(865) 588-3700 • Monica J. Franklin is a Certified Elder Law Attorney by the National Elder Law Foundation, the ABA approved entity for certifying attorneys as Specialists in Elder Law. info@monicafranklinelderlaw.com

Supporting Caregivers and Patients

I recently wrote a post with tips for Coping with an Unexpected Diagnosis which prompted some discussion about how to best support family and friends who are facing difficult illnesses.  It is hard to see someone you love going through experiences you would not wish on anyone.  It feels helpless to not be able to do something to fix it. While you may not be able to offer solutions, you can offer support and assistance.  Below are some ideas to get you started. Be present.  Dr. David Servan-Schreiber said in his book Anti-Cancer, A New Way of Life: Serious illness can be a terribly lonely journey…Our Western values, with their worship of concrete results, may blind us to our profound animal need for presence when facing danger and uncertainty.  Gentle, constant, reliable presence is often the most beautiful gift our dear ones can give us. Remind your loved one that you are there for him or her.  Something as simple as an occasional card, call, email or text to check in will reinforce that you have not forgotten him or her. Make your offers for help tangible.  Instead of asking, “How can I help?” say, “I would like to bring over a meal you can enjoy this week or pop in the freezer for later.  Would Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday work best for you?” Asking for and accepting help is uncomfortable for most people.  Make your offers easier to accept by taking the pressure off your loved one. Don’t offer unsolicited advice.  Most people can tell a story about what happened to a distant relative or friend of a...

Coping with an Unexpected Diagnosis

My grandmother joked that when you reach a certain age most of your social outings involve doctor’s appointments.  As our bodies age the likelihood that we will need medical attention increases.  Sometimes those medical appointments involve receiving diagnoses that are somewhat expected–cholesterol levels have crept a bit too high or the thyroid is a little sluggish.  At other times, though, the doctor might give a diagnosis that is unexpected–one of those life-altering experiences like receiving a cancer or dementia diagnosis.  Your world is turned upside down in an instant.  Your life seems to make a giant shift from that point onward. What should you do?  How can you cope?  While everyone’s experiences are different, we hope that the information and resources below will offer help and hope. Acknowledge your feelings and the thoughts behind them.  When you’ve been thrown a life altering curveball, it stands to reason that you will feel a range of emotions.  Allow yourself to “feel what you are feeling” as you begin to understand what the diagnosis will mean for you and your family.  Many people experience feelings of grief and loss during this early period and find it helpful to speak with a therapist or spiritual advisor like a Stephen Minister, pastor, or rabbi.  Try journaling as a way to better see how your thoughts affect what you are feeling.  “I am angry because I may not see my grandchildren grow up.”   Those thoughts and feelings are not “good” or “bad”, and recognizing them will help you to understand what you can do about them. Gather information from trusted sources.  Information does wonders in...
Property Tax Freeze and Relief Options for the Elderly and Disabled in Tennessee

Property Tax Freeze and Relief Options for the Elderly and Disabled in Tennessee

Property Tax Freeze and Relief Options for the Elderly and Disabled in Tennessee   Many seniors want to stay in their home for as long as possible. However, the expense of property taxes can be a major burden, especially for seniors on a fixed income. Often, the property tax bill can equal or exceed a senior’s full month of income. The State of Tennessee recognizes this burden and has put in place programs to help certain elderly and disabled individuals pay their property taxes. Property tax relief is a program whereby the state will pay or reimburse a portion of the property taxes of a qualifying individual. The property tax freeze program allows counties to lock in the tax amount due so that is will not increase in future years. There are two programs for tax relief. One is for elderly or disabled homeowners. The other is for disabled veterans or their widow(er)s. Once qualified, the state will pay or reimburse the property taxes on the first $23,000 of appraised value of the person’s property tax. Because property tax rates vary between counties, the actual dollar amount of the relief varies as well. In Knox County, for example, the program provides a benefit of up to $145.00 a year. The individual must pay the normal tax rate on the appraised value above $23,000. In other words, if the senior’s home has a tax appraised value of $70,000, the state would pay the taxes on the first $23,000. The senior would still be responsible for the taxes on the remaining $47,000. It is important to note that this program can apply to...
Hospitalization of Older Adults: Navigating through Hospital Systems

Hospitalization of Older Adults: Navigating through Hospital Systems

Hospitalization can be a trying and difficult experience, especially for older adults.  The senior aged population is at higher risk for hospitalization and more vulnerable to encountering problems while there.  In 2010 alone, over 13.6 million adults over the age of 65 were treated and discharged from the hospital with an average length of stay at 5.5 days1.  Patients with dementia are at especially high risk for hospitalization, often with poorer outcomes and worsening cognitive status2. By better understanding how key people and departments can help, you will also know who to turn to for assistance should you run into any bumps along your way. The Emergency Room (ER)— The goal of ER personnel is to assess, treat, and stabilize the patient, and this process can take 4 or more hours3.  If unable to return home, the patient will be moved to a different hospital department to be admitted or observed.  (See our article on observation vs admission in our Fall 2013 newsletter for more information on this very important subject: http://tennelderlaw.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/fall-2013.pdf) Since most patients enter the hospital through the ER, it is a critical point in relaying information to the healthcare team.  To make the intake process easier, some caregivers choose to keep the following information readily available to bring to the hospital.  Make sure that the hospital staff copies the records and returns the originals. An up-to-date list of all medications, supplements, herbal remedies, and over-the-counter medications Copies of insurance cards, Power of Attorney (POA) paperwork, and if available, Physician Orders for Scope of Treatment (POST form) A list of allergies and general medical history including any...

Change to Medicare Cards is on the Horizon

Medicare cards presently have the holder’s Social Security Number (SSN) printed on the front of the card. This increases the possibility of identity theft. When President Obama signed a bipartisan bill changing the way healthcare providers are paid by Medicare, that bill also included a provision that affects our Medicare cards, The Bill directs that the Health and Human Services (HHS) remove Social Security Numbers, and refrain from displaying, coding or embedding a person’s SSN on the Medicare card. Congress allocated $50 million to fund this project, and gave HHS four years to make the change for new enrollees and an additional four years to reissue cards for people already in the system.  HHS will also have to come up with a new card to replace the existing Medicare cards with a number unrelated to the person’s Social Security Number. Strategic planning is in the works now, but it will take some time for HHS to develop a card, a system, and then issue the new cards. The removal of Social Security Numbers from the Medicare cards will provide peace of mind to older adults that their Medicare card will not be used to steal their...

Aging: A Family Affair 2014–Don’t forget to sign up!

The Office on Aging has hosted an annual fall workshop, Aging: A Family Affair, since 1984.  The workshop is offered in the fall, usually on the second Thursday in November, though the date can vary. This year, the event is on Thursday, November 13, at Rothchild Conference Center, 8807 Kingston Pike, from 8:30 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. Aging: A Family Affair Registration Download AFA 2014 Brochure The daylong workshop provides practical information on a variety of topics for caregivers, seniors, and aging network professionals. The cost for the day is $30 ($35 after October 31) and includes lunch, an exhibitors’ fair, and materials. The day starts with a keynote address that is attended by all who have registered.  After that, speakers who are considered experts in their fields offer advice, guidance and encouragement in the workshop’s eight...

ACCESSING TENNCARE CHOICES, Workshop 10/30/14

ACCESSING TENNCARE CHOICES: MASTERING THE PAE MAZE Thursday, October 30, 2014 8:30AM – 4:30PM Thompson Cancer Survival Center Auditorium 1915 White Avenue Knoxville, TN 37916 Presented by ELDER ADVOCATES And TENNESSEE ELDER LAW Registration Deadline October 25, 2014 Target Audience: Nursing Home Administrators, Nurses, Social Workers, Attorneys, Admissions and Business Office Staff CEU’s/ Contact Hours will be available Workshop Cost: $99 in advance $120 on day of program (Cash or Check) Lunch on Your Own For more information or to receive a registration form, call Anna: 865-588-3700 Learning Objectives: Participants will have a working knowledge of the key words, acronyms and definitions in the TennCare world; Participants will understand the TennCare CHOICES program and be able to identify benefits available in each group Participants will understand the key elements of the PAE statute and how the Bureau of TennCare processes the PAE; Participants will have increased ability to effectively communicate with families and be able to identify 3 alternatives to advising families to “just spend down and apply for Medicaid.” Participants will understand the reasons that many PAE rejections should be appealed; Participants will identify 2 techniques used in preparing a PAE appeal to win without going to a hearing; Participants will identify documentation strategies to support successful PAE application. PROGRAM SCHEDULE 8:30-9:15- A View from Above: The CHOICES program…The maze and the barriers: wrong turns, dead ends, getting lost, finding a way out. A quick Guide to the terms and forms 9:15-10:00 – Panel Discussion: War stories/Case examples 10:00-1015-Break 10:15-12:15- The Life Cycle of a CHOICES PAE Appeal 12:15-1:15- Lunch on Your Own 1:15-2:30-Documentation: Rules, Strategies, and Wisdom...

The Alzheimer’s Pansy Project 2014

For the third year, orange and purple pansies will begin dotting the Knoxville area landscape this fall to raise awareness of Alzheimer’s Disease and to show support to those who battle it and those who care for them. Stanley’s Greenhouses and Plant Farm will donate to The Pat Summitt Foundation a portion of each flat of orange and purple pansies sold, starting September 23. Show your support for Coach Summitt and all those battling Alzheimer’s disease by purchasing orange and purple pansies from Stanley’s! Stanley’s Greenhouses and Plant Farm 3029 Davenport Road Knoxville, TN, 37920 865-573-9591 Stanley’s Secret Garden 305 S. Northshore Drive Knoxville, TN...

12 Star Family Support Group–Sept 9th

Smoky Mountain Hospice with A.D. Baxter will speak at the 12 Star Family Support Group on the topic of Advanced Directives and Hospice Indicators. This FREE event takes place on Tuesday, September 9th at 6:30pm and is hosted at The Courtyards of Knoxville and presented with Alzheimer’s Tennessee. 12 Star Family Support is Knoxville’s only support venue offering an elder with Dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease the opportunity to have fun and socialize in a safe environment, while allowing the caregiver a much needed break and the ability to gain education and support. Each month will have a different curriculum.  Attend all 12 months and become 12 Star certified! The Family Support Group meets at 801 E. Inskip Dr., Knoxville, TN 37912–Traditional Family Support is a forum where caregivers take time for themselves to become educated, get emotional support and meet others who are in similar situations. The Memory Lane Café  is available for loved ones next door at 815 E. Inskip Dr.–Memory Lane Café is a place where persons with Alzheimer’s or a related disease can go to just socialize and have fun with other people going through similar things. At a Memory Café, people can relax and just be themselves, knowing that no one judges them and all who are there are going through almost the same things that they go through every day. 12 Star Partners Personal Care: East TN Personal Care Services Home Heath: NHC Home Care Hospice: Smoky Mountain Hospice Assisted Living: Courtyards Senior Living Nursing Home: NHC Durable Medical Equipment: Lambert’s Pharmacy: Mac’s Pharmacy Attorney: Monica Franklin Elder Law Practice Advocates: Elder Advocates Medicare/Insurance: Senior Financial Group Funeral: Dignity Memorial Local Aging: Office on Aging Alzheimer’s Experts: Alzheimer’s Tennessee The...

Aging: A Family Affair–November 13

The Office on Aging has hosted an annual fall workshop, Aging: A Family Affair, since 1984.  The workshop is offered in the fall, usually on the second Thursday in November, though the date can vary. This year, the event is on Thursday, November 13, at Rothchild Conference Center, 8807 Kingston Pike, from 8:30 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. Aging: A Family Affair Registration Aging: A Family Affair Exhibitors’ Registration Download AFA 2014 Brochure The daylong workshop provides practical information on a variety of topics for caregivers, seniors, and aging network professionals. The cost for the day is $30 ($35 after October 31) and includes lunch, an exhibitors’ fair, and materials. The day starts with a keynote address that is attended by all who have registered.  After that, speakers who are considered experts in their fields offer advice, guidance and encouragement in the workshop’s eight seminars. Aging: A Family Affair was the brainchild of Peggy Wirtz, a longtime Office on Aging staff member who was instrumental in bringing caregiving issues to the forefront in Knoxville and Knox County, beginning at a time when not many people were aware of the challenges facing people who were caregivers of senior citizens.  Since that time, local awareness of the issues involved in being a caregiver of a senior has increased, in large part because of this workshop and other efforts made by the Office on Aging and other agencies that assist seniors and their family members. Wirtz was herself a caregiver of five older members of her family, all at overlapping times.  She was raising young children and working outside the home at the same...