Is an Independent Living Facility Right for Me?

Senior African American woman stands smiling outside of her independent living complex.Housing options and the associated costs are among the top priorities for many seniors. Today, the housing market is unpredictable, while many seniors currently living independently may also have concerns about continuing their lifestyles. Moving to an independent living facility may be the best choice to accomplish your financial goals and maintain your way of life.

What Is an Independent Living Facility?

An independent living facility is a housing arrangement that caters to older people, usually aged 55 and older. These facilities offer a community. Residents can live with people who share common interests while having fun and staying active. Some people may refer to these facilities as 55-and-over communities, active adult communities, or retirement communities.

These environments are different from other long-term care facilities. For example, in nursing homes patients are not likely to live in a private apartment or arrangement. They are usually dependent on medical caregivers. Residents of assisted living facilities, meanwhile, may not require medical care 24-7, but do need assistance with activities of daily living.

In contrast, older adults who live in independent living facilities continue to maintain their independent lifestyles but gain the support of trained staff.

Who Is the Best Fit for Independent Living?

Independent living facilities best serve seniors who do not require constant medical care. If you or your spouse require round-the-clock medical attention, you should consider another living arrangement. However, there are usually 24-hour staff in these types of facilities to respond in case of an emergency.

While independent living facilities are best for more active seniors, they are also beneficial for older adults who do not have the ability or resources to maintain their homes anymore. Independent living facilities remove the need for older people to do household chores and yardwork, which can make their lives that much easier.

Types of Independent Living Facilities

Living arrangements in these facilities can vary. Here are some of the types of housing options an older adult can expect from an independent living facility:

Senior Apartments

A senior can choose to live in an apartment complex that is age-restricted, where most residents are at least 55 years old. Some facilities include recreational programs, community meals, transportation services, and community services in the rent.

Low-Income Housing

If you are a low-income senior, you may be able to find housing complexes that are subsidized by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Learn more about HUD’s Supportive Housing Program.

Continuing Care Retirement Communities

At a Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC), seniors who can care for themselves but have declining health may be a good fit. CCRCs allow a spectrum of arrangements, so when a resident’s health starts to wane, they can easily move from one part of the facility to another that offers more extensive care while remaining in the same complex.

What Should I Look for in an Independent Living Facility?

You should take some time to consider what you want in your living arrangements before making a final decision about where you will spend your time in your older years.

You may want to consider location as a major factor in your decision. Will you be close enough to stay in contact with your network of family and friends, if that is your preference? Or would you like to make a move to a different state or a warmer climate to connect with new people?

What services are you set on having? For example, will you have your own vehicle and, if not, does the facility offer transportation options?

You may want to live in a facility that offers certain amenities. Perhaps you would like to use a gym, take part in classes or workshops, or enjoy other hobbies. Some facilities offer access to more than one on-site dining option. Others may have a movie theater, nail salon, walking trails, or organized trips to nearby museums, concert halls, or casinos.

Of course, cost is more often than not also part of the equation. Compare the costs of several different independent living communities if possible. Confirm whether the cost of the facility includes the services and amenities in which you are interested.

Pricing will also vary greatly across states and cities. For instance, in Connecticut, the average monthly cost for an independent living facility is nearly $3,500. In Mississippi, the average may be less than $2,000 a month.

Also, think about the following before choosing a community:

Your Health and Your Spouse’s Health

The level of care you and your spouse require is one of the biggest questions that you must answer before choosing the best living arrangements. Independent living facilities are not the best option for people who need a great deal of medical care.

Your Mobility

It may be time to make new living arrangements if your mobility has decreased as you have gotten older.

Can You Maintain Your Home?

Moving to an independent living facility can be a good decision for seniors who are looking to downsize from their home.

Notarizing Documents for Seniors With a Dementia Diagnosis

Older man signs legal documents while loved one sits next to him.An Alzheimer’s or dementia diagnosis can be a challenging journey for the person and family alike. When the diagnosis occurs, a ticking clock begins on the timeline for getting proper and sound notarizations done for crucial legal documents.

What Does It Mean to Get a Document Notarized?

According to the National Notary Association, having a document notarized is a process that ensures the document is authentic. The Notary serves as an impartial screener who confirms the identity, willingness, and awareness of the person signing the document.

There are vital issues and implications to be aware of when having documents notarized for individuals with dementia.

Notarizing for a Person With Dementia: A Legal Gray Area

Having documents notarized for seniors with dementia leads to some legal gray areas. There are no laws that prohibit having documents notarized for individuals with cognitive impairments. However, the role of a Notary Public extends beyond the procedural formalities.

Notarizing documents for anyone who is cognitively impaired also comes with a dramatically increased risk for both fraud and elder abuse. This is an issue that Notaries are highly aware of and protect against.

Notaries must assess whether their document signers understand and are aware of the nature of the documents, their contents, and their details. They also must verify the signer’s identity.

Notaries must screen each signer to ensure they are signing the document willingly. The signer cannot be under the pressure or direction of any third party.

The Notary will refuse to notarize a document if they find that any of these conditions fail to meet the standard.

It’s critical for families to act ethically and responsibly in notarizing important documents for their aging loved ones with dementia. If your loved one is facing a dementia diagnosis, establish legal clarity as soon as possible to avoid uncertainties later.

How to Prep When Having Documents Notarized

The following tips will help you prepare:

Legal Documents to Have Notarized for Dementia Diagnosis

Certain legal documents, more commonly notarized for seniors, serve the person’s wishes and protect them from undue influence. Those documents include the following:

Power of Attorney (General vs. Durable)

A power of attorney grants authority to a trusted individual to make financial and legal decisions on behalf of someone else. A general power of attorney is effective immediately. In contrast, a durable power of attorney remains in effect even if the signer becomes unable to handle their affairs.

Health Care Power of Attorney

This document designates a representative to make medical decisions when the individual is unable to do so. You may also hear it referred to as a health care proxy. Notarizing it ensures that all parties will respect the signer’s health care preferences.

Living Will

A living will outlines end-of-life medical preferences. Having it notarized provides assurance that medical choices align with the signer’s wishes.

Guardianship/Conservatorship

In cases where dementia has advanced significantly, establishing a legal guardian or conservator for your loved one. In securing notarized documents, you can ensure that the guardian responsibly manages your loved one’s financial and personal affairs.

Will or Trust

Notarizing a will or trust guarantees the proper distribution of assets after your loved one’s passing, minimizing potential disputes.

HIPAA Release Form

A HIPAA release form grants specific individuals access to the signer’s medical information, aiding health care decisions.

Financial Account Designations

You may also want to ensure that all parties will handle your loved one’s financial matters according to their preferences. To do this, you can work with a Notary to notarize designations on your loved one’s financial accounts.

Act Before It’s Too Late

The absence of specific laws surrounding notarial acts and dementia highlights the importance of being proactive. Waiting until the last moment to have something notarized may lead to legal difficulties or disputes.

As soon as you receive confirmation of your loved one’s dementia diagnosis, initiate the process of having key legal documents notarized. It’s essential you do this while your loved one can still articulate their wishes. This way, you can help protect them while reducing potential family conflicts.

Phillip W. Browne is the vice president of communications at the National Notary Association. pbrowne@nationalnotary.org The NNA is the leading organization providing training, support, supplies, and advocacy for America’s 4.4 million Notaries Public. Since 1957, the NNA has been committed to serving Notaries and their employers throughout the United States by imparting knowledge, building community, and promoting sound professional standards of practice for the benefit and protection of the public.

Medicare Part B Premiums, Deductibles Going Back Up in 2024

Piggy bank sits atop wooden blocks spelling out the year 2024.In 2023, seniors were happy to see their Medicare Part B standard monthly premiums and annual deductibles go down for the first time in more than a decade. Unfortunately, that’s not the case for 2024, when these charges will be back on the rise.

In the fact sheet it released about the updated numbers, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) outlined the following changes for 2024:

Medicare Part B Changes

Medicare Part B enrollees will pay a standard monthly premium of $174.70 come 2024 (up $9.80 from $164.90 in 2023). (Note that beneficiaries who have higher incomes typically have a higher premium.)

The Part B annual deductible is rising to $240 in 2024 (an increase of $14 from $226 in 2023). Part B enrollees must cover all costs until they meet this deductible; Medicare then pays for most of the remaining fees.

Medicare is a federal health insurance program for seniors and people with qualifying disabilities. Medicare Part B specifically focuses on covering such services as medically necessary visits to doctors, outpatient medical treatments, ground ambulance transport, and preventative care, including vaccines. 

Updates to Medicare Part A Charges

The deductible for Medicare Part A will also see a slight increase, about 2 percent, from $1,600 in 2023 up to $1,632 in 2024. Note that most people end up paying no premium for Part A because they (or their spouse) paid Medicare taxes throughout the years they were employed.

Part A relates to medical care in institutions such as inpatient hospitals and skilled nursing facilities, in addition to other settings. If you’re an enrollee and are admitted to a hospital, Medicare Part A will pay for your expenses for the first 60 days, after you pay your deductible. If you go to a skilled nursing facility, Part A covers the first 20 days. After that, you’ll have the following co-pays:

Medicare Open Enrollment

Each fall, from October 15 to December 7, Medicare’s Open Enrollment Period takes place. During this time, you can enroll in a plan or make changes to your existing plan.

What Will Your 2024 Social Security Benefits Look Like?

View of the Social Security Administration logo on its homepage, as seen with a magnifying glass.In 2023, recipients of Social Security benefits saw the biggest increase in decades in their monthly checks. Although their payouts will indeed rise again in 2024, the cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) will be more modest – just 3.2 percent, versus the nearly 9 percent boost in 2023.

Does COLA Only Affect Retired Workers?

Each fall, the Social Security Administration (SSA) announces changes to the annual cost-of-living adjustment for the forthcoming year.

Based in part on the consumer price index, the COLA has an impact on Social Security payouts for retirees as well as many seniors and people with disabilities who receive disability benefits.

How Much Can You Expect to Receive?

In early December, the SSA begins notifying Social Security’s roughly 66 million beneficiaries about what their monthly retirement benefits checks will total as of 2024. These notifications go out via snail mail. How much each recipient gets in their monthly payout can vary depending on such factors as one’s age, employment history, and past work earnings.

If you don’t want to wait for your mail to learn the details, you can find out how much more you will be receiving in 2024 by visiting the My Social Security online portal in December. There, not only can you obtain details on what your 2024 benefits increase will look like, but you can also carry out numerous other tasks, including estimating your spouse’s Social Security benefits, reviewing your statements, opting out of some printed mailings, or updating your direct deposit information.

As a result of the latest COLA, the monthly amount retirees will receive in their 2024 Social Security checks will, on average, be $59 higher than in 2023 – about $1,907 (up from $1,848). This equals $22,884 per year for an individual recipient.

What About My 2024 SSI Payments?

If you are among the 7.5 million people who receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI), the announcement regarding COLA will also bring your payouts up by 3.2 percent.

So, in 2024, the maximum monthly SSI benefit will rise from $914 to $943. (Maximum monthly payouts for couples receiving SSI will be $1,415, up from $1,371.) These adjustments begin earlier, on December 29, 2023.

Are These Payout Increases Enough?

Many seniors have concerns about the failure of Social Security payouts in keeping up with rising prices for everything from prescription meds to groceries. They aren’t wrong; a 2023 survey showed that benefits have effectively resulted in a 36 percent loss in buying power since 2000.

Administrators of the survey give an example of the effects: A dozen eggs in 2023 cost $4.21 on average. In 2000, the cost hovered around a dollar – that’s an increase of more than 300 percent.

Get additional details on the 2024 Social Security changes on the SSA website.

What to Do When Social Security Overpays

Social Security cards on top of $100 and $20 bills.According to the Social Security Administration (SSA), 69.1 million people benefit from Social Security programs, such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI).

Of the $1.1 trillion Social Security payments the SSA made in retirement, survivors, and disability benefits in 2021, about $1.8 billion, or 0.17 percent, constituted overpayments, AARP reports. An overpayment occurs when Social Security gives you more money in a month than you should have gotten.

Reasons for a Social Security Overpayment

Overpayments can happen when the SSA relies on incorrect or old information or makes errors.

Can You Keep the Money?

When you receive an overpayment, the Social Security Administration will attempt to recover their loss. If you spend the surplus benefit, you risk not having enough money to pay back the SSA. Or, if the SSA reduces your monthly payment to compensate for the mistake, you may not have enough to cover your expenses.

Although the SSA may waive repayment, in most cases, it will seek recovery even when it bears responsibility for the overpayment. The Chicago Tribune reports that the SSA attempts to recoup significant overpayments even when the mistake persisted for years and the beneficiary spent the income.

Notice of Overpayment

The Social Security Administration will notify you if it determines that it overpaid you. According to the SSA, the notice will state the reason for the mistake and how you can pay the SSA back.

The notice will explain the steps you can take, including:

Once you request reconsideration, a waiver, or a different payment rate, the SSA will pause recovery until it makes a decision.

Appealing an Overpayment Decision

If you disagree with the SSA’s claim that you received an overpayment, you may appeal the decision and ask that the SSA reconsider it. You may appeal by filing Form SSA-561, Request for Reconsideration, with your local Social Security office.

The form requires you to explain why you have not been overpaid. Should you agree you have been overpaid but disagree about the amount, you must also provide your reasoning.

Requesting a Waiver: Social Security Hardship Form

For those experiencing financial hardship, waivers are available. You may apply for a waiver if the mistake was not your fault and you cannot afford repayment. Once the SSA gives you a waiver, you can keep the money without repaying the SSA.

Use Form SSA-632, Request for Waiver of Overpayment Recovery, to seek a waiver. When you fill out the form, it asks for your income, the income of your spouse and dependents, and your family expenses, which the SSA uses to determine whether you can afford to pay.

Repaying the SSA Gradually

In the notice letter, the SSA gives a repayment rate, setting a timeline for the repayment. For those who need more time, gradual repayment is available. You’ll need to provide financial information, including how much money is in your accounts, as well as your income and expenses. Paying back the SSA over time can help you make ends meet.

Consult With Your Attorney

Seek the counsel of your attorney if you receive an overpayment notice.They can help you understand what happened and guide you to the best course of action.

SNAP Benefits for Older Adults With Limited Income

Senior woman buying fresh fruit in supermarket.Increasing food prices have become a concern for many Americans. If you are a senior on a fixed income, you may worry that you will not have the money to fill your fridge. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) exists to help people make ends meet. It is a food stamp program that supplies enrollees with a monthly allotment that they can use for groceries.

SNAP has certain requirements for those enrolled in the program. In addition to the general requirements, older Americans must meet additional requirements to be eligible for SNAP benefits.

Am I Eligible to Receive SNAP Benefits?

SNAP benefits are reserved for low-income individuals. This means your eligibility for food stamps depends on your resources (bank accounts, etc.) and income. Households with an elderly or disabled member can have up to $4,250 in resources (in 2023) and still be eligible. Certain things, including your house and most retirement plans, do not count as a resource.

Adults who are over age 60 and meet the following income, assets, and resources limits may qualify for SNAP benefits.

Seniors applying for SNAP benefits must first meet two eligibility requirements, including:

1. In most states, their net income must be equal to or lower than the federal poverty line (see table below); and

2. Their total household assets may not exceed $4,250 (in 2023).

General qualifications for SNAP benefits vary by state. Find your local SNAP location online to obtain more information and to apply.

The Federal Poverty Guidelines for 2023 for the 48 Contiguous States and D.C.

Number of People in Household Annual Income
1 $14,580
2 $19,720
3 $24,860
4 $30,000
5 $35,140
6 $40,280
7 $45,420
8 $50,560
> 8 Add $5,140 per person

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What If I Receive Benefits or Help From Meal Services or a Residential Facility?

You may qualify for SNAP benefits even if you also receive care from a residential facility or a meal delivery service. SNAP makes an exception for seniors who receive services like Meals on Wheels or who receive meals as a part of their residential nursing home care plan.

What Counts as “Countable Assets” for SNAP Benefits?

In addition to income limitations, there are resource and assets limits for SNAP beneficiaries. Resources and assets are divided into either countable or non-countable. Countable assets for SNAP purposes include cash and money in a bank account. However, if at least one household member is age 60 or older, the applicant can have $4,250 in countable assets and still qualify for SNAP benefits.

Non-countable assets include the following:

SNAP applicants may also be able to keep their vehicles. State law decides if an applicant’s vehicle qualifies as a countable or non-countable asset.

How Much Will I Receive for Groceries From SNAP?

The size of the payment that a household will receive from SNAP every month depends on the size of the household. Typically, a household is expected to spend 30 percent of its total income on food. SNAP takes the amount of money coming into the household each month and multiplies it by 0.3 to get the household’s monthly SNAP allotment.

The following table shows the maximum monthly benefit for SNAP by household size.

Maximum Monthly SNAP Allotments by Household Size (FY23)

Household Size Monthly Allotment
1 $281
2 $516
3 $740
4 $939
5 $1,116
6 $1,339
7 $1,480
8 $1,691
> 8 Add $211 per person

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Can I Appeal My Decision if I Am Denied Food Stamps Through SNAP?

Yes; SNAP applicants have the right to appeal a denial. If you are facing a denial of SNAP benefits, you must request a hearing within 90 days of the decision. You can request a formal hearing to appeal your denial over the phone, in writing, or in person at your local SNAP location.

Can You Believe Aging Parents Grow Stubborn and They Know It?

Studies show that adult children complain that their parents are stubborn and that the parents themselves admit this.

Considerable’s recent article entitled “Why are your aging parents so stubborn? Researchers think they have the answer” explains that as children become more involved, they may make suggestions for things that older adults might do to maintain their safety and well-being.

However, older adults see things differently, says a study of 189 aging parents with an adult child.

Researchers say a primary reason is differing goals of children and parents. An aging parent might want to exercise his independence, by walking to the store for groceries. However, his adult son may see it as risking a fall.

A study that asked 192 middle-aged adults to keep diaries of their parents’ behavior found that 75% of adult children and 66% of older parents reported that the parents acted stubbornly sometimes. Just 40% of children and 20% of parents said the stubborn behavior happened frequently.

A third reported stubborn behavior at least once, and about 20% reported risky behavior at least once in a seven-day period.

The studies wanted to distinguish the difference between stubbornness as a personality trait and as behavior that can be modified.

The research cautioned that such circumstances could harm the emotional well-being of the adult children and their relationships with their parents.

“As parents age, every day, some adult children encounter behaviors that are difficult to manage,” the second study said.

Children with good relationships with their parents reported less stubbornness and vice versa, as one might expect.

Children were more likely to report parental stubbornness, if the parents were disabled, and children were likely to say that fathers were more stubborn than mothers.

These tensions in families may have a “corrosive effect,” in the way in which adult children and their parents interact with one another over the long term, the researchers said.

Reference: Considerable (July 17, 2020) “Why are your aging parents so stubborn? Researchers think they have the answer”

Suggested Key Terms: Elder Law Attorney, Elder Care, Caregiving, Dementia, Alzheimer’s Disease

Will I Live Longer, if I Babysit the Grandchildren?

There’s a growing body of research that supports the notion that grandparents will live longer if they babysit the grandchildren. Parents with young children can know that their parents and their children are getting benefits from babysitting time together, says Considerable’s June article entitled “Grandparents who babysit a grandchild live longer, study finds.”

Considerable spoke with Dr. David Coall, senior lecturer at Edith Cowan University and a co-author of a 2017 study that found a connection between grandparent caregiving and mortality. Dr. Coall gave some updates in the field and highlighted further connections that still need to be made.

The 2017 study that Dr. Coall co-authored analyzed date from the Berlin Aging Study (BASE), which monitored the health and social conditions of over 500 participants in Germany between 1990 and 2009. The study focused on grandparents who simply provided periodic babysitting, rather than primary caregiving for their grandchildren.

Dr. Coall’s team of researchers found that caregiving grandparents had a 37% lower risk of death than non-caregiving grandparents. The same 37% risk reduction in mortality was found when comparing caregiving grandparents with non-grandparents.

Therefore, the risk of dying over a 20-year period was a third lower for grandparents who provided some level of care for their grandchildren, as opposed to grandparents who provided no care at all.

According to Dr. Coall, “The obvious next question was, ‘Is that purely because healthier grandparents are more likely to babysit and live longer?’”

In August 2017, he used the same BASE data to see if grandparents were healthier due to babysitting, or if they were babysitting, because they were already healthier and able to do so. Dr. Coall found that health only accounted for 22% of the link between helping and longevity. Interestingly, a direct effect of babysitting on longevity still existed in the data.

“So, we continue to look for what could be making this link between helping and living longer.”

Some longitudinal studies have examined if babysitting is linked with a subsequent improvement in grandparental health, with mixed results. The most recent study, a collaboration with researchers in Finland that was published in July, looked at whether an individual who became a grandparent subsequently went on to enjoy improved health.

Dr. Coall said that the research shows “a specific improvement in physical health, but not in emotional or mental health. Maybe this works through increased activity levels looking after grandchildren.”

Reference: Considerable (June 23, 2020) “Grandparents who babysit a grandchild live longer, study finds”

Suggested Key Terms: Elder Law Attorney, Child Care, Caregiving