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To see a listing of the blog articles tagged and sorted by their own specific topics,  just click on their corresponding 'Blog Categories' links below,  located directly under the 'Contact Us Today' field on the lower right.

I have released the latest edition of  my newsletter, Senior Moments today!  In it I discuss my firm's commitment to elders and their families as well as life care planning, my new elder care coordinator and the retirement of my longtime office manager, Betty Wright!

Please subscribe to the newsletter using the link at the bottom left of my website, www.vaelderlaw.com.

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A new study by AARP, “Valuing the Invaluable: 2011 Update,” estimates that for the more than 40 million Americans are caring for an elderly or disabled loved one. The value of their work is $450 billion a year.

Source/more: National Public Radio (July 18, 2011) (audio also available)

Read the full AARP report.

I have counseled numerous caregivers over the years and you can certainly see the toll it takes upon their lives and their health.  Caregivers must plan for periods of respite and they cannot give 24/7 care.  If you have any questions about caregiving, please don't hesitate to give us a call.  Our Elder Care Coordinator Sandy Vernon may be able to aid you in lining up respite care or determining if you qualify for any caregiving benefit!

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Kids may be safest in cars driven by grandma or grandpa instead of mom or dad, according to study results that even made the researchers do a double-take.

Source/more: USA Today/Associated Press (July 18, 2011)

 "Grandparents, when they have the opportunity to interact with their grandchildren find that to be the primary focus of their time together," he says. "They're perhaps not as distracted by trying to do a million errands, or get the dinner on the table, or wonder about their response to the latest e-mail.

"Speaking as a grandparent, about the worst thing that could happen is one of your grandchildren getting hurt on your watch, and trying to communicate that to your children," Henretig says.

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In this month's "Mental Health Matters" newsletter published by Centra Mental Health Services, Dr. Peter Betz describes how the process of aging brings with it inherent misunderstandings that highlights processes of grief and loss that lead to a negative outlook on the aging process.  Further stressors of aging are having to move away from the home one has lived in for much of their lives, admission to healthcare facilities, loneliness, financial hardship, illness and death of loved ones.

Grief and sadness as a response to such is perfectly normal.  Persistent sadness to the extent it impairs the usual day-to-day life is not.  Depression is a real concern among elders and it is not a normal part of the aging process!  Here are three symptoms of depression to be on the lookout for:

1. Mood Change: this may be chronic sadness or melancholia, or irritability and lack of happiness.

2. Self-Attitude Change: the elder may begin to doubt their own personal value, with feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness.  They may say that everyone would be "better off" if they "weren't around".  If such attitude sets in, they may have feelings their ilfe has no further meaning, use or enjoyment.

3.  Neurovegative Symptom Change: This complex phrase is used to denote the brain-body continuum.  You may see changes in sleep patterns, eating patterns, energy levels and motivation to engage socially.  The elder may become withdrawn or apathetic.

These changes are often gradual but can be the first sign of a developing clinical depression.  If you or a family member sees these signs, you should talk to a healthcare professional.  If you wish, you can start the conversation with our Elder Care Coordinator, Sandy Vernon.  Sandy has many years experience in the mental health field in her work at Piedmont Community Services.  She would be glad to meet with you privately and discuss a course of action to address these issues.

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Hundreds of thousands of older people are being put at increased risk of death or developing dementia by taking combinations of common medicines to treat routine illnesses, according to a new study. Well-known brands of hay fever tablets, painkillers and sleeping pills pose a previously unknown threat to people’s health when taken together, British scientists claim.  

Source/more information: The Telegraph (UK) (June 24, 2011)

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In 1994, Oregon became the first state to legalize physician-assisted suicide. As a result, any individual whom two physicians diagnose as having less than six months to live can lawfully request a fatal dose of barbiturate to end his or her life. Since 1994, more than 500 Oregonians have taken their mortality into their own hands. In How to Die in Oregon, filmmaker Peter Richardson gently enters the lives of the terminally ill as they consider whether - and when - to end their lives by lethal overdose. Richardson examines both sides of this complex, emotionally charged issue. What emerges is a life-affirming, staggeringly powerful portrait of what it means to die with dignity

See more at http://www.hbo.com/#/documentaries/how-to-die-in-oregon

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I have long counselled my clients on the need to not only stay active physically, but mentally.  Crosswords, sudoku, board games all help to keep an elder's faculties sharp!  Continued learning is an important component of well being throughout life. Continuing education provides self-enrichment, socialization, stimulation, and leisure time for older adults. Opportunities for learning can be found in a variety of places and be in almost any form. It is never too late to learn something new!

Whether it is an interest in financial management, computer skill training, ceramics, or hiking, chances are there is a learning opportunity out there that matches an individual's learning style and interest.  The article linked to below gives you a lot of ideas if you wish to take the next step and engage in a new learning adventure!

http://www.seniornavigator.org/virginiaNavigator/DetailSN.aspx?contentId=143&.f=1

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2001 marks the 10 year anniversary of the internet portal, Senior Navigator (www.seniornavigator.org). Senior Navigator is the starting point for seniors and many of their questions.  It is packed with articles, resources and news items of interest to my clients.  If you haven't already, I urge you to surf your way to the website and check it out!

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I would bet this is almost an exclusively American problem as when I lived in Europe for almost 9 years, drivers were aware of and respected pedestrian crosswalks! 

"Streets are no longer primarily for moving traffic as quickly as possible. That's a very 1950s notion of middle America," said Noah Budnick, the deputy director of Transportation Alternatives, a New York research and advocacy group. "Our streets are where we live in this city, and walking is the primary mode of how people get around. But older people simply don't have enough time to cross the street."

Transportation for America, based in Washington, highlighted the issue last month in "Dangerous By Design," a study of traffic fatalities from 2000 through 2009. Nationwide, people 65 and older make up 13% of the population but represent about 22% of pedestrian deaths.

http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-slow-walkers-20110612,0,2669866.story

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This is a resource I have been sharing with my clients for years.  As I tell them when we discuss the use of Advance Medical Directives, the only thing worse than not having an Advance Medical Directive and appointing an Agent under your Health Care Power of Attorney, is to appoint a Health Care Agent and never talk to them about how you would make medical decisions if you had the capacity to! This Toolkit helps you to plan by getting you to think about specific health care situations you may find yourself in.

End of life decisions are too important to put off.  Address them now, with your loved ones while you still have capacity to think about the situations and decide the path you want to take.  Don't leave the decision making to a spouse or children; it's your life and your values, make your decisions now so that if the time comes, your Agent will be carrying out your wishes!

http://www.americanbar.org/groups/law_aging/resources/consumer_s_toolkit_for_health_care_advance_planning.html

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I received an email the other day from the Chairman of the Elder Law Section of the Virginia Bar Association.  As a Council Member, I was asked to review proposed legislation that will be offered in the nexy session of the General Assembly to make it easier for Commonwealth Attorneys to prosecute those who commit elder financial abuse.  In my practice I have seen many circumstances where financial abuse of an elder is suspected, but unless the abuse is tantamount to outright theft, it is often hard to prove.

Often it is the Agent under a Durable Power of Attorney that is suspected of elder financial abuse.  Yet by being the named Agent, the person does have many financial powers.  The trick is to prove they have used these powers to either waste the elder's fund, misuse the funds, or outright theft.  Other times it is a family member or friend that unduely influences the elder to spend money or give them gifts.  This could be as simply as a child driving mom to the bank to withdraw money.  We must all be vigllant when it comes to protecting our elders.

The MetLife Mature Market Institute has prepared tips to follow to prevent abuse.  They can be found at:

http://www.metlife.com/assets/cao/mmi/publications/studies/2011/Tips/mmi-preventing-elder-financial-abuse-older-adults.pdf

and

http://www.metlife.com/assets/cao/mmi/publications/studies/2011/Tips/mmi-preventing-elder-financial-abuse-family-caregivers.pdf

Further, if you need a Durable Power of Attorney or wish to have one reviewed, don't hesitate to give us a call.  A power of attorney is not just another form, it is a powerful document that must be tailored to your needs.

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