walk around a furniture to get through a room? It’s important to have a clear unobstructed path when moving around your home. Push the furniture against the wall or reorganize it so that it is not in the way.
  • Put furniture in storage if you’ve reorganized and you still don’t have plenty of room, consider putting valuable furniture item in storage
  • Donate furniture if organizing and storage isn’t an option, you can always donate your furniture.
  • Throw out furniture. It may be easier and safer to throw furniture away. Especially if you have an item that is old and worn.
  • Don’t store belongings too high on a bookshelf or a tall dresser. Anything relatively heavy should be stored between the height of your waist and chest.

Organize Your Hallways

  • Clear the hallway. The hallway should never be used for storage. Keep clutter and any other belongings off the floor. Any small furniture items like a cabinet should be removed. You want an easy and unobstructed path.
  • Keep stairs clear of debris. Don’t store anything here, whether it’s books, trinkets, or a pet toy. Keep the stairs clear and clean at all times.
  • Remove large hanging items like decorations, large picture frames, or other belongings that could make your path through the hallway more narrow. Also, make sure to not lean against any hanging items for support.

Fall Prevention Strategies Throughout the Home

Crooked floors, bad lighting, and clutter are a disaster waiting to happen. These fall hazards can be found in any room of your home and should be addressed right away. If you follow these simple actions you can greatly improve the safety in your home.

Improve Your Floor Safety

  • Remove area rugs.When rugs are not secured to the floor they can be a major safety hazard. A loose area rug is susceptible to slipping out from underneath you. It can also move and bunch up, causing you to trip when you walk across it. It’s best to discard rugs that you can’t securely fasten to the floor.
  • Secure carpeting. If you have any carpet that is frayed or has rolled up edges, find a way to secure them. You can use nails or double-sided tape. Your carpet should be flat, secure, and undamaged.
  • Secure cords. Appliances and other devices that need to be plugged in have cords that can cause you to trip and fall. Ensure that cords to permanently plugged in devices like a television or a lamp are secured along the edge of the wall. If you have to step over a cord, it’s a safety hazard. You will also want to avoid running a cord beneath a rug.
  • Fix uneven flooring. Old floorboards, broken tiles, and crooked stairs are fall hazards that should be addressed immediately. They may have been a known issue for a while that you have been putting off, but as time goes on the issue will get worse.
  • Use non-slip floor pads. Ensure that you have non-slip floor pads inside your home where you enter in from the outside. These pads can help you remain balanced when you walk into your home on a rainy day. It can be especially useful where your floor is tile or linoleum.

Improve Your Lighting

  • Replace light bulbs that aren’t working. Ensure that there are no empty sockets in the house.
  • Test your light switches. You want to make sure that your switches are working. If lights don’t go on when you flip a switch you may have to reset the circuit breaker or replace the light bulbs.
  • Use bulbs with high lumens. A well-illuminated room will help you see potential fall hazards. High lumens light bulbs emit more light, enabling you to see throughout your home.
  • Use LED or incandescent lighting over fluorescent lighting. LED and incandescent bulbs don’t take time to warm up and illuminate a room like a fluorescent bulb does.
  • Use night-lights throughout the house so you can see when it’s dark. It’s ideal to have them in your bedroom, bathroom and the hallway in between.
  • Use rocker light switches. They are wide and easier to activate that traditional light switches.
  • Use illuminated light switches. You can install illuminated rocker light switches that are not only easy to turn on or off, but they are easier to see.
  • Place a lamp near your bed so that you can illuminate your bedroom before you get out of bed.
  • Use a touch lamp near your bed. These lamps are activated simply by touching them. These are much easier to use than traditional lamp switches.
  • Use remote-controlled lighting. It is much safer for you to activate the light in your home from the safety of your couch or bed.
  • Use timed lighting to turn your lights on in the morning and off at night. You can set it to activate at the same time every day.
  • Open shades and curtains to let in the daytime light. You can use remote controlled curtains to open them up.
  • Use light colored curtains and shades that block less sunlight from coming into your home.
  • Keep flashlights handy in case of a power outage. Store them in various places in your home that are easy to reach.
  • Use wireless motion-sensor lights to light up areas outside of your home, like the driveway and walkway.
  • Ask for help when changing hard to reach light bulbs. Don’t hesitate to get assistance when it comes to improving your lighting.

Remove the Clutter and Downsize

  • Downsize your clothing and shoes at least once a year. If you haven’t worn it in over a year or it no longer fits, you can get rid of the unused items to make more room.
  • Document items you cherish. If you need to get rid of an item that you have difficulty parting with, you can take photos of the items and put them in a scrapbook for you to remember.
  • Put items in storage. There might be some items that have a lot of meaning and value. Maybe you want to put it in safekeeping for your children or grandchildren. Consider putting these items in a safe storage location.
  • Donate unused items. Your garage or storage shed can be full of unused items like sporting equipment, an old bicycle, a kayak and other miscellaneous gear. Clearing out these areas of your home can make it safer to walk around in and easier to find things.
  • Clear counter space. Remove small items that are seldom used from counters and windowsills. Try to minimize the number of ornaments and decorations throughout your home.
  • Clear junk drawers. Many people have drawers or cabinets in the home where we store miscellaneous items like batteries, mail, chargers, etc… It’s a good item to clean out some of these drawers to increase your storage space for items that are more important.
  • Get rid of duplicate items. Do you have more than one of the same item? Like two toasters, two coat racks or several fruit baskets? Consider getting rid of these duplicate items.
  • Hire help to manage your yard: This will enable you to get rid of lawn care tools like a mower and hedge trimmer, which can take up a lot of space and can be difficult for seniors to use. Consider hiring someone who has their own equipment to maintain your yard.
  • Downsize your possessionsDecluttering your home can make your life very manageable. You may know right away which items to get rid of, but what about items you’re not so sure about? Let’s break down some common items you may be struggling with:
    • Books – Are you going to read them again? If not can you donate them?
    • DVDs and movies – Do you have a pile of movies you haven’t watched in ages? Try donating them.
    • Newspapers and magazines – Have you read them already? Are they taking up much-needed space in your home? Consider throwing them away.
    • Furniture – Is there a couch or a nightstand that you never use? If it’s in good condition you might want to sell or donate it.
  • Hire a professional organizer. A professional organizer can coach you through the organizational process. It’s their job to point out the non-essential items in your home that are taking up space.

Risk Factors for Falls 

With age comes risks. As you already know, the older we get, the more likely we are to fall and the more dangerous a fall becomes. Another vital step you can take in your fall prevention strategy is to understand the risk factors for falling.

Be aware of your physical risk factors

There are a host of physical changes associated with aging. Some, like wrinkles and muscle loss, are natural effects of growing older. Other changes are the health problems that arise with age. These can greatly increase your risk of falling, like osteoporosis, arthritis, a prior injury, or a recent surgery. These factors can cause you pain and weakness. Other conditions like a stroke, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, or dementia can alter cognitive function and cause you to lose coordination. 

Seniors are also more susceptible to memory loss, which is associated with confusion and problem-solving difficulty. This can affect your ability to judge risky situations, take precautions, and recognize hazards. Circulatory diseases like hypotension, heart disease, and cardiac arrhythmia can create imbalances in blood pressurecausing dizziness. Be aware that some medications can be a risk factor too. Prescribed opioids, sleeping pills, sedatives, antidepressants, or antipsychotics can make you very tired or fatigued. Also be mindful of conditions that affect your perception and spatial awareness like a loss of hearing or sight.­­ It’s best to check with your doctor to address these risks.

What are your behavioral risk factors?

Behavioral risk factors are personal characteristics or habits that can contribute to a fall. These factors can be difficult to identify in oneself. For example, some seniors are hesitant to ask for help with challenging activities like using a ladder, lifting heavy objects, or shoveling snow. Others may be reluctant to use mobility devices like a cane or walker. Sometimes a health condition, medication, or a prior fall can make you too tired or fearful to stay mobile. This leads to inactivity which, over time, will cause you to lose strength and bone density. Seniors do tend to lose height due to bone loss with age. This can make your clothes loose or ill-fitting. Your pants may drag on the floor and added fabric on your sweater might snag on something in your home. Also, take note of your footwear. Shoes that don’t fit properly or ones with slippery soles are not safe options. Drinking too muchalcohol is another factor that can cause you to lose balance. Alcohol could also affect your sleep, memory, and blood pressure, all contributing factors that might make you fall.

Daily Activities That Can Preserve Balance and Mobility

Preserving your balance and mobility are great preventative measures in fall prevention. You’ll want to monitor your health and take steps to preserve it so you can live a long and healthy life. Here are the most important ways to be mindful of your well-being:

Improve your strength & balance. Look for low-impact exercises that are designed to increase your strength, maintain muscle and improve balance. Staying in shape even has the added benefit of lowering blood pressure and improving mental health. Before starting any new exercise program, consult your doctor to ensure that your workout routine is safe. But if you get a green light, here are some ideal workouts for seniors.

Check your medications. There are many drugs that can actually increase your risk of falling. You want to avoid medications that have drastic side effects, negative interactions, and that make you fatigued.

  • Know the side effects: If you find that a new prescription is causing you to have adverse side effects that increase your risk of falling, let your doctor know, there may be alternative medications that are safer.
  • Be wary of interactions: If you are taking multiple medications, you may want to check with your doctor or pharmacist to ensure that you are taking them properly and that they won’t interact negatively.
  • Some cause fatigue: Some medications that affect brain function can make you feel drowsy or confused. If you can, try to take these medications before you go to bed instead of in the morning

Maintain your vision and hearing. Your sight and hearing are extremely important to ensuring you stay on your feet.

  • Get regular check-ups: Make sure you are seeing your eye doctor regularly.
  • Update your glasses: Update to new prescription glasses if needed and make sure to purchase a few extra pairs in case you lose them.
  • Use hearing aids: If you are having trouble hearing, ask your doctor about hearing aids. These can greatly improve your safety and quality of life.

Take supplements and vitamins. A healthy combination of supplements and vitamins can help keep your body in shape. Supplements like glucosamine and chondroitin can improve joint health and help you stay flexible. Vitamin D and calcium are recommended to improve bone health and omega-3 fatty acids have numerous heart and cardiovascular benefits.

Get physical or occupational therapy. In many cases, it is covered by Medicare, Medicaid, or your insurance provider. Ask your doctor if you qualify. Physical therapy can relieve pain and improve conditions for seniors suffering from chronic health conditions or a recent injury. Occupational therapists work one-on-one with seniors to find out what they need to avoid a fall. They also offer the following:

  • Safe-landing classes are designed to teach seniors how to land safely in case of a fall. These strategies have been proven to reduce injuries.
  • After-a-fall programs are designed to teach seniors how to safely get up after they have fallen down.
  • Vehicle safety: an occupational therapist can teach and recommend ways for seniors to safely get in and out of their specific vehicle.
  • Bed safety: an occupational therapist can teach and recommend ways for seniors to safely get in and out of their bed. They can even prescribe bed rails or suggest modifications to your bed.
  • Home assessment: an occupational therapist can assess your home and determine what you need to do to make it senior-safe. It’s best to find an occupational therapist that specializes in senior care.

Medical mobility equipment can help you stand, walk, and move around your home. If you find yourself leaning on furniture or reaching for the wall when you walk around your home, it may be time to start using a mobility device.

  • cane or walking-stick is the most basic tool to help facilitate walking.
  • walker is great for seniors who need more support than a cane. Walkers can help you stay balanced and stable.
  • Mobility scooters are an option if you need mobile assistance outside the home. These motorized devices are battery powered and can help you get around faster and safer.

Install household helpers. If you are having difficulty getting up from the lying or sitting position, you might want to consider these options:

Enlist help. Let others handle routine tasks or use their expertise to help you.

  • Running errands: Whether it’s walking your dog or getting groceries, don’t hesitate to ask someone for help with errands. This is especially important during inclement weather or during the nighttime when it’s more difficult to see.
  • Get pet training: If you have a pet it’s a good idea to send them to obedience school. Let the trainer know your needs. Make sure your pet is trained to not run underfoot.
  • Use delivery services: Look into pharmacies that can deliver or mail your medication to your home. Many grocery store chain can deliver goods to your doorstep. Check with your local market to see if they offer this service. The less you are getting in and out of your vehicle to run errands the less likely you will fall in the process.

Small changes can make a big difference

Seniors who take fall prevention seriously can prolong their independence and quality of life for many years. Organizing your home is one of those necessary steps. Although it isn’t going to be an overnight fix, you can get started right away. Begin by cleaning clutter one drawer at a time. Try to make purging and downsizing an ongoing activity. You’d be surprised at how much additional room you have and how neat your home can look.

You should also consider incorporating other habits into your life like stretching and exercising for just a few minutes a day. Try to eat a well-balanced diet and make sure you’re taking your medications as prescribed. The principles of fall prevention should be a welcome addition to your existing lifestyle. If you’ve previously fallen, make sure you take the time to fully recover before you take on any major tasks. One of the biggest predictors of a future fall is a past fall. Lastly, don’t hesitate to ask for help. Downsizing can be a large project, depending on the size of your home. Find relatives that are happy and willing to help. You’ll find yourself relieved at the progress you’ve made. An organized lifestyle will greatly reduce your risk of falling and can provide you with independence and happiness for years to come.

Source: Your Storage Finder

Get ready for Open Enrollment!

It’s almost time once again for the annual Open Enrollment Period (Oct. 15-Dec. 7) during which Medicare beneficiaries can make changes to their Part D and Medicare Advantage coverage. They can use the OEP to enroll in a drug plan, or change how they get their Medicare benefits such as going from Medicare Advantage to Original Medicare, or vice versa. Any changes your clients make related to the OEP take effect on January 1, 2018.

Here’s everything you need to have to get ready to counsel clients during this year’s OEP.

Cost information for 2018

Counseling tools and checklists

Enrollment & disenrollment basics

Marketing rules

Other resources

Source: NCOA.org

Important Paperwork: What to Keep and For How Long

Important Paperwork: What to Keep and For How LongIf you’re like most people, you have boxes and boxes of old files cluttering your closets. You’d like to clean out but don’t know what you need to keep, and for how long. As a daily money manager and Certified Professional Coach, I often get this question from my clients.

 I’ve covered the most common documents below, but when in doubt don’t throw it out unless you are sure you can obtain the records electronically from the bank, insurance company, etc.

These recommendations apply to both caregivers and their elderly parents’ paperwork.

Tax returns and supporting documents

Anything to do with taxes should be kept for at least seven years. The IRS has three years from your filing date to audit your return if it suspects good faith errors and you have the same amount of time to file an amended return if you find a mistake. However, the IRS has six years to challenge your return if it thinks you underreported your income by 25 percent or more. If you fail to file a return or filed a fraudulent return, there is no limit on when the IRS can come after you. Specific items you should keep in addition to your tax returns themselves include documentation of income, alimony, charitable contributions, mortgage interest, and retirement plan contributions and any other tax deductions taken.

Medical bills and records

Keep all medical bills and supporting documentation such as cancelled checks or credit card statements until you are sure that the bill has been acknowledged as having been paid in full by you and/or your insurance company. If you are deducting unreimbursed medical expenses on your tax return, keep all supporting documentation as discussed above. Remember to keep all health-related bills including dental, eyeglasses or contact lenses, hearing aids, and over-the-counter medications, to name a few.

Retirement plan statements

Keep the quarterly statements until you receive the annual summary and if everything matches up, you can shred the quarterly statements. Keep the annual summaries until you close the account.

IRA contributions

If you made an after-tax contribution to an IRA, you will need to keep your records indefinitely to prove that you already paid tax on the money when it is time to make a withdrawal.

Brokerage statements

You must keep these until you sell the securities covered by them to prove whether you have capital gains or losses for your tax return. If you hold stocks or bonds for many years, you will need to keep the statements. The exception is if the cost basis and date of acquisition is listed on the statements. In this case, you only need to keep the year-end statements to support your tax return.

Bank records

Keep any checks or statements related to your taxes, business expenses, home improvements, or mortgage payments.

Bills

Keep bills until you receive the cancelled check or credit card statement showing that your payment was received. Be sure to keep bills for big purchases like jewelry, furniture, art, appliances, cars, computers, etc. so that you can prove the value of these items to your insurance company in the event they are lost, stolen, or destroyed in a covered disaster such as a fire.

House/condo records

Keep all records documenting the purchase price and the cost of all improvements, as well as records of expenses incurred in selling and buying the property for seven years after you sell it.

Credit card receipts and statements

Keep original receipts until your statements come and then match them up. You can then discard the receipts. Keep the statements for seven years if they document tax—related expenses.

Paycheck stubs

Keep until you receive your annual W-2 form from your employer(s) and make sure the information matches. If it doesn’t match, request a corrected W-2 from your employer(s).

Using the above guide, you should be able to clear out the bulk of your saved paperwork and then establish a system for keeping up with things over time. Remember, you can obtain many of these documents in electronic format, or you can scan them and archive them electronically. If the task seems overwhelming, you might want to consider the help of a daily money manager or professional organizer.

Source: AgingCare.com by SHERI SAMOTIN

Essential Tax Steps for New Caregivers

When you first become a caregiver for an aging loved one—whether you’re an adult child lookEssential Tax Steps for New Caregiversing
after a parent who’s entered assisted living, or a spouse taking care of your husband or wife at home—there are many things you must do to ensure they receive the necessary care and support.

Getting their financial house in order is an essential initial step that can be especially helpful, come tax time.

Get organized from the get-go

Every taxpayer should develop a personal organizational system to manage the important financial forms and receipts they receive throughout the year. There’s no one-size-fits-all-approach to organization, and each person’s system will be unique. You may prefer using color-coordinated binders, or opt for filing cabinets of meticulously-labeled hanging folders.

As a caregiver, you may also need to assume responsibility for organizing your loved one’s financial documents. Important items to keep track of include:

  • Annual bank statements
  • 1099s
  • Payroll stubs
  • Dividend Distribution; and Gain & Loss statements
  • Donation receipts
  • Closing statements from real estate transactions
  • Receipts from any taxes paid throughout the year (estimated or quarterly)
  • Receipts from any medical expenses that may be tax deductible

You should also be sure to:

Stay on top of relevant tax information and changes: The United States Tax Code is over 73,000 pages long and contains an astronomical amount of information—too much for even the savviest tax professional to know, let alone the average taxpayer. That’s why it’s especially important for new caregivers to read up on all of the possible tax implications of looking after an elderly loved one. You may have a handle on your own finances, but the world of elder care has a whole new set of rules and conditions. Understanding these distinctions can help you take advantage of certain opportunities to decrease your tax bill, and prevent you from making costly mistakes.

Determine if a loved one can be claimed as a dependent: Claiming a loved one as a dependent can entitle a family caregiver to deduct additional expenses from their taxable income and take advantage of the Child and Dependent Care Credit.

Determine if a loved one needs to file: Depending on their age and income, an elder may not need to file a personal income tax return, even if they are not being claimed as a dependent on the caregiver’s return. For 2015, people 65 and older must file a tax return if their gross income was greater than:

  • Single: $11,850
  • Married filing jointly: $21,800 (one spouse over 65), $23,000 (both spouses over 65)
  • Married filing separately: $6,300 (any age)

Get a copy of your loved one’s most recent tax filing: Even if your loved one can be claimed as a dependent (and thus doesn’t have to file a separate return for themselves), a copy of their most recent tax filing can provide an important reference point to help you determine the forms and information that need to be considered when filing future returns.

Additional steps for POA

If someone have been granted financial power of attorney (POA) over an elderly loved one’s assets, he or she may (depending on the specifics outlined in the POA document) be able to apply to be the elder’s representative to the IRS. In order for a POA to have access to a senior’s financial information and communicate with the IRS on behalf of an elder, a Form 2848 (Power of Attorney and Declaration of Representative) must be filed.

Source: AgingCare.com

Top 10 Caregiver Tax Questions

  1. Are government benefits (e.g. Social Security, Aid and Attendance) taxable? Tax Taxesrules for different government benefits vary. Veteran’s benefits—including pensions, and Aid and Attendance—are not considered income for tax purposes. Public assistance benefits, old-age, survivors, and disability insurance benefits (OASDI), Medicare benefits, mortgage assistance benefits, Nutrition Program for the Elderly benefits, are also free from taxation. Social Security benefits, on the other hand, may be taxable, depending on the person’s filing status and total income. For more information, see Tax Rules for Social Security Benefits.
  2. Can I claim my older relative as a dependent? The financial positives of being able to claim an older adult as a dependent can be large.To qualify for these advantages, both you and the older adult must meet a certain set of requirements, outlined in detail in How to Claim an Older Adult as a Dependent on Your Taxes. In some instances, claiming a dependent might not be the ideal choice. Financial planner and AgingCare.com Expert, Rosanne Roge says it’s important for taxpayers to thoroughly investigate all of their options. “It doesn’t hurt to explore whether you can claim an older adult as a dependent. But keep in mind, in some instances, it may make more sense not to claim them because they may be able to realize greater tax advantages on their own.”
  3. Can more than one person claim an elder as a dependent? Oftentimes, more than one family member is providing financial or caregiving support for an older adult. If the family collectively offers more than 50 percent of a person’s support, then that individual can be claimed as a dependent on the tax return of one of the supporters, so long as that person provided at least ten percent of the dependent’s support. Another element to consider when multiple relatives are assisting an older adult is the preparation of a Form 2120 (Multiple Support Declaration). This document lists who can potentially claim the dependent and declares which person will claim the dependent for that particular year. In order to prepare this document, which must be attached to the tax return of the person claiming the dependent, the taxpayer must have received a statement from each individual who could also potentially claim, saying that they waive their right to do so for that year. Each statement must have the name of the dependent, be signed and dated by the taxpayer who is waiving their right to claim, and include the name, address and Social Security number of that taxpayer.
  4. Can I deduct caregiving-related expenses from my taxes? There are a number of caregiving-related expenses that can be subtracted from your taxable income—from dentures, to home modifications for older adults. To maximize these deductions, you first need to figure out whether you can claim an elder as a dependent. The answer to this question will affect the amount of the standard deduction you can take, as well as the type of expenses you can deduct. This list of Tax Credits and Deductions for Caregivers offers more information on the specific items and services that you can write off.
  5. How do I know if an older adult needs to file a tax return? Depending on their age, yearly income and their filing status, an individual may not need to file a tax return. For 2015, people 65 and older must file a tax return if their gross income was greater than:
    • Single: $11,850
    • Married filing jointly: $21,800 (one spouse over 65), $23,000 (both spouses over 65)
    • Married filing separately: $6,300 (any age)
  6. What services are available to help file tax returns? The majority of Americans seek outside assistance to help them prepare and file their tax returns. Attorneys and certified public accountants are two types of professionals that can help with taxes, and there are also a number of free tax preparation services for older adults.
  7. Will hiring a caregiver for an older adult affect my taxes? If you choose to hire a professional caregiver—such as a home health aide—for an older adult and decide not to go through a home care agency, then your taxes may be impacted. Professional caregivers without agencies are often categorized as “household employees.” This means that you or the older adult is considered a “household employer” and will be responsible for paying the employer’s portion of the aide’s payroll, Social Security and unemployment taxes. Household employers also need to apply for an employer identification number (EIN), provide the professional caregiver with the necessary wage documentation, and file specific forms with the Social Security Administration and the IRS. Discover how hiring an In-Home Caregiver Can Affect Taxes.
  8. Do I have to pay taxes on a death benefit from a life insurance policy? When someone with life insurance passes away, the beneficiaries of the policy do not have to pay taxes on the money they receive, unless the person receiving the benefits bought the policy from the policyholder before they died. However, interest earned from life insurance proceeds may need to be counted as taxable income.
  9. If an older adult pays me to care for them, is that taxable? If the amount is a gift and is less than $14,000 in a given year, then it is tax-free. However, issues may arise when calculating how much support you provided when trying to determine whether you can claim an older adult as a dependent. If the money they gave you was used to pay for expenses that would normally fall under the support category, then you cannot use that amount when calculating the portion of support you provided.
  10. What happens if an older adult forgets to file their taxes on time? If someone forgets to file a tax return, the IRS will often file what is referred to as a “substitute return” on their behalf and send a Notice of Deficiency CP3219N—a letter notifying the elder of their failure to file, with an assessment of the amount they owe in taxes. At this point, the taxpayer can’t file an extension, but has 90 days to either file their return, or submit a petition to Tax Court. Otherwise, the IRS will continue with their own estimation of the taxes owed by the taxpayer, which often neglects to take into account all the deductions and credits that person may be eligible for. If the taxpayer does file a return within the 90 day period, then the IRS will often adjust their calculations to fit the new information. If the taxpayer does not file a return within that time frame, then the IRS may impose a federal tax lien, or place a levy on the taxpayer’s bank account.

 

Source: AgingCare.com