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When Grandma falls... is it the beginning of the end?

When Grandma falls… is it the beginning of the end?

Did you know that according to studies, 25% of seniors who fall and break a hip typically pass away within 6 months? This is a shocking but true statistic. We don’t like to think of our incapacity or death, but when something as simple as a slip can become fatal, it’s vital for you and your family to have an up-to-date estate plan in place. A comprehensive estate plan includes an Advance Health Care Directive, Durable Power of Attorney, Trust and Will.

So let’s talk about a common scenario: Grandma falls. It doesn’t matter how - what does matter is the chain of events that follow. If she’s lucky, she’ll have some bumps and bruises. If she isn’t, she could have a broken hip or leg. This requires at least one hospital visit and, possibly, overnight stays. She may also require surgery and any host of complications could follow such as a bad reaction to medication, infections or re-injury.

Chances are, she will have to go to a rehab facility, aka a skilled nursing facility (SNF). But who will pay for her to be in the SNF? Typically, Medicare covers only up to the first 100 days after a 3-day hospital visit. Can Grandma afford to pay privately at approximately $200/day? Does she have long-term care insurance? If she has other underlying issues like diabetes, hypertension or dementia, this could start a chain reaction that is almost impossible to get out of!

But what if the damage has already been done? Even if Grandma pulled through surgery like a champ and gradually recovers, it’s likely she’ll fall again. Seniors over the age of 65 tend to have slower time to react to imbalances, and the delay to throw their arms out to brace for impact can cause serious injury.

These falls can also be due to an undiagnosed medical issue. Osteoporosis is common in older women and can contribute to how easily breaks occur. When seniors come in with broken bones, doctors can check for osteoporosis. But how often do you go to the doctor for a few bruises? Not often, I’ll bet. I don’t know about your Grandma, but mine would get agitated if we suggested getting checked out. “I don’t need to be fussed over,” was often the sentiment. “I’m fine, leave it be.” And so the condition goes undiagnosed.

Then there is the loss of independence: Seniors may no longer drive if family members feel they are a danger or in danger. Luckily, we are in the age of Lyft and Uber. There is even a phone app for senior transportation called GoGoGrandparent! Often times, family members entrust seniors to the care of nursing homes because it means someone is watching over them at all times. It compounds the issue if Grandma feels she doesn’t need this extra ‘fussing.’ She might even refuse the grip bar in the bathtub and the care worker hired to assist her.

Estate planning: Often, there are no thoughts to having estate-planning documents drafted – and remember, Grandma can only create one when she has mental capacity. After all, who would think that a broken hip would be the start of a devastating spiral? Does she have a Durable Power of Attorney so her family can handle her legal and financial affairs while she lies in the hospital? Or if she is unable to make medical decisions, is her Advance Health Care Directive in place so that her family can make these decisions for her? If not, her family will end up in the court process of conservatorship which is expensive and very time-consuming. The last thing she wants is her family bickering in court over who should be in charge when she can’t be. When Grandma passes, are they back in court to split up her things or does she have a well-drafted and up-to-date Trust and a Will already set up?

No one knows when they’ll become incapacitated or die, so it’s best to do your estate plan while you are healthy and able. Remember, when you become an adult at 18, you need a basic estate plan and when you buy a house or have kids, you need a more sophisticated plan to protect your assets and your family. It is never too early to be prepared but it can be too late.

Give a gift to your loved ones and call Goldfarb & Luu for more information on how to get started. (800)4891984 | GoldfarbLuu.com

See http://www.goldfarbluu.com/estate-planning/estate-planning-overview/ for an easy summary of the documents listed.