5 Ways You Can Help a Senior (including yourself) WITHOUT hiring a lawyer.

Hey, lawyers are, generally speaking, great people.  We're curious and want to be helpful.  But I know people resist reaching out to us, sometimes because they don't have the budget for a lawyer and sometimes because they don't know what to expect. 

The good news is: There are lots of things you can do to help a senior or disabled person, or to help yourself, without visiting a lawyer.  Here are some suggestions:

1.  Make a "Open in Case of Emergency" Folder and make sure your family knows where to find it.  This should include copies of your power of attorney and health care directives, your health insurance and other insurance information,  your doctor's name and phone numbers, your financial accounts (including online only accounts and credit card accounts), and information on all bills which absolutely must be paid monthly.  If you have pets, your folder should include information about their veterinarian too.   Then, in case you are in an accident or fall ill, all the information your family needs will be in one place.

2.  Complete a health care directive (aka "living will") or a Physician's Order on Life Sustaining Treatment form, and discuss your wishes with your family.  A health care directive form is here, and a POLST form is here.  The POLST must be completed with your doctor, but you can complete a health care directive on your own.  End of life decisions can be tough to talk about, but believe me, it is even tougher for your family when you don't talk about them.    

3.  Take advantage of the great resources our community has to offer.  Start with Area Agency on Aging and Disability of Southwest Washington.  They can answer questions about insurance, Medicaid, Meals on Wheels, in-home services, and much more at no cost to you.

4. Apply for Veterans Benefits.  You've earned them, and you deserve them!  Did you know there is a Washington State office which helps Veterans apply for benefits?  Check out the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs.  

5.  Report abuse, neglect or financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult.  Adult Protective Services investigates allegations of abuse, neglect or exploitation.   You can call if you are being targeted or if you suspect someone else is suffering, and you can make an anonymous report.  

I hope these suggestions are useful, and let me leave you with a word of caution.  Please don't execute financial powers of attorney without the advice of a lawyer!  Washington's power of attorney laws have recently changed, and an attorney can help draft a document which fits your exact needs.

Introducing Volunteer Lawyers Paperwork Clinic

If you are a family (lay) guardian in Clark County, are low-income, and need help preparing your court reports, Clark County Volunteer Lawyers may be able to help.  Call 360-695-5313 or visit www.ccvlp.org to learn more.  Thanks to Clark County attorney Victoria Kesala and Elizabeth Fitzgerald of Clark County Volunteer Lawyers for their hard work to make this happen! 

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Annual Guardianship Filings More Than Doubled in the Last 10 Years

As the population ages, the number of guardianship cases is increasing too  Here's a look at Clark County, Washington's guardianship filings for the last nine years (thanks to Clark County Superior Court Clerk's Office for these numbers):

2007 - 148 New Cases

2008 - 149 New Cases

2009 - 197 New Cases

2010 - 211 New Cases

2011 - 204 New Cases

2012 - 263 New Cases

2013 - 236 New Cases

2014 - 262 New Cases

2015 - 274 New Cases

2016 - 326 New Cases

That's a 130% increase in new filings in less than 10 years.    I've been working in guardianship since 2004, and my legal assistant and I decided to work full-time in elder law mid-2016.  I'm so glad we did!  

10 Facts Everyone Should Know About Elder Abuse

 1.         The Baby Boomers have arrived!  There are more Americans aged 65 and up than at any other time in history.

 2.         The fastest growing segment of the U.S. population is age 85 and up.

 3.         The older we are, the more likely we are to be abused or exploited.

 4.         Elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation are underreported.

 5.         90% of offenders are family members.

 6.         50% of people aged 85 and up have some type of dementia.

 7.         People with dementia are more likely to experience abuse, neglect, or exploitation.

 8.         Elder abuse leads to increased hospitalization, increased risk of death, and increased levels of psychological distress for victims.

 9.         June 15 is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day!

10.       Everyone can help prevent elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation.

Sources:  National Center on Elder Abuse (www.ncea.acl.gov ) & Center of Excellence on Elder Abuse and Neglect (http://www.centeronelderabuse.org).