Social Security Beneficiaries Will Receive a 2 Percent Increase in 2018

In 2018, Social Security recipients will get their largest cost of living increase in benefits since 2012, but the additional income will likely be largely eaten up by higher Medicare Part B premiums.

Cost of living increases are tied to the consumer price index, and an upturn in inflation rates and gas prices means recipients get a small boost in 2018, amounting to $27 a month for the typical retiree. The 2 percent increase is higher than last year’s .3 percent rise and the lack of any increase at all in 2016. The cost of living change also affects the maximum amount of earnings subject to the Social Security tax, which will grow from $127,200 to $128,700.

The increase in benefits will likely be consumed by higher Medicare premiums, however. Most elderly and disabled people have their Medicare Part B premiums deducted from their monthly Social Security checks. For these individuals, if Social Security benefits don't rise, Medicare premiums can't either. This “hold harmless” provision does not apply to about 30 percent of Medicare beneficiaries: those enrolled in Medicare but who are not yet receiving Social Security, new Medicare beneficiaries, seniors earning more than $85,000 a year, and “dual eligibles” who get both Medicare and Medicaid benefits. In the past few years, Medicare beneficiaries not subject to the hold harmless provision have been paying higher Medicare premiums while Medicare premiums for those in the hold harmless group remained more or less the same. Now that seniors will be getting an increase in Social Security payments, Medicare will likely hike premiums for the seniors in the hold harmless group. And that increase may eat up the entire raise, at least for some beneficiaries.

For 2018, the monthly federal Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payment standard will be $750 for an individual and $1,125 for a couple.

For more on the 2018 Social Security benefit levels, click here.

Using a Prepaid Funeral Contract to Spend Down Assets for Medicaid

No one wants to think about his or her death, but a little preparation in the form of a prepaid funeral contract can be useful. In addition to helping your family after your death, a prepaid funeral contract can be a good way to spend down assets in order to qualify for Medicaid.

A prepaid or pre-need funeral contract allows you to purchase funeral goods and services before you die. The contract can be entered into with a funeral home or cemetery. Prepaid funeral contracts can include payments for: embalming and restoration, room for the funeral service, casket, vault or grave liner, cremation, transportation, permits, headstones, death certificates, and obituaries, among other things.

One benefit of a prepaid funeral contract is that you are paying now for a service that may increase in price—possibly saving your family money. You are also saving your family from having to make arrangements after you die, which can be difficult and time-consuming. And, if you are planning on applying for Medicaid, a prepaid funeral contract can be a way to spend down your assets.

Medicaid applicants must spend down their available assets until they reach the qualifying level ($2,000 in Ohio). By purchasing a prepaid funeral contract, you can turn available assets into an exempt asset that won’t affect your eligibility. In order for a prepaid funeral contract to be exempt from Medicaid asset rules, the contract must be irrevocable. That means you can’t change it or cancel it once it is signed.

Before purchasing a contract, you should shop around and compare prices to make sure it is the right contract for you. Buyers need to be careful that they are buying from a reputable company and need to ask for a price list to make sure they are not overpaying.

For information on planning a funeral, see my checklist on my website http://www.michaelmillonig.com/practice-areas/funerals-burial/

SEMINAR: MEDICAID ELIGIBILITY FOR NURSING HOME RESIDENTS: UPDATE ON 2016 CONVERSION & MILLER TRUSTS

Last August 1, 2016, The Ohio Medicaid program had major changes to all eligibility rules. We have had one year of experience with these changes. This presentation will review all the new rules, problems that have arisen and experience our office has had with their interpretation and implementation. There will also be a complete review of all topics listed below as well as other new developments this last year.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017 @ 8:45 AM – 12:00 PM

This seminar will focus on Medicaid eligibility from the point of view of the nursing facility. It will not focus on planning techniques to preserve assets and achieve Medicaid eligibility. The objective is to provide information, tips and relate the experience of Michael J. Millonig to assist nursing homes in avoiding problems with Medicaid applications.

Medicaid Eligibility For Nursing Home Residents

▸ Review of all new changes resulting from Ohio’s conversion to an SSI/1634 State
▸ Review all new resource eligibility rules
▸ Miller Trusts (aka Qualified Income Trusts)
▸ Retroactivity problems related to Miller Trusts
▸ Possible loss of eligibility for Medicaid recipients in Medicaid spend down group
▸ Miller Trusts for AL Waiver residents
▸ Changes to rules with Revocable Living Trusts
▸ Review of basic Medicaid Eligibility rules for nursing home vendor payments
▸ Common Problems causing ineligibility & how to avoid them
▸ Medicaid Transfer rule
▸ Explaining the Transfer rule to residents to avoid creating problems
▸ Undue hardship rule & provision for nursing homes to apply for resident
▸ Rule governing nursing home contract entrance fees
▸ Other important Medicaid rules: annuities, home equity, life estates
▸ Community Spouse Resource Allowance provisions and spend down rules
▸ Assisted Living rules for Medicaid
▸ Problems with income eligibility for AL Waiver residents; and solutions
▸ Retroactive eligibility
▸ Practical tips on processing applications and dealing with caseworkers
▸ Avoiding problems in the spend down process

This seminar has been approved for CE credit by:
1) the State of Ohio Counselor and Social Worker Board.
2) the Ohio Board of Nursing also recognizes Social Worker CEU’s if relevant to area of practice

Reservations must be made in advance with payment. Please contact Julie for more information: jacmmlaw@swohio.twcbc.com

PROTECTING YOUR ESTATE FROM NURSING HOME COSTS

Washington-Centerville Public Library
Saturday, May 13, 2017
10:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.

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The Ohio Medicaid program has just enacted major changes; the most dramatic since its inception in 1972. Ohio has terminated its 209(b) status under federal law and has converted to an SSI/1634 State. This means that all eligibility rules will be different along with the Medicaid application process. The effective date of this change was August 1, 2016.
A seminar presentation by Michael J. Millonig, Attorney At Law. Michael J. Millonig practices law at 7929 Washington Woods Dr. in the Washington Township/Centerville area and is :
▸ Certified as an Elder Law Attorney by the National Elder Law Foundation since 1998
▸ Ohio State Bar Association Board Certified Estate Planning, Trust and Probate Specialist
▸ CPA inactive status

Topics Covered

▸ Review of all new changes resulting from Ohio’s conversion to an SSI/1634 State
▸ New Medicaid income eligibility rule
▸ Possible loss of eligibility for persons currently on Medicaid
▸ Effect of these changes on estate plans & trusts
▸ Medicaid eligibility
▸ Asset preservation strategies
▸ Use of Trusts to protect estates
▸ Medicaid Annuities
▸ Risks of gifting to children
▸ Understanding Medicaid’s Gift Transfer rule
▸ Insurance for nursing home care

The Washington-Centerville Public Library is located at 111 West Spring Valley Road, Centerville, Ohio 45458. Please call for reservations: (937) 433-8091.

A Caregiver's Holiday Survival Guide

A Holiday Survival Guide for Caregivers

For most of us, while we love the holiday season, there’s also a crazy amount of stress — stress related to managing the household, the family and all the related activities, getting everything “done”, getting work ready for next year, closing out this year, and on and on. But to some, this stress has an extra dimension — the need to care for a loved one in addition to all of the other stuff. It’s not easy to manage, which is why caregivers often tend to give up their own enjoyment for the sake of their loved one’s safety and company, and the end result can be that it’s more about holiday survival than actually enjoying the holidays. But isn’t that what they’ve been doing all year long? Right, it is. However, it doesn’t have to be that way.

Learn to prioritize, care for yourself, and reach out for help, and make this holiday count.

Prioritize.

Becoming overwhelmed with work that needs to be done and endless lists of tasks is one of the biggest causes of stress. And what’s the best way to avoid drowning in work? The answer is: learn to prioritize.

There are so many things that seemingly need to be done during the holidays, and there’s seemingly nobody else to take care of them. Please note the word ‘seemingly’. There are many things that can be left out during the holidays, and you’d be surprised how even the smallest change to your schedule can make a great difference in maintaining your psychological peace and comfort during the holidays.

Start off by making a list of all the things that come to your mind — everything that you feel like you have to take care of. Decorating, budgeting, organizing parties, attending parties and other events, buying gifts, cleaning up, etc…. Once you have the list, try to think outside the box for once and ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does it have an immediate effect on your or someone else’s enjoyment of the holidays?
  • What’s the real reason you’re doing it? Habit? Choice? Obligation?
  • Are you really the only person who can do it? Why?
  • Do you enjoy doing it, or would you rather do something else / do it differently?

You may end up being surprised by some of your own answers. Sometimes all it takes is taking a moment to think about what you want, and how you want it. Change is often the tool for reaching peace. Try it for yourself.

Care for yourself as well.

There are two important things that a caregiver needs to keep in mind 24/7:

1) You as a caregiver are a full, worthy person.
2) Your loved one is a full, worthy person

The first point means you should beware cutting yourself off from your friends, hobbies and activities that make you feel happy and energized. Schedule coffee dates with your friends, call that cousin you haven’t talked to in a while, rent a movie you wanted to see, buy a new album by your favorite artist, just treat yourself. If you never get to do it, it’s the perfect time of the year, after all.

The second point means that whenever you start slipping into seeing your loved one as a patient rather than a person, you should get back in touch with their own personal life, involve them in yours, and most importantly: talk. Talk about your feelings, your fears, your joys and thoughts and new experiences.

Reach out.

This is the natural next step from the first point of prioritizing. Getting your family and your close ones involved in holiday planning, cooking, cleaning, decorating and shopping is the best way for you to keep your sanity. And if for any reason they can’t help you, consider hiring some help – be it a decorator, a cleaning service or a caterer. If you take some of the weight off your shoulders, you’ll see that not only will you enjoy the holidays more than ever, but also your loved ones — including the one you’re caring for — will be happy to see you shine.

Remember: it’s hard to make other people feel happy and appreciated if you don’t feel that way yourself.

winter holiday activities

Winter Holiday Activities for Seniors

As important as it is to keep our elderly loved ones safe, it is equally important to keep them entertained. Wintertime may be a difficult time for many, with the shorter and darker days, the nostalgic holiday time and the stress pushing on us from all sides. That’s why in the winter it’s more important than ever to keep the fun and activities coming.

And since you, my readers, seemed to enjoy my fall’s guide for senior activities, I’ve decided to give you a few tips for the wintertime as well.

Indoor Activities

Sometimes, the wind and snowstorms just make us feel like we want to stay at home for the weekend. And that’s perfectly fine! There are many great things to do at home with an elderly loved one and the whole family.

Cooking and Baking

Whether you decide to bake your favorite holiday treats, try out foreign recipes, make a batch of chilli for everyone to enjoy during a family party or make a homemade egg nog, the kitchen is the perfect place to spend some quality time with your senior loved one. You can learn their favorite recipe, and aside from having fun you’ll also end up with a bunch of – very likely excellent – food.

Holiday crafts

Making a festive centerpiece, a wreath, scene display or arrangement, crocheting, drawing holiday-themed window murals or crafting gifts – those are just a few examples of things that are fun to do not only for seniors, but for the whole family while being warm and cozy at home during the long winter nights. It’s a great way to keep everyone busy and it serves as pleasant mental training, too.

Indoor gardening

Gardening in general is proven to be one of the most relaxing and stimulating activities out there. But there’s no reason to lay down the rake during the winter months – there are ways to enjoy the benefits of gardening during winter, such as planting your favorite flowers or herbs indoors. Indoor gardening is a safe hobby with little risk and a great outcome.

Game nights

Who doesn’t love a good game of bingo, solitaire, Monopoly or chess! Board and social games are perfect for spending a lot of time with friends and family while also providing unmatched brain stimulation, all that while having a great deal of fun.

Outdoor Activities

Staying inside is great, but every now and then it’s good to get out there and enjoy the holiday spirit.

Parades and tree lightings

One of the most beautiful things about the winter is that it is filled with various holiday-themed and family friendly events outdoors, such as tree lightings or holiday parades. Engaging in the local community while enjoying the start of the holiday season together can become a beautiful family tradition that everyone is looking forward to.

Holiday themed culture events

Find out about the concerts, movies and theater performances, art exhibitions and other interesting and educational events in your area. If you are a fan of art, the holidays are a great time to enjoy some of it with the elderly members of your family. Dressing up and going out for some culture can be as enjoyable for the kids as for the grandparents.

Sports

If the grandparents are healthy and feeling up to it, why not take them snow walking or ice skating? It’s the season after all, plus a healthy amount of outdoor exercise will do everyone good. Just make sure everyone stays warm, and that safety doesn’t get left behind in the whirlwind of fun. Or if sports are too demanding an activity for your senior loved one, how about engaging them in a snow fort construction or snowman building with the kids?

Catching up with friends

During the holidays we all tend to feel a little more nostalgic and a little more connected to all the people who are important to us. Offer your elderly relative a drive to see their friends or offer to help organize a game night or a tea party. Socialization is known to make people feel more engaged and happy, and that’s extremely important during all times of the year, but during the holidays especially.

Love at every age

Therapy Pets For The Elderly

Sometimes, a cat’s purr while dozing off on your lap, or a dog’s happy tail-wag is all one needs to make the day a better one. Nobody needs to be a doctor or a scientist to know that owning pets, or just spending time in a pet’s company, is in many ways beneficial for one’s mental and physical health. It’s a general truth that can be applied to anyone, but it has its specific value for seniors. The life of elderly people not only in nursing homes, but in their own homes as well, can often become lonely. Interacting with a furry friend, even for a few hours a day, has been proven to improve the quality of life significantly.

The benefits of owning a pet at an older age

It’s common knowledge that people who own a pet tend to be happier and healthier than those who don’t, but there is scientific proof, too. The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention lists the following health benefits:

  • lower blood pressure
  • lower cholesterol levels
  • lower triglyceride levels
  • decreased feelings of loneliness
  • more opportunities for exercise and outdoor activities
  • more opportunities for socialization

But there are many secondary effects, too. The pets, aside from offering non-stop, unconditional love to their owners, tend to live in the moment, so they can help elderly people reduce feelings of stress, anxiety and fear. Animals make seniors happier by providing them with intense feelings of being needed and loved, and lack thereof is one of the most common causes of depression. Also, looking after a pet, learning about them, and looking up information both online and in books is great mental exercise.

How to get involved?

Many assisted living facilities and senior nursing homes offer pet therapy for seniors, officially called Animal Assisted Therapy, as a part of the nursing and therapy routine for healthy as well as the long-term ill patients. Community pets are usually hand-picked from local shelters, and they often are older animals that have lower chances of being adopted, have a calm and friendly temperament, and also benefit from the attention, love and activity that these programs produce.

It often happens that seniors are forced to leave their beloved pet with their family or in a shelter when moving to a nursing home, which is very traumatizing for both of them. Luckily, many nursing homes are realizing the invaluable positive effects and are opening their doors for seniors together with their pets. These pet-friendly nursing homes usually offer a special Pet Care Coordinator, who always makes sure that all the pets are well taken care of, in case their owners are not capable of completely caring for them. Although it’s still not common, we’re getting there. I couldn’t find a comprehensive list of pet-friendly senior-care facilities in Dayton, but they definitely exist (e.g., Spring Hills Singing Woods Assisted Living). If you know of any in the area, please leave them in the comments, so others can become aware.

If you’d like to help enrich the life of a senior with a small, happy companion, there’s a dedicated charity called “Pets For The Elderly” that offers guidance and financial support for anyone over the age of 60 who wants to adopt an animal from a shelter. You can always send a few dollars to support this beautiful, noble cause.

The Risks

Unfortunately, owning a pet also imposes certain risks, and even I can’t leave this part out. Small pets can increase the risk of an injury, either outside during a walk or in the home. People with weakened immune system or dust mite allergies should also think twice before getting a pet, as it may lead to deterioration.

Before getting a pet, it is extremely important to ask yourself the following questions:

  • Which animal would be right for my living conditions?
  • Which breed and what age should I get?
  • Can I afford caring for it over the next several years?
  • Are there ways to take care of the pet when I’m no longer able to?

It is important to not only accept the joy and happiness that pets keep giving, but also to realize the responsibility that comes with owning them and caring for them. If your senior loved one owns a pet, lives in a pet-friendly nursing home, or if the senior home offers Animal Assisted Therapy, find out about the ways you can get involved in the care, even if it’s just a small, regular donation. Pets have so much love to give us, it would be selfish not to repay them, one way or another.

Meeting caregivers on social media

Tips for Caregivers on Social Media

We’ve talked about the many issues that caregivers are confronted with on a daily basis, and loneliness is near the top of that list. While it’s true that caregiving can get pretty lonely, luckily, the Internet is here to help. There’s no easier and instant way to get to know new friends, share your thoughts, concerns and ideas and vent your frustrations than the social media.

Twitter, Facebook, even Instagram — all these worldwide platforms offer space for everybody, to talk and learn about anything. It makes the loneliness disappear, or at least feel less overwhelming, at no cost and without the need to leave your home.

As appealing and advantageous as joining an online caregiver community seems, there are some things that need to be said first. No matter if you’re an active contributor or just got the idea in your head to look for fellow caregivers on social media, read through my tips that will make your online experience safer and more enjoyable.

Manners on Social Media

The lack of manners on social media is apparent, especially recently. People can quickly go too far to insult or lie about others, and it’s not just the domain of internet trolls anymore, but “regular” people do this, too.

  • Be careful about how much of your and your loved one’s story you decide to share with the world.
  • Are you posting to share and seek help for your loved one, or to draw attention to yourself and your good deeds?
  • Surround yourself with people who make you feel good and appreciated.
  • Avoid sharing names and unapproved photos of your elderly relative without consulting them first.
  • Remember that each group may have different settings – if you join an open Facebook group, everyone from your friends list can see what you post.
  • Don’t let yourself be drawn into fights and made-up conflicts online. It’s wasted energy, and only results in an even bigger feeling of frustration and isolation.

Security on Social Media

Everyone who’s posting on social media should be following these basic security rules, regardless of their age or occupation. We have to realize that the internet is a public place that anyone can access, and we never know who’s reading what we wrote, once it’s out there. This is especially true for caregivers, who are often not only speaking of themselves, and tend to discuss very personal matters.

  • Don’t share personal information with strangers, especially if they ask for them specifically. Chances are they are scammers going after your money.
  • When posting about your location, do it once you’ve left the place. The same goes for photos.
  • Don’t hire someone you’ve met online without getting at least some independent and reliable references first. Best case scenario, only hire people you or your friends know.
  • Protect your and your family’s privacy by adjusting your privacy settings on social media and avoid using real names, addresses or any other personal info.
  • Don’t just trust any medical tip or information you find online. Always use a reliable source and consult the facts with a specialist.

Maintaining good manners and making sure you’re keeping your own and your loved one’s privacy safe are the two main pillars of online presence. Remember: online communities for caregivers can be a great way to socialize, find people with common interests, feelings and experiences, and bring some happiness and company into the sometimes so lonely life. That’s a fact. But unless you protect your privacy and are respectful and nice to others, the internet can turn into a very unpleasant and sometimes even dangerous place.

senior driving — stay safe behind the wheel

Driving Safely as A Senior Citizen

There is a moment in life when our reflexes are no longer the same as they used to be, but there are many senior citizens out there who are still capable of driving their vehicles properly and without any danger. A lot of this may seem like common sense, but following these simple tips can help senior citizens drive safely and avoid any accidents.

Things to consider when driving after a certain age

There are many things to keep in mind when you start driving a vehicle after a certain age. The first thing is that your legs are more likely to hurt and weaken after driving for long periods of time and this is one of the reasons why automatic transmissions are recommended for senior citizens to use.

There is also the possibility that neck pain will make it harder for you to turn your head while driving in case you need to see any vehicles or obstacle on the road or avoid the blind spot on the rear view mirror.

Get checked every year

You should get your hearing checked every year to see if everything is ok with the way you are hearing things. This is extremely important when driving because you want to be able to hear other vehicles and anything that might be going on in the streets while you drive.

Make sure you get your eyes checked yearly too because nothing matters more than being able to effectively see everything that is in front of you while you are driving. If you need glasses to drive that is fine, but if you still can’t see clearly with your glasses on, this is going to prove to be a problem.

Tips for better driving

Get plenty of sleep at night if you want to make sure that you can drive properly the next day. Lack of sleep affects senior citizens twice as much as it affects younger people, so make sure you get those 8 hours each night in order to be able to drive safely and without feeling tired.

Try to drive as defensively as possible. This means that you should be on the lookout for the carelessness of other drivers and not just for your proper driving.

Issues with your health

If you have any conditions that could make it hard for you to drive safely, the best thing to do is to avoid driving altogether. We know that it can be hard to come to the realization that you are no longer capable of doing something that you used to do all the time without problems, but there comes a moment in life when limitations caused by health issues might be a good reason to avoid any fatal accidents caused by stubbornness.

Conclusion

Always remember that you are going to have to make certain decisions in life that affect you and others too. Driving is a very serious deal because you have to be able to drive without putting yourself and others in danger. Get your health checked frequently, get plenty of rest, and drive defensively, and you’ll continue safely down the road for many years to come.

ageism — noun — prejudice or discrimination on the grounds of a person's age

Ageism

Ageism, defined in the Oxford English Dictionary as “prejudice or discrimination on the grounds of a person’s age”, may not be as familiar a term as some of the other -isms, but is almost certainly something you’ve experienced or witnessed yourself, in one way or another. Today I’d like you to turn your attention to this social phenomenon, and join me on my crusade against its spreading in the civilized world.

The Shift from Respect to Disrespect

I consider ageism to be a particularly nasty form of discrimination. While I do find all forms of discrimination nasty, this one is extra ridiculous by nature — we’re discriminating against people that are at a point in life where we ourselves will be in a few years time. And the population over 60 keeps growing, so it’s an issue that affects a larger and larger portion of the population every day.

It is absolutely unacceptable to approach elderly people with the assumption that they have some sort of physical or mental disability, such that they are not able to process information or take care of themselves well enough, especially when an adult relative / caregiver is in the room. Preserving respect towards seniors and maintaining their dignity should not even be an issue in the first place — and yet, in a survey by the American Psychological Association, nearly 80 percent of people aged 60 and older reported experiencing ageism. Where have we gone wrong, from respecting our elders for their wisdom and life experience to diminishing and ridiculing their importance?

The Effects of Ageism

Making the elderly feel like there’s no more place for them in our young, rushed and energetic society by overseeing and repressing them inevitably leads to lowered self-esteem, depression, and isolation. Sometimes this even results in shortening their lives, as they come to believe that they are no longer needed. This is something every recruiter, doctor, shop assistant, or just family member needs to realize. Even what may seem like an innocent joke to you can become a painful wound for someone else.

There’s Hope for A Brighter Future

There are many associations all over the world (e.g., Gray Panthers of Metro Detroit or This Chair Rocks) who make it their goal to spread awareness and defeat ageism in our society.



“New laws have reduced age discrimination in the workplace; and the percentage of people 65 to 74 years of age in the work force has been steadily rising, reaching 26.8 percent in 2012. With the aging of the huge baby boom generation, the corporate world is spending more time and dollars appealing to the age group with the most discretionary income. Older actors as leading men, and occasionally leading ladies, have become routine in films and on TV. As their ads insistently remind us, Viagra and Cialis have resurrected the sex lives of millions of elders, and we old folks today are generally healthier and more active than our grandparents.”
Robert W. Stock, The New York Times, Feb. 7, 2015

Baby steps, one at a time, but hopefully our society is starting to realize that growing old doesn’t mean not living life to the fullest. I hope to see the day that the elderly will again be respected and valued as important members of society.