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Practical tips for choosing an assisted living facility or nursing home

Last August, the largest assisted living complex in California was sued for poor care of its senior residents. The lawsuit alleged poor worker training, elderly abuse and mistreatment. Residents of the facility claimed they were left unattended, with little access to clean clothing and nutritious food.

Unsurprisingly, such findings raise concerns about how loved ones will be cared for at an assisted living facility or nursing home. Knowing what to look for and being able to identify potential red flags can help families make an informed decision about which facility best meets their needs.

Visiting facilities at different times of the day, such as during meal times or activities, can help one get a better idea of how they function. Check to see whether all areas are clean, safe and comfortable.

The National Center for Assisted Living recommends speaking with administrators, staff and residents. You can learn a lot about a facility by the people who live and work there. Do the residents seem happy?

Observe how staff interact with current residents and whether they appear genuinely friendly and caring. To feel confident that you or your loved one will be well taken care of, make sure to ask questions about staffing levels. Factors to consider are the daytime and nighttime ratios of staff members to residents, as well as how emergencies are handled.

There are countless other considerations. Bringing a checklist during an assisted living facility or nursing home visit can help ensure all your questions are addressed. Additionally, make sure to check whether the facility is in compliance with local and state licensing requirements. Have any complaints been filed against it? It is possible to check a state-licensed assisted living home’s performance record on the Department of Social Services website.

How assistive technology can help individuals with disabilities

People with disabilities can benefit greatly from assistive technology (AT). There are a number of different options available, depending on the individual’s specific needs. Assistive technology can improve accessibility in the home or workplace, and help make daily activities easier.

Last year, California State University, Northridge held its annual CSUN Assistive Technology Conference dedicated to exploring innovative new assistive technologies. The event aimed to provide people with disabilities an opportunity to have direct input on the creation and modification of assistive technologies such as interactive software, smartphone apps and wheelchairs.

Sandy Plotin, managing director of CSUN’s Center on Disabilities, said, “Our conference brings together thousands of people from around the world . . . all committed to driving innovation in assistive technology to promote inclusiveness for people with disabilities.”

There are many companies that are developing ways to take assistive technology to the next level. Next year, IBM and Local Motors are hoping to launch a self-driving, electric shuttle bus. Dubbed “Olli,” the bus will use a combination of smartphone apps, artificial intelligence and augmented reality to transport people with a range of physical and mental disabilities around neighborhoods.

Susan Henderson, executive director of the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund, said the bus offers a way to address the limitations of current transportation systems. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, only certain subway and train stations are required to be accessible. As a result, individuals with walkers or wheelchairs often have to travel several stops out of their way to reach a destination.

To the Bay Area community: Thank you.

Trump Tax Seminar

Trump Tax Seminar AudienceAmidst uncertainty surrounding the new Trump Tax Law, several hundred people attended our recent Gilfix & La Poll Associates seminars. It was incredible to see all of the positive energy generated by the crowd. We are grateful for your support and attendance. These were some of our most well-attended events ever – it was clear that the sometimes confusing subjects of tax and estate planning are on the mind of many throughout the bay area.

The audience’s response inspired us. We want you to know how much we care about our community. We are devoted to teaching local families about the tax, long term care and estate planning issues that affect us all. No one should be left in the dark.

It is our mission to help bay area families to secure a vibrant and secure future. We can help bring “peace of mind” by handling your tax and estate planning issues. If you have any questions regarding the seminars or how Gilfix & La Poll Associates can help you and your family, please do not hesitate to reach out. We are here to help.

Again, thank you!

Why the young and healthy should think about advance directives?

Young people are likely to shy away from making decisions about their future health care, thinking they can put it off until later. The truth is, one can never be too young or too healthy to engage in advance health care planning.

Such planning is no longer just about aging or end-of-life care. It addresses the hypothetical situation in which a medical emergency leaves a person unable to communicate their particular health wishes.

People often mistakenly assume that close family members will instinctively know their preferences regarding end-of-life care or medical treatments. However, without having specific instructions, loved ones are left to rely on guesswork. This can cause conflict among families and uncertainty as to whether the right decision was made.

The only way to ensure that one’s choices will be respected is to put them in writing in a legal document. An advance health care directive allows individuals to outline their preferences about various health care decisions ahead of time so that others know about them. It covers matters such as life support, organ donation, palliative care and medical treatment. A durable power of attorney for health care gives a person, such as a loved one, the authority to make health decisions on one’s behalf.

Advance directives are not just for the terminally ill. Having such a document in place is vital regardless of age or health status. Without one, a person’s wishes are likely to be ignored if he or she is unable to speak or make decisions for themselves.

While it may never feel like the right time to draft health care documents, it is important to get organized now rather than later. To best protect oneself, it is best to address the topic advance directives head-on.

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 https://www.gilfix.com/event-registration/

Seminar Details:

  • Tuesday, February 20, 2018
    2 p.m.
    Crowne Plaza
    1221 Chess Drive, Foster City
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  • Thursday, February 22, 2018
    2 p.m.
    Hotel Biltmore
    2151 Laurelwood Road, Santa Clara
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  • 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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