With almost constant advancements in healthcare, Americans are living longer, healthier, and fuller lives than ever before. The life expectancy here in Maryland, for example, is currently 79 years old and climbing higher every year. By the year 2040, about one in five Americans will be age 65 or older (currently one in eight), and the number of adults ages 85 and older will more than double (currently about seven million). And while this is all certainly wonderful, it also means we are experiencing new issues that previous generations did not have to worry about. This changing dynamic across the country has led to the inception of a newer branch of law, Elder Law, and a new series of services, Elder Care or Aged Care. But we know what you are thinking. What exactly is Elder Law and what is aged care? Well, we will cover both of these topics throughout this article.
What is Elder Law?
With the demographics shifting in the United States and more and more aging adults making up a large portion of the population, we are seeing the advent of new legal needs across the country. Elder law is a very specialized area of law concerning this aging population, combining elements of estate planning, long term care planning, asset protection, adult guardianship (conservatorship), trusts, probate, skilled nursing care, nursing home care, and much more. Essentially, elder law is for anyone who needs help with planning related to growing older.
What is Aged Care?
As people age, they often experience physical and/or mental limitations that make it increasingly difficult for them to perform normal, everyday activities – what experts and insurers refer to as activities of daily living. This is where aged care – also known as elder care – comes into play. Simply put, aged care is support provided to aging adults either in their own home (aging in place) or in an aged care facility, such as a nursing home or assisted living facility, to help these individuals with everyday activities like housing, bathing, dressing, grooming, using the toilet, eating, moving around, etc.
- Aging in Place: According to AginginPlace.org, nine out of 10 adults prefer to age in place. This means receiving aged care in the home instead of moving to a long term care facility.
- Long Term Care Facilities: For those unable to age in place, there are long term care options, such as assisted living facilities, memory-care facilities, or full-service nursing homes.
Aged care services are designed to improve quality of life, increase safety, and simply make life easier for the elderly and are typically tailored to meet the specific needs of the individual. However, aged care can be costly, so it is smart for individuals and families to plan ahead for the day when it might be needed.
Talking to Your Elderly Parents About Aged Care
“For families, elder care is often one of those difficult topics,” says Jeannette Franks, retired professor of ethics, grief, and gerontology. Here are a few tips to help you start the conversation.
- Timing: The best time to start thinking about long term care planning is before you need it. As a general rule of thumb it is best to start looking into estate planning and elder law options when your parent has turned or is approaching 55 years of age, or has experienced a serious medical issue requiring care.
- Meeting: “Bringing the family and support network together for a meeting to discuss a loved one’s changing situation and available options is a crucial step in elder care planning,” says Franks. “Holding a meeting for everyone involved almost always will improve the situation — as long as the meeting is well planned, well attended, and conducted appropriately.”
- Sensitivity: Aging is never an easy process for anyone. Approach the conversation with care and understanding.
- Inclusivity: “Including your aging loved one in future plans may help motivate them to receive needed care,” says Kim Acosta, A Place for Mom.. You are more likely to get pushback if you try to make decisions for your parents without their input.
- Experts: Elder law can be a sensitive topic and, in some situations, families are dealing with very emotional issues. Your attorney should be able to not only address your legal needs, but also give you peace of mind.
For a more extensive look at how to approach the aged care conversation, you can read our article, “How to Deal With Elderly Parents.”
Elder Law Services in Maryland
PathFinder Law Group is an estate planning law firm based in Towson, Maryland specializing in Elder Law Planning. Our team provides legal guidance that comes from the heart and our solutions are tailored to fit your individual needs. Our team can assist with all aspects of elder law and estate planning, including: Estate Planning Documents, Long-Term Planning, Retirement Planning, Assisted Living & Nursing Home Care, Asset Protection & Preservation, Guardianship, Last Will & Testament, Power of Attorney (to address financial control issues), Advance Medical Directive (to help with health care decisions), Medicaid & Medical Assistance, Trusts, and Probate.
If you’re still struggling to answer the question “What is Aged Care?” or simply want to explore your elder law options, contact PathFinder Law Group by completing our Contact Us form, calling (443) 579-4529, or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. We are here to guide you through life’s milestones in a way that is compassionate and reassuring.
- Acosta, Kim. “18 Signs Your Aging Parent Needs Help.” A Place for Mom, 22 Mar. 2020, www.aplaceformom.com/caregiver-resources/articles/parents-need-help.
- Acosta, Kim. “What to Do When Elderly Parents Refuse Help.” A Place for Mom, 3 July 2021, www.aplaceformom.com/caregiver-resources/articles/parents-wont-listen.
- “The US Population Is Aging.” Urban Institute, 3 Apr. 2015, www.urban.org/policy-centers/cross-center-initiatives/program-retirement-policy/projects/data-warehouse/what-future-holds/us-population-aging.