Organizing a Life

Readers of this blog know that my mother was an inspiration for my elder law practice, and the source of much of the information I chose to share in this blog.

Sadly, my family lost my mother in early November,  after a long and full life of 95-1/2 years. Her family and friends had come together to celebrate her 95th birthday over Mother’s Day weekend, and I was fortunate enough to be able to take her out to dinner just 2 weeks before she fell ill.

My mother had followed the sun in her retirement to Boca Raton, FL, to a community where none of her family was living.   She had distributed, or sold, the furnishings my brothers and I remembered from when we were growing up, and she had made gifts of treasured items such as jewelry, china and crystal when she was able to enjoy our reaction to receiving them.

That said, when my husband and I went to clean her condo for sale, we found years and years’ worth of paper records, her beautiful wardrobe (which reminded me of many wonderful shopping trips!) and lots of pots and pans, dishes and serving pieces, not to mention the furniture that she had purchased with the condo. If this was overwhelming to us in a condo of less than 750 square feet, I can only imagine how daunting the task would be for a whole house.

We were fortunate to be introduced to a company called Caring Transitions, without which I cannot imagine having accomplished what we needed to do.  The owner helped us organize what we wanted to keep and took care of shipping it for us; he arrange for the sale of the items that we felt would be worth the effort; recommended worthy recipients for donated medical equipment and other items, and then disposed of the rest, leaving the condo broom-clean for its sale.  He was kind enough to go out of his way to deliver items that we wanted to give to my mother’s long-time caregiver, and to return the various visions aids to Lighthouse for the Blind of the Palm Beaches (he said he lived nearby, but I don’t believe him – I think he said that to make us feel less guilty about his offer!)  He treated everything with the utmost respect, and he treated my husband and me with compassion above and beyond the call of duty.

I know there are similar businesses throughout the country, and I am familiar with some of them, through my practice, in Arizona.   But I am sure that we found an exceptional one, owned by an amazing, compassionate man, who helped us deal with my mother’s things in a way that let us continue to focus on what we really inherited from her – her love of family and of learning, and the most incredible can-do attitude of anyone I have ever met.



The Cost of Medicare

Those of you who particiapte in Medicare have probably heard that the monthly premium for Part B will be $134 in 2018.  Although this figure has not increased from 2017, it does not mean that Medicare will cost the same in the coming year.

A large percentage of Part B enrollees have been covered by a “hold harmless” provision in the law that assures that the premiums can’t increase more than the Cost of Living increase for Social Security benefits.  Since those increases have been very small in the past several years, their Part B premiums have been held at a lower number (usually about $109 per month).  Now that Social Security will be increasing by 2% for 2018, those participants’ Part B premiums will increase as well.

The annual deductible for Part B of $183 will be the same in 2018 as it has been in 2017.  However, the deductible for a hospital stay covered by Medicare Part A will increase by $24 to $1,340 in 2018.  For participants who remain in the hospital for more than 60 days per benefit period, the daily co-pay for days 61-90 will increase by $6 to $335 per day. And the daily co-pay for a stay in a skilled nursing or rehab facility covered by Medicare Part A after the first 20 days is increasing by $3 to $167.50 per day.

New White House Hotline for Veterans

The Veterans Administration has announced that the White House VA Hotline is now staffed with live agents who can answer veterans' calls 24/7, 365 days a year.  In an effort to assure that the agents can relate to the callers' experience, 90% of them … [Continue reading]

Estate and Gift Tax Exemptions for 2018

Whether there will still be an estate tax in 2018, and what is will look like, is  much in the news this week, as the House of Representatives released its Tax Reform Proposal. Meanwhile, based on the laws that are still in effect today, the … [Continue reading]

Veterans May Be at Higher Risk for Alzheimer’s Disease

A group called Veterans Against Alzheimers recently released a report indicating that Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Traumatic Brain Injury and even brain injuries that appear to be relatively minor when they occur are linked to a higher risk of … [Continue reading]

Social Security Announces Cost-of-Living Increases for 2018

The Social Security Administration has announced that SSI, SSDI and Social Security Retirement benefits will increase by 2% for 2018.  This is the largest increase since 2012. Last year's increase was less than 1%, and some years had no … [Continue reading]

When Can you Expect Your VA Benefits?

The Veterans Benefits Administration recently sent a reminder about when recipients can expect to recieve their VA cash benefits, including disability compensation, pension, survivor's benefits and education benefits. These benefits are deposited … [Continue reading]

Court Approves Class for Lawsuit About Medicare Observation Status

Last month, in the case of Alexander v. Price, 3:11-CV-1703 (MPS), the US District Court in Connecticut certified a class of Medicare beneficiaries who suffered financial loss because they had been hospitalized under "Observation Status" at some time … [Continue reading]

Use Your Smartphone to Document Your Advance Directives

Earlier this summer, I published a post (probably not for the first time!) about the importance of documenting your wishes for end-of-life care.  Currently, only about 30% of adults over age 50 have done so. As reported n the May-June issue of … [Continue reading]

Another Wake-up Call to Document End of Life Care Decisions

A couple of weeks ago, our extended family came together to celebrate my mother's 95th birthday.  My mother has always loved a party, so even though she suffers from several chronic conditions, and then had a pretty serious health scare 2 weeks … [Continue reading]

Hospitals Must Keep Patients Informed About Observation Status

I've written before about making sure you have been "admitted" when you have been in the hospital for a night or two. Medicare recipients who have been evaluated in the hospital, received care and perhaps even stayed overnight may have been … [Continue reading]

VA Acknowledges Presumption of Illness from Camp Lejeune Water Exposure

In the early 1980s, chemicals that are used in dry cleaning and metal  degreasing, along with benzene and vinyl chloride, were discovered in the water supply system at Camp Jejeune and MCAS New River.  The contaminated wells were finally shut down in … [Continue reading]

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Reconfirms Guidelines for Skilled Care

In a previous post, I have described the 2014 settlement in the case of  Jimmo v. Sebelius, in which the Court confirmed that Medicare is obligated to pay for physical, occupational and/or speech therapy that is necessary to keep a medicare … [Continue reading]

Whose In Charge When You are in the Hospital?

My 94 year old mother was just released from the hospital following a 13-day stay, precipitated by a serious infection. First, the good news - the infection has cleared and she is back home,  thinner (not a good thing) and more easily fatiged, but … [Continue reading]