Did you know May is National Elder Law Month? This month holds special importance to us as we support all Alabama seniors, their loved ones, and their caregivers. We know that you and your family may need extra help not only this month, but throughout the year. One of our goals as a firm is to ensure that you are protected in all circumstances. We want to ensure that you have the help, guidance, and resources you need now, and throughout the year.

Unfortunately, many Alabama seniors and their loved ones have only taken the step to complete their estate planning. While estate planning is essential, it is not elder law planning. Estate planning contemplates both lifetime and end-of-life decisions. For example, you can make a document such as a durable power of attorney that can ensure that you have a decision maker with legal authority in place in the event you cannot make decisions for yourself. Or, by contrast, you could make a last will and testament that directs who should inherit from you at the time of your passing.

The same tools, however, do not necessarily protect you by addressing elder law concerns. Elder law, sometimes referred to as elder care law, is a relatively new area of law. It primarily addresses the issues that can arise as a result of the aging process. For example, should you need long-term care:

  • How will you find the right care for you? 
  • How do you know what to look for? 
  • Can the services you need be provided in your home?
  • Further, if you were to need to move to a long-term care facility, would you be able to pay for it? 

Many of us do not have unlimited resources. This means, without elder law planning, we would be at risk of losing all of our assets and impoverishing our loved ones if we had to pay for the high cost of nursing home care without assistance.

We know these may be considerations that you have never thought of before. This National Elder Law Month, let us take a moment and share information on three critical areas addressed through elder law planning that you need to know for yourself and your family.

1. Alabama Medicaid. Medicaid is a combination of state and federal dollars that you may be able to access to help you pay for the cost of long-term care. Know that Medicaid is not Medicare. While all seniors are eligible for Medicare this is not the same thing for Medicaid. Medicare is a health care program that can help most seniors defray the cost of acute medical care. Medicaid, by contrast, is an eligibility program that can help pay for custodial care in a nursing home. You must qualify through a health, income, and asset test to be able to access these valuable resources, which we can discuss with you in a consultation at our firm.

2. Family Caregivers. Family caregivers are the unsung heroes in America. Family caregivers are often under-appreciated and unpaid for the services that they provide. Further, without the guidance of an elder law attorney, you may be paying your family caregiver for his or her much-needed help, but jeopardizing your ability to access the benefits of the Medicaid program. This is one of the things that we can discuss in a meeting at our office. The most important thing is for you to know that you are not alone. You can click this link to learn more about how to best manage this new responsibility in your life and how to help yourself and the aging senior you are caring for.

3. Veterans Affairs Pension Benefits. For wartime veterans and their dependents, there are additional benefits available through the department of Veterans Affairs. One such benefit is the pension program. This is a monthly, tax-free benefit that is available to qualifying Alabama seniors. Similar to Medicaid, there is a health, income, and asset test as well. 

We know this article may raise more questions than it answers. We encourage you not to wait to learn more about the benefits and resources available to Alabama seniors now, or at any point in the future. Do not wait to schedule a meeting with attorney Bill Miller to discuss your questions and learn how to protect yourself and your family.