Category Archives: Elder Law

COVID-19 Pandemic and Elder Law in Maryland

Be Your Loved One’s Advocate During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Having to be isolated and separated from a loved one, especially a parent or spouse that needs your assistance, can be both a frustrating and terrifying experience. Places of healing and safety such as nursing homes are now coming under significant strain. The most vulnerable amongst us face a threat that is both elusive and seemingly pervasive. It is during these unusual times when serving as your loved one’s advocate, when they are not in a position to do so themselves, is most critical.

Essential Legal Documents: Financial Power of Attorney and Advance Directive

Legal documents, such as financial powers of attorney and advance directives, at one time were just afterthoughts to many of us, like unused jumper cables that you never quite used. However, now they are being thrust into the limelight. The question is, do you have one? And can you use it?

The Maryland Circuit Courts are now closed until June 5, 2020, with only the most critical cases being heard (at the time of this writing). So, having the court intercede in guardianship matters is not an immediate solution.

The path that must be utilized is through the financial powers of attorney and advance directives. Both documents enable you to act on behalf of your loved one, especially at a time when they are not in a position to act in their own best interests.

Elder Law Attorney Ensures Valid Legal Documents

Not all financial powers of attorneys and advance directives are equal. Nothing is worse than having an Internet-driven document, and then, in a moment of crisis, when you attempt to use it, discovering that it utterly fails.

It is critical that you have a good elder law attorney draft the proper financial power of attorney and advance directive. With social distancing and stay at home orders, the issue of how to execute these documents also presents unique problems. Let us assist you in executing these documents to meet the current requirements.

Even with the proper financial power of attorney and advance directive, you must be familiar with how to use it, and to know what you can do and what limitations exist. This information is critical if you are to be the best advocate for your loved one. Let us help you with practical advice and solutions.

Possible Medicaid Changes

Medicaid Cost Cutting

One of the various changes proposed by candidate Trump was the idea of shifting Medicaid responsibility from the Federal Government to the States.  The rational proposed by Trump was that such a move would “maximize flexibility to states via block grants so that local leaders can design innovative Medicaid programs that will better serve their low-income citizens.”  As it currently runs, States, like Maryland, really heavily on Federal government support for Medicaid benefits for at risk groups, including seniors in nursing homes.  This proposal is not a new one.  It was first proposed by New Gingrich in 1995, then in 2003 by President George W. Bush and by House Republicans in 2011.  The practical effect to the States would be to reduce Federal funding and shift the payment responsibilities to the States.  The States in turn will either have to dramatically increase taxes to carry the extra burden or reduce reimburse rates to nursing homes, reduce what is covered under Medical Assistance, or likely restrict Medical Assistance eligibility.

As of right now, this is just a proposal.  If this proposal moves forward, I will continue to post the practical impact this will have on Maryland at-risk seniors.

Bed Sores

Paying Attention: Nursing Home Staff

Bed sores are often the result of nursing home staff not paying a resident any or very little attention. A parent is left on their bed, unable to care for themselves, fecal matter accumulates, and there is a rapid break down of their skin. Serious infection follows. This is negligence at its most avoidable because the cause is simply lack of attention. Nursing homes are paid lots of money to take care of your loved one. Under no circumstances should a bed sore develop.

Awareness of Bed Sore Issues

In many cases, the family only becomes aware of the bed sore issue upon admission from the nursing home to a hospital after a loved one’s health seriously deteriorates.

Taking Legal Action

No one wants to have a bed sore that leads to more complications. How do you know if it is severe enough to warrant legal action? There is no bright line test for the severity of the bed sore to make it actionable. But the general rule is this: the worse the bed sore is and the more complications that result, the stronger the case.

The unfortunate issue with bed sores is that yours will probably not be an isolated occurrence. If your parent or loved one suffers from a bed sore at this nursing home, there is almost a guarantee that this is a chronic issue at this facility. Make sure it does not happen again to your loved one or anyone else at this facility.

Taking Responsibility for Nursing Home Negligence

Very rarely will a nursing home freely admit they are at fault. Often the nursing home will blame a previous nursing home, assisted living facility or hospital. Do not let them get away with it.

Action against a nursing home for this violation of trust can force them to hire the right staff, and your action may protect not only your loved one but also future residents. You are also holding the nursing home accountable for the trust you have given them for the privilege of taking care of your parent or loved one.

The Grand Bargain

Bed sores are often the result of a severe breakdown in the grand bargain—that in return for significant payment, a loved one is guaranteed a safe and secure environment. Please note that even if a loved one is on Medical Assistance, the nursing home is still being paid a very large sum for their care.

Once that bargain is violated and the bed sore issues are severe, you may have a case against that nursing home. Do not let them get away with it.

The Importance of Documentation

Always document the action or inaction by the nursing home staff (i.e. names, witnesses, pictures, dates, times, etc.). This is often the difference between a winning and losing case when legal action is required.

Feel free to give our office a call for a consultation.