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Aging Wisely November 2012 - Aging Wisely

Helping Caregivers: Gifts for Caregivers and People Facing Illness


holiday gift pictureSome people just have a talent for buying meaningful gifts and a natural inclination for knowing the right thing to say or do in a tough situation.  Some of us have a good heart, but need a little inspiration!

We have shared some advice in the past on gifts for seniors: ideas for gifts for assisted living residents, older relatives who are downsizing or facing chronic illness.  Now, we’d like to share some ideas for what to get caregivers–what types of gifts and help caregivers might truly appreciate and need. 

Caregivers can be an overlooked group at the holidays.  Many people you know are caregiving and you may not even realize to what extent someone you know is involved in caregiving and perhaps feeling a bit stressed out this holiday season.  Similarly, many individuals and families are dealing with a chronic illness or facing a tough battle with a serious diagnosis.  Holidays can be a tough time.

First, take a little time to think about the caregiver/gift recipient.  You may be able to brainstorm and come up with some ideas just by thinking about what the person enjoys, hobbies/interests (maybe things they have not had time for lately but once enjoyed or need a “new” way to enjoy) and conversations you have had in recent months.

Here are some ideas and resources for gift giving:

The Gift of Relaxation

Caregivers are generally in great need of rest and relaxation.  Some gift ideas in this category include: a gift certificate for a massage or a “day at the spa”, relaxation music, an inspiring book, something cozy like a fuzzy blanket or warm robe or a bath gift basket/lavender scented bath salts, lotions, etc.

Think about the practicality of using the gift of relaxation.  For example, a day at the spa may seem impossible to the caregiver right now.  Perhaps you can also offer help with the care recipient or make sure help is available for using the day out (maybe it’s possible to set up someone to help and even plan and go together to the spa day?).  Or, maybe right now, the “at home” gift choice is better, such as bath salts or relaxing lotions. 

This is also true for someone who is currently dealing with his or her own illness.  The person may not feel like getting a massage right now, or might just be too exhausted to take time to go to a spa.  Do a little digging–maybe you can give a gift card for iTunes if the person likes to download music or audio books to listen to while at treatment.  Nice, personal touches can make all the difference in a hospital stay too.  Check out our special resources section for people facing hospitalization or ongoing treatments.

Time and Care Giving (giving the gift of self and assistance)

A caregiver’s most precious resource is often time (and energy!).  For a person facing an illness, much of their time and energy is also caught up in treatment and appointments.  Can you offer to help out in whatever way the person is comfortable?  For example, maybe the caregiver does not feel comfortable having someone stay with their loved one but would be glad to have your help with shopping or running an errand?  Sometimes you might need to just suggest it, i.e. “I am going to Sam’s club.  Can I pick up some items for you?” or “I’d love to see you but I know you have so many appointments right now.  Maybe I can drive you to your therapy sessions and it will give us some time together.”

Words of support and a regular phone call can be the best gift of all for someone who is feeling isolated.  Maybe you can visit and bring a special treat (go above and beyond and find out if there’s a special family recipe the person hasn’t had time to make that you could recreate and bring over). 

Depending on the situation, you might even purchase services for the person, such as a home health gift certificate that could be used for respite care or household help and errands or a cleaning service or someone to help put up the outdoor holiday decorations (there are companies that do this now!).  This can be a bit tricky–for some people, providing a cleaning company gift certificate might be highly offensive, while for others it would be a welcome relief. Bringing over meals might be appreciated, or if you are at a distance, purchase prepared meals from somewhere like Honeybaked Ham or Let’s Dish.

Special Resources (caregiver gift ideas, gifts for someone facing chronic or acute illness and recovery)

Stylish hospital gowns such as these from Annie and Isabel or other comfortable, easy clothes. Buck and Buck is one company a number of our clients have used for clothes appropriate to special conditions or for someone in a nursing home or hospital and PajamaGram sends comfy PJs in a stylish package.

Entertainment/distraction items: books (or credit for an eReader), puzzle books/crosswords, music (iTunes gift card, or get a small MP3 player and stock it up with music).  If you know the person is going to be hospitalized, find out if the hospital has a pay TV option and if you can purchase that for them.

Comfort/personal items: window clings, a framed picture, a lap blanket–anything to personalize a hospital room or serve as a reminder that you care when someone is recovering at home, in rehabilitation or undergoing treatment.  One clever idea we have seen is sending beautiful photos of flowers or nature–in place of actual flowers/plants which may be restricted or difficult if the person is moving rooms or has allergies.

Slippers or non-slip socks: hospitals usually provide the socks, but something more fun or stylish might help the patient feel a little better.  Also, flip flops or shower shoes are a good thing for patients to have at the hospital (but what is safe for the particular patient may vary).

Gift baskets: you can get creative and put your own together or do a google search for some great ideas and items targeted to someone with an illness or relaxation packages for caregivers.

Inspirational items: a book or CD/MP3 on relaxation techniques, an inspiring story or quotations. 

a hug for a caregiverFinding just the right way to give is a bit of a detective game, as any of these suggestions could be right or wrong depending on the individual’s situation.  However, knowing you care and support the person is always a gift worth giving.  Just listening and spending some time together can mean a lot.  If you know of resources and ideas to help or can do a little research for the caregiver, that might also be a welcome (and useful) gift. 

Aging Wisely offers a number of caregiver and eldercare resources on our website.  If we can help to point you to anything specific or give you ideas (or you have a suggestion for us), we welcome your input or questions!  We believe in the gift of knowledge and we are happy to have you share any of our resources (check out our recommended reading for caregivers section too)!

You (or a caregiver you know) can reach us directly at 727-447-5845 for eldercare help, care consultations, caregiver resources and more!

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Medicare and You 2013


There are several pieces to the Medicare program, and each comes with specific enrollment rules and costs. It is important to understand how these parts work together, along with how they work with other senior healthcare coverage you may have such as Veteran’s Healthcare or Employer/Retiree Insurance.

Download our Medicare 2013 Fact Sheet for a more detailed (but easy to understand) guide to the parts of Medicare, along with the costs for 2012 and key enrollment dates and facts. We explain terms such as late enrollment penalties and dual eligibility.

Here is a basic overview of the components of Medicare:

Part A: “Hospital Insurance”, covers inpatient hospital, certain skilled nursing and skilled home health services. It does not cover long term or custodial care.

Part B: “Outpatient Services”, covers Medicare eligible physician’s services, outpatient hospital services, certain home health services or therapies, and durable medical equipment.

Part D: “Prescription Drug Coverage”, offered through stand alone plans via private insurers or as part of a Medicare Advantage Plan.

Medicare Advantage Plan (AKA Part C): Health Plans such as PPOs and HMOs that are approved by Medicare and run by private companies. Beneficiaries opting for Medicare Advantage chose to receive the various Medicare benefits through the insurer rather than the traditional Medicare program.

Medigap Plan (AKA Supplemental Policy): These policies help pay some of the costs not covered by regular Medicare (such as co-pays/deductibles).

Aging Wisely’s patient advocates offer a unique Medicare Analysis program, in which we gather information from you, discuss your priorities, budget and health concerns/history and from that, provide specific guidance on how to make a wise choice for your Medicare plans.

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Year-End Organization–Get Your Eldercare Situation Straight


From new years’ resolutions to year-end planning, this is the time to think about getting organized and properly prepared for 2013.  When it comes to eldercare and health care issues, there is a lot you can do to be prepared and a little bit of effort and time now can save you a lot of headaches in the long run.

Now is a great time to do a quick “self assessment” of your caregiver readiness.  Here are a few steps we recommend in that assessment:

  1. Review and organize the “important papers”.  Do you have the legal paperwork necessary to step in and care for an elder loved one (or any adult loved ones or friends who wish you to help)?  How long has it been since this paperwork was completed/reviewed?  It may be time for a review appointment with the attorney.  Also, make sure necessary papers are accessible, including insurance cards, legal documents and a list of key contacts.
  2. Do you have some “go to” resources “in your back pocket”?  Who would you call if your Mom fell and was hospitalized?  What would you do if Dad needed a rehabilitation facility after surgery?  How would you locate transportation or medication management services in your grandmother’s community?
  3. Make a list of your key issues and concerns and consider scheduling a geriatric care management consultation to review these and get ideas.  The geriatric care manager can help you with immediate resources and longer term planning/ideas.  A quick and easy care consultation can remove a huge weight from your shoulders, giving you options, prioritizing needs and reassuring you about the job you are doing.
  4. Consider bringing in a little extra help.  By introducing assistance early and for household types of tasks (extra help with shopping at the holidays for example), you and your loved one can get comfortable with a company and caregivers that may become necessary for more assistance down the road.  Check out EasyLiving home healthcare gift certificates to provide the gift of assistance.

For a complete checklist, grab your free copy of our Essential Eldercare Checklist!

eldercare consultationWho would benefit from a care consultation?  If:

  • You have an older loved one who has increasing health issues or a major new diagnosis.
  • You are providing care currently to an aging or disabled loved one.
  • You are concerned about your own health issues or want to look at future options such as what type of care you can afford or moving to a retirement community.
  • Your family is in disagreement over a loved one’s care or you have long-term family conflict which you know will be an issue in coming together to care for an aging parent.
  • You’re trying to figure out retirement health insurance options or understand medical and long-term care coverage.
  • You care for a disabled adult child or family member–and want to get organized and consider future plans as you age.
  • You spotted some concerns during a recent visit and don’t know where to begin (or got nowhere when you tried to bring up your concerns with your elderly loved one or other family members).
  • You or a loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, other forms of dementia, progressive diseases like M.S. or Parkinson’s.
  • You have a specific healthcare issue or eldercare concern that you seem unable to resolve or find help/resources to address properly.


Aging Wisely’s eldercare consultations and geriatric assessments are two of our most popular services.  Whatever stage a family member is at in their eldercare journey, the advice from a seasoned professional can make the path smoother.  As a caregiver, the anxiety of the unknown and the fear of that emergency phone call are some of the most stressful aspects of caregiving (and for some, the surprising start to being a caregiver).  You can reduce the anxiety of the unknown by marshaling some resources, having a general understanding of options, and prioritizing steps you can take now.   

If you are facing any of the above situations, call Sue Talbott at 727-447-5845 (or click below) to book a consultation or just ask a question.  Care consultations can be done in our office or via phone or Skype, at your convenience.

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Eldercare Advice: Estate Liquidation Interview


In our eldercare advice series, we offer information on common topics and concerns caregivers face.  We recently gave some personal feedback from dealing with a major transition and some of the lessons we learned liquidating a household of belongings.  We’re happy today to bring a guest expert in to share more important advice on estate liquidation and transitions for elders and their families.

We hope you are not spending your Thanksgiving or holidays dealing with liquidating an estate, but the reality is that some of you are…and many families will visit together during this time and be able to heed some of the preparatory advice from our guest. 

encore events Florida estate sales resized 600Encore Events is an Estate Sales and Liquidation company based out of Largo, Florida and helping clients throughout the Tampa Bay area (and families far and wide).  At Aging Wisely, a number of our clients’ families have used their services and we thought it would be great to get their eldercare advice on this important topic. Working with so many elders and families in transitional times here in Florida, we appreciate the many challenges involved and hope this interview gives you some helpful advice on your eldercare journey. (We have also added a couple comments in, which you will see in italics within the interview.)

What do estate liquidation companies do?

Life has many transitions. As people age, these transitions become more difficult. When parents die or need to move into assisted living or nursing care, they must leave a home where they have spent decades, accumulating many things. For family members, decisions must be made about what to do with the home and all its contents. For financial reasons alone, family often feels pressured to get the house emptied and on the market quickly. Where does one begin?

This is where a professional estate liquidation company steps in as facilitators to help such transitions go smoothly. The primary job of an estate liquidator is to sell the contents of the home. He will stage the property, appraise and price the contents, advertise the sale and conduct a multi-day “Estate Sale” in the home. Once a client signs a contract, all she/he has to do is take away anything they want to keep, then go away and let the estate liquidator do his job.

What is the most difficult part of the process as you see it for families?

“Letting go” is often the most difficult part of the process. For someone moving to assisted living, letting go of their home and most of their possessions causes a lot of anxiety and is emotionally challenging. Decisions must be made quickly and often without any prior experience with dealing with death or a debilitating condition. Many people who die here in Florida have family who live far away. Just finding the time and money to make an extended trip to Florida to tie up loose ends (in the case of death), or arrange for moving mom or dad to an assisted living facility, is stressful enough on family members. Once they get here, they often have to deal with attorneys, Realtors, utility companies, moving companies, and try to figure out what to do with mom or dad’s “stuff”.  When this stress is combined with grief, it’s very difficult to know how to make the best decisions.

What could an individual or family do to be better prepared? (or what advice would you give after years of working with families during such times?)

Too often, we run into bereaved family members who’ve lost touch with mom or dad over the years. They arrive clueless as to what needs to be done, how to find important papers, what to do with dad’s dog, or are shocked to see that mom had become a hoarder. To be better prepared for a time that will eventually come, here’s what family members should do when they still have the luxury of time.

  • Someone in the family should assume responsibility for overseeing mom or dad’s life. This might mean more frequent visits. This responsible family member should learn who is mom’s banker, lawyer, doctor, and which neighbors have house keys. Regular visits will alert this person to changes in behavior, such as dozens of Home Shopping Network packages piled up unopened in closets, or kitchen cabinets that contain more dog food and alcohol than human food. They should look for clues that mom has started to hide money or important papers in very odd places.  Long-distance families, especially, might want to consider bringing in a professional geriatric care manager to be your “local eyes and ears”—and, as geriatric professionals, we can often spot things, anticipate concerns and help with resources before problems get out-of-hand.
  • No one likes to think about their parents’ passing, so perhaps that is why there is so little preparation. Whether out-of-town or in, family members would be wise to start thinking about “what’s going to happen to mom’s house when she must leave it long before it happens. This would be the time to  start looking for Realtors and estate liquidation companies when you have the leisure of getting references and interviewing.  Oftentimes, mom’s attorney is a good source for referrals as are any word-of-mouth referrals. Talk to people.

By the same token, there are some things the elderly can do, while they are still able, to make the process easier on their families:

  • Start giving stuff away now. That set of china, collection of Hummels, family photo albums … ask the kids, grandkids, nieces and nephews if they want them and then give them to any takers. Not only does it eliminate some “stuff,” but it brings both the giver and the receiver pleasure.
  • We often are in homes where we find “notes” inside or underneath a treasured piece. These notes sometimes convey the history of the item, where it was purchased, or its sentimental or financial value. This is very helpful both to family members who may want to retain these items, or to estate liquidators who will be able to more accurately fix its value.

What word of warning would you give to families?

Especially in families where there are two or more heirs, the best words of warning are: Don’t get greedy. We are constantly amazed how often siblings who have gotten along well for decades, suddenly become squabbling enemies when it comes to who gets mom’s stuff. We’ve seen it happen in the best of families. Two of them want that Oriental vase that belonged to mom’s grandmother.  They squabble over it, and then suddenly they are squabbling over everything. Greed causes damage among family members that sometimes never gets repaired. Families need to remember: it’s only “stuff” and most of us already have too much of it.

Greed will also lead you to make dumb decisions. We recently did an estate sale for a wealthy local family. It was in an old mansion full of old antique furniture; however both the mansion and the antiques had seen better days. When we discussed with the New York son what we thought the antiques would bring at the estate sale, he insisted on shipping 10,000 pounds of antique furniture to New York saying he could get a lot more money up there. He failed to heed our advice about how much the market for antiques has changed just in the past few years. As a result, he paid high shipping costs for a lot of furniture that is still sitting in NY consignment shops.

Another word of advice, especially for out-of-town family, is to not underestimate the work involved in settling an estate long-distance. Although decisions must be made quickly, things don’t get done quickly. There’s probate, there’s trying to sell a house in a down market, there’s the time and energy required to empty the house. (If you’ve never done it, even simple houses are surprisingly stuffed. It is not a job for the easily overwhelmed.)  If you’ve done your homework, you will have already lined up an estate liquidation company that you trust. Which leads to the next question.

How does someone find a good estate sales company/person to work with? What should they be looking for or who should they ask?

As mentioned earlier, your estate attorney (or geriatric care manager!) may be able to recommend liquidation companies he works with regularly. Or ask neighbors or friends for referrals. Word-of-mouth is much better than huge yellow page ads.

In general you want to hire an estate liquidation company that:

  • has been in business a long time and has years of experience liquidating estates just like yours
  • has an appraiser knowledgeable in many areas such as art, jewelry, china, silver, etc. (You don’t want to read in the news about someone buying a painting for $4 from mom’s estate that turns out to be worth $4 million.)
  • is insured. Hundreds of people will attend a well-run estate sale in your parents’ home, leaving opportunity for all types of mishaps. An insured liquidator is a liquidator who takes his job seriously.
  • has a stable, consistent staff. Staging a sale properly is a huge undertaking that involves many hands helping. You can feel more assured when you know the staff has longevity with the business.
  • has a contract that clearly outlines both your and the liquidator’s responsibilities
  • tells you how the property will be left at the end of the sale. Totally empty? Broom swept? Or will they just walk away leaving the unsold items for you to deal with.
  • has a strong marketing/advertising plan in place. When the estate liquidator does heavy print advertising and has a strong Internet presence, the sale will attract more buyers which increases the net sale proceeds. Ask him how he advertises. Throwing up a sign on the street corner just won’t cut it.
  • most importantly, you need to completely trust the company you hire. Hold interviews. Be looking for someone who answers all your questions, is professional in appearance and personality, and, hopefully, comes to you by recommendation.

Once you have made a choice, you should feel comfortable in turning over the keys. Aside from removing any items from the house that you do not want sold, your job is finished. Quite often, we discover important papers, cash, family photographs, jewelry, even gold coins as we begin to stage a property. At Encore Events we make sure to notify the family about such items, as would any reputable estate liquidator.

Thanks to Bill and Merry from Encore Events for taking the time to provide such thoughtful answers and advice!  If you’re in the Tampa Bay area, check out their page for services and their latest sales.  As always, if we can help you with any eldercare needs or resources, give us a call at 727-447-5845.

Aging Wisely can help in many ways during transitions and beyond, such as:

  • Overseeing things for long-distance family members; acting as a local advocate and liaison;
  • Mediating family discussions and care decisions-helping you to get through tough decisions/emotional times while keeping family relations intact;
  • Assisting with Assisted Living, Nursing Home and other eldercare moves: everything from professional advice to make the best choice to practical help with the whole move and emotional help for your loved one to make a smooth transition;
  • Advice and resources for a wide array of eldercare needs;
  • and more!  We’re here to help!
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Providing Eldercare Help: How to Be Prepared


aging parents medical careWe have been covering some essential advice for families who provide eldercare help to their aging parents or other loved ones, particularly focused on the complexities of managing medical care.  Becoming a loved one’s advocate takes a lot of preparation and a steep learning curve.  You have to be a skilled communicator, negotiator, relationship builder and a smart researcher.  You may feel like you have to learn a whole “new language”–terms like HIPPA, explanation of benefits, observation status, skilled nursing care and of course, the actual medical terminology for diseases, treatment, medications.

Our most recent blog posts have offered advice on preparing to handle a loved one’s medical decisions should they become incapacitated (and even how to assist if temporary or working in conjunction) as well as the importance of reviewing and updating legal documents for advance care planning.  Today’s post will delve further in to preparing to help with managing medical care and providing other eldercare help.

We are preparing to conduct a training session at the Professional Patient Advocacy Conference (in Orlando December 7, 2012) entitled, “The Successful Physician Visit: Best Practices for Advoactes”.  This is an essential topic for advocates assisting with managing medical care.  Patients with chronic conditions spend a lot of time at doctor’s appointments and often see multiple practitioners.  Older adults with multiple chronic health conditions have an average of 37 doctor visits, 14 different doctors and 50 separate prescriptions each year.  And, the more chronic conditions you have, the less likely you are to be satisfied with your doctor’s visit.  Most adult primary care patients have at least two chronic conditions, and these numbers are likely to be much higher for the elder who is being assisted by a family caregiver.

We will be sharing some of the special ways professional advocates can help elders and family members in making a doctor’s visit (and medical care overall) more successful.  We will also be continuing our series here on tips for you as the family caregiver and sharing when and how a professional patient advocate might help you.  Input your email address to get our updates!

Our tip today involves preparing a “health file” or “health record” for the patient (something valuable for you to do now proactively for yourself if possible, or something you can assist your elder relatives to do in order to be able to assist more effectively).  What does a health file need to include?

  • Healthy history: diagnoses, surgeries, contact information for medical providers (for possibly obtaining records)
  • Basic family medical history: immediate family history of major illnesses such as cancers, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, etc.
  • List of medications: prescription, over-the-counter and herbal/vitamins with dosage and instructions (ideally, also have a list of past medications that have not worked effectively or produced side effects)
  • Allergies (medications, food, etc.)
  • List of current diagnoses and treatment (course of treatment, follow-up in progress or when needed, contact information for who is treating or treated the condition)
  • Surgery history
  • Activities of daily living/current status: an assessment of the patient’s daily living skills will help you communicate better information to the doctor.  For example, if a patient has trouble cooking meals or shopping, poor nutrition might impact health.  If the patient is falling or unable to manage hygiene tasks, this is vital for the doctor to know for determining a realistic plan of care.  Such information can be important even for very independent patients.  For example, is a spouse or support system available to help after a surgery or during treatment (cook meals, transportation, etc.)?
  • Current symptoms or concerns (something to prepare prior to each appointment–wise to keep notes also and will help you be more accurate in describing the symptoms: when they occur, what precipitates them, etc.)
  • List of appointments and follow up (calendar/reminder system)

Gathering and organizing this information is vital to being able to communicate with your medical providers.  Your doctors can only provide a plan of care based on the information they have, which too often is not completely accurate.  As a patient or family member assisting, this will help you tremendously.  It can save you time at each appointment, keep you from having to try to remember these details over and over again, and improve coordination.

You may want to consider using an electronic system for your health file.  This is what we do and recommend at Aging Wisely.  An electronic system can help with access, sharing (i.e. between various family caregivers) and make updating easier.  We have a detailed post on personal health records (PHRs) also known as electronic medical records (EMRs): the benefits and how to evaluate systems.

For many elders and family caregivers, this information is disjointed and will need to do some research to gather accurate and updated information.  Consider hiring professional geriatric care manager to put together your health file by researching and gathering all of your information, as well as assessing the current status and gaps.  The care management assessment will indicate issues/concerns such as how the patient is managing activities of daily living, medications and follow up, as well as areas that perhaps have either not been addressed or where a treatment plan isn’t being followed.

A geriatric assessment is an excellent way for you to prepare to provide eldercare help, as it gives you a valuable baseline about your loved one.  A care manager often uncovers concerns or small issues that can be proactively addressed to keep bigger issues at bay.  The care manager will also make specific recommendations, which serve as a sort of prioritized preparation checklist for you as a caregiver.

Considering hiring a geriatric care manager and want to learn more?  Wondering if a geriatric care assessment would help or how worthwhile it would be to have someone assist in organizing the health file?  Grab our checklist for Hiring a Geriatric Care Manager and contact us today for more information and answers to all your questions.

Our Senior Care Consultant, Sue Talbott, can be reached at 727-447-5845 or toll free at 727-447-5845 for a free phone consultation about your elder care needs, medical concerns or senior care help today.

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Elder Care Tools: Florida Durable Power of Attorney


durable power of attorney signing pictureAs a follow up to our previous article on making vital elder care decisions on behalf of a loved one, we wanted to provide some additional details on the relatively new Florida Power of Attorney statute.  This is also a reminder for seniors everywhere and their caregivers to review your estate planning and advance care planning documents from time to time to ensure they are current with new laws as well as your life changes.

Florida’s new Power of Attorney statute made significant changes to the previous statutes covering Power of Attorney documents.  This bill went in to effect on October 1, 2011.  Here is a basic overview, which we provide not as legal advice, but to give you a general picture of how significant the changes are and the ways it may affect you as a Florida senior or family member to a loved one residing in Florida. 

As always, we reiterate that you should consult with your attorney about this and other legal matters.  If you do not have an attorney, and need a referral for an elder law or estate planning attorney in Tampa Bay/Clearwater/St. Petersburg, Florida or beyond, we invite you to contact us.  We wanted to review this issue on our blog because we know that a lot of people executed documents prior to these changes and may not have reviewed them since with their attorney.  Particularly for individuals with memory issues or with a worsening illness (who may be able to understand and execute a new document now but not in the near future as the disease progresses), timing is important when it comes to updating these vital documents.

This statute provides that documents which were executed and valid under the previous law will still be valid.  As we mentioned, however, we think it is best to speak to your attorney about updating your document when possible.

Here are some key provisions and changes in Florida’s new Power of Attorney statute:

  • The law eliminated “springing” powers of attorney.  A springing power of attorney is one in which the document goes in to effect upon a condition being met (usually these required doctor’s certification of the person’s incapacity).  Though some people liked the concept of springing powers, others found the administrative requirements of these documents to be problematic for their practical usage.  Older springing powers of attorney would technically still be valid under this new law, but you might run into some of those administrative challenges.
  • The agent (or who you appoint as “attorney-in-fact”) must be: (1) a person who is at least 18 years old; or (2) a financial institution with trust powers, that has a place of business in Florida, and which is authorized to conduct trust business in the state.   You can name a single agent or multiple (co)agents.  If co-agents are named, each may exercise its authority independently from the others.  Under the previous law, all agents were required to act jointly unless you stated otherwise in the document.
  • In order to receive compensation for serving as someone’s power of attorney, the agent must fall in to certain categories.  These are: a spouse or an heir, a financial institution with trust powers that has a place of business in Florida, an attorney or accountant licensed in Florida, or a person who is a resident of Florida and who has never been an agent for more than three people at a time.  This change particularly affected (or could affect) people in the community (often guardians or related healthcare or financial professionals) who served as power of attorney for clients who might not have had or wished to make other arrangements.  This law would not allow for that type of individual to be compensated (if they help or have helped more than three people at a time), unless he or she is an attorney or accountant licensed in Florida.
  • Certain powers must be specifically set out and signed/initialed by the principal (in the past, principals could include a sort of blanket statement allowing the agent to handle almost any business).  A few of the powers that must be specified include: creating a living trust; amending, modifying, or terminating a trust created by the principal; making gifts; creating/changing a beneficiary designation.

*The law also provides that Powers of Attorney executed in other states are valid in Florida if they were executed properly in the applicable state, even if they don’t comply with Florida law (which may be a big help in today’s mobile world and for many Florida snowbirds).  Additionally, it provides that a photocopy or electronic copy should suffice unless specified.

One of the challenging areas for agents acting under a durable power of attorney can be navigating its use and getting various financial and other institutions to accept the document and respond in a timely manner.  This new Florida statute laid some groundwork on that issue with rules regarding acceptance.  When a power of attorney is presented to a third party (such as a bank), the third party has to accept or reject the power of attorney within a reasonable time (four business days) and to provide a written explanation for rejection.  The law also provides for damages, including attorney’s fees and costs, when a third party who refuses to accept the new power of attorney that is in proper form and properly executed.  This does not mean families will not run in to any difficulties, but it provides a clear time frame.

On the other hand, the challenge of working with institutions as the agent for someone might be even greater if you are dealing with an outdated document, executed under the old law.  If you are unable to get an updated document and run in to such problems, you can contact your attorney for help in explaining the document’s validity to the institution and finding a solution (and/or seeking damages if the situation is not handled properly and results in costs to you or the principal). 

Unfortunately, the situations in which families need to use a durable power of attorney are often crises or subject to time constraints (for example: moving a loved one from the hospital in to a nursing home, applying for Medicaid, moving funds to pay for a surgery or an assisted living bill).  When you find yourself faced with hurdles in the process, it can be extremely frustrating.

You might also be interested in getting a copy of our fact sheet, “Getting Answers about a Loved One’s Care” which covers navigating the health care system, privacy policies, and more.  We invite you to give us a call at 727-447-5845 if you have questions, concerns or need advice about navigating elder care.

Our professional patient advocates can be an excellent resource to help your family find the answers you need, seek the highest quality care and create a plan that makes sense for you.  Whether a crisis or an opportunity to plan ahead, we’re here to help!

What Florida Elder Care issues would you like to see us cover?  Leave us a comment and let us know what topics you’d like to know more about or leave us your question!

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Mission Statement

Our goal is to enable every individual we work with to live the most fulfilling life possible, with utmost dignity, focusing on their physical, mental, spiritual, family and financial wellbeing.