This may be the best "document maintenance" tip I've ever come across: Keep a copy of your health care instructions (a.k.a. advanced medical directives) on your smart phone and have your health care agent do the same.
The health care document (a standard item in the estate planning "package") is what I would call an "emergency document" meaning that there may be a sudden and immediate need to use the document at any given time. However, it's hard to have your original health care instructions on-hand at all times. That's why having a PDF of the document on your smart phone can come in handy!
I can't quote a particular study, but I can state with confidence that a steadily growing number of my clients (of ALL ages, by the way!) carry smartphones with them just about everywhere. This means that they have the ability to carry a copy of their advanced medical directives with them everywhere they go.
Please note that it's always better to have an original health care document on-hand. That's because many doctors and hospitals get nervous when relying on something other than an original document. But it's certainly better to have a PDF of the document on your phone than nothing at all.
Of course, explaining how to get your health care instructions document onto your smart phone is beyond the scope of this post. Click here for iPhones, and here for Android.
DISCLAIMER: This blog does not offer legal advice, nor does it create an attorney-client relationship. If you need legal advice, consult with a lawyer instead of a blog.
Once the decision is made that a loved one needs a nursing home, the selection of which particular nursing home is vitally important. As you can imagine, the quality of care at nursing homes runs a rather wide spectrum.
A good starting point is actually the Federal government's Medicare website which has a nursing home comparison page. The federal data there provides extensive information on Medicaid and Medicare-certified skilled nursing facilities in your area. They compare the quality of care for both rehab and long-term patients by including information on the percentage of patients whose walking has improved and patients with certain types of infections, such as bladder infections and bedsores.
Please note that facilities with high percentages of bladder infections may indicate that they have trouble keeping their residents well-hydrated. And unsually high percentages of bedsores hint at facilities not turning residents side-to-side in bed often enough and not keeping them clean.
So, if you're looking for a nursing home for a loved one, or suspect you may need one in the foreseeable future then you may want to begin the search by taking a spin on the Medicare website.
In light of inquiries I have received from many of my clients, colleagues and blog readers I've decided to do a post summarizing the technology-oriented model I've adopted for running my law practice, which still seems to be relatively rare in the local legal industry.
When I launched my solo practice about 2 1/2 years ago I had the administrative luxury of starting with a clean slate. I did some research on the office technology that was available and realized that there was a much more efficient and cost-effective way to operate my practice than what I experienced at the law firms where I worked in the past.
The centerpiece of my business model is the "Paper-LESS" approach. The emphasis on "less" indicates that it's essentially impossible for any law practice to be 100% paper-free, but I've come as close to it as possible. My paralegal and I have small high-speed scanners sitting next to our computer monitors and the office policy is that everything (hand-written file notes, old wills, deeds, business cards, etc.) that goes into or out of the office gets scanned and stored into the appropriate "digital file". Then the paper that was scanned is shredded unless it must be kept, which probably laccounts for ess than 5% of the paper that goes through the office.
The result is that I do not have any paper files. All my files are on the computer and each client has a main folder and sub-folders, just like a paper-based system. This means that if I need to look at any document from any client file I can have it on my computer monitor in no more than 5 mouse clicks. And if the client needs a copy of that document I simply attach the document to an e-mail message and it's off to the client in under a minute. Suffice it to say that if you're working with paper files this process takes a LOT longer.
The other benefit is that I have 3 back-up systems which back-up all of my documents every 24 hours. This helps me sleep at night because I know that if the building burns down then my law practice can be up-and-running the next day. But if I had a paper system and the building burned down then I don't see how my business can recover from that.
As an attorney who deeply appreciates how office technology can help one run a very efficient law practice, I have been equally fascinated with the technology developments that are enhancing life for the elderly.
Imagine...tiny motion sensors in a senior's bed to detect extraordinarily restless sleeping and record how often it occurs, which can be a sign of a serious medical problem such as congestive heart failure.
More sensors unobtrusively set up over the toilet, shower, carpets and doorways to monitor movements inside an apartment. These are much more appealing than the medical warning necklaces which depend on the cooperation of the elderly user.
High-tech pill boxes which remind someone to take their pills and then alert a remote caregiver when pills aren't taken on schedule. Robotic companion pets. And all of this technology geared toward keeping a loved one as independent as possible for as long as possible in order to stave off a permanent nursing home placement.
I would argue that children who act as caregivers for elderly parents need to keep their fingers on the pulse of the world of technology and use some of these devices and approaches to make their lives easier and to improve the life and health of their loved ones.
You may want to bookmark some websites, such as the Center for Aging Services Technologies and the Interdisciplinary Center on Aging (I'll mention more of them on the blog as I run across them myself) and set up some Google Alerts to stay abreast of the latest-and-greatest. Certainly, most of the new technology products will be impractical, but you will hopefully find a few things that can make a big difference.
Please click here for a recent AP article on this topic.
I have become a huge fan of practical technology over the last couple of years, and I incorporate a great deal of technology in running my law practice in order to increase efficiency and lower overhead costs (both are good-news items for my clients). So I am always excited to hear accounts of how new technology is enhancing the lives of our seniors.
One example is the "Portal Monitor", developed by Indiana University. The system includes a hidden camera which takes pictures of the outside of a senior's front door when the doorbell is activated or when someone leaves or enters the house. The photo's are then instantly sent to cell phones of designated people, such as family members or helpful neighbors. This system can be invaluable in situations when predators (intending either physical or financial abuse) come calling or if the senior tends to wander.
Click here to learn more about this fascinating project.
I work with a lot of elderly here in Connecticut who have a child or children helping them out from far-off places like Florida and the west coast. In cases like these there is almost always a need for help with money management and that is where on-line banking becomes indispensable.
All of the major banks (and most of the not-so-major banks) offer on-line banking that can give you instant access to the current account balances, the ability to transfer funds between accounts, pay bills on-line and some banks even allow you to transfer funds from their bank to an account in a different institution. I'm a big fan of ING's Electric Orange Account, which is a completely paper-free, interest-bearing checking account where literally everything (including mailing paper checks) can be done on-line.
All of this technology makes long-distance care-giving and money management a lot easier than it used to be! If you're a caregiver in such a situation you may want to take a tour of the on-line offerings of mom and/or dad's bank and see if it makes sense for you.
I'd like to bring your attention to a wonderful online resource for families with older loved ones. The National Center on Elder Abuse, which falls under the federal Department of Health & Human Services, has a revamped website which definitely warrants a bookmark. There is an absolute wealth of very useful information here regardless of where you live. It provides assistance to the public and professionals; everything from practical articles on elder abuse, to comprehensive data and statistics to a listserv.
To say that elder abuse is an important issue for U.S. society is a huge understatement, so it's great that families can have a resource like this. If you have the slightest suspicion that a loved one is a victim of elder abuse, the NCEA website would be an excellent place to begin the self-education process on this important subject.
A couple of nights ago I was watching Suspect, an old 1987 legal thriller starring Cher and Dennis Quaid. As I was watching a scene where the protagonists were collecting and flipping through books in an enormous law library I mentioned to Amy that this is clearly a 20 year-old movie because all the stuff in that library is online these days.
When I mentioned that, I realized that many of my clients probably don't know that Connecticut, like many states, offers full access to its general statutes online. Click here for the site which is updated to January 1, 2007 and offers both browsing and search options.
If you're someone who likes to do your homework and you're faced with a legal issue, then this site is a great candidate for a bookmark. Enjoy!