Monday, July 8, 2013

Typical Senior Legal Agreements Explained

Legal choices for seniors can be complicated. The words used to choose direct care and give power to someone to choose where, when and how are confusing. Perhaps these terms can help you with an understanding of common agreements.

Advance Directives – Written instructions for health and wealth decisions when a person becomes incapacitated or is unable to take care of him or herself.
Living Will – A living will is one option when writing advance directives. This usually includes a Do Not Resuscitate clause (DNR) that tells medical professionals whether to use extraordinary efforts to keep a person alive or not.
Power of Attorney – Power of Attorney is stated in a living will. It gives someone (usually a loved one) the legal right to make financial decisions for the person incapacitated. This agreement does not allow them to make all decisions, see legal guardian below.
Medical Power of Attorney – Also, stated in the living will, this gives the person designated the power to make medical decisions for the person incapacitated, not financial decisions.
Legal Guardian – A legal guardian is an adult given the right, by the loved one or the court, to make decisions for the individual both financially and in care. Sometimes a legal guardian has power over just assets or care.

IncompetenceThere are approximately 5 steps in having someone declared incompetent. First, you must get guardianship papers from the probate court in the area where the person lives and then appoint a guardian for that person. Second, you must obtain an attorney to file the legal documents required. Third, you must have an expert opinion as to whether the person is not capable of making his or her own 
decisions rationally. Next, the statement from the expert must be filed with the application for a decision. After that there is a court date set for the Probate Court judge to determine from the evidence presented, whether the person is to be deemed incompetent. 
Normally people with Alzheimer's disease or a related dementia must be deemed incompetent before someone can act on their behalf to make all decisions for them.

It is important to take advance directives seriously and not wait until they cannot be drafted. As a caregiver, you may take on the responsibility of Power of Attorney, Medical Power of Attorney or Legal Guardian, knowing what you is expected of you is crucial in keeping your loved one in good hands and with good care. Also as many of these agreements feature an expiry date, be sure to check that they are current, otherwise they may be unenforceable. Read the documents carefully to be sure that the person signing the lease (if its not the resident) for your services indeed has authority to do so, otherwise the agreement might be worthless.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

"But I'm Not Ready Yet"

Overcoming the Objections 

Many seniors will feel the decision is premature - they desire to remain where they are more than they desire to move into a senior living community. The decision process to move into a senior living community can involve the psyches of many people (spouse, daughter, son, grandchildren, friends), and it is normally an emotionally charged personal decision. Seniors as well as decision influencers will have their own prospective and biases about senior living according to their experience or knowledge of the business that is all filtered through their personal value system.

" I’m not ready yet." Translation: I'm afraid of giving up my home, independence and lifestyle for an unknown. What if I don't like it? What if they don't like me? What if they raise the rents and I can't afford to live here anymore? Seniors will often look for ways to avoid making the final decision. It is often out of fear or an unwillingness to commit. If an objection can be found they will usually find it, because it is what they are looking for most. When someone says they are not ready yet, what it really means is that perhaps they are afraid or do not understand all the benefits and value Senior living has to offer them personally.

Considering the demographics, its not surprising that there has been a tremendous amount of research into the lifestyles and values of older adults. While opinions differ, some general conclusions can be drawn. Seniors are interested in being depicted as active, interested, involved and see themselves as at least 10 years younger then their true chronological age. In fact, seniors' anxiety about their age is more closely associated with an aversion to the health complications associated with growing old that will eventually place restrictions on their personal freedom. They are in fact, looking for empowerment so that they can live fuller lives and stay in control longer. They are generally private people, especially about their finances, are comfortable with themselves, more experiential and less materialistic than their children. They see themselves as morally conservative and intellectually liberal, they are more aware and educated and consider learning to be a lifelong experience. It is also a time in their life when they experience a growth in their own spirituality and altruism toward their fellow man. They are among the greatest givers of time to volunteer causes than any other group. They are particularly interested in helping other, less active seniors. They are spouse and family oriented, proud and independent.
So how do you approach this proud and "independent" person who you suspect may not be safe living alone at home? How do you answer them when they say they’re not ready? Overcoming objections is part of any sales process. It helps you to gather more information and clarify needs.

1. Objection - "I'm not ready yet."
Response - "Good, then it's just a matter of working on the timing, isn't it?"
- "I understand how you feel. But tell me, just what do you think would have to happen to you before you felt that you were ready? Wouldn't it be comforting to you and your family that should such an event ever happen to you, you would already be in an environment where you could receive that cushion of care right when you really needed it?"

2. Objection - "I would have to sell the house."
Response - "That's right. Most seniors have sold their homes to finance their senior living and they will tell you it's the best decision they ever made. You can arrange a meeting with a very competent Realtor who will do a comparative market analysis on your home for no obligation. Many people are surprised at how much equity they have tied up in their homes that could be earning interest for them if they sold." As many homes have foreclosed and flooded the market, real estate which was once a good investment, is often outpaced in investment return by securities.

3. Objection - "I'm too old to move now."
Response - "That's interesting. There are many people living in senior living communities who are older than you... I'll bet you're not too old to get more out of life, right? This lifestyle provides you the opportunity of a secure, enjoyable, carefree retirement, and it could be the best years of your life. Statistics prove that people live on the average two to three years longer in a senior living community than in an apartment. There are several good reasons for this. One of them is companionship. One of the saddest things about growing older is that our friends pass away. We meet new friends, of course, but if we are not in a community setting we don’t have the ability to continually expand our friendships. Therefore, they are continually shrinking. If we stop driving in the years ahead, or our friends don’t drive, or the weather is bad, we tend to spend a lot of time within our private residence. Many meals are eaten with their only companion being their television. It’s easy to see how one can slowly become a recluse over a period of time. At a senior living community, companionship is always available."

4. Objection - "I'm just not sure."
Response - "There's some risk involved, isn't there? And you want to be certain you do the right thing. What information would you need to be more comfortable with your decision?"
"I sense that there may be something that you are uncertain about. It is the (fee, moving, apartment, etc., until you zero in). Well, if it weren't for (the objection) do you think this lifestyle here might make sense for you?" "So, if I could (fix the objection) could you at least give it a try?

At some point, and in spite of all their objections, sometimes love gets tough. People who are isolated can become depressed and depression leads to health failure, which puts them at risk. When they were the parent they would not even think of allowing you as a child to be exposed to a potentially dangerous situation regardless of what you wanted. As an adult child, you may have the same decision to make for your parents.

Often when they compare the costs they are incurring on real estate taxes, homeowner’s insurance, food, utilities, transportation,  maintenance, housekeeping, activities and companion services, living in a retirement community where all these costs are included in the monthly rent might very well be cheaper for them. They also see the value of converting their home equity to income producing assets rather than having it remain stagnant while tied up in their home or worse constantly eroded in a soft real estate market.

In the end, overcoming objections is a process of developing a comfort level with the decision. Be patient with your loved one. Listen for other hidden meaning to their objections; they may be using the opportunity for a completely different motivation then to just throw out obstacles. Repeat the objection to clarify your understanding. Sometimes when people hear their objection repeated back to them it sounds worse than they really intend it to be. Confirm the objection by agreeing with them, don’t try to argue with them or pretend to know better. Seniors like to have their objections acknowledged and affirmed. Question their real intent behind the objection and look for common ground. Answer their concerns as best you can without being smart or glib. Confirm the answer by relating the experience to others in their situation that may have had the same objection but ultimately found that it might have been overstated. Finally close on some neutral ground and leave the discussion with something that you both agree on about the situation.

After 30 years of seeing adult children and their parents deal with these tough decisions, I have learned that it’s the process they fear rather than the end result. Most seniors, once admitted to a senior living community readily adapt. After a few months there they will admit that their quality of life has improved, and that’s our ultimate goal anyway, isn’t it?