World Elder Abuse Awareness Day

June 15th is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day.  According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, millions of older persons are abused, neglected, and exploited. Once a year in mid June, communities and municipalities around the world plan activities and programs to recognize World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD). It’s an opportunity to share information and spread awareness about abuse, neglect, and exploitation in later life. Everyone can make a difference. Take a stand against elder abuse with the actions steps suggested below:

Engage Seniors

Empower Communities

Speak Out!

Involve Youth

  • Ask your teacher to commemorate World Elder Abuse Awareness Day on June 15 by educating students on the signs of elder abuse!
  • Create an art, essay, or poem contest for kids about the value and respect of elders!
  • Have your sorority or fraternity do a service project to help elders. Visit a nursing home or senior center and pass out education materials from the World Day Tool Kit. Visit isolated seniors in your neighborhoods.
  • Encourage your teen to start a campaign to promote dignity and support for older adults External Web Site Policy.

Join an event! See what events are happening in your community. If there are none so far, consider starting one, or contact your local Area Agency on Aging to see what local coalitions are doing.






Tips to Reduce Loneliness During the Holidays

The holidays are often a difficult time for older adults, especially shut-ins.  For many, family members have grown up and moved away and often are too busy or don’t have the funds to travel for the holidays.  Add to that, thoughts of loved ones who have passed away, mix in a bit of seasonal affective disorder and you have a recipe for depression. 

Pam Marra, staff writer for Theet.com, offers the following very practical tips to help reduce the loneliness that many of our older adults feel at this time of year.  

  • Spend time with them. Look at holiday photos or videos with them, and leave them photos to view when they’re alone. Let them reminisce. 
  • Listen and understand when they want to talk, even if the talk is negative. 
  • Help them focus on the good things present in their lives rather than their losses. 
  • Holiday cards often bring bad news, and decrease in quantity. Help them write their own cards to keep a connection with life-long friends. 
  • If a parent is in an assisted living facility or nursing home, check with the local kindergarten or day care centers to see if they can bring children to visit.
  • Check with parents’ churches or spiritual facilities. Visitors, such as those in the Stephen Ministries, a program many Christian churches offer, can visit people at home or in a facility.
  • Decorate their home or room in stages, presenting cherished ornaments at intervals so there is something to look forward to. 
  • Bring traditional baked goods or treats regularly for them and their friends to share. 
  • Call their friends and see if they can come to a small gathering or party. 
  • Make their dinner table special. Whether at home or in a facility, try to make the table festive with some appropriate colors and themes. 
  • Remind them how important they are. They may feel useless and burdensome. Make them feel loved. 



Where should we keep our estate planning documents???

Our friends at Hook Law Center have written a great article below on how best to store your estate planning documents.  Hope you appreciate the information as much as we did!

You likely are aware of the importance of having comprehensive, up-to-date estate planning documents. What you may not realize, however, is that where you keep your original documents can be equally as important – and can either help your loved ones out immensely, or can cause them to incur significant legal fees.

A complete estate plan includes documents which are to be used in the event of your incapacity as well as at your death. In both of these situations, it is important that the individuals named to serve in those documents are aware that the documents exist, where they are located, and how they may be accessed. After all, if the original documents cannot be found, they will be of little use. A beneficiary of a will whose original that cannot be located, for example, may be out of luck, if the beneficiary would not have otherwise inherited under Virginia’s laws relating to intestate succession. The law presumes that if an original will cannot be located, its creator destroyed it with the intent that it be revoked. As a result, attempting to admit a photocopy of a will to probate can be a costly, time-consuming endeavor, and there are no guarantees as to whether the copy will ultimately be accepted.

To avoid the problems that arise when original estate planning documents are lost, we recommend the following:

(1) Store your original estate planning documents, and any other important legal documents (deeds, life insurance policies, etc.), in a safe, secure, and logical location.

Many people choose to store their documents in a waterproof and fire-resistant safe or file cabinet at home; others prefer to keep theirs in a safe deposit box at the bank. These are all good options. We do not recommend storing original documents in your car, the freezer, a basement that floods, or in one of the many banker’s boxes you have sitting in your garage. Help your loved ones out by choosing a logical location.

(2) Ensure that others will be able to access your documents in the event of your death or incapacity.

If you are keeping your documents in a safe at home, make extra copies of any safe keys and combinations. If you are keeping your documents in a safe deposit box, work with the bank to ensure that a trusted family member or friend can access them in the event of your death or incapacity.

Under Virginia law, an agent under a power of attorney does not have the automatic right to enter into and remove all contents of a safe deposit box, although the agent may be permitted to enter into the box for the limited purpose of searching for the original power of attorney. For this reason, safeguarding the documents yourself or having a trusted family member safeguard them may cause fewer headaches for your fiduciaries. If you choose to use a safe deposit box, we generally recommend that it be in the name of joint owners, so that the joint owner may be able to access the contents of the box in the event of your incapacity or death. Always check with your bank, however, to ensure this will be the case. Each bank’s policies and procedures may vary.

(3) Tell the individuals named in your estate planning documents where you are keeping the originals and how they may access them.

It is a good idea to do this in writing, so the information is not forgotten. If you store your documents in a safe, be sure your named agents and executor have the combination or a copy of the key. If the documents are in a safe deposit box, make sure your named agents and executor know the box number and the address of the bank branch where the box is located. If you change the location of your documents, update your loved ones immediately to make them aware of the new location.

(4) To avoid confusion, shred any old, revoked estate planning documents.

You don’t want your loved ones to run across – and attempt to use – an outdated will or power of attorney that no longer reflects your wishes. Prevent misunderstandings and family conflicts by keeping only your current estate planning documents.



Avoiding "the Fall"

Fairfax County's Independent Living Project recently sponsored a presentation by Margie Fox Kwart, a Certified Aging-in-Place specialist and Occupational Therapist.  The summary of her presentation follows with credit to NorthwestMedical.com and PattersonMedical.com.

Besides any preconceived notion that falls are simply the result of poor balance, weakness, or accidental tripping over objects - it is important to realize there are many other components that may contribute to falling. Seek out the appropriate specialist to address the following factors which can contribute to an increased number of falls:

Numerous medications


Arthritic pain

Foot Problems

Balance skills



Sleep habits

Nutrition/Diet Behaviors related to substance abuse


Willingness to use equipment Footwear (i.e. walker, wheelchair)

Techniques for completing tasks

Risk Taking


Increase visibility - Stronger/enhanced lighting - on floors, walls, hallways, stairs, countertops, desks

Contrast - to emphasize what is important and to differentiate it from the background

Reduce Glare

Add Textures and Non-skid Surfaces on handrails, grab bars, flooring 

Reduce Clutter – a true health hazard both inside and outside the home

Ensure safe accessibility - Make sure what you need is accessible - both indoors and ourdoors: Must be able to easily access light switches, outlets, mailbox, counters, shelves, dishes, pots & pans, closet hooks and rods, faucets, furniture (accessible height), objects used for daily living tasks (i.e. toilet paper rolls), doors (lever handles), elimination or reduction of thresholds (when entering and exiting the home as well as individual rooms.)



-Stick on motion sensor LED lights especially on stairs, or to add as task lighting (i.e. under cabinets, in closets and drawers)

-Place a ‘touch night-light’ for use on night stand

-Frosted bulbs and sheer blinds reduce glare

-‘Reveal’ light bulbs simulate natural light


-Paint or colored duct tape to provide contrast (especially to mark stair edges, countertop edges, and to differentiate wall from floor)

HANDRAILS AND GRAB BARS (should have texture and should contrast from wall color):

-Add a second stair handrail on opposite side of existing rail

-Add handrail along a hallway – (especially leading to bathroom or other common paths)

-Add an extension to an existing stair handrail so that it leads you onto a flat surface or landing, beyond where the normal rail ends


-‘Swivel seat cushion’ (lazy-susan concept) to ease getting in and out of car

-‘Handybar’ - compact and portable to ease standing up from car seat -3-


-Perching stools - adjustable in height and enable you to sit for tasks

-Carts on wheels- to transport dishes and pots

-Slide-out under cabinet shelving for greater accessibility

-Hang pots and pans on hooks within reach


-Bathroom doors should open OUT (for quickest access to a person who may have fallen and landed on the opposite side of the door)

-Professionally install grab bars – do not use suction type; should have contrast and texture. Many variations available depending on where and how used – (i.e. tub, toilet, bed)

-Shower seats - many varieties available depending on individual needs

-‘Tub Cuts’ – to turn a bathtub into a walk-in shower. These are reversible and applicable to most bathtub materials

-Replace sliding glass doors with a shower curtain

-Toilet seat height – add seat risers, add arms, and/or consider ‘toilevator’ to elevate from the base

-Place bar of soap in old pair of pantyhose and attach to soap dish to avoid having to retrieve a dropped bar.


-Adaptive equipment is available for just about any challenge related to self care. Products are designed to enable greater independence and safety (i.e. long handled reachers, shoe horns & bath sponges; elastic shoe laces; adjustable height shower hose; leg lifters to assist getting legs on and off of bed).

-‘Life alert’ monitored and non-monitored systems for emergency calling with one touch


-Eliminate loose cords on the ground by holding them together with a paper towel roll

-Take boxes of old photos and have them made into a (digital) photo memory album


-Roll-on ‘anti-slip flooring products’ for indoor and outdoor use

-‘Serfas Grip Bar Tape’ and other such products cab add grip-ability and texture to rails and bars


-Ideally eliminate or minimize thresholds in and around the home

-Portable thresholds and ramps are available for easier access into the home -Remove scatter rugs wherever possible

-Ensure rugs are held securely to the floor, especially around the edges, using carpet tape

-Minimize bold prints and patterns on the floor.


-Attach a bell to the collar of your pet to alert you that s/he is approaching

-Place a table by the front door to have a place to rest packages

-‘Furniture Risers’ – place under beds, chairs, etc. to elevate seat height


Managing your LTC insurance policy

Buckley has long advocated acquiring Long Term Care Insurance policies for our later years.   If you have purchased such a policy, here is some excellent advice from our friends at The Estate Planning & Elder Law Firm:

Many people have difficulty getting benefits under their long-term care insurance policies.

These disputes have often related to the interpretation of a policy when language is unclear or ambiguous. Although occasionally it is necessary to employ an experienced elder law attorney when negotiating and managing a long-term care insurance policy, the best practices discussed in this article will hopefully help you avoid legal fees and lost benefits.

I. Actively Manage The Policy During A Policy Transfer

Since 2008, some insurance providers have experienced corporate transitions, dissolutions, and bankruptcies. Occasionally, a specific set of policies is transferred from one company to another during a corporate transition. When this happens, be sure to properly document the policy’s transition from one company to another.

Usually, the new company will have the same rights and obligations as the prior company, since the policy will have only been “assigned,” and therefore has not been contractually altered. However, any paperwork regarding the transfer may include “fine print” which is important to review with a critical eye. Sometimes a state insurance bureau will allow a company receiving a policy during a transfer, known as the assuming company, to raise the premiums on the policy in order to ensure that the set of policies has sufficient liquidity coverage.

II. Watch The Rating Of The Company

Although over a hundred companies in the United States offer long-term care insurance, only a fourth of these companies have healthy financial strength ratings. There are also numerous rating agencies, the foremost of which are A.M. Best, Moody’s, and Standard & Poor’s. It is a good idea to review the financial strength of the company underwriting your long-term care insurance policy. This should be done at least once a year. If a company has a dramatic ratings change, it is possible that it is experiencing a financial crisis. This could lead to a transfer of your long-term care policy to another company. The earlier you learn of the potential bad news, the more time you have to adjust your plans around it.

III. Document With Whom You Are Speaking And What They Specifically Say

As with any legal contract, usually a long-term care policy is interpreted solely through the written words of the policy itself. Thus, when a representative tells you something about a policy, make sure they explain where in the policy it specifically states their position. Be sure to write down these statements as well, so that if an attorney has to review your matters, you can properly document what was said or not said. Moreover, some long-term care insurance companies now allow a policy holder to email them their questions.

IV: A Closing Comment

Please note that our experiences with long-term care insurance have been positive overall, and we still believe that it is a good product for many people – as long as the policy fits into the overall financial plan of the client and is underwritten by a strong company. Long-term care is incredibly expensive when paid for out-of-pocket, and it is hard to predict the political climate and future legislation which could alter federal benefits programs. However, it is important to consider utilizing an attorney to make your initial claim for benefits under a policy. Even if you are already in an assisted living facility, a company can claim that you are not impaired to the extent necessary for benefits to accrue under the policy. An attorney may be helpful when you transfer from one form of care to another. For example, even if you are already receiving benefits for in-home care coverage, a company may claim that an additional exclusionary period applies when you transition to an assisted living facility. It is usually much more beneficial to enlist an attorney prior to a claim for benefits than after it has been filed.


10 Great Ways to Support Family Caregivers

Many Americans recognize November as a month to thank, support, educate and celebrate all the many caregivers nationwide who provide loving care for family members free of charge.  Such services are estimated conservatively to be $306 billion annually.

Our friends at Right at Home offer the following suggestions as ways to celebrate National Family Caregiver's Month:

  1. Offer a few hours of respite time to a family caregiver so they can spend time with friends, or simply relax.

  2. Send a card of appreciation or a bouquet of flowers to brighten a family caregiver's day. 

  3. Encourage local businesses to offer a free service for family caregivers through the month of November.

  4. Help a family caregiver decorate their home for the holidays or offer to address envelopes for their holiday cards. 

  5. Offer comic relief! Purchase tickets to a local comedy club, give a family caregiver your favorite funny movie to view, or provide them with a book on tape. 

  6. Find 12 different photos of the caregiver's family and friends. Have a copy center create a calendar that the family caregiver can use to keep track of appointments and events. 

  7. Offer to prepare Thanksgiving dinner for a caregiving family in your community, so they can just relax and enjoy the holiday. 

  8. Take a few minutes to write a letter. Encourage your faith community to ask for prayers not only for those who are ill, but also those who care for them. 

  9. Encourage family caregivers to become a part of the National Family Caregiver Story Project. It's a great place to not only share but read about others in like situations. 

  10. Help a family caregiver find new educational materials and support through family caregiving web sites or by calling local social service agencies for help.



Conversation Starters for Boomers and their Loved Ones

Our friends at Home Instead Senior Care have published a very handy booklet which is designed to help adult children and their aging parents deal with those sensitive life topics that often make conversations difficult.   Check it out here 






"Digital Assets" and your Estate Plan

A recent article from the Hook Law Center regarding digital assets and your estate plan (http://www.hooklawcenter.com/newsletter/news-2014/digital-assets-and-your-estate-plan) raised some good questions regarding access to our social media and other accounts.  Have you considered what would happen to all your on-line accounts/web pages should you become incapacitated or die? I personally have observed how confusing and upsetting it is to those left behind to be scrambling to find passwords to disable Facebook or Linked-In accounts.

It would be a huge service to your loved ones that you consider utilizing your Will and Power of Attorney to permit others to manage your digital assets and that you create a master list of your accounts, log-in information and passwords to make it easier for the people you have named to take control of those assets.  It doesn't seem like a high priority but it will go a long way towards providing peace of mind during a difficult time should you make this information easily accessible to them.



Helping our Older Loved Ones Enjoy the Holidays

We loved this article written by Sharon O'Brien for About.com's Senior Living page.  It does an excellent job of helping ensure happier holidays for those in our families who are older or who have special needs.

For most of us, the holidays are a wonderful time to share the joys of family life and friendship. But for many older adults the holidays can be highly stressful, confusing, or even depressing if their mental, physical and emotional needs are not taken into account.

If you have older friends and family members with underlying health issues, you can help them enjoy the holiday season more by following these simple tips, based on advice from specialists in senior medicine at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) School of Medicine:

  1. Stroll down memory lane. Holidays provoke memories, which can be especially powerful in the later years of life. “Leading authorities have observed that memory and ‘life review’ are important parts of the aging process,” says Barry Lebowitz, Ph.D., deputy director of UCSD’s Stein Institute for Research on Aging. “Older people whose memories are impaired may have difficulty remembering recent events, but they are often able to share stories and observations from the past. These shared memories are important for the young as well—children enjoy hearing about how it was ‘when your parents were your age…’.” He suggests using picture albums, family videos and music, even theme songs from old radio or TV programs, to help stimulate memories and encourage older seniors to share their stories and experiences.


  2. Plan ahead. If older family members tire easily or are vulnerable to over-stimulation, limit the number of activities they are involved in or the length of time they are included. The noise and confusion of a large family gathering can lead to irritability or exhaustion, so schedule time for a nap, if necessary, and consider designating a “quiet room” where an older person can take a break. “Assign someone to be the day’s companion to the older person, to make sure the individual is comfortable,” says Daniel Sewell, M.D., director of the Senior Behavior Health Unit at the UCSD Medical Center, who adds that these guidelines work well for young children as well as adults with mental, emotional and physical health issues.


  3. Eliminate obstacles. If a holiday get-together is held in the home of an older person with memory impairment or behavioral problems, don’t rearrange the furniture. This could be a source of confusion and anxiety. If the gathering is in a place unfamiliar to an older person, remove slippery throw rugs and other items that could present barriers to someone with balance problems or who has difficulty walking.


  4. Avoid embarrassing moments. Try to avoid making comments that could inadvertently embarrass an older friend or family member who may be experiencing short-term memory problems. If an older person forgets a recent conversation, for example, don’t make it worse by saying, “Don’t you remember?”


  5. Create new memories. In addition to memories, seniors need new things to anticipate. Add something new to the holiday celebration, or volunteer for your family to help others. Enjoy activities that are free, such as taking a drive to look at holiday decorations, or window-shopping at the mall or along a festive downtown street.


  6. Be inclusive. Involve everyone in holiday meal preparation, breaking down tasks to include the youngest and oldest family members. “Older adults with physical limitations can still be included in kitchen activities by asking them to do a simple, helpful task, like greasing cooking pans, peeling vegetables, folding napkins or arranging flowers,” Sewell says.


  7. Reach out. Social connectedness is especially important at holiday times. “Reaching out to older relatives and friends who are alone is something all of us should do,” Lebowitz says. “Loneliness is a difficult emotion for anyone. Recent research with older people has documented that loneliness is associated with major depression and with suicidal thoughts and impulses.”


  8. Beat the blues. “Holiday blues” are feelings of profound sadness that can be provoked by all the activities of the holiday season. Seasonal blues can have a particular impact in the lives of older people, according to Lebowitz. “In some people, the ‘holiday blues’ represent the exacerbation of an ongoing depressive illness,” he says. “Depression is a dangerous and life-threatening illness in older people. Tragically, suicide rates increase with age, specifically for older men. Depression is not a normal part of aging and should never be ignored or written off.”


  9. Keep on the sunny side. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) or winter depression is an illness that can be provoked by reductions in sunlight during the short days of winter. It is important for people confined indoors, especially those at risk for winter depression, to make time for activities that will increase exposure to daylight, according to Lebowitz.


  10. Monitor medications and alcohol. If you have senior family members, be sure to help them adhere to their regular schedule of medications during the frenzy of the holidays. Also, pay attention to their alcohol consumption during holiday parties and family gatherings. According to Sewell, alcohol can provoke inappropriate behavior or interfere with medications.

“Older family members with special needs can get lost in the shuffle and chaos of happy family gatherings,” Sewell says. “So, with all the hustle and bustle of the season, just remember to be sensitive and loving. And plan ahead.”


Who will look after Boomer?

(Deb's yellow Lab, Boomer)

We were reminded by our friends at Needham, Mitnick and Pollack, a Northern Virginia elder law practice, that you can make provision for your pets in your Powers of Attorney. For example, you can designate a person to handle a pet's care or placement in the event you can no longer care for your pet. A provision can also be included that authorizes the designated Agent to pay for such expenses as veterinarian services, pet daycare, boarding, and medication. A provision can also be included for the pet's care in the event the pet owner will be permanently unable to care for the pet.

How wise it would be for us to plan ahead for this!  Your pet will thank you!