What Are Elder Law and Special Needs Planning?Elder law and special needs planning involve preparing for expected and unexpected life circumstances, including the possibility of becoming incapacitated as well as protecting and providing for future needs of loved ones with disabilities.At its core, Elder Law focuses on the unique needs of older persons and practice areas that address issues of concern for aging adults, adults with disabilities/incapacity, their families and caregivers. Unlike traditional estate planning, Elder Law begins by assisting you with issues associated with a long and healthy life, rather than simply planning for death. It mixes legal and practical issues such as being able to continue residing in your home if you had a chronic condition, having someone help in managing your finances, and not becoming a victim of financial abuse in the process. Elder law endeavors to help you solve the problem of not knowing what you dont know.Special Needs Law focuses on solving legal problems for individuals with special needs and their caregivers. Although there is no uniform definition of special needs, the phrase describes individuals with a wide variety of physical or mental conditions who require assistance with personal care needs, activities of daily living, paying bills, managing finances, etc., who may be vulnerable to and need protection from exploitation or abuse, and who may need access to public benefits or any number of other types of assistance. If you currently provide care for a child or loved one with special needs (such as mental or physical disabilities), you must have contemplated what may happen to him or her when you are no longer able to serve as the caregiver. Frequently, parents and grandparents are concerned about how their children and grandchildren will be cared for after the parents or grandparents deaths and want to plan in advance to protect their special needs loved one. Elder Law and Special Needs Planning encompass many different fields of law, including, for example: Disability planning, durable powers of attorney, living trusts, advance directives, other tools to delegate management and decision-making to another in case of incompetency or incapacity Estate planning, including the management of finances and assets during life and disposition on death using trusts, wills, and other instruments Special/Supplemental Needs Trusts Conservatorships and guardianships Long-term care planning and placements Trust and probate/estate administration Elder abuse and financial exploitation Medicaid planning Retirement and Social Security planningWhen each day seems to present a new challenge, thinking about the future can be overwhelming. A plan can help break things down into achievable pieces. No matter what age or stage, it is getting started that counts.This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be legal advice.This article was submitted by Ashley Day, Esq., A Day Law, LLC. Reach her at 251-277-3377.
The short answer is no, they are not the same. A DNR stands for a DO NOT RESUSCITATE order. A Living Will is a completely different document that is used during a very different time.A DNR should be entered into at your doctors office or in the hospital, not at your local estate planning and elder law attorneys office.Typical estate planning documents that an attorney will assist you with would include a financial and medical power of attorney as well as a Last Will and Testament and maybe a Trust of some type. The confusion often lies in the fact that in a medical power of attorney, you will often see a Living Will as a part of the document.This is collectively known as an Advance Healthcare Directive if medical power of attorney and living will are together in one document. The Living Will does not kick in until the individual is end-stage medical. While there is a very long medical definition for this term, I simply like to state it as when two qualified physicians put in writing that there is no realistic hope of recovery and that you will always remain vegetative, comatose, permanently unconscious, and terminally ill. A medical power of attorney, living will, or advanced health care directive are often documents that are obtained from your estate planning and elder law attorney and not from your health care provider.On the other hand, a DNR or DO NOT RESUSCITATE order is intended to let emergency and other medical professionals know whether or not they should resuscitate you. Methods often used for resuscitation would be things such as defibrillators, breathing tubes, ventilators, CPR, and other invasive techniques.The DO NOT RESUSCITATE order comes into play when the heart has stopped beating or the person has stopped breathing. The medical power of attorney, on the other hand, comes into play when the person simply cannot answer questions for themselves. That could be for numerous other reasons, such as being under sedation or incapacitated, unconscious due to an accident, or unable to speak.Certainly, it does not necessarily mean that the heart has stopped beating or that you have stopped breathing. The Living Will does not kick in until the end of life, but the heart is often beating, sometimes due to heroic and lifesaving measures, but the DNR will prevent those heroics if that is your wish.We truly believe that it is imperative for you to talk to your estate planning and elder law attorney about the estate planning documents as outlined above as well as discuss with your doctor about a DNR order. While you are discussing the DNR order, we would also recommend that you have a conversation with your healthcare professional about a POLST (Physicians Order of Life-Sustaining Treatment). These are documents that will be obtained directly from your doctor and they will be able to assist you with the nuances of how they work.We hope this article provided insight into the definition of a DO NOT RESUSCITATE order and the difference between a medical power of attorney and a Living Will. If you would like further information about these items, contact our office. Wed be more than happy to assist you. Call us at (717) 845-5390.
With stores putting out holiday decorations well before Halloween, it is hard to avoid the hype surrounding the holiday season.For most people, it is an anticipated time of year with traditions, memories and family gatherings. But for older residents, these same reasons may result in the blues, making the holidays a challenging time. Sometimes beloved traditions and family gatherings become out of reach as we age and may be isolated from friends and families. Holidays may remind us of the passing of time, who is missing in our lives and who is not nearby. The loss of holiday traditions and gatherings often changes the way we feel about the holidays. Sometimes reminiscing on traditions that have gone can fuel feelings of loneliness.An AARP study found that 31% of respondents felt lonely during the holiday season. Additionally, another 41% worried about a family member or friend feeling lonesome. Whats more, more than 12 million Americans over age 65 live alone, according to the American Psychological Association. As children grow up and move away, neighborhoods change, and friends pass, the opportunities for close connections sometimes become limited. Financial constraints and loss of independence and mobility can change looking forward to the holidays to dreading them. To help avoid the holiday blues, here are some steps you can take to restore holiday joy. Find new ways to connect, such as video chat and email. Write letters, cards and call. You do not have to wait for family members to reach out. Take initiative. Connecting with others is one of the best ways to relieve loneliness. It is heathy to feel sadness about missing family and friends. It is important to acknowledge your feelings. Volunteer and help others. If you are able, you can help with daily tasks that may seem overwhelming or share a meal. If you are feeling lonely, maybe your neighbor is, too. Being available for someone else is good medicine. Be kind to yourself. Continue your wellness routines and healthy habits. Rethink how you do things this season. Joy is not limited to the last two months of the year! Every day can be treated as a holiday! Consider trying a new activity or hobby or teach someone something you are good at. Limit screen time. A constant diet of bad news creates anxiety. Resolve to make the best of the holidays but adjust your expectations and adopt realistic goals. While the holidays may look different over time, they can still be meaningful. The most important thing to make someone feel special this season is to simply spend time with them. If you cannot participate in person, FaceTime or Zoom also work.Here are other ways you can help others (and yourself) find joy in the holidays and help banish the holiday blues: Share your traditions with others and enjoy theirs. Reflect about past holidays as you unpack cherished decorations. Listen to the stories of others and ask about special pieces. Make a conscious effort to be available for those who might be feeling isolated. Plan a regular call or visit or reach out with a video call or old-fashioned letter. For anyone who might be struggling with holiday loneliness, provide a comfortable space for them to talk. Save judgments or problem solving and simply have a genuine conversation. As you plan your celebrations, look for ways to be inclusive. Extending an invitation may not be enough to make others feel included. Being with a crowd of strangers who have little in common can still feel very lonely. Being recognized and honored goes a long way in combating loneliness. Be open to asking about and including favorite memories such as treasured decorations, traditional treats and meaningful music. Religious organizations often offer extra social and/or spiritual support. Just talking with someone can go a long way. Bring or send familiar treats that represent holiday customs for elders to enjoy and share. Often, holiday blues are temporary. However, if symptoms last for more than two weeks, they can indicate clinical anxiety or depression. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), socially isolated older adults are at higher risk for depression.It may be time to seek help if you or someone you love is experiencing any of these common symptoms of depression: Feeling so down you cannot shake it off Too little or too much sleep, or interruptions through the night Changes in appetite; eating more or less than usual Difficulty concentrating Lack of interest in the things that typically make you happy Irritability Lack of interest in socializing or engaging with others. Plan to look for and spread cheer this season, but if the holiday blues linger well beyond the season, discuss your symptoms with your primary care provider.ABOUT THE AUTHOR Courtney L. Whitt, Ph.D. is Director of Behavioral Health at Healthcare Network, which offers behavioral health services as a routine part of comprehensive care and traditional counseling services. Healthcare Network provides quality primary care services for children and adults in locations throughout Collier County. To learn more or make an appointment, please call 239.658.3000 or visit HealthcareSWFL.org.