For Attorneys

Seniors and the Affordable Care Act: What You Need to Know

Are you a senior or older adult with questions about how the Affordable Care Act may affect you?

The Affordable Care Act requires everyone to have health insurance coverage. If you are already enrolled in Medicare, Medicaid, or if you have employer-based health insurance, you already have coverage and don’t have to make any changes. If you are not currently enrolled in any of these programs and you don’t have health insurance, you will need to obtain coverage or pay a penalty.

You can purchase insurance through the Health Insurance Marketplace, and depending on your income you may qualify for assistance to pay your monthly premium. Premium assistance is only available to those not eligible for Medicaid who purchase health insurance through the Marketplace.

There are four ways to apply for Marketplace coverage:

  1. Paper Application. You can fill out a paper application and mail it in. You will receive an eligibility notice by mail. The paper application is available at healthcare.gov
  2. Apply Online. While the Marketplace website experienced technical issues when first launched, you can now apply online in four steps. Visit healthcare.gov to get started.
  3. Apply by Phone. To apply by phone, call 1-800-318-2596, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week (TTY: 1-855-889-4325). A customer service representative will work with you to complete the application and enrollment process.
  4. Find in-person help. In all states, there are people trained and certified to help you review your coverage options and enroll in a Marketplace plan. Visit LocalHelp.HealthCare.gov to find help in your area. Additionally, Decades can provide in-person help to clients and their families.

Three important dates to keep in mind are January 1, 2014: All individuals are required to have health insurance by this date, December 23: The deadline to file an application for coverage starting in January and March 31, 2014: Marketplace open enrollment ends.

If you have more questions about what the Affordable Care Act means for you, Decades can help. Our team offers free consultations so you can learn about the services that we offer, including medical advocacy and care management.

Advice for adult children: Recognizing the Warning Signs of an Acquired Brain Injury

Have you noticed that your parent or elder adult in your family is acting differently lately? In some cases, changes in behavior can mean that an elder loved one suffered an Acquired Brain Injury. Understanding and recognizing the warning signs can help ensure senior family members receive the care they need.

An Acquired Brain Injury (ABI) can happen in day-to-day life from:

  • Falls
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Motorcycle accidents
  • Heart attack-respiratory arrest
  • Stroke

More unusual causes of ABI can include gunshot or knife wounds, near drowning and anaphylactic shock (a serious allergic reaction). An ABI can effect an individual’s memory, ability to execute tasks, and can prevent them from taking appropriate initiative, like paying their taxes on time.

Early signs of behavioral changes include restlessness, tardiness, and increased confrontational or argumentative behavior. These warning signs can escalate to more dangerous behaviors including property destruction, pushing or shoving, increased use of alcohol and refusal to do normal tasks or activities.

If you notice these behaviors in a senior family member, it’s time to ask for help. There are many options available to families. One place to start is with a Decades professional geriatric consultation. Coordinated by a licensed professional, consultations can take place in the home or at the Decades office. Following the consultation, Decades will provide a detailed written report covering options, local resources and services that are most appropriate for the individual situation.

To learn more, read about our consultation services here, or contact us.

National Guardianship Conference Highlights ‘Guardianship Scene Investigation’

National Guardianship Conference LogoHeld annually by the National Guardianship Association, the National Conference on Guardianship is the largest gathering of guardianship organizations in the United States. Decades participated in the 25th annual conference in October, attending cutting-edge presentations and bringing back knowledge on today’s top concerns in guardianship.

While we attended many informative sessions, the highlight of the conference was an interactive Guardianship Scene Investigation where we “walked in the shoes” of a person under guardianship. One of the most challenging aspects of serving as a professional guardian is gathering information about the person under guardianship. The more we know about a person’s history, the better we can ensure we make decisions that are both in their best interest and reflect their wishes.

During the Guardianship Scene Investigation, our team learned how to obtain knowledge from items found among a person’s property, when they are unable to speak for themselves. By taking clues from items like documents, medical equipment, hidden treasures, cultural indicators and lifestyle objects, we can build a better picture of the person.

Scene investigation skills are vital when we work with elder adults who have become mentally or physically incapacitated. It’s also important for families and elder adults to be educated on the options available to them before a situation arises where they can no longer speak for themselves. One way to ensure your wishes are followed is through the Decades Springing Care program. You and your family can establish a plan that Decades will execute on your behalf in the event of a serious medical condition or other emergency. To learn more, download our Springing Care flyer here.

"Hiring an End of Life Enforcer"

by Paula Span, New York Times

The chilling dilemma of “the unbefriended elderly,” who don’t have family or close friends to make medical decisions on their behalf if they can’t speak for themselves, generated a bunch of ideas the last time we discussed it.

One reader, Elizabeth from Los Angeles, commented that as an only child who had no children, she wished she could hire someone to take on this daunting but crucial responsibility.

“I would much rather pay a professional, whom I get to know and who knows me, to make the decisions,” she wrote. “That way it is an objective decision-maker based on the priorities I have discussed with him/her before my incapacitation.”

Elizabeth, it turns out other people have been thinking the same way.

A few years back, Elena Berman, a retired administrator at the University of Arizona, was trying to put her own paperwork in order and wondering about her health care proxy. She’s single and has no children, and her only sibling lives halfway across the country.

“When I tried to think whom I might ask to fill this position, no relative came to mind,” she told me in an interview. Two friends agreed to be her decision-makers, but they are about her own age. “That’s great if I die in five years or so,” said Dr. Berman, who is 66. “But after that, it’s up for grabs.”

With people living longer and families having fewer children, she pointed out, “I see this as a growing population.”

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Paula Span is the author of “When the Time Comes: Families With Aging Parents Share Their Struggles and Solutions.”