Making a Bad Situation Better

Jesse Bifulco, Attorney, Camden Maine

Is there a Way to Plan for a Disability?

In Maine, the answer is yes, you can plan for a senior disability. Many people fear what will happen to them if they become disabled. No one likes to think about the possibility of their own disability or the disability of a loved one. But you can learn how to protect your estate and your loved ones from the devastating effects of elder disability in Maine. The statistics are clear that we should all plan for at least a temporary disability. The stress of disability on the individual and the family can be extreme. Disability planning is one area where we can give each and every person, caregiver and family we work with great comfort in knowing that, if the day comes for themselves or a loved one, they will be prepared. Discussing options and planning early (while capacity is not an issue) will help bring peace of mind and alleviate some of the fear surrounding this issue. You can be proactive about senior disability planning in Camden Maine and other parts of Maine. 

In Maine alone, the number of individuals living with Alzheimer’s will increase from 37,000 individuals today to over 53,000 individuals by 2020. One in eight people aged 65 and older has Alzheimer’s disease, and Maine’s 65-74 year old age group is forecast to grow by 77%
State Plan for Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias in Maine

Most Individuals Will Face At Least a Temporary Disability Statistics show that one in three Americans will face at least a 90-day disability before reaching age 65 and. On the whole, Americans are up to 3.5 times more likely to become disabled than die in any given year. Disabilities are unpredictable and many think they can only happen to other families. The reality is, it does not take a lot to disable a senior. Hopefully, the disability is temporary and the senior only needs help during a successful rehabilitation.

Senior Disability Planning in Midcoast Maine

Many Will Face a Long Term Disability Unfortunately, for many Americans, the disability will not be short-lived. Many will need skilled care or the highest level of in-home care, while half will need help with at least one “activity of daily living” (such as eating, bathing, getting dressed, or the kind of care needed for a severe cognitive impairment like Alzheimer’s disease). Patient age is particularly important as more Americans live past age 65. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration on Aging tells us that Americans over 65 are increasing at an impressive rate.

Aging in Place

The Department of Health and Human Services also estimates that 9 million Americans over age 65 will need long-term care this year. That number is expected to increase to 12 million by 2020. The Department also estimates that 70% of all persons age 65 or older will need some type of long-term care services during their lifetime.

The Alzheimer’s Factor
Alzheimer’s is growing at an alarming rate. The Alzheimer’s Association published in a past report titled, “Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures” that explored different types of dementia, causes and risk factors, and the cost involved in providing health care, among other areas. In this report were some eye-opening statistics:

  • An estimated 5.3 million Americans of all ages have Alzheimer’s disease. This figure includes 5.1 million people aged 65 and older and 200,000 individuals under age 65 who have younger-onset Alzheimer’s.
  • One in eight people aged 65 and older (13%) have Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Every 70 seconds, someone in America develops Alzheimer’s. By mid-century, someone will develop the disease every 33 seconds.
  • The number of people aged 65 and older with Alzheimer’s disease is estimated to reach 7.7 million in 2030 – more than a 50% increase from the 5.1 million aged 65 and older currently affected.
  • By 2050, the number of individuals aged 65 and older with Alzheimer’s is projected to number between 11 million and 16 million – unless medical breakthroughs identify ways to prevent or more effectively treat the disease.

There is no treatment available to stop or slow the progression of Alzheimer’s. There are five drugs currently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that temporarily slow the worsening of symptoms for approximately six to twelve months in about half of the patients who take the drugs.

Statistics show that one in three Americans will face at least a 90-day disability before reaching age 65

Planning can alleviate stress and unnecessary health issues for your family and caregivers

Caregivers are at risk of developing health problems. There were approximately 10.9 million unpaid caregivers (family members and friends) providing care to persons with Alzheimer’s or dementia. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, those persons are at high risk of developing health problems, or worsening existing health issues. For example, family and other unpaid caregivers of people with Alzheimer’s or another dementia are more likely than non-caregivers to have high levels of stress hormones, reduced immune function, slow wound healing, new hypertension, and new coronary heart disease.

Spouses who are caregivers for the other spouse with Alzheimer’s or other dementia are at greater risk for emergency room visits due to their health deteriorating as the result of providing care. A past Alzheimer’s Association report found that caregivers of spouses who were hospitalized for dementia were more likely than caregivers of spouses who were hospitalized for other diseases to die in the following year.

The good news about having a spouse or family member that will help take care of you. 

Factors that could decrease your stay in a nursing home.  Residents who were married or living with a partner at the time of admission had a significantly shorter average stay than those who were widowed, divorced or never married. Likewise, those who lived with a family member prior to admission also had a shorter average stay than those who lived alone prior to admission. Many seniors or their loved ones will require significant in-home care lasting, on average, close to a year. For those requiring nursing home care, that care lasts, on average, nearly 2 1/2 years! Not surprising, the older the senior or loved one, the more likely he or she will need long-term care – which is significant given that Americans are living longer.

Plan Ahead to Protect Property from the High Cost of Nursing Home Care

Long-Term Care Costs Can Be Staggering
Not only will many individuals and families face prolonged long-term care, in-home care and nursing home costs continue to rise. According to a recent 2018 Genworth survey conducted by CareScout, The cost of long-term monthly care in the state of Maine is as follows:

Home Maker Sevice: $4,767.

Home Health Aid $4957.

Assisted Living: $4,950.

Semi Private Room :$9,429.

Private Room: $10,098.

These costs vary significantly by region, and thus it is critical to know the costs where the individual will receive care. Nursing home costs will consume many Americans’ assets. A recent Harvard University study indicates that 69% of single people and 34% of married couples would exhaust their assets after 13 weeks (i.e., 91 days) in a nursing home! Penbay Estate Planning can create a plan to protect your assets.  Penbay Estate Planning Law Center can assist individuals in creating a plan that will prevent the loss of one’s life savings to private health care costs. Often these plans involve the use of trusts (both revocable and irrevocable), expansive powers of attorney for financial and health care decisions, and other important legal documents.

All Planning Should Thoroughly Address Disability
When a person becomes disabled, he or she is often unable to make personal and/or financial decisions. If the disabled person cannot make these decisions, someone must have the legal authority to do so. Otherwise, the family must apply to the court for appointment of a guardian over the person or property, or both.

At a minimum, seniors need broad powers of attorney that will allow agents to handle all of their property upon disability, as well as the appointment of a decision-maker for health care decisions (the name of the legal document varies by state, but all accomplish the same thing). Alternatively, a fully funded revocable trust can ensure that the senior’s person and property will be cared for as desired, pursuant to the highest duty under the law – that of a trustee.

The above discussion outlines the minimum planning clients should consider in preparation for a possible disability. It is imperative that clients work with a team of professional advisors (legal, medical and financial) to ensure that, in light of their unique goals and objectives, their planning addresses all aspects of a potential disability. Please contact us at Penbay Estate Planning Law Center if you have any questions or would like to discuss any information in this blog post.


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– Ben Franklin


Estate Planning for Disability

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