1 mile west of the Chicago Premium Outlet Mall (800) 810 3100
Our Law Elder Law motto is “Serving Seniors and Those Who Love Them.”  Jo Buscemi, niece of Raffaella Calabrese (more affectionately known as “Auntie Florence”), shared these words with me and asked me to share them with you: Dear Mr. Law, Around October 2008 my mother and I had our first meeting with Mr. Jonathan Johnson in regards to my Aunt Raffaella Calabrese (“Auntie Florence”).  My aunt had suffered for years with dementia and had various (six in all) live-in caregivers.  I was told by many to keep my aunt in familiar surroundings for as long as possible and I being her power of attorney, I did exactly that. I came to your Aurora office one day and had our initial meeting with Jonathan.  I was very apprehensive.  Norridge HealthCare Facility recommended that I talk with you folks.  Well, after our second meeting with Jonathan and many phone calls and questions, we returned in about November of 2008 and contracted with your firm for assistance.  I put off as long as I possibly could placing Auntie in a nursing home, and then only because our sixth caregiver was returning to Poland and Auntie had exhausted all her life’s savings in addition to what I paid for from my savings.  I have MS (Multiple Sclerosis) and it was difficult to care for my aunt and mom, so I had to quit my job two years ago.  But this letter is not about me—it is about my Auntie Florence. Auntie went to live at Norridge HealthCare Facility on June 18, 2009 and sadly, she passed away on February 9, 2010.  We were very satisfied with this facility and its staff.  During this time I was assigned to Gina Salamone as our attorney at Law Elder Law.  I know I drove Gina and Sean (and everyone who answered the phone) nuts with all my calls and my frantic questions and nervousness.  I do believe Gina and I have a bond, though, and I trusted her with my precious family member and for that I am very grateful to her. I have recommended people to your firm and I have even gone as far as handing out Jonathan’s and Gina’s phone numbers—and advised these people to get all their ducks in a row now rather than wait. I have attached a picture of Auntie Florence and I wish you to express my family’s sincere appreciation for all the thousand times I called, ranted, cried, and went nuts—but your staff never gave up, not once.  Gina even went to the DHS regional manager on our behalf. Mr. Law, I really appreciate everything your entire staff did for Auntie, and I promise you I will always recommend people who need this type of help to your firm.  God bless everyone at Law Elder Law in Aurora, Illinois.  Thank you all again on behalf of Auntie Florence and the Buscemi family—we truly thank you.   Please enjoy the catered lunch on Thursday that my family is having delivered to your office. Jo Buscemi

dads-missing-blog-cops-pic-to-use-if-sirens-video-doesnt-work Recently I was sitting down with some very good friends when a cell phone rang.  A look of worry shot across my friend’s brow as he looked at me and apologized, “I’ve got to take this call… my Dad’s missing!  He’s gone wandering…”  I could not help but listen as he spoke to relatives several hundred miles away.  He murmured hopefully, “Maybe they’ll bring Dad to the shelter.”  After saying goodbye he looked at me with pain across his face and said, “Nobody knows where he is.  He’s got Alzheimer’s, and my mom can’t keep him in the house anymore.”  About 30 minutes later he got the call that Dad had been found and everything was okay—this time.  As I sat there, I wondered if my friend knew of some of the resources available to help keep track of vulnerable or wandering loved ones—and it occurred to me that our readers may also be unaware of some of these resources. One of the reasons that having a wandering relative afflicted with dementia is so frightening is that they don’t act (or react) in the same way that a typical lost person would.  A helpful page at Ask.com explains how wanderers with dementia will not cry out for help or respond to your calls to them, nor will they leave many physical clues to lead you to them.  What a wanderer is likely to do is go to an old place of residence or a favorite location. Luckily, there are resources out there to help with wandering relatives—so you don’t have to just wait nervously by the phone.  One of these resources is the Medic-Alert Safe-Return program detailed on the Alzheimer’s Association website.  This program provides 24-hour nationwide assistance and supplies members with an individual emblem engraved with the program’s emergency response number.  If you want to try to stop wandering at its source, the Mayo Clinic has a page detailing some of the reasons why elderly relatives may wander, and includes some suggestions on how you might prevent it.  But remember—no matter how much you do, Mom or Dad may still wander.  Don’t blame yourself if it happens! The best thing to do is be prepared for the occasions when the wandering does happen.  Use the resources provided above, and keep other relatives and caregivers informed.

“What in the world is that man doing?!” I asked attorney Zach Hesselbaum. It was a perfect summer afternoon and we had just left a client’s home at Alden of Waterford.  We could see a man creating something with homemade tools in an undeveloped area across from the residences.  We just had to get to know this man who, it turned out, was a pro at creating “landscape art”. Dale Chatfield is a man of simple and powerful virtues.  His initiative, integrity, and personality have drawn people to him, and then he has enriched their lives.  Zach and I spoke with Dale and his charming wife Doris.  They have been married 70 years. Dale was born October 10, 1911 in the central Nebraska plains.  He told us, “I grew up on the farm, and when I was a young man it seemed like I knew all the girls in Nebraska—but none of them were right for me!  It was The Great Depression, but I headed off to find my fortune in Denver.”  In Denver he lived frugally, studied accounting, and eventually got a job as an accountant for the Denver/Rio Grande Railway.  But Dale was never meant to just sit at a desk.  He is competitor, and is driven to always do more than what is expected.  Doris beamed and proudly told us, “Dale has spent his whole life going the extra mile.  We had a dry cleaning business for 32 years.  The business, called D&D Cleaners (for Dale and Doris), grew because my husband always gave extraordinary personal attention to each customer.  Even after people moved away from our neighborhood, they would drive back to have Dale do their cleaning.  People value that special personal attention.” Even after retirement, Dale has kept on making life more fun for others.  From 1990 to 2005, he almost singlehandedly did the Christmas decorations and lights around their four-story senior residential center in Denver.  Doris told us, “He was the only one in the neighborhood who decorated all four sides of their building!  Everybody else just did the front.  You know, he climbed up and down those tall ladders even when he got to be 92.” If you want to talk about playing horseshoes, Dale is your man.  He is a champion horseshoe player.  He played in a senior league that included 40 players.  During ten seasons, Dale was champion five years.  Leaving Denver and moving to Chicago in 2005, his biggest disappointment has been that he can no longer find anyone who wants to play horseshoes.  “They all say they have a bad back or a bad arm.  I can’t find anyone who will play with me.” I asked Dale if he could provide me with some of his keys to a long and successful life.  He gave me a handwritten note that reads as follows:
  1. God, parents, wife, and kids
  2. Creator, genes, diet, exercise
  3. Husband and wife 50/50; don’t let the sun set on your anger.
  4. Honesty (don’t even take tax deductions if they are iffy)
  5. Eat well but nothing fancy (oatmeal with raisins every day and good farm food)
Dale is a wonderful life model for the art of being—and living as—a very successful man.

It is no secret that senior citizens are the wealthiest segment of the U.S. population. Much has been written and said about the trillions of dollars that will ‘change generational hands’ as the current seniors pass their wealth to their children/grandchildren. Unfortunately, seniors have to contend with a dirty little secret that was put in place by the current Republican administration when they passed the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 (DRA). The DRA made changes in the way that the government will punish seniors for acts of both charity and giving. The Medicaid rules presume when a senior makes a charitable or family gift, that the gift was an attempt to get rid of excess assets in order to qualify for Medicaid nursing home expenses. That’s right—seniors are guilty until proven innocent. The burden of proof is on the seniors to show that when they gave money to their church or child, that they had some other reason than to qualify for Medicaid. This DRA rule creates a cruel penalty of ineligibility for Medicaid services if and when a senior who gave away money needs nursing home services at any time within 5 years after the gift. Our government has created a punishment for seniors who may suffer chronic long-term illness within 5 years after a gift. As long as this law is in place, seniors must remember that the IRS gift tax rule allowing gifting up to $13,000 tax-free is only a tax rule. Giving away $13,000 may cause a senior to suffer a loss in nursing home coverage of 2 to 3 months if they need such assistance within 60 months after giving that money away. Thanks to our government, giving may now be hazardous to your health…care!

My wife and I have almost reached the empty-nester stage.  We look forward to that event with excitement, and a little anxiety too.  We have raised four children, ranging in age from 32 to 17.  After such a long run in parenting minors, it’s time to move on to that more senior stage referred to as being an empty-nester. Not everyone becomes an empty-nester.  And although we sometimes joke about the child who “failed to launch” due to the inability to get a career, there’s another group of parents who will never know the joy of seeing their child be fully self-supporting.  In my office it is not uncommon for me to sit across the table from an 83 year old parent who is still the primary caregiver for a child who is chronically disabled.  Those parents live in dread of the day that they will die and their children may survive them and face a future without the loving protection of a parent. This is the first time in human history that parents face the possibility of having their chronically disabled children actually outlive them.  Prior to the introduction of antibiotics and many other great advances in health care, chronically disabled children routinely died at a young age.  But now, even parents who have lived to become the frail elderly themselves may have chronically disabled children who are themselves senior citizens, but who are still at home being cared for by their parents.  In fact, sometimes when we assist families in bringing in a professional caregiver for the aged parents, those same caregivers are providing necessary services to the child with the disability, as well.  This raises new challenges for those parents and their children. This type of disability is really quite common.  “Developmental disabilities” are severe chronic conditions caused by mental and/or physical impairments.  Individuals affected by such challenges may be so profoundly impacted that they will never be able to function independently.  Most of these physical and mental issues are in evidence long before a child reaches the age of 22.  These disabilities will last the lifetime of the affected person. So how can a parent be assured that a disabled child will be taken care of after the parent is gone?  Some attorneys will recommend that you leave everything to another, non-disabled child, to care for the disabled sibling.  This passing of the torch is unfair and in many ways ill-advised. Far better is the creation of a special needs trust specifically for the benefit of your disabled child.  Check back next week to learn more about special needs trusts, and discover exactly why “passing the torch” is a bad idea.

Asset Protection, Elder Law, Medicaid, Senior Citizens
Recently, the child of one of my clients told me about a wedding her parents had attended. The wedding was that of a giddy-in-love senior citizen couple. The groom was 82, the bride 87; both living at the same long-term care facility. The bride was heard to gush, “I wanted to marry a younger man this time.”

Love and marriage is wonderful (as is obvious from the photo of Alton Nichols and Betty Hall, pictured above) but for senior citizens it raises very different issues than it does for the young and newly married. One obvious issue is the fact that most seniors already have adult children, and many of those adult children are quite vocal in their concern about their mother or father becoming involved in a new love life. Before mom or dad get married, many children want to make sure that their inheritance is protected.  To that end, many seniors use wills or trusts which direct that assets go to “my kids and grand-kids,” or create pre-marriage-property-settlement agreements (pre-nuptial contracts) which require that the pending bride or groom give up any interest in their new spouse’s assets.

Alton Nichols and Betty Hall, Photo by David Lassman Despite these attempts to safeguard assets for the original families, there is another hidden danger to the family wealth whenever a senior chooses to wed. A trust or pre-nuptial agreement does not protect the assets of one spouse from being drained to pay for an ill spouse’s medical costs, including long-term care costs. The “Common Law of England” required long ago that husbands and wives be legally responsible to pay for each others’ necessaries, and our own government adopted that requirement. Included in those “necessaries” are food, housing, and yes: healthcare. This includes the cost of care when someone is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s or any other long-term illness.

To protect themselves from this hidden drain on a lifetime of earnings, healthy vigorous seniors who are considering getting “hitched” must consider the wisdom of purchasing long-term care insurance and perhaps engaging an elder law attorney to assist them with longevity planning. All this must take place before your marriage, so that you have some idea of what your real risks are. Elder law attorneys have many creative legal solutions that go beyond the traditional estate planner’s basic will and trust, which merely deal with the distribution of your assets at the time of your death, avoidance of probate, and minimization of estate taxes.

If you are over 65 and considering saying “I do,” please recognize that you are also promising to pay for your new spouse’s future long-term care medical expenses. “In sickness and in health” is a standard line in most wedding vows, and the state of Illinoise takes that vow and makes it law. In the Chigaco metropolitan area the monthly cost for assisted living expenses ranges from a low of $2,500/month to about $6,000/month, and the cost for skilled nursing home care ranges from $5,500 to $10,000/month, or more.

With these numbers in mind, it’s good to remember that when you say “I do” what you’re really saying is “I’ll pay.”