Medicare Myths

March 6, 2013 § Leave a comment

Over 46 millions older or disabled Americans are covered by Medicare.  Yet, there are still misconceptions about the program that provides health care coverage to this vast number of Americans.  To those approaching Medicare eligibility age (65), it’s important to understand the programs.  In our blog, we will cover several misconceptions cover the next few weeks.


Medicare has several different programs, designated as “Parts,” with different types of coverage, limitations, and payment provisions.  Medicare Part A covers hospital, home health and rehabilitation services.  As long as you are eligible to receive Social Security retirement benefits, there is no premium for Part A coverage, and generally no co-pays or deductibles.   « Read the rest of this entry »

Medication Problems and the Elderly

January 17, 2013 § Leave a comment

At 83 years old, Martha still lived in her own home and enjoyed working in her garden and canning peach.  It was becoming harder to motivate herself, to get up in the mornings and accomplish the day’s tasks.  She confided to her daughter that she felt anxious and tired.  Her daughter, who was taking medication for anxiety, took Martha to her own doctor, not Martha’s and got her a prescription for Valium.  In doing so, the daughter’s doctor, who had never seen Martha and who did not have her medical history, was only aware of a few medications they told him she was taking.
Martha, in fact, was taking nine different medications as well as herbal supplements.

The addition of Valium to her existing list of prescribed drugs sent her to the emergency room with respiratory distress.  If she had gone to her own doctor, he would have found that a dosage adjustment of her current medications would have solved her anxiety.

Medication errors are common in the elderly.  Many seniors take on average six to eight different prescriptions as well as over-the-counter drugs.  Many times the elderly will not go back to their doctor to have their dosage evaluated and changed if necessary.  Family members should be aware that elderly parents may tend to take the family’s advice over going to their own doctor.  Even though children want to help increase the health and stamina of their parents, they may in fact be causing damage by misdirecting their loved ones.

Where a younger person can benefit from herbal supplements like Ginkgo Biloba, Saw Palmetto and others, it may cause adverse reactions with their prescription medications.

In 2003, a panel of experts put together a list of potential medications that would not be appropriate to give to seniors.  This is called the “Beers List” after one of the research professionals.  Dr. Donna M. Fick, R.N., one of the panel members for updating the “Beers List”, states in her article on

Just as our bodies physically slow down as we age, changes occur in the way that older bodies handle pharmaceuticals, and this has motivated experts to develop a list of drugs that may be harmful to elderly patients.

“With age, drugs tend to build up in the body, and the distribution and elimination of drugs from the body changes as well,” says Dr. Donna M. Fick, R.N., associate professor of nursing at Penn State.  “Many drugs, like diazepam (Valium) and other anti-anxiety drugs build up fast.”

An online article on titled “Drugs and the Elderly” talks about physical symptoms and medications:
Among the first signs that a drug may not be working properly in an older person is a change in mood, energy, attitude, or memory.  Too often, these alterations are overlooked, ignored, or chalked off to “old age” or senility.  Older people may themselves feel that their blue mood is caused by something external, such as the death of a friend or simply by boredom.  Nothing could be farther from the truth.  Virtually every heart medication, blood pressure drug, sleeping pill, and tranquilizer has been known to trigger depressive symptoms.

When a psychological symptom appears in an older person, examine his or her medication or drug use first.  Consider, too, factors like alcohol intake, poor nutrition, and hormone imbalance.  And never dismiss the possibility that a real psychological problem has developed and may itself require medication.

There are many things family members can do to help monitor medications for their elderly parents:
have a list of all medicines prescribed and all supplements being taken;

  • give a list to the doctor and pharmacist and have one on hand for emergencies;
  • have the same pharmacy fill all prescriptions
  • keep pills in a daily pill box organizer;
  • have a family member who is responsible for physically monitoring the taking of medication;

Family members who live long distances from their elders have available to them new technology in medication monitoring:

  • alarms for pill boxes, watch alarms, medical alarm bands and necklaces that ring a reminder;
  • computerized pill box dispensers that ring a designated number if the pills have not been taken
  • home care agencies offer a variety of service options and may help with medication management

Overmedication or taking medication incorrectly may lead to early mental confusion and decline in health in seniors.  If medication problems were ranked as a disease in cause of death, it would be the fifth leading cause of death in the United States.  (From an article on LongTermLiving).

Puzzle Smooth If you have any questions or concerns about protecting your loved one please contact Legacy Law Firm, LLC.  The firm is located in Sandwich, Illinois and focuses on elder law and Life Care Planning for clients.  The office may be reached by calling 815-570-2334 or email at
LEGACY LAW FIRM, LLC:  Helping your family build a lasting legacy from one generation to the next.

Elder Law Attorneys Specialize in Helping the Elderly 

January 9, 2013 § Leave a comment

Many elderly persons rely entirely on their children, family members or other trusted individuals to help them.  This dependence upon caregivers or family members makes an older person more vulnerable to abuse and financial exploitation.  Legal arrangements and protective actions by family may be necessary to shield loved ones from making bad decisions or from being taken advantage of. « Read the rest of this entry »

Recognizing the Need for Outside Help in Caregiving

January 4, 2013 § Leave a comment

Caregivers often don’t recognize when they are in over their heads, and often get to a breaking point.  After a prolonged period of time, caregiving can become too difficult to endure any longer.  Short-term the caregiver can handle it.  Long-term, help is needed.  Outside help at this point is needed. « Read the rest of this entry »

Real Estate Scams Target Elderly

December 5, 2012 § 3 Comments

With the real estate market continuing to decline, homeowners are faced with the discouraging reality that their home has significantly lost value and many struggle with the fact that they now owe more than their home is worth.  To make a bad situation worse, there are some con artists that are using the opportunity to take advantage of elderly homeowners.

“Current real estate market conditions have opened the doors for financial elder abuse by obtaining property through undue influence or fraud,” says Elizabeth Ernster, an attorney with Ernster Law Offices, P.C., in Pasadena, California (  “The unfortunate reality is that many seniors are being swindled by real estate agents who have convinced them into selling their home for less than its market value, and then making a large profit off the sale.” « Read the rest of this entry »

Holidays A Good Time To Assess Your Elderly Parent’s Health 

November 28, 2012 § Leave a comment

The approaching holidays provide a festive reason for families to share some quality time together.  While Thanksgiving can make a good excuse to have an extra helping of pie, it can also be an excellent time to assess how elderly relatives are fairing.  And having the family together can also provide your family a chance to discuss plans for future care and arrangements.

The AARP ( has put together a list of things to look for when you visit your senior family members this season. « Read the rest of this entry »

Beware – Medicare Scams

November 12, 2012 § 1 Comment

As if open enrollment for Medicare wasn’t stressful enough, there are now several scams that seniors need to be aware of while they are enrolling.  Most of the cons aim to either sell the senior unnecessary coverage plans or to simply steal their identity.  Either way, the con artists can be very convincing.

A comprehensive list of the most common scams was collected by  Please take the time to read the list below.  Education is the best way to protect yourself from these cons: « Read the rest of this entry »

Healthy Holidays!

November 9, 2012 § Leave a comment

This time of the year, the holidays can be overwhelming.  There are holiday parties, decorating, shopping and meal preparations to be made.  Moreover, there are mom and dad with Alzheimer’s or dementia and you are the primary caregiver.  Your brother and sister cannot believe you want to put mom and dad into a home.  Arguments ensue.  Mom and dad keep following you around the house turning off the decorations you just turned on.  Your spouse is working late and your teenager is having a meltdown over a breakup and you—you are just trying not to have a nervous breakdown. You are human and you cannot take anymore.  Something has to give, right?

Right.  This time of the year, caregivers really forget about their own physical and mental health needs.  Care giving is akin to any other chronic stress experience.  Your body will be affected by physical and psychological strain over long periods and can often be accompanied by unpredictability and uncontrollability.  This stress will have secondary effects on the other relationships in your life such as work, family and it will directly affect the person you care for.

For you, this high level of stress can lead to chronic illness, psychological distress, impaired health habits and possibly death.  For the person receiving care, you can directly affect their behavior problems, their cognitive abilities, their functional abilities and their physical and mental health.  In order for you and your loved one to remain healthy and happy this holiday season, remember, you need to care for yourself.  The following tips may make the holidays a little easier when you are feeling overwhelmed:

  1. Eliminate the battleground.  If holiday meals are a time for squabbles regarding a loved one’s physical or mental health, the care you are giving or the money you are spending, have a phone conference or a meeting with your relatives beforehand.  Make sure relatives have a realistic idea of what to expect.  Never talk about the disabled person’s disability or illness in front of him or her.
  2. Keep your own doctor appointments or make time for a massage.  Do something nice for yourself.
  3. Get plenty of rest and stress reducing exercise.
  4. Eat healthy, including snacks when you need them.
  5. If you just do not have the time to make a large meal, consider a brunch or have the meal catered.
  6. Enlist the help of family or friends.  Never be afraid to ask for help!  It is one of the most generous things you can do for yourself and your loved one.
  7. Enlist the help of a respite care service.  Many of them have adult day programs or someone that can come to your home while you run your errands.  Respite service will give you a chance to prepare a meal, get shopping or housework done.  Alzheimer’s and dementia patients in particular tend to enjoy holiday festivities.  They enjoy decorating cookies, singing carols and even visiting with Santa.  It helps them remember traditions and holidays from the past.
  8. When you are with your loved one, try to include him or her in what you are doing.  They may not be able to make cookies or go shopping, but they may be able to decorate and wrap.
  9. Involve as many people as you can that are important to your loved one, but keep everything as simple as you can.  Because your time and their declining health, some holiday traditions may need to be modified or discontinued.  You can always create a new tradition.
  10. Most importantly, make your loved one feel special.  If they are wrapping a gift or following you around re-arranging your decorations, tell them they are doing a great job.  You will have them beaming from ear to ear.

Please keep in mind this holiday season those you love and those that are less fortunate.  A sincere message of love can be understood by anyone – even if they lack the capacity to reciprocate.

If you have any questions, please contact Legacy Law Firm, LLC.  The firm is located in Sandwich, Illinois and focuses on elder law and Life Care Planning.  The office may be reached by calling 815-570-2334 or via email at

ImageLegacy Law Firm LLC:  helping your family build a legacy from one generation to the next.


National Caregivers Month

November 1, 2012 § Leave a comment

There are only four kinds of people in the world – those who have been caregivers, those who are currently caregivers, those who will be caregivers and those who will need caregivers” – Rosalyn Carter

As we head into November, it is time to once again celebrate National Family Caregivers Month. The National Family Caregivers Association (NFCA) began promoting the celebration in 1994 and in 1997 President Clinton signed the first annual proclamation which has since been signed by all succeeding presidents. « Read the rest of this entry »

Ways To Save During Medicare Open Enrollment

October 24, 2012 § Leave a comment

Open enrollment has been underway for a week now and seniors have until December 7, 2012 to sign up for next year’s plan. Unfortunately, researchers from the University of Pittsburgh, Graduate School of Public Health have found that many seniors are overpaying for Medicare because they fail to choose the proper plan. « Read the rest of this entry »