Cancer Screening Timelines for Seniors

Cancer Screening Timelines for Seniors

Taking advantage of preventative health can make seniors less vulnerable to the various forms of cancer. According to the National Institute of Health, advancing age is a high risk factor for cancer, with persons over 65 accounting for 60% of newly diagnosed malignancies and 79% of all cancer deaths.

Furthermore, with people living longer these days, it is expected that by 2050, approximately 70 million individuals will reach age 65 and older, compared to half that — 35 million today—which will create both socioeconomic and political consequences, as more healthcare resources and personnel will be needed to care for the elderly, as reported by the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

These numbers show the importance of being proactively healthy through diet, exercise and other lifestyle habits; in addition to preventative health screenings and donations to help fund medical research.

Take Action Against Cancer

Seniors and their caregivers can help avoid complications from breast cancer, colon cancer and more by simply being motivated to lead healthy lifestyles and by getting the proper cancer screenings. Dr. Constance Lehman, professor of radiology at the University of Washington School of Medicine and director of breast imaging at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance comments:

“I cannot stress enough the importance of early detection and screening. Unfortunately, there has been a disturbing decline in annual screenings, and people need to by proactive about working with their insurance and Medicare to get the recommended screenings.”

In order to help avoid the disease, the American Cancer Society recommends cancer screenings by age and gender. The recommendations are noted below.

Charitable donations are tax-deductible and can also help scientists find the next breakthrough cancer treatments.

Cancer Screenings for Men Age 65 or Older

Colon Cancer Testing

There are many colon cancer testing options. It’s important you talk with your health care provider about which tests are best for your unique situation and how often you should be tested. Medicare does cover testing.

Prostate Cancer Testing

It’s important to consider overall health status, not just age, when deciding about the best prostate cancer testing. Men who expect to live at least 10 more years should talk with a care provider about the uncertainties, risks and potential benefits of testing to determine whether they want to be tested. Medicare covers prostate cancer testing.

Lung Cancer Testing

Seniors who smoke are more at risk for lung cancer and should discuss with their health care provider whether they should get an annual low-dose CT scan to screen for early lung cancer. Screening may benefit seniors who are either active or former smokers, who quit within the past 15 years, have no signs of lung cancer, and have a 30 pack-year* smoking history. You should discuss the benefits, limitations, and risks of screening with a health care provider before testing is done. Medicare covers testing.

*A pack-year is 1 pack of cigarettes per day per year. One pack per day for 30 years or 2 packs per day for 15 years would both be 30 pack-years.

Cancer Screenings for Women Age 65 or Older

Breast Cancer Testing

It is important that women report any changes in the way their breasts look or feel to their caregiver and/or a healthcare provider right away. They should get a mammogram every 2 years, or can even choose to get one every year, if they fall in the risk category (breast cancer runs in their family or they’ve had breast tissue issues before). It’s important for seniors and their caregivers to understand the pros and cons of breast cancer screening.

It’s also important to know if a senior has a higher than average risk for breast cancer. Health care providers help you determine whether they senior needs to get other tests done along with mammograms.

Cervical Cancer Testing

No cervical cancer testing is needed if the senior has had regular cervical cancer testing with normal results during the previous 10 years.

No cervical testing is needed after a hysterectomy that removed the uterus and cervix as long as it was done for reasons not related to cervical cancer.

Senior women with a history of a serious cervical pre-cancer should continue testing for 20 years after that diagnosis, and the testing is covered by Medicare.

Colon Cancer Testing

Testing is recommended for colon cancer, and there are many testing options. It’s important to talk with a health care provider about which tests are best for you and how often testing should be done. Medicare covers colon cancer testing.

Lung Cancer Testing

If the senior has a history of smoking, talk to a health care provider about it and whether you should get an annual low-dose CT scan to screen for early lung cancer. Screening may benefit the senior if they are an active or former smoker who has quit within the past 15 years, have no signs of lung cancer, and have a 30 pack-year smoking history. It’s important to discuss the benefits, limitations, and risks of screening with a healthcare provider before testing is done. Medicare does cover lung cancer testing.

*A pack-year is 1 pack of cigarettes per day per year. One pack per day for 30 years or 2 packs per day for 15 years would both be 30 pack-years.

Reprinted from A Place for Mom

Dealing with Dementia Behavior

Dealing with Dementia Behavior

Communication difficulties can be one of the most upsetting aspects of caring for someone with Alzheimer’s or some other type of dementia — and it’s frustrating for those with the disease and for loved ones.

Although it can be hard to understand why people with dementia act the way they do, the explanation is attributable to their disease and the changes it causes in the brain.

Familiarize yourself with some of the common situations that arise when someone has dementia, so that if your loved one says something shocking, you’ll know how to respond calmly and effectively.

Common Situation #1: Aggressive Speech or Actions

Examples: Statements such as “I don’t want to take a shower!,” “I want to go home!,” or “I don’t want to eat that!” may escalate into aggressive behavior.

Explanation: The most important thing to remember about verbal or physical aggression, says the Alzheimer’s Association, is that your loved one is not doing it on purpose. Aggression is usually triggered by something—often physical discomfort, environmental factors such as being in an unfamiliar situation, or even poor communication. “A lot of times aggression is coming from pure fear,” says Tresa Mariotto, Family Ambassador at Silverado Senior Living in Bellingham, WA. “People with dementia are more apt to hit, kick or bite” in response to feeling helpless or afraid.

Ann Napoletan, who writes for Caregivers.com, is all too familiar with this situation.

“As my mom’s disease progressed, so did the mood swings. She could be perfectly fine one moment, and the next she was yelling and getting physical. Often, it remained a mystery as to what prompted the outburst. For her caregivers, it was often getting dressed or bathing that provoked aggression.”

DO: The key to responding to aggression caused by dementia is to try to identify the cause—what is the person feeling to make them behave aggressively? Once you’ve made sure they aren’t putting themselves (or anyone else) in danger, you can try to shift the focus to something else, speaking in a calm, reassuring manner.

“This is where truly knowing your loved one is so important,” says Napoletan. “In my mom’s case, she didn’t like to be fussed over. If she was upset, oftentimes trying to talk to her and calm her down only served to agitate her more. Likewise, touching her–even to try and hold her hand or gently rub her arm or leg–might result in her taking a swing. The best course of action in that case was to walk away and let her have the space she needed.”

DON’T: “The worst thing you can do is engage in an argument or force the issue that’s creating the aggression,” Napoletan says. “Don’t try to forcibly restrain the person unless there is absolutely no choice.” Mariotto agrees: “The biggest way to stop aggressive behavior is to remove the word ‘no’ from your vocabulary.”

Common Situation #2: Confusion About Time or Place

Examples: Statements such as “I want to go home!”, “This isn’t my house.”, “When are we leaving?  “Why are we here?”

Explanation: Wanting to go home is one of the most common reactions for an Alzheimer’s or dementia patient living in a memory care facility. Remember that Alzheimer’s causes progressive damage to cognitive functioning, and this is what creates the confusion and memory loss.

There’s also a psychological component, says Mariotto:

“Often people are trying to go back to a place where they had more control in their lives.”

DO: There are a few possible ways to respond to questions that indicate your loved one is confused about where he or she is. Simple explanations along with photos and other tangible reminders can help, suggests the Alzheimer’s Association. Sometimes, however, it can be better to redirect the person, particularly in cases where you’re in the process of moving your loved one to a facility or other location.

“The better solution is to say as little as possible about the fact that they have all of their belongings packed and instead try to redirect them–find another activity, go for a walk, get a snack, etc.,” says Napoletan. “If they ask specific questions such as ‘When are we leaving?’ you might respond with, ‘We can’t leave until later because…’ the traffic is terrible / the forecast is calling for bad weather / it’s too late to leave tonight.”

“You have to figure out what’s going to make the person feel the safest,” says Mariotto, even if that ends up being “a therapeutic lie.”

DON’T: Lengthy explanations or reasons are not the way to go. “You can’t reason with someone who hasAlzheimer’s or dementia,” says Ann. “It just can’t be done.” In fact, says Mariotto. “A lot of times we’re triggering the response that we’re getting because of the questions we’re asking.”

This was another familiar situation for Ann and her mother. “I learned this one the hard way. We went through a particularly long spell where every time I came to see my mom, she would have everything packed up ready to go–EVERYTHING! Too many times, I tried to reason with her and explain that she was home; this was her new home. Inevitably things would get progressively worse.”

Common Situation #3: Poor Judgment or Cognitive Problems

Examples: Unfounded accusations: “You stole my vacuum cleaner!” Trouble with math or finances: “I’m having trouble with the tip on this restaurant bill.” Other examples include unexplained hoarding or stockpiling and repetition of statements or tasks.

Explanation: The deterioration of brain cells caused by Alzheimer’s is a particular culprit in behaviors showing poor judgment or errors in thinking. These can contribute to delusions, or untrue beliefs. Some of these problems are obvious, such as when someone is hoarding household items, or accuses a family member of stealing something. Some are more subtle, however, and the person may not realize that they are having trouble with things that they never used to think twice about.

According to Napoletan,

“There came a time when I began to suspect my mom was having problems keeping financial records in order. At the time, she was living independently and was very adamant about remaining in her house. Any discussion to the contrary, or really any comment that eluded to the fact that she may be slipping, was met with either rage or tears. It was when she asked me to help with her taxes that I noticed the checking account was a mess.”

DO: First you’ll want to assess the extent of the problem. “If you’re curious and don’t want to ask, take a look at a heating bill,” suggests Mariotto. “Sometimes payments are delinquent or bills aren’t being paid at all.” You can also flip through their checkbook and look at the math, or have them figure out the tip at a restaurant.

The Alzheimer’s Association says to be encouraging and reassuring if you’re seeing these changes happen. Also, you can often minimize frustration and embarrassment by offering help in small ways with staying organized. This is what Napoletan did for her mother: “As I sifted through records to complete her tax return, I gently mentioned noticing a couple of overdraft fees and asked if the bank had perhaps made a mistake. As we talked through it, she volunteered that she was having more and more difficulty keeping things straight, knew she had made some errors, and asked if I would mind helping with the checkbook going forward. I remember her being so relieved after we talked about it.” From there, over time, Napoletan was gradually able to gain more control over her mother’s finances.

DON’T: What you shouldn’t do in these circumstances is blatantly question the person’s ability to handle the situation at hand, or try to argue with them. “Any response that can be interpreted as accusatory or doubting the person’s ability to handle their own affairs only serves to anger and put them on the defensive,” says Napoletan.

reprinted from A Place for Mom.

Caring for Elderly Parents’ Estates and Finances

It’s important that you have conversations with your parents and siblings about the plans that your parents have made for their estate after they pass away or should they become too ill to continue to handle their finances. Ideally this is a conversation that your parents initiate and it will take place when your parents are still healthy and in good mental capacity.Caring for Elderly Parents' Estate and Finances

If you’re concerned that your parents haven’t yet discussed their financial plans with you or your siblings, then you may want to raise your concerns with them. Individuals who are open with their family about their plans have the opportunity while they are still alive to diffuse future problems that may occur after their death.  Learn more about caring for your elderly parents’ estate and finances.

Essential Conversations to Have with Your Parents About Estate and Finances

Some of the most common problems that occur if you do not discuss your parents’ estate and finances can include:

  • Not having a will
  • Not having a power of attorney
  • Being unable to access funds from the estate to pay for essential expenses (like funeral costs)
  • Paying unnecessarily high taxes and probate fees
  • Secrecy surrounding last wishes which can cause tension and emotional stress for remaining family members
  • Falling prey to financial abuse.

Although every person’s situation is unique, the following tips are designed to help families avoid some of these concerns:

1. Ensure Your Parents Have a Will and Power of Attorney

It is critical that you have a will which clearly outlines your parents’ last wishes and plans for an estate. If you don’t have a will then the government will determine what will happen to the estate, a process which could take a significant amount of time. While the government is determining the future of the property and belongings, assets will be frozen, which means your family will not be able to access them.

It is also a good idea to have a living will and power of attorney. A power of attorney as a “legal document that you sign to give one person, or more than one person, the authority to manage your money and property on your behalf.” Although this person is called an attorney they do not need to be a lawyer.

There are pros and cons to having a POA. If your parent falls ill and is unable to pay bills or manage financial affairs, a POA can step in to access funds for these purposes. It is critical that the POA is someone you trust to handle finances with accuracy and care.

2. Designate Beneficiaries for Assets

When you set up your parents’ accounts for Registered Retirement Saving Plans (RRSPs), Tax Free Savings Accounts (TFSAs) and insurance policies it’s important to ensure that there is a named beneficiary for each policy or account so the title change happens seamlessly.  “With a named beneficiary these accounts roll over very quickly,”  which means that if one spouse passes away the surviving spouse [or family] will be able to access the money in these accounts almost immediately.

If the beneficiary of these registered accounts is a spouse then they won’t need to pay taxes on the additional income. . However, if the beneficiary is a child or other family member then the additional income will be taxable, which in some cases can be a major taxable event.

What happens if you don’t have a beneficiary on these accounts? Without a beneficiary in place these registered assets will go into the estate and will be frozen until the estate is settled, which could take some time, Travers warns.

It is important to note that this seamless transition of assets to the beneficiary only takes place on registered funds. Unregistered mutual funds, stocks and bonds will become part of the estate upon death, which means that they can’t be accessed immediately.

3. Discuss Joint Bank Accounts

If you are helping your parents by paying their bills and managing their finances then you may wonder if you should become a joint account holder for their bank accounts. The answer, of course, depends on the situation and the comfort level that you have with your parent, but generally Travers advises against it. If there is no financial living will (POA) then a benefit to a joint bank account is that you would have the ability to access your parents funds quickly should they become incapacitated.

However, there are risks associated to a joint account including opening your parent’s finances up to your creditors and of course, the risk of financial abuse. Siblings or other family members may question how and why money is being spent. “Parents need to be mindful of what they may set their children up for,” Travers says. If you are paying your parent’s bills or they live with you their finances “could appear to be misappropriated,” warns Travers. “A better way is to have the POA in place to minimize the risk.”

4. Consider Gifts to Help Avoid Probate Fees

One way to avoid probate fees is for parents to give away excess assets as gifts while living. Most gifts are non-taxable, so parents who give children and grandchildren gifts while they are still alive avoid probate fees and taxes. Another benefit of gifting is that your parents will know that their assets arrived to the intended person. We’ve all heard stories of people challenging wills. Parents who gift valuable assets that are no longer needed like extra cash, jewelry, artwork and property know that these valuables won’t cause stress or dissension amongst family after they are gone.

Providing financial gifts like cash can often help family members out now who could use help with a mortgage or student debt. Not only does gifting avoid probate and tax fees it also allows the parent to witness the joy their gift has brought to their loved ones.

5. Discuss Joint Tenancy

Wondering what will happen to the family cottage that has been in your family for generations? Is it a good idea to have joint tenancy on the cottage before a parent passes away to avoid probate and taxes? As with a joint bank account the risk of opening the cottage up to creditors is a major con for adding children to joint tenancy of property. Many people are also concerned about their child’s spouse, what happens to the family cottage if there is a future divorce? In large families, how can parents ensure that the family cottage remains in the family and is still accessible to all?

Although joint tenancy may avoid having the cottage enter probate as part of the parent’s estate, it opens the property up to a lot of risk and in large families there may be a highly charged emotional element to consider as well. Also, depending on the asset the Canadian Revenue Agency (CRA) may deem that tax does need to be paid on the gift.

Paying Tax on Joint Tenancy is Up to the CRA

For instance, if a mother and son are both on the title of a property then the property would automatically go to the son upon the mother’s death, skipping probate altogether. In a small family this may make sense. However, Travers explains that the CRA could deem a transaction like adding someone to a deed as a taxable event, but this decision is at their discretion.

In the case of a mother and son, if the mother has an investment portfolio which she is living on and she adds the son as a joint account owner the government might not tax this because the son is not benefiting directly from the portfolio. However, if the mother owned a business and office building and put the son (who runs the business) on the deed as a joint tenant then the government may choose to tax the transaction because the son benefits directly from the gift.

6. Consider Complexities for Business Owners

If your parents own a business, then their estate and assets have extra complexities involved. Most business owners need professional help to ensure that their finances are in order and their business remains in the family upon their death.

7. Read the Fine Print

Travers says it’s important to carefully read all the detailed paperwork that you sign. Many people trust that their financial institution has filled out paperwork correctly on their behalf, and in most cases this is the case, “but 99% of us don’t look through these documents in detail, some of which are 20-30 pages in length,” Travers points out. “People sometimes make mistakes so it’s good to read through in detail and double check that everything is filled out correctly,” he advises.

8. Ensure Funeral Expenses are Covered

When a parent passes away there is not only a huge emotional stress, but for many families, also a large financial stress. “The main thing is making sure bills are paid and if everything is locked up in probate then a child without the financial means may have difficulty paying for bills and funeral expenses,” Travers says. However, he adds that based on demographics more elderly people have a whole life insurance policy (rather than term life insurance or no life insurance) which is usually intended to cover funeral expenses. You should know whether your parent has an insurance policy and where that policy is located should you need it.

It’s important that your parents take the time to look at their finances, will and power of attorney now. Putting financial plans off for another day is never a good idea because a sudden illness or death can happen anytime. Make sure your parents have plans in place and that you and your family are aware of their plans so that you can help protect them, their wishes as well as your own interests when the time comes to rely on you for help.

Reprinted from A Place for Mom.

Seniors can visit parks for low cost

The U.S. National Park Service offers a $10.00 America the Beautiful Lifetime Pass for U.S. citizens or permanent residents for seniors age 62 and over.  The pass which you can purchase at a federal recreation site ( in Maine, that means Acadia National Park) covers entry into more than 2,000 national sites and will cover the senior pass holder and anyone in a non-commercial vehicle at sites where you pay per carload, or the senior pass holder and three companions at pay-per-person sites.  The guests do not have to be seniors.  For an additional $10.00 for processing, you can also order your pass online. Go to http://recreation.gov  and click on annual pass.

Maine also sells annual park passes, which offer access to most, but not all , state parks.  Maine seniors, age 65 and older, do not need individual passes, as day-use park admission is free for them.  If, however, a senior would like a vehicle pass, which covers day-use entry at participating parks plus passengers in vehicles that hold up to 17 people, then the cost is $30.00.

If you need/want to purchase a state park pass, then you can visit any participating state park during the in-season months, or you can call the state’s Campground Reservations Call Center at (207) 624-9950.  Passes are also available for purchase online or you can buy one by checking a box on your state income tax form and having them deduct from your refund.

 

Warning Signs Your Parent Needs Help

20 Warning Signs Your Parent Needs Help at Home

Maybe you’ve noticed that dad’s unopened mail is piling up. Or mom, once meticulous about her appearance, is wearing wrinkled clothes and not doing her hair. Perhaps there are bruises on your aging parent’s arms. When you bring up the subject, you hear, “Everything is fine. There’s no need to worry.”

Admitting they need help would mean they can’t take care of themselves anymore, and no one wants to lose their independence. “Denial is the unrealistic hope that a problem is not really happening and will go away by itself. Admitting they need help and accepting assistance is not easy for people as they age. It represents a loss of independence. Denial plays a major role – and signs get ignored,” says Paul Hogan, Founder and Chairman of Home Instead Senior Care.

Find a Home Care Provider »

The burden often falls on the family to recognize the signs that an aging parent might need help with daily living tasks.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that your loved one has to go to assisted living or a nursing home, but they may need some extra help in their home. If they’re not willing to admit it, how do you know if your elderly parent needs home care?

Signs Your Parent Needs Help at Home:

  • Spoiled food that doesn’t get thrown away
  • Missing important appointments
  • Unexplained bruising
  • Trouble getting up from a seated position
  • Difficulty with walking, balance and mobility
  • Uncertainty and confusion when performing once-familiar tasks
  • Forgetfulness
  • Unpleasant body odor
  • Infrequent showering and bathing
  • Strong smell of urine in the house
  • Noticeable decline in grooming habits and personal care
  • Dirty house, extreme clutter and dirty laundry piling up
  • Stacks of unopened mail or an overflowing mailbox
  • Late payment notices, bounced checks and calls from bill collectors
  • Poor diet or weight loss
  • Loss of interest in hobbies and activities
  • Changes in mood or extreme mood swings
  • Forgetting to take medications – or taking more than the prescribed dosage
  • Diagnosis of dementia or early onset Alzheimer’s
  • Unexplained dents and scratches on a car

What Services Can Help?

Once you know that there is a problem, how do you know if home care is right for your parent?

Home care is generally defined as non-medical support services delivered at the home of the senior. “The aim of home care is to allow seniors to remain at home longer rather than enter an assisted living community, nursing home or other type of senior care. Home care may be appropriate if a senior prefers to stay at home but needs minor assistance with activities of daily living,” says Sam Almengor, National Accounts Director for Senior Helper, a national company that provides professional in-home assistance services.

“One of the most frightening prospects for seniors is leaving home. Home Instead Senior Care is helping seniors stay in their homes as long as possible,” Hogan says.

What services can your parent get from home care? Home care agencies help with any activities and needs that a person needs throughout the day. Services include:

  • Companionship and conversation
  • Grocery shopping
  • Meal planning and preparation
  • Diet monitoring
  • Hygiene assistance, including bathing and dressing
  • Light housekeeping
  • Walking assistance
  • Errands and transportation
  • Laundry, ironing and vacuuming
  • Change linens and bed making
  • Help with bills and mail
  • Supervise home maintenance and repairs
  • Organize closets and pantries
  • Medication reminders
  • Help with correspondence
  • Wash dishes
  • Appointment reminders
  • Coordinate home services
  • Pick-up prescriptions
  • General shopping
  • Review phone messages
  • Watch movies and play games

How to Start the Conversation
If you’ve noticed the warning signs, the time to start talking with senior parents sooner rather than later, when a crisis has occurred. But how do you bring up sensitive subjects related to aging, such as the need for home care? Home Instead recommends some conversation starters that might help overcome the awkwardness.

Approach your parents with a conversation. Discuss what you’ve observed and ask your parents what they think is going on. If your parents acknowledge the situation, ask what they think would be good solutions. If your parents don’t recognize a problem, use concrete examples to support your case.

Remember you are talking to an adult, not a child. Patronizing speech or baby talk will put older adults on the defensive and convey a lack of respect for them. Put yourself in your parents’ shoes and think of how you would want to be addressed in the situation.

How Do You Pay for Home Care?

Home care companies typically bill on an hourly basis for their services – and that rate varies widely depending on where you live. Paying for home care services is one of the most challenging issues for caregivers because most elders and families must pay for services out-of-pocket. Medicare and Medicaid do not pay for home care in most instances. Here are some other options to pay for care:

  • Health Insurance
    Some health maintenance organizations (HMOs) and some health and insurance plans provide coverage for home health care, so be sure to check benefits statements and policy details.
  • Long–term Care Insurance
    Long-term care insurance helps cover the cost of care at home or in a nursing facility. It can cover much of the cost of home care, but this can vary from policy to policy.
  • Veteran’s Administration
    If your loved one served in the U.S. military, financial assistance might be available to provide a veteran with home care.
  • State and Local Programs
    Call your local Department of Aging or Area Agency on Aging. In many states, there are local- and state-funded programs that offer limited care for seniors who meet certain criteria.
  • Life Insurance Settlements
    If your loved one has a life insurance policy, there are companies that offer policyholders the option to sell their policies in exchange for a lump sum payment that is greater than the cash surrender value.
  • Government Funding
    For low-income elders, Medicaid programs in most states support home care services as an alternative to assisted living and nursing home placement.

reprinted from AgingCare.com

Fraud Watch Scam

With the 2016 elections around the corner, scammers have found a new way to try to trick consumers by pretending they are calling from a campaign.

According to AARP’s Fraud Watch Network the con usually starts with a scammer spoofing a presidential candidate’s telephone number so that the call appears to come from their campaign headquarters.

The call will seem legitimate because they will use an impersonator to imitate the candidate’s voice, AARP said.  They will ask you to press 1 to make a donation by entering your credit card.  Even though you may want to support a certain candidate, never give out your credit card information without first verifying who is on the other end of the line.

AARP FraudWatch is working to educate the public to prevent scams, which are on the rise.  For more information, go to www.aarp.org/fraudwatchnetwork or call 1-877-908-3360.

Essential Documents for Aging Parents

Essential Document Locator Checklist

Important Documents

Last updated: April 30, 2015

Adult children of aging parents are often caught without the essential documents their parents need in an emergency situation.

Knowing where the official records are located as well as having copies of these important financial, legal and health documents can save you thousands of dollars and countless hours of time spent tracking down records. Download a printable copy of this checklist.

PHOTOCOPY ESSENTIAL DOCUMENTS

Here are the documents you’ll need to keep copies of:

  • Birth certificate
  • Driver’s license
  • Social Security card
  • Medicare / Medicaid / insurance coverage card
  • Organ donor card
  • Marriage certificate
  • Credit cards
  • Mortgage records
  • Military records
  • Legal Power of Attorney, Healthcare Proxy, Living Will, Advance Directives

CREATE A LIST OF WHERE TO FIND ORIGINAL DOCUMENTS

You’ll also need to know the location of the following documentation and other essentials:

  • Safe-deposit box and key, along with a list of the contents and names of anyone who has access to it
  • Any letter of instruction listing personal property not disposed of by will and wishes for distribution
  • Receipts and appraisals for valuables
  • Trust, banking and loan information
  • Tax returns
  • Insurance policies
  • Stocks, bonds, real estate and other investments
  • Living will, medical directives or Durable Power of Attorney
  • Birth certificate, Social Security card, marriage and divorce certificates, education and military records
  • Burial plots and desired funeral arrangements.

CREATE A LIST OF IMPORTANT CONTACTS & ACCOUNTS

You’ll need contact information for the following contacts, as appropriate:

  • Clergy members
  • Attorney, financial planner, tax advisor, broker and/or anyone else with knowledge of or control over trusts, wills and finances
  • Beneficiaries
  • Bank account, loan and credit card contacts
  • Insurance agents

reprinted from A Place for Mom

Online Coupons Fraud

Coupons via social media are another way scam artists are trying to get personal information to conduct identity thefts, according to AARP’s FraudWatch network.

Typically, scam artists invite users to click on a link and share it with their friends to receive a free coupon. Consumers are then asked to fill out a survey and enter personal information.  Once this done, they may have signed up for a fake rewards card that charges monthly fees for nothing but bogus offers.

Consumers should not enter any personal information and only get online coupons directly from a company’s website, AARP recommends.

AARP FraudWatch is working to educate the public to prevent scams, which are on the rise.

For more information, go to www.aarp.org/fraudwatchnetwork or call 1-877-908-3360.

 

Tax Deductions for Assisted Living

With over a million Americans living in assisted living communities across the country, families need to be aware of tax deductions that can save them money in the expensive world of senior care.Tax Deductions for Assisted Living

Navigating the details of tax preparation can be daunting; especially when you add in the complexities of assisted living care and medical costs. Fortunately there are ways that seniors and caregivers can get tax deductions for assisted living.

How to Plan Ahead

With over a million seniors living in more than 28,000 assisted living facilities in the U.S., according to a recent CDC study about national long-term care providers, assisted living has become big business with today’s exponentially aging population. Many seniors and their families are paying with their own resources upwards of $3,600 a month for a one-bedroom apartment, depending on the location and needs of their loved ones.

It’s no secret that consumers are paying a lot of money out-of-pocket for assisted living and, luckily, if the assisted living costs can be characterized as medical or dental expenses, families can often get a tax break.

Andy Smith, CFP®, Executive VP of Investments at The Mutual Fund Store and A Place for Mom Advisory Board member, provides financial planning to families on a daily basis and was kind enough to offer his expert guidance on tax deductions for assisted living. Here are some of his initial thoughts:

“The average retirement healthcare costs for a 65-year-old couple is $241,000. Unfortunately most people don’t plan for this early, or they find out to late in the process that they need to drastically change their long-term plans. The tax deduction is a definite help. It’s important to meet with your advisor and CPA to learn about this deduction early in the process.”

Smith notes that taxes should be considered when discussing retirement and senior care, early in the process and initial discussions, if possible. “Consider this as part of a larger whole of everything you and your loved ones really should be doing with your long-term retirement — and retirement living — plan,” he notes. By keeping excellent records, asking questions and getting help from a professional, you’ll most likely save some money.

The Assisted Living Tax Deduction

Diligent record keeping throughout the year, even for related expenses like mileage from doctor visits, can add up to a lot of write-offs come tax time. If you want to help ease the financial burden, you need to learn what you can and can’t deduct as well as keep excellent records and hold onto receipts. This diligent record-keeping you’ll be well prepared to qualify for write-offs.

It’s important to note that the taxpayer must be entitled to itemize deductions. However, other requirements differ depending on whether the taxpayer is the senior or the caregiver.

What Counts as a Write Off?

Generally, anything that is directly related to the individual’s medical care, including health or Medicare insurance, long-term care insurance, eyewear, hospitals, hearing aids and so forth, qualifies as a medical expense. You can find a complete list in IRS Publication 502. As far as the actual monthly cost of assisted living, there are stipulations.

For example, according to Smith, a facility like a nursing home is easy to take a deduction on, but it’s not so simple when it comes to assisted living:

“Nursing homes are primarily used for medical care, and medical care is always deductible. However, assisted living can sometimes be a function of a safety or companionship issue, rather than a medical issue. That’s why deductibility in those instances is not always a cut-and-dried matter.”

Married couples filing tax returns separately often have different requirements. This is when a financial advisor can help answer whether you qualify for assisted living write-offs.

Senior Tax Payer

If you’re preparing taxes on a senior’s behalf, you can deduct qualified medical expenses the taxpayer paid for during the tax year. Sometimes a doctor has to certify the senior’s medical condition to verify the medical expenses.

Caregiver Tax Payer

In order to qualify for deductions, you’ll need to do the following:

  1. Find out whether your loved one qualifies as a dependent.
  2. Make sure your loved one is a U.S. citizen or national, or a resident of the U.S., Canada or Mexico.
  •  You can deduct qualified medical and dental expenses on your tax return only if you provided more than half of your loved one’s support.
  •  You can deduct medical expenses if you are part of a collective group of individuals or family caregivers who provide more than half of your loved one’s support.
  • If you qualify for the caregiver tax deduction, you will also be allowed to take a dependency exemption for that individual.

Caregivers need to also be aware that, according to the IRS, Publication 502, expenses can only be deducted if the senior has been your dependent either at the time the medical services were provided, or at the time you paid the expenses.

There may also be different requirements for married couples filing separate returns, so make sure to check with a financial advisor if you’re not sure whether you qualify for assisted living write-offs.

How Much Can You Deduct for Assisted Living?

It’s important to be aware that there are limits to how much you can deduct for qualified medical expenses when using the assisted living tax deduction. Business Management Daily notes that, “Although the deduction floor for medical expenses has increased to 10% of adjusted gross income (AGI), beginning in 2013, it remains at 7.5% of AGI through 2016 for taxpayers who were age 65 or older as of Dec. 31, 2013.”

That means, if either you or your spouse was born before January 2, 1950, the threshold is lower, and you can start claiming tax deductions for any medical expenses in excess of 7.5% of AGI. For example, if you are over 65, your AGI is $40,000, 7.5% of which is $3,000, and you have $4,000 worth of qualifying medical expenses, you can deduct $1,000 worth of expenses.

Tax Preparation is Key

Smith urges to be prepared for for taxes as there are a few things to keep in mind when getting paperwork together. He notes to keep these things in mind to make organization and preparation easier; whether you’re preparing the taxes yourself, or having a professional preparing them for yourself or your senior family member:

“Be sure to track down all paperwork in advance. It’s important to be aware of medical and dental visits and have all the information handy. It’s helpful to have your loved one’s previous years’ tax returns available to see the type of expenses they had in the past. If needed, you can obtain a transcript of income received the the individual from the IRS, which can help when filling out the 1040.”

Also, find out whether the following apply to your unique situation:

  1. Whether you are eligible to deduct insurance premiums. Not every policy is tax-qualified, especially when it comes to long-term care insurance. Check with the policy holder to make sure the policy qualifies and, if it does, you can deduct premiums as medical expenses.
  2. Determine whether assisted living entrance fees apply. If the community charges an entrance or initiation fee directly related to medical care, those charges are deductible.

Assisted Living Tax Preparation Resources

The following resources can provide more detailed assisted living tax preparation information:

  • IRS Publication 502: Medical and Dental Expenses has a complete list of allowable expenses.
  • IRS Publication 501: Exemptions, Standard Deductions and Filing Information to learn more about claiming the person with dementia as a dependent.
  • Alzheimer’s Association: Detailed overview of tax deductions and credits that are available for out-of-pocket medical expenses paid by families caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s at home.
  • Assisted Living Federation of America: Detailed information about costs of assisted living.
  • IRS.gov: Detailed overview of tax information for unique family situations.

If you are looking for additional tax tips, don’t forget to read our article on Senior Tax Credit.

Do you have tax tips for families looking for additional credits and deductions? Share them with us in the comments below.

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reprinted from A Place for Mom.

Internet Dating and Romance Scams

U.S. citizens should be aware of individuals they meet on internet dating websites who feign friendship, profess romantic interest, and/or express marriage intentions over the internet. Scammers commonly claim to be U.S. citizens who are engaged in international business, requiring them to frequently travel overseas.  In fact, these individuals are not U.S. citizens.  Many scammers also claim some sort of connection to Europe.

In many scam scenarios, the correspondent suddenly falls into dire circumstances overseas (i.e. an arrest or a horrible car accident) about two to three months after a connection is made.  The correspondent will ask you to send money for hospital bills, visa fees, or legal expenses.  It is also common for scammers to tell U.S. citizens that a close family member, usually a teenager, is in desperate need of surgery and  to request monetary assistance.  You may even be contacted by a “doctor” requesting that money be sent to the hospital on behalf of the correspondent.  Note that any doctor, lawyer, or police officer who contacts you is likely a part of the scam. The amounts lost by U.S. citizens in these types of scams can range from relatively small amounts to more than $400,000.

Scammers Target the Vulnerable

As cruel as it sounds, scammers often target widows, widowers, and U.S. citizens with disabilities.  Scammers are aware that many widows/widowers inherit money upon the death of a spouse.  Consequently, some scammers set up profiles on dating websites claiming that they themselves are widow(er)s in order to gain the trust of the potential victim.  Scammers are also aware that some U.S. citizens with disabilities receive disability checks, making them a tempting target.

The anonymity of the Internet means that U.S. citizens cannot be sure of the real name, age, marital status, nationality, or even gender of the correspondent.  In almost every case, the correspondent turns out to be a fictitious persona created only to lure the U.S. citizen into sending money.

These scammers have created male as well as female characters and entice same sex correspondents as well as those of the opposite sex.  Correspondents who quickly move to expressions of romantic interest or discussions of intimate matters may in fact be scammers.  A request for funds almost always marks a fraudulent correspondent. U.S. citizens are cautioned against sending any money to persons they have not actually met face-to-face.

Romance scams involve one or more – sometimes all – of the key signs below:

  • You met online through a dating website, an e-mail chat room, Facebook, or another online website.
  • The scammer claims to be a native-born U.S. citizen, but has a thick accent and/or uses poor grammar indicative of a non-native English speaker.
  • Scammers have the worst luck imaginable — often getting into car crashes, arrested, mugged, beaten, or hospitalized — usually all within the course of a couple of months. They often claim that their key family members (parents and siblings) are dead. Sometimes, the scammer claims to have an accompanying child overseas who is very sick or has been in an accident.
  • The scammer’s “bad luck” occurred when they were on their way to the airport to come to the United States to meet you.  Scammers like to build the anticipation of their victims.  Once you are excited about the chance to finally meet them in person, that’s when something occurs to prevent them from making the trip.  They count on your excitement to finally meet them as an extra incentive to send money.  As soon as you send money, however, another situation occurs, which requires you to send more money.
  • The scammer asks you for money to get out of a bad situation.  Note: Since scammers prey on the good intentions of U.S. citizens, some of them will not actually ask you for money.  Rather, they will share their heart-breaking situation with you in hopes that you will willingly send money to help them.
  • The scammer claims that the U.S. Embassy would not help them.  Likely they have never tried to get help from the embassy, because they are not actually U.S. citizens.
  • The passport the scammer sent to convince you that (s)he is a U.S. citizen looks computerized and includes a very attractive photo that looks like it was taken by a professional modeling agency or at a photograph studio.  This is not a typical passport photo.

Tips to protect yourself from scammers:

  • Never send money to someone you have not met in person without verifying their identity.
  • Do not disclose personal details over the phone or online — even in your profile on social networking sites.  For example, if you are a widow, you may not want to make this known on a dating web site — scammers thrive on information like this.
  • Refer all individuals who claim to be in distress overseas to the local U.S. embassy or consulate.  Assisting U.S. citizens overseas is the U.S. Department of State’s top priority.  All U.S. citizens will be assisted, and no one is turned away.  Consular officers are available 24/7 for emergencies.  You can find contact information for all U.S. embassies and consulates at http://www.usembassy.gov/.
  • Contact the State Department’s Office of Overseas Citizens Services at 1-888-407-4747.  We can offer suggestions for verifying whether the situation is legitimate or a scam.
  • A U.S. citizen with legitimate emergency financial needs overseas should contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate for assistance.  The U.S. embassy or consulate will contact family and friends on the citizen’s behalf and under certain conditions will provide a loan.  Be cautious of sending money to persons you do not know, who call you from abroad, asking for money.  For information on financial scams, please contact the Office of Overseas Citizens Services at 1-888-407-4747.

If you feel you have been a victim of an Internet scam, please send all reports of Internet fraud directly to the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) – a partnership between the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the National White Collar Crime Center (NW3C). IC3 was established to receive internet related criminal complaints and to research, develop, and refer complaints to federal, state, local, or international law enforcement if appropriate.