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Some senior adults need a bit of help and care, but when a senior has a special need, the level of care increases significantly. With the right resources, you can create a plan of care that will ensure your loved one’s needs – from healthcare through financial – are well met throughout their retirement years.
Unfortunately, most available programs specialize either in special needs or advanced age. Our goal is to provide you with a master list of resources that you can tap into to find solutions for your loved ones.
Common Problems Faced as Special Needs Seniors Age
When an aging adult has a cognitive need, a physical concern, or a mental health concern (PTSD or dementia), adding aging to the mix can create some struggles for the older adult. Some of these problems include:
Financial Resources Available to Special Needs Seniors
While special needs adults have a number of financial concerns that must be addressed, they also have some financial resources they can tap. Some of these resources are specific to older adults, and others are limited to special needs adults. If you are in a position of helping a senior citizen with special needs, here are some resources that are available to your loved one.
First, look into the various federal programs aimed at helping the elderly. Here are some of them:
Next, look at any state programs that are available to help special needs or elderly adults. Some places to look on the state level include:
Each state will have its own unique programs to consider. A few states have particularly interesting programs that can be of help. Some of these include:
Finally, consider looking for private programs and groups that provide support. You can find these through:
Some examples of these include:
In addition to these disability-specific organizations, you may also find help from:
Planning Now for Your Special Needs Loved One’s Future
It’s important that those charged with caring for the needs of an older adult take the necessary financial precautions as early as possible to ensure a stable future. Luckily, there are tools that can help preserve the financial and physical health of those with special needs as they age. Here are some of these tools.
The Special Needs Trust
Kristen Lewis Denzinger of the American Bar Association recommends the Special Needs Trust as a tool to help plan for the financial needs of a disabled person. She says:
“One of the biggest concerns voiced by families of persons with disabilities is how best to fund their long-term personal and financial needs in a manner that will secure for them a full – and fulfilling – lifestyle geared to their specific abilities and preferences. Increasingly, lawyers are recommending a flexible and effective option to provide for the immediate and future benefits of disabled persons: the ‘Special Needs Trust.”
A Special Needs Trust will allow you to:
Funds in a Special Needs Trust cannot be used for general income, but they are still quite valuable. According to the Special Needs Alliance, “the purpose of Special Needs Trusts is usually to provide extra, or supplemental, items to the beneficiary – the things that the system, family, and other sources cannot or will not provide.”
While helpful, a Special Needs Trust can be improperly funded. Loved ones need to be careful when giving to the special needs adult. BB&T‘s Wealth Magazine warns:
“In order to maintain eligibility, family members . . . should be made aware of planning and should make gifts to the trust rather than directly to the [beneficiary].”
If you would like to set up a Special Needs Trust, you will need to:
For further information about a Special Needs Trust, visit:
Long Term Care Insurance
Another choice is long-term care insurance. According to Autism Speaks:
“Long-term care insurance protects your assets by paying for some or all of your care should you need it (at any age, if the policy is in place). Long-term care insurance protects your retirement income and could play a role in protecting the plans you have put in place that could benefit your child/children too.”
Some of the benefits of long-term care insurance include:
However, long-term care insurance is not a perfect solution. AARP’s Allan Roth warns about these potential cons:
If you’re trying to decide about long-term care insurance, consider these resources for more information:
Beyond Financial Planning – Naming a Decision Maker
In addition to planning for the financial needs of your loved one, you will need to consider the fact that many disabled seniors are not able to make decisions, both financial and health decisions, without help. You may need to take legal measures to name a “decision maker” for health and financial decisions. You have several tools available to help with this. Here are some of the tools you can use.
Power of Attorney and Conservatorship
According to NOLO, a power of attorney is a “legal document that gives someone you choose the power to act in your place.” This is a simple definition of something that can be a bit more complex in the case of a disabled adult. Therefore, it is highly recommended that you speak with an attorney.
Financial guru Chris Hogan believes the power of attorney is important part of an estate plan for all older adults. “This document declares who you want to make financial and legal decisions for you if you cannot make them. This is especially important as you age because no one – not even your child – can access your bank account without prior permission,” he says. So, should you need to step in and pay bills for your disabled loved one, you won’t be able to without this document.
Most of the time, an individual will grant power of attorney power before they get to the point that they cannot make decisions for themselves. However, with someone with special needs, you may reach the point that you have to name a decision maker before the individual thinks it is necessary.
According to attorney Philip Feldman, it can be challenging to get power of attorney when the loved one does not want to give it up. In order to get this power, you must have the concession of the individual. Feldman says, “If you’re unable to persuade your [loved one] to do this, you can go to court and get a conservatorship.” Conservatorship gives an individual the power to make decisions for a senior who the courts decide is no longer capable of doing this.
For more information about conservatorship and power of attorney, see:
Healthcare Proxy and Medical-Information Release
A healthcare proxy, according to Kiplinger, is like a power of attorney for healthcare decisions. Consider having your loved one name someone as his or her health care proxy to ensure that you have someone who can make important medical decisions, such as whether or not to put the individual on life support. Similarly, have your loved one sign a medical information release form that gives you permission to access their medical records.
For more information about healthcare proxy and medical information release documents, visit:
Consider the Living Arrangement
In addition to planning for health care and end-of-life situations, it’s crucial to think about living arrangements. Care for a senior is costly, and care for a senior with special needs is even more so.
According to U.S. News and World Report, a private room in a nursing home costs as much as $90,500 a year, or $248 a day. This drops only a little to $81,000 a year or $222 a day for a semi-private room. This is just one example of assisted living costs. Those are staggering numbers. This is why you must plan for the living arrangements of your loved one before the time comes that they need care.
Consider Care at Your Home
One way to lessen the cost of care for your loved one is to provide care at home. According to a research report from the Utah Foundation, the vast majority of seniors want to “age in place.” That means they wish to stay in their own homes and continue living independently. However, for special needs seniors, this may not be a viable alternative. Instead, moving in with loved ones can help preserve independence while providing care as needed. You will need to evaluate whether or not you have the ability to care for the individual’s needs in your home before making this decision.
Caring for a senior loved one in your own home or assisting them with staying in their home is not easy, so you will need to evaluate whether you can do this. Some questions to ask yourself are:
Don’t forget that you may be able to get some financial help to care for your aging loved one. Adults taking over the role of caregiver can get benefits from:
For more information on this, visit:
While staying home may be preferred, it’s not always possible when special needs seniors need ongoing care and treatment. Assisted living and skilled nursing facilities are often the best options, but these are costly. There are a number of ways to pay for assisted living care, according to Patricia Barry, a writer for the AARP Bulletin who has earned the nickname “Ms. Medicare.” These include:
However, there are some concerns. According to Barry, “Medicare covers [medical services] regardless of whether the enrollees live in a nursing home or in the community, but Medicare does not cover any ‘custodial care’ – that is, the costs of a room, meals and help with daily tasks.”
For those services, the individual must rely on Medicaid, and Medicaid is only available to those whose income is quite low. In order to get Medicaid for your loved one, you will need to get creative with their assets and any financial gifts you choose to give. Barry says, “You can get a lot of information from your state’s health insurance assistance program, which is a public service that provides personal help from trained counselors on all Medicare and Medicaid issues at no charge.”
For more information, see:
A final option to consider is in-home skilled care. Chris Hawkins, senior living and health writer on SeniorLiving.org, says that home care is increasing, and experts expect more than 1.3 million home health and care aids will be employed in the United States by 2020, a 70 percent increase from 2010. “It’s no wonder seniors choose home health care over stays in a hospital if they are able to,” he says. “The average daily cost of a hospital stay is $6,200, while the average cost of home health care is just $135 per visit.”
When to Start Planning
When should you start planning the care for your loved one with special needs? The best time to plan for their senior years is in childhood – or as soon as the disability occurs. However, this does not always happen. When it comes to helping someone with a disability, the sooner you start planning, the better. Whether your loved one is 50 or 70, today is the day to start making the necessary plans to ease them through those challenging senior years. Surround yourself with financial, health and legal experts, and get the plans in place to protect your loved one in the future.
So how can you get started on your planning? Here are some starter resources to consider:
Ready to take the next step? Now is the perfect time!
Call to speak with a licensed specialist (800) 401-8114