It is my personal and professional experience that dealing with elder issues can be one of the most challenging tasks one faces during a lifetime. Although a myriad of programs and benefits are available for many, lack of education and expertise in deciphering complex laws relating to these benefits makes them almost inaccessible. This article can only touch upon a few issues of concern and is intended to trigger a more expanded inquiry and search by the readers.
Government Benefits: Almost everyone knows about Social Security Retirement (SSR) benefits available to individuals based on their work history and age of retirement. What is not known to many is the challenging road to receiving the Social Security Disability (SSDI) benefits which often requires perseverance, and most likely legal representation, when the diagnosis of disability does not squarely fit the definitions provided by the law.
A whole separate area of benefits are available to elders, the blind or disabled, merely on the basis of financial need and per a Supplemental Security Income (SSI) eligibility criteria. Health and care programs are also available through Medicare (National Health program for 65 and older, or younger if received SSDI for 24 months), Medi-Cal (for low income seniors), Nursing Home Medi-Cal (subject to eligibility criteria), In-Home support Services (IHSS), and Veterans Aid & Attendance (A & A) Pension.
Healthcare and Financial Decisions: Many tools are available to allow the elderly to maintain control over their own health and financial decision for as long as they are in full command of their mental faculties. Using such tools as Power of Attorney for Health Care (PAHC) and Durable Power of Attorney For Financial Matters (DPAFM), can bring long lasting peace of mind if the right agent is selected. Unfortunately, in the absence of these documents, the individual’s friends and family members, or conservators and agents appointed by a court, may become the decision maker for the elder person or their estate.
Plan early to consult experts in the areas of Elder Law and avoid undesirable consequences and inevitable conflict.