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Can a smell test help identify dementia risk?

Dementia is a devastating, life-altering illness that leads to memory loss and decline of mental abilities over time. What makes dementia even more challenging to deal with is its difficulty to diagnose. However, researchers are now hopeful that a simple smell test could soon have the potential to identify individuals at high risk of the disease.

University of Chicago scientists studied almost 3,000 adults between the ages of 57 and 85 with normal brain function. They were asked to complete a smell test that involved sniffing five different scents: fish, leather, orange, peppermint and rose. The participants were interviewed again five years later to find out if they had been diagnosed with dementia.

All the people who were unable to detect any odors had dementia, as well as 80 percent of those who had only identified one or two smells. Overall, participants who were unable to identify a minimum of four smells had twice the likelihood of having dementia in five years.

The results point to a possible link between a decline in sense of smell and a dementia diagnosis. Surgery professor and lead study author Jayant M. Pinto said, “These results indicate that the sense of smell is closely connected with brain function and health.” He explained that losing one’s ability to smell strongly indicates “significant damage” to the brain.

Pinto and his team said their findings may help lead to the development of a quick, inexpensive test that could identify individuals who are at high risk of dementia. However, more research needs to be done until the test can be used in a clinical setting for screening and diagnostic purposes.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, currently no single test exists that can accurately detect Alzheimer’s, which is a common form of dementia. MRI scans, currently a common test for Alzheimer’s, are not affordable for every patient as they cost thousands of dollars.

One of Three Tax Seminars are Full

We are excited about how many people have registered for our free Trump Tax Reform and Your Tax and Estate Planning Seminar.

Please note that our Thursday, February 22, 2018 seminar at the Hotel Biltmore is full.

We still have room at our Foster City seminar (February 22nd at 2:00PM) and Palo Alto Seminars (February 27th at 2:00PM and 6:00PM).

Click here to register free.

Gilfix & La Poll offers free estate planning seminars on Trump tax reform

Uncertain about what the new tax law means for you and your family? Wondering how to proceed with your estate planning in light of President Trump’s tax reform? Gilfix and La Poll Associates is here to help.

Attorneys Michael Gilfix and Mark R. Gilfix will be leading several free seminars during which they will discuss the implications of the new tax law and provide practical tips. The community at large is invited to attend one of four sessions being held in February.

Titled “The New Trump Tax Reform and Your Tax and Estate Planning,” the seminar will present a wealth of valuable information that will allow you to take charge, plan and capture benefits. Michael Gilfix and Mark R. Gilfix will talk about both irrevocable trusts and revocable trusts, estate tax, as well as income tax punishments and opportunities. They will also cover what the new tax law means for real estate, and buying or selling a home.

The seminar will offer guidance on new income tax credits for caregivers and the planning implications for the cost of long-term care. It will also answer questions like should you move your assets to Nevada? Will a “pass through” entity save you a small fortune in income tax? Gilfix and La Poll aims to address all your concerns and ensure the tax reform plan does not leave you feeling helpless.

If you are interested in attending the seminar, please register online at

Seminar Details:

  • Tuesday, February 20, 2018
    2 p.m.
    Crowne Plaza
    1221 Chess Drive, Foster City

  • Thursday, February 22, 2018
    2 p.m.
    Hotel Biltmore
    2151 Laurelwood Road, Santa Clara

  • Tuesday, February 27, 2018
    2 p.m. and 6 p.m.
    Elks Lodge
    4249 El Camino Real, Palo Alto

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Thank you for attending Gilfix Asset Protection, Long-Term Care and Special Needs Seminars

Gilfix and La Poll would like to thank all of you for the amazing turnout at our recent free estate planning seminars. After the overwhelming response to our November seminars, we decided to offer another special event in December for those who missed out on the earlier sessions.

Hundreds of people attended the five seminars led by attorneys Michael Gilfix and Mark Gilfix. They were thrilled with the high level of audience participation, which made the seminars a resounding success. You did not hesitate to ask us great questions about difficult to understand topics.

The seminars covered a broad range of key estate planning areas including:

  • The four critical planning documents everyone needs
  • How living trusts address one’s asset protection needs
  • How to protect assets that are left for children from divorce and lawsuits
  • How to avoid bankruptcy and protect assets if a nursing home is needed
  • How to protect one’s home and avoid capital gains taxes
  • How to utilize special needs trusts to protect family members with disabilities

Gilfix and La Poll is dedicated to educating the community about managing family assets. We are passionate about helping the community gain a better understanding of the many planning issues that families face.

Once again, we would like to thank you for your participation in the seminars and for making them such a success. Gilfix and La Poll hopes to continue offering many such events to our Bay Area community in the future.

If you or your loved ones would like to learn more about the planning process or have a particular concern, please do not hesitate to contact our office.

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Advising Clients About Hospitalization and Operations

Recently, in the Trust and Estate Magazine, Myra Gilfix wrote a featured article titled “Advising Clients About Hospitalization and Operations.” In this article, Gilfix discusses how families can be advocates for themselves and for senior family members. In the article Gilfix stresses that a patient advocate is a crucial part of elder care.

Elder law attorneys help clients make decisions about end-of-life care through living wills or advance healthcare directives. Elder law lawyers can help their clients express their wishes regarding artificial life-prolonging care, artificially administered food and water, and comfort care if they can no longer make their own decisions in an event of an illness. Gilfix strongly encourages family members to talk to friends, other family members and medical providers about their wishes and feelings regarding end-of-life care.

Patient advocates or proxies, are those named in documents describing the medical care decisions or advance directives. The proxy can even be effective if the client is not debilitated or absent. Noted geriatrician, Dr. Mark Lachs, says, “. . . I firmly believe that there is no health-care venue where laypeople — patients, families, concerned friends and neighbors — can have a greater impact on improving outcomes of care.”

Elder care lawyers are positioned to offer information and help when a loved family member may be hospitalized. While not offering legal advice, an elder care attorney is able to encourage a client to name who they feel is the foremost person(s) to help them while they are in hospital. “Sometimes,” says Gilfix, “it takes a village.” Family, friends, a church group or even a professional advocate are the best support system and resource for seniors facing hospitalization. Patient advocates are in the unique position to help with communications with doctors and nurses, keep track of numerous medical staff, make sure a patient is comfortable and is recovering.

Elder law lawyers can easily add patient advocate to their existing role of assisting seniors, making attorneys more proactive in offering practical, fact-based advice and information for all family members.

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Recognizing signs of elder abuse through a forensic lens

Elder abuse in nursing homes can take many forms. While some signs of elder abuse such as physical injuries may be obvious, others may be harder to detect. Some elderly patients may be suffering verbal abuse or financial exploitation, which are harder to recognize.

Advocates for elder safety have long been looking for new ways to both identify and prevent nursing home neglect. A recent clinical study encourages health care professionals to adopt a “forensic lens” approach “inspired by law enforcement to better identify and address cases of elder abuse.” The technique can help first responders, doctors and others not trained in law enforcement to determine whether neglect could have occurred.

Researchers from the USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology examined two cases of suspected elder abuse in caregiving situations. On the surface, both cases appeared to be similar. However, it was only after viewing them through a forensic lens methodology that they could decide whether mistreatment had actually taken place.

“The ‘forensic lens’ is intended to help investigators evaluate the entire clinical, social and legal scenario when determining the cause of elder mistreatment,” commented Marti DeLiema, the study’s lead author. “Physicians and other health care providers can be trained for what to look for; just as a detective looks for clues in a crime scene, physicians can look for clues in a patient’s body and behavior.”

The two cases used in-home observations, detailed documentation of the patients’ conditions and non-accusatory caregiver interviews to determine whether intentional elder neglect had taken place. DeLiema admitted that careful investigation is likely to be challenging for busy health care professionals who are pressed for time. However, a growing number of hospitals are adopting policies to improve patient documentation which can serve as key evidence in elder abuse cases.

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Experts warn of skyrocketing Alzheimer’s costs for caregivers

A recent PBS documentary about Alzheimer’s highlights the growing costs linked to caring for individuals diagnosed with the progressive disease. With millions of aging baby boomers at risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, experts in the film warn that a financial “tidal wave” is looming over the country.

Alzheimer’s: Every Minute Counts” chronicles the struggles of people living with Alzheimer’s, as well as the emotional and financial impact of the chronic disease on their loved ones. Alzheimer’s affects not only the person diagnosed with it, but also the individuals tasked with caring for them.

The one-hour documentary shares the stories of two caregivers who look after their mothers, both of whom have Alzheimer’s. It weaves together personal stories with expert commentary from doctors and researchers against the backdrop of a larger sense of urgency.

While more than five million Americans currently have the disease, that number is projected to increase 55 percent by 2030. Because caring for someone with Alzheimer’s can cost tens of thousands of dollars, some experts predict the disease will soon overwhelm the health care system and lead to the collapse of Medicaid and Medicare.

In order to lessen the impact of the impending crisis, they are calling for an increase in government funding for Alzheimer’s research. Investing in studying the disease will allow researchers to find new ways of treating and preventing it.

In light of such predictions, preparing for the future becomes even more important. The attorneys at Gilfix and La Poll can guide families through the process of planning for long-term care while ensuring finances are protected.

Attorneys Michael Gilfix and Mark R. Gilfix are authors of “Facing the Reality of Long-Term Care.” This timely and practical book can be purchased at

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Lawsuit highlights dangers of nursing home abuse and neglect

Nursing homes and senior care facilities exist to meet the needs of families that are no longer able to care for their elderly loved ones. While nursing homes provide a necessary service, they also raise concerns about elder abuse and the quality of care given to patients.

A care facility in Napa, California, was recently sued for elder abuse and neglect after the death of one of its elderly patients. Jeanne Roney, 91, died nine days after she was diagnosed with scabies. She had been admitted into Golden Living Center in 2011 after having a stroke.

Her daughter, Tammy Cook, claimed the facility’s negligence caused her mother’s death. According to the lawsuit, Roney suffered several falls, dehydration, malnutrition and multiple urinary tract infections while living there. Her condition was so poor that Queen of the Valley Hospital complained to the California Department of Public Health about the case.

Cook argued that Golden Living Center was understaffed, employed underqualified individuals and did not provide enough training in an effort to save money. Nursing homes are required to hire staff who are properly trained to provide assistance with daily activities and medication to the patients who rely on them.

There are a number of telltale signs of elder abuse. Unusual and excessive injuries may be red flags that an elderly individual is suffering neglect and not being cared for properly. Many times elder abuse slips through the cracks and goes unnoticed. If you suspect abuse, it is important to speak up and report it immediately for your loved one’s sake.

The attorneys at Gilfix and La Poll are skilled at helping families handle issues related to elder care and elder abuse.

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Nursing shortage leaves families struggling to find at-home care

Families across California approved for at-home nursing care are having difficulty getting the help they desperately need. Health care advocates are pointing to a larger nationwide nursing shortage as one of the reasons demands are not being met.

The American Association of Nurses has noted a lack of younger nurses to replace older nurses who are retiring. A licensed vocational nurse (LVN) is among the most sought-after home care nurses. Licensed vocation nurses are responsible for providing basic nursing care under the guidance of a doctor or registered nurse.

The at-home nursing shortage is attributed in part to low Medi-Cal reimbursement rates which make it challenging to hire nurses with the desired skills. Nurses say they are already dealing with low pay and poor working conditions — problems that are only exacerbated by the nationwide nursing shortage. According to an ABC 10 News report, health care providers are struggling to recruit and retain nurses willing to work for considerably less than potential earnings in the private sector.

Assembly member Brian Maienschein proposed legislation that would partly raise Medi-Cal reimbursement rates. He said the bill would improve care and quality of life for children.

“It’s important to note that any change to Medi-Cal reimbursement rates, including Home Health Agency (HHA) services, are a part of the state budget process and must also receive approval from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services,” a California Department of Health Care Services spokesperson said in a statement.

The department said it is developing a process to help families find nurses to fulfill the hours authorized for HHA services. They said a number of factors must be considered such as payment levels for HHA services as well as the geographic availability of care providers.

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Why childless couples should not ignore estate planning

There is a common misconception that estate planning is only necessary for those who wish to preserve their assets for future generations. While protecting their wealth for heirs may not be a priority for couples without children, they can still benefit from estate planning in many ways.

Couples without children have specific needs when it comes to estate planning and wealth management. For example, married couples should consider what will happen to their assets when they pass away. While they tend to have more financial flexibility than families with children, starting their planning early can help avoid complications and unintended consequences in the future.

Some of the key elements of a basic estate plan are a revocable trust, will, Durable Power of Attorney and Advance Health Care Directive. The latter two are essential tools for naming individuals who will have the authority to make financial decisions and health care decisions, respectively, in the event of incapacity.

A Gallup survey from 2016 revealed that around 56 percent of Americans do not have a will, a worrying trend. Without a will, one has no control over how their assets will be distributed. State laws decide who will inherit them.

A well-crafted estate plan serves to realize a couple’s charitable wishes, financial goals and long-term care preferences, while helping to prevent exploitation. For example, there are special tax considerations for those who wish to leave their money to charity. Creating a charitable trust instead of making an outright gift can help save on estate taxes.

Establishing an estate plan early on is invaluable for both childless couples and families. An experienced estate planning attorney can help plan for a secure future in the best possible way according to one’s wishes.

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