The population of the United States is aging rapidly. The number of Americans ages 65 and older is projected to increase dramatically from 46 million today to over 70 million by 2030. Known as the "baby boomers", the 65-and-older age group's share of the total population will rise from 15 percent to nearly 24 percent.
As this occurs, adult children and other family members will face increasing demands in terms of care giving for aging parents. These demands will be emotional, physical and financial. Often when faced with these demands, care takers feel lost, overwhelmed and don't know where to turn for help.
So where can you turn if you have an aging parent or other family member who increasingly needs assistance? Fortunately, there are many resources, both professional and non-professional, where help is available. This blog attempts to discuss just a few of the resources out there for Florida families.
First, there are certain governmental agencies that offer help. In Florida, the Department of Elder Affairs www.elderaffairs.state.fl.us ("DOEA"), the Department of Children and Family Services www.myflfamilies.com, ("DCF"), and the Agency for Healthcare Administration ("AHCA") www.ahca.myflorida.com, all offer assistance and resources. For example, on the DOEA website, there is a very helpful "resource directory" which leads to a vast amount of information. In addition, where the elder person is a military veteran, the Veterans Administration offers a number of assistance programs and resources.
Secondly, there are lawyers who concentrate their practice in the area of elder law. Their practices commonly involve advising on issues regarding the elderly, including matters such as planning for incapacity, long-term care, and death. An elder law attorney can also prepare special instruments such as a Durable Power of Attorney, Living Will, Last Will and Testament, and a Living Trust. These instruments can facilitate families in assisting and providing for their older loved ones.
Finally, there are professionals who call themselves "geriatric care managers" or "aging life-care professionals." Their background and training is usually in social work, psychology, nursing or gerontology. These persons can be immensely helpful in assessing the elder person's situation, weighing the options for their care, advising on those options, and implementing a plan to provide for the elder person. Often with the help of a good geriatric care manager, the elderly person is able to "age in place" rather than being prematurely placed in an assisted living facility or nursing home. Further, once the elder needs to go into a facility, the geriatric care manager can assist and advise the family with the best placement.
As a legal practitioner who regularly works with elder persons and their families, it is clear that planning ahead is essential. Elderly persons often face health issues which are debilitating and lead to cognitive and physical decline. In order to best assist, elder attorneys and other professionals need to get involved early while the elderly person still has capacity to act.