Seeing to it that your senior relative is well cared for can be a challenge. Reversing caretaking roles with someone close to you can be difficult for both of you. Nonetheless, the aging process is unavoidable, and the majority of our elders will, at some point, require assistance due to limited mobility, diminished strength, loss of sight or hearing, and/or neurological or cognitive impairment. As a loved one weakens, it can be difficult to assess whether he or she is still strong enough to continue to live independently or is being well-tended by a home healthcare aide or the assisted living establishment or skilled nursing facility in which he or she is a resident.
However diligent you have been in making arrangements to ensure your relative’s comfort and safety, the situation has to be regularly re-evaluated. When safety, healthcare, or financial issues arise, or when elder neglect or abuse rears its ugly head, it is reassuring and empowering to have an experienced elder law/estate planning attorney at your side. Surprenant & Beneski, P.C., serving clients throughout Southeastern Massachusetts, is just such a premium law practice. We can also give you suggestions on how to “have the talk” when your loved one needs to be relocated.
Assessing Your Loved One’s Living Situation
Once you assess your relative’s well-being, or lack of it, you will be in a better position to look into any kind of changes that must be made. This is a hands-on project that requires a personal visit to the place your loved one resides.
What To Look For When You Visit Your Senior Relative
Whether you visit your elderly relative at home or in a facility, you should pay close attention to:
- Substantial weight loss or gain, bloating, swelling or exceptionally dry skin
- Poor grooming: unwashed clothing, dirty or uncombed hair, overgrown nails, misapplied makeup, body odor, dirty teeth, bad breath
- Impaired balance and mobility, poor gait, inability to stand or walk unassisted, unsteadiness, reportage or evidence of recent falls (bruises or cuts)
- Evidence of isolation, lack of regular social interaction
- Complaints of lack of appetite, pain, constant thirst, difficulties with elimination
- Complaints of inability to sleep or evident fatigue or sleepiness
- Impression that the relative is over- or under-medicated
- Sudden physical changes: e.g. a sagging eyelid, limp arm
Unsafe or Unpleasant Environment
- Dirty surroundings: dusty, littered tapletops, sticky surfaces, unwashed floors or toilets, moldy, rotten, or expired food stuffs
- Lack of proper ventilation, unpleasant smells, evidence of insect or rodent infestation
- Clear and present dangers: overloaded electrical outlets, broken windows or doors, floors that slippery with grime or papers (scatter rugs if the patient is at home)
- Evidence of untended chores: dead plants, overflowing garbage pails, unchanged linens, unwashed dishes; in the home: unopened mail, unpaid bills, unfilled prescriptions
- Lack of easy accessibility of water, snacks or toilet
- Uncomfortable temperature or noise level
- Depression or anxiety, complaints of loneliness or despair, outbursts of anger
- Dangerously poor memory: leaving the stove on the water running, the outside door open in the home; forgetting to put on slippers or shoes or to use a walker when taking a walk in a medical facility
- Reported or discovered evidence that your relative has been scammed, spending money on a fraudulent charity, sweepstakes, or a manufactured plea for help from strangers
- Sudden changes in perception: hallucinations (visual or auditory)
- Forgetting names of close family, forgetting births or deaths
- Disorientation relative to time and place
Clearly the three general categories listed above intertwine. For example, your senior relative may be unable to take the garbage because of a physical problem with strength or mobility; on the other hand, she may have dementia and have completely forgotten that garbage needs to be taken out at all. In the same vein, a single incidence of egregious naivete may not be a cause for alarm. Most have us have been victims of a scam at least once.
What matters is that you take your role as a protector seriously and look out for this person who may have once been your protector. Interacting with an elder lawyer can be crucial in knowing what steps to take to increase your elderly relative’s level of comfort and safety, and to defend your senior relative from the undeniable difficulties of aging.
Long-term Care Planning For Your Senior Relative
As our golden years approach we should plan to ensure we can maintain a good quality of life and the peace-of-mind that comes from knowing we have done all we can to protect our assets from the high costs of age-related medical care and long-term care (which averages $12,000 – $14,000 per month in Massachusetts).
The ideal time to think about this planning is while you are healthy, at least five years in advance of potentially needing long-term care.
Masshealth Crisis Management
If you didn’t do advance planning to protect your assets or become suddenly ill and a long-term skilled nursing stay is imminent, you may still be able to protect some of your assets while legally qualifying for MassHealth (Medicaid). We can guide you through the complex rules and paperwork so that you or your loved one qualifies under Medicaid rules for any benefits you are entitled to while preserving as many of your assets as possible.
Contact Our Southeastern Massachusetts Elder Law Attorney
Whether or not you decide that your senior relative needs a change of living arrangements, it is important to have legal documents pertaining to long-term care, health matters, asset protection, and end-of-life care professionally drafted and reviewed, and to discuss the legal implications of your loved one’s aging on the family finances. In Southeastern Massachusetts, the elder law/estate planning team at Suprenant & Beneski, P.C. is qualified to help you address your needs. Contact us and see how compassionate and helpful we can be.