Intergenerational Care and the Magic of Girl Scout Cookies

Q. Five years ago my friend Jennifer, who is 91, met ten-year-old Emma when Emma was selling Girl Scout Cookies door-to-door. Emma never knew her own grandparents, and Jennifer’s family lives 1,000 miles away. They had the most remarkable conversation about art and ballet that day, all while sharing a box of Thin Mints. Ever since, they’ve drawn close, spending time together on outings, and at home.

Emma loves spending time with Jennifer and learning from her and teaching her about iPad apps and other modern technology. Jennifer is equally as smitten with Emma, and appreciates the joy and positivity she brings into her life. Other members of Emma’s Girl Scout troop have followed suit and have made it a point to spend time with members of the senior community.

As she is getting older, Jennifer is becoming less and less able to live independently and her family is considering nursing home care. Are there any nursing homes that offer intergenerational programming, so Emma and the other Girl Scouts can come and visit and participate in activities with Jennifer and other senior residents? Given Jennifer and Emma’s wonderful relationship, I know it will also be beneficial for other residents to be able to interact and build relationships with the younger generation. 

A. Thank you for your question and for describing the lovely friendship of Jennifer and Emma, and other children in the community who have reached out to seniors. As you mentioned, and as research has proven, ongoing friendships between seniors and the younger generation are extremely positive, in that they help seniors have a more optimistic outlook, hamper depression, and make seniors feel like they are more socially engaged and needed.

At a time when families often live miles apart, intergenerational programs make sense. In fact, intergenerational programs exist at approximately 200 long-term care and adult day care centers around the country, and according to the Generations United Website, more programs are in the pipeline. Generations United, a not-for-profit organization that helps improve the lives of children, youth, and older adults through intergenerational collaboration, public policies, and programs, describes the goal of intergenerational programming as building mutually-beneficial ongoing relationships between the two groups, rather than one-time encounters.

At Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia, the Neighbors Growing Together Intergenerational Program is the nation’s only university-based, shared-site intergenerational care program. Virginia Tech’s program offers adult day care that is located on the same floor as a child development center for ages 15 months to 5 years. While their space is separate, the two generations share a common area where much of the interaction occurs. They take walks together, play games, make music, share snacks, work on projects and visit back and forth. The activities prompt both groups to think creatively and work on motor skills.

Shannon Jarrott, who is the director of the Virginia Tech center, also studies adults with dementia. According to Jarrott, “[w]e think they can’t do much of anything, but they have been able to mentor and assist children with cooking, art and literacy activities. This helps both the developing abilities of the children and the diminishing ones of the adults.” Jarrott also found that the adults’ improved mood lasted even after the children were gone. In addition, for the young children, Jarrott and her colleagues at Virginia Tech found mixed-age initiatives enhanced empathy.

Similar to Virginia Tech, Providence Mount St. Vincent, a Seattle assisted living and long-term care facility, shares its space with a vibrant child care center. A popular destination for senior residents is the infant room, where residents can hold and cuddle the babies and the toddler room, where residents visit for sing-alongs, making sandwiches together for the homeless, and reading books to the youngsters. Older children often sit side by side with residents, while an art therapist helps them create collages and India ink drawings.

At Providence Mount St. Vincent, most of the doors in the child-care classrooms are kept open, except when the children are napping. Some have a window at the top as well as at the bottom of the door, and along the walls, so residents in wheelchairs can see what’s going on, and babies can look through and see them. According to Marie Hoover, director of the Providence Mount St. Vincent Intergenerational Learning Center, when it comes to senior residents, “[t]hese interactions are very home-like and keep senior residents’ minds alert.” When it comes to the children, “[f]amily members and teachers say youngsters exposed to intergenerational programming are age-blind, as likely to call an 80-year-old their friend as a 4-year-old peer. Parents tell me they (the children) are so comfortable with people of different ages and abilities, and they don’t fear when they look or speak differently.”

Another example of a successful intergenerational program is at Judson Retirement Living Facility in Cleveland, Ohio. Each month, more than 500 students visit the facility to take part in joint school-curriculum-based art, music, and environmental projects, and residents tutor math and reading in the city’s elementary and middle schools. Residents and students also attend cultural events together and sing together in a choir. “Bravo” to intergenerational opportunities, says Patience Hoskins, an 82-year-old Judson resident, “It makes me feel younger to interact with young people, and it beats the day-to-day routine!”

For more details on Intergenerational Programming in Virginia, please read this memo from the Commonwealth of Virginia Agency on Aging and view the Virginia Fact Sheet on the Generations United Website.

Do you have a loved one, such as Jennifer from our example, who is nearing the need for long-term care or already receiving long-term care? Whether you are looking for a facility that has intergenerational programming or not, if you have not done Long-Term Care Planning, Estate Planning or Incapacity Planning (or had your Planning documents reviewed in the past several years), now is the time. Please call The Fairfax and Fredericksburg Medicaid Asset Protection Law Firm of Evan H. Farr, P.C. at 703-691-1888 in Fairfax or 540-479-1435 in Fredericksburg to make an appointment for an introductory consultation.

Innovative Programs to Prevent Falls

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has reported that one-third of people over the age of 65 experience a fall each year, accounting for roughly 3 million visits to the ER and almost $30 billion in direct medical costs. The CDC is anticipating this number to reach an alarming $67.7 billion by 2020.

According to The Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services (VDARS), 22% of fall injuries for people aged 65 and older happened when the individual slipped or tripped on a level surface. Falls from stairs or steps accounted for 5% of fall injuries, and falls from chairs or beds accounted for 2%. Luckily, most falls don’t result in serious injury and can be avoided by minimizing hazards inside the home, including adding better lighting, ensuring rugs and carpeting are affixed to the floor properly, fixing cracks in the driveway, and eliminating general clutter (please read our blog post on this subject for more details.) However, despite proactive prevention methods in the home, falls do still occur, and they can have a major psychological impact on seniors. In fact, roughly 25% of people aged 75 or over unnecessarily restrict their activities because of fear of falling.

According to a study published by the National Council on Aging (NCOA), entitled “Findings and Lessons Learned from State Coalitions on Fall Prevention,” health care providers aren’t focused on prevention as much as treatment for falls. The findings show that health care providers often don’t ask about falls, and seniors don’t tell their health-care providers about falls, as they are too embarrassed, ashamed, or afraid of losing their independence. For more details on how to talk to your doctor about falls, please see this resource on the subject.

The NCOA study shows that many states understand the toll that age will have on their residents, both physically and financially, and are stepping in to spread awareness in an effort to minimize the damage caused by age-related falls. Below are a few innovative programs various states are using to educate seniors on fall prevention:

  • Virginia: In response to the need to improve efficiencies and address long-term support for seniors, the Virginia Division for the Aging established No Wrong Door. No Wrong Door provides older adults and adults with disabilities with comprehensive information, including fall prevention education, and streamlined access to available long term supports. The program helps older adults and individuals with disabilities live in the environment of their choice, improving efficiencies and addressing long-term support according to each individual’s unique situation.
  • Pennsylvania: In collaboration with the Pennsylvania Department of Aging, researchers have been studying two specific programs that are currently in place: Healthy Steps for Older Adults, a four-hour workshop, and Healthy Steps in Motion, an eight week exercise program design. The researchers found that these programs have helped to reduce elderly falls by 17%.
  • Wisconsin: Researchers in the Department of Family Medicine at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health, created a program called the Lifestyle and Functional Exercise program, or LiFE. LiFE is an in-home program for people aged 70 and better that uses exercise in seemingly mundane daily activities, like balancing on one leg while brushing their teeth.
  • Kansas: The Regional Institute on Aging at Wichita State University in Kansas put together the Falling Less in Kansas Toolkit. The 56-page, spiral-bound toolkit — also available online — aims to help seniors assess their risk of falls and develop a solution for seniors to avoid falls through exercises focused on balance, a medication side-effects inventory, identifying vision problems and increasing home safety. While the toolkit was designed for people to use on their own, the program encourages caregivers and medical professionals to get involved in the process as well.
  • New York: The Health Foundation for Western and Central New York created a Fall Prevention: Step Up to Stop Falls program, which offers a helpful toolkit and grants to local agencies to help them better prevent falls by targeting the major risk factors and by educating doctors, home healthcare workers and family caregivers.
  • Ohio: The Ohio Department of Aging implemented a state-wide initiative called Steady U, which focuses on fall prevention with a community approach and states clearly on their website that “everyone — from the individual and his family, to doctors and nurses, to business owners and managers, to community leaders and more — has a role to play in preventing falls.” They offer a host of resources to back this statement up, including tip sheets, websites, government partner agencies, PowerPoint presentations and promotional materials.

On a national level, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) launched the STEADI (Stopping Elderly Accidents, Deaths Injuries) Tool Kit for Health Care Providers. In addition, the CDC is coordinating efforts and seeking financial support to launch a falls prevention campaign with the Ad Council. For more details and for CDC fall prevention resources, including older adult falls prevention guides for health care professionals, brochures, posters, podcasts, and more, visit the CDC website.

When taking preventative measures isn’t enough, assisted living or nursing home care may be needed for your loved one. Nursing homes in Fairfax, Virginia and the rest of Northern Virginia can cost as much as $198,000 per year, while Fredericksburg, Virginia nursing homes and nursing homes in and the rest of Virginia can cost as much as $105,000 per year.

The Medicaid Asset Protection Law Firm of Evan H. Farr, P.C. handles Life Care Planning and Medicaid Asset Protection, which is the process of protecting you or your loved ones from having to go broke to pay for nursing home care, while also helping ensure that you or your loved ones get the best possible care and maintain the highest possible quality of life, whether at home, in an assisted living facility, or in a nursing home. Learn more at The Fairfax Medicaid and Fredericksburg Medicaid Asset Protection Law Firm of Evan H. Farr, P.C. website. Call 703-691-1888 in Fairfax and 540-479-1435 in Fredericksburg to make an appointment for an introductory consultation.

Honoring Our Veterans: An Underused Benefit

Memorial Day is a U.S. federal holiday where we take time to remember the men and women who died while serving in the United States military. The holiday, which is celebrated every year on the final Monday of May, was formerly known as “Decoration Day” and originated after the American Civil War.

On Memorial Day and every day, we honor military veterans and the sacrifices they have made and are making to preserve our liberty and freedom. Currently, there are more than 25 million veterans who served our country during wartime and are eligible for some form of veteran’s benefits. One particular benefit, called a Special Pension benefit (sometimes also called Veterans Aid and Attendance), can provide more than $25,000 annually for an eligible married veteran, more than $21,000 annually for a single veteran, and over $13,000 annually for the surviving spouse of a qualified veteran.

Unfortunately, many veterans and their families are unaware that laws have been passed to entitle them to this Special Pension. As an example, according to her story told on this video and cited in a recent New York Times article, Debbie Burak of Midlothian, Virginia, repeatedly called the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offices on behalf of her father, a World War II veteran, and her mother, who became homeless after their house caught fire and their injuries required extensive care. She was told there were no benefits they were entitled to. According to Burak, no one at the VA offices she called had heard of the Veteran’s Aid and Attendance benefit or any benefit that paid for caregivers or assisted living or nursing homes. It was only after her father died that Ms. Burak discovered her parents would have been entitled to as much as $160,000 over the last decade through this Special Pension program.

Jim Nicholson, former secretary of Veterans Affairs, said in a news release that “not everyone is aware of his or her potential eligibility” for the program, which he called an “underused” benefit. Randal Noller, a spokesperson for the VA said the program’s low visibility might be an effect of the size of the department. “The VA is the second-largest agency in the federal government, and you can’t expect everybody to know everything,” he said, referring to the agency’s work force. He agrees that the Aid and Attendance benefit and other military benefits are largely underused. In fact, of the 1.7 million World War II veterans alive as of 2011 who were in need of caregiving assistance and thus most likely eligible for the Aid and Attendance benefit, only 38,076 veterans and 38,685 surviving spouses took advantage of the Aid and Attendance benefit that year, according to Noller.

If you are a veteran, a veteran’s spouse, or a family caregiver for a veteran, you need to know about the Aid and Attendance benefit, and we urge you to take advantage of this benefit. Eligibility criteria includes:

  • Those over 65 do not have to be disabled. However, the veteran or spouse must be in need of regular aid and attendance due to inability to dress oneself, feed oneself, loss of coordination or other conditions, as described on our website, and there must be actual ongoing caregiving services being received from someone else.
  • You or your spouse must have served on active duty for at least 90 days, at least one day of which occurred during a period designated as wartime (see our website). There must have been a non-dishonorable discharge as well. Single surviving spouses of such veterans are also eligible.

For more details about Veteran’s Aid and Attendance and other veterans’ benefits, please watch this video. If you would like to sign up to receive my Aid Attendance 4-Part Mini Series via e-mail, please click here.

Applying for Veteran’s Aid and Attendance can be confusing and arduous. Here at the Farr Law Firm, we work with veterans and their spouses to evaluate whether they qualify for the Veterans Aid and Attendance Benefit and/or Medicaid, and we deal with all the paperwork. As an Accredited Attorney with the U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs, I understand both the Veterans Aid and Attendance Benefit and the Medicaid program and the interaction between both benefit programs.  Learn more at and call us at our Virginia Elder Law Fairfax office at 703-691-1888 or at our Virginia Elder Law Fredericksburg office at 540-479-1435 to make an appointment for an introductory consultation.

Thank you for serving our country and best wishes to all for a happy and healthy Memorial Day weekend!

P.S. Another benefit of being a veteran is a 15% discount off all services at the Farr Law Firm. Again, thank you, and we hope to see you soon.

Non-Traditional Living Options for Seniors

Senior living has come a long way. Many Americans assume that when they grew old and frail, they will have go to an assisted-living facility or a nursing home.  But this is not always the case.  According to an AARP study, 88% of Americans age 65 and older would prefer to stay in their residence for as long as possible.  

Other research conducted by the National Institutes of Health shows the importance of social support to healthy aging and the risks associated with loneliness and isolation. With non-traditional housing options and the potential of new technologies such as webcams and assistive robots, seniors with declining health have a better change of staying rooted in their communities longer than before. Below are examples of some popular non-traditional housing options for seniors:

Cohousing:  Cohousing is designed for seniors (aged 60 and up) who wish to grow older meaningfully and independently in a self-managed, close-knit community. Cohousing is typically built with the future in mind in that each living space can transition from a home for an active lifestyle to one that supports progressing needs for accessibility. Common areas, indoors and out, are designed to provide easy access and recreation for all levels of physical ability. Other features, services, and amenities are included as needed by the community to allow seniors the comfort of aging in place, including the option for shared nursing aides should the need arise.

Naturally occurring retirement communities (NORCs): A NORC is a community that was not originally designed for seniors, but that has a large proportion of residents who are at least 60 years old. These communities are not created to meet the needs of seniors living independently in their homes, but rather evolve naturally, as adult residents age in place. AARP estimates that more than a quarter of American seniors currently reside in NORCs. Experts expect the number of NORCs will increase as the population of seniors continues to grow rapidly.

Villages:  Since the early 2000s, villages have emerged as an innovative model to help people remain in their homes and to connect with their communities throughout later life. According to the Village to Village Network, villages are defined as “self-governing, grassroots, community-based organizations that coordinate access to a variety of supportive services to promote aging in place, social integration, health, and well-being.” Please read our recent blog post about villages.

Shared housing: Aging, single boomers are taking a cue from the hit 80’s sitcom, “Golden Girls” and exploring communal living in retirement. Across the U.S., around 500,000 women aged 50 or older live with a non-romantic housemate, says PBS, and an AARP analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data indicates that there are about 130,000 “group homes” in existence today. Watch a recent PBS Newshour video on shared housing .

Niche retirement communities: Niche retirement communities are developments created for people who share a common identity such as sexual orientation, artistic inclination, religious faith, or something else. As an example, The Senior Artist Colony in Burbank, California was started by a visionary named Tim Carpenter, who wanted to have a community where people were bound by a common interest in the arts and had affordable housing. This particular niche retirement community is filled with studios for painting, pottery and film production, and those who share a love of artistic expression.

Unfortunately, not everyone in all geographic areas have access to these alternative communities, and even for those who do, what happens when the non-traditional living model is no longer enough to meet your needs? Nursing homes in Northern Virginia cost $10,000-$14,000 a month – a catastrophic expense for most families. So regardless of whether there is a village community or other alternative senior housing option in your area, it is always prudent to plan ahead in the event that assisted living or nursing home care is needed in the future.  Life Care Planning and Medicaid Asset Protection  is the process of protecting your assets from having to be spent down in connection with entry into a nursing home, while also helping ensure that you or your loved one get the best possible care and maintain the highest possible quality of life, whether at home, in an assisted living facility, or in a nursing home. Learn more at The Fairfax and Fredericksburg Virginia Elder Law Firm of Evan H. Farr, P.C. website. Or call us today at 703-691-1888 for Fairfax Medicaid Planning or 540-479-1435 for Fredericksburg Medicaid Planning to make an appointment for an introductory consultation.

The Five Biggest Estate Planning Mistakes

Q. I recently retired after 35 years as a federal employee. I funded my retirement plan, paid off my home, and amassed enough savings to cover future expenses and hopefully leave a financial legacy to my loved ones. When it comes to estate planning, I want to make sure I do it right. What are some mistakes I should avoid?

A. Estate-planning mistakes can be costly, even among those who are fiscally prudent. Any number of oversights can leave you vulnerable in the event you become incapacitated. Others can seriously compromise the amount your heirs will inherit when you die

In the past, our newsletter featured a series of articles entitled “Lessons Learned from Estate Planning Mistakes of Celebrities,” demonstrating why probate is such a nightmare and lessons that can be learned from the costly mistakes of celebrities. Celebrities, including Philip Michael Hoffman, James Gandolfini, Whitney Houston, Amy Winehouse, Etta James, and Michael Crichton, who made estate planning mistakes, were explored. We can learn a lot from these celebrities and others about what not to do when it comes to estate planning.

If you wish to ensure that your estate does not fall prey to predators, creditors, or taxes, keep reading to be sure you’re not committing any of these five mistakes of estate planning:

1. Poor Choices: Many people don’t realize that estate planning documents provide instructions for divvying up your estate after you die AND directives for handling your finances and medical care if you become disabled. When it comes to your Advance Medical Directives and your Financial Power of Attorney, take some time to think before you choose someone to act on your behalf.  One of the mistakes that can occur is picking someone not trustworthy. You can put the best estate plan into place, but if you pick the wrong person to help execute it, it doesn’t matter.

2. Using only a Will: It is generally unwise to use a Last Will and Testament to distribute your Estate at death.  Instead, you should almost always use a Living Trust.  When you use a Last Will and Testament instead of a Living Trust, your financial affairs – and the financial affairs of your beneficiaries –become known to the public and will have to go through the nightmare of probate.

3. Forgetting to update beneficiaries: Failing to update your beneficiary forms after a divorce or death in the family can have disastrous consequences. For example, what if you left everything to your ex-spouse, while you were still married, and never made any updates.  She can then turn around and leave that money to her own children from another marriage. Thus, it’s important to review your designated beneficiaries on all documents (including retirement accounts and life insurance) after every life event and be sure they all reflect what’s written in your Will.  Please read our blog post for more details on when to make updates to your estate planning documents.

4. Failure to sign a General Power of Attorney and Advance Medical Directive: When you give someone Financial Power of Attorney, you are giving that person the right to access all or portions of your finances. The document typically goes into effect immediately after it is signed, but it intended to be used by your Agent only when needed. This person would also be in charge of your finances if you become incapacitated. Failing to procure this document can result in a costly legal battle for your family in which a court will select a guardian. In addition, having a Financial Power of Attorney avoids the “nightmare of living probate” — the time consuming, expensive, and publicly embarrassing process whereby someone has to go to court to have you declared mentally or physically incompetent and then one or more persons need to be appointed to serve as your legal guardian and/or conservator, which process is subject to ongoing court supervision.

Our proprietary 4-Needs Advance Medical Directive(TM) enables you to set forth your preferences with regard to organ donation, funeral arrangements, and disposition of remains. The document also accomplishes several essential things. In your 4-Needs Advance Medical Directive(TM), you can appoint an agent and give that person the power to consent to medical and health care decisions on your behalf. This person can decide whether to withhold or withdraw a specific medical treatment or course of treatment when you are incapable of making or communicating an informed decision yourself. Our 4-Needs Advance Medical Directive(TM) also contains a proprietary Long-Term Care Directive(TM) that allows you to address numerous issues that arise if and when long-term care is needed.  You can also indicate your wishes concerning the use of artificial or extraordinary measures to prolong your life in the event of a terminal illness or injury.  Such guidance spares your family the emotional angst of having to guess at your wishes when they are already under stress.

At our firm, we offer a service called DocuBank to ensure that that the documents you’ve completed will be there when you need them most, such as when you are hospitalized. DocuBank is an electronic storage and access service for healthcare directives and other legal documents, so your documents are available whenever you need them. Read more about Docubank in our blog post, FAQ: Storing Important Documents, such as Advance Medical Directives.

5. Waiting too long: Many people delay estate planning, partly because it’s unpleasant to contemplate our own mortality, and partly because younger adults believe such paperwork isn’t necessary until they reach old age. If you don’t create an estate plan, you’re letting the state legislature and/or the courts decide how to divide your assets, which may not reflect your wishes. Without a road map, it just makes it much more difficult for everyone.

Most people, including yourself, work their entire lives to accumulate what they own.  Everyone needs the peace of mind that comes with making sure that their legal and financial affairs are taken care of if they become incapacitated, that decisions about health care are carried out the way they’d like even if they’re not able to make them, and that their loved ones are taken care of when that time eventually comes. To begin your Estate Planning or to update your documents, please call 703-691-1888 in Fairfax or 540-479-1435 in Fredericksburg to make an appointment for an introductory consultation.


Casey Kasem’s Daughter Was Granted Conservatorship, But Where is Casey?

When we think of legal guardianship or conservatorship, several scenarios typically come to mind: an elderly parent with dementia; an adult who has been severely injured and can no longer take care of himself; and, increasingly, young adults who are making unsafe, dangerous, or destructive decisions. Today, we will discuss Casey Kasem, an ailing former radio personality whose wife and children are at odds over his care and visitation.

Kamal Amin ”Casey” Kasem was born on April 27, 1932, and is famous as a former “American Top 40” countdown show host, personality, actor, voice artist, and comedian. Kasem was married to Linda Myers from 1972 to 1979 and they have three children together: Mike, Julie, and Kerri Kasem. A year after his divorce, Kasem married American actress Jean Kasem (who played ”Loretta Tortelli” on TV’s “Cheers”) and they have been married for three decades. They have one child together, Liberty Kasem. Casey’s children from his previous marriage and his brother claim that they don’t have a relationship with Jean Kasem.

In October 2013, Kerri Kasem announced that her father was suffering from Parkinson’s disease and that he is no longer able to speak and is having a hard time walking. At a later date, she clarified that he actually has Lewy Body Dementia, which she says has symptoms similar to Parkinson’s disease, but with a greater impact on cognitive functioning. Casey’s family and friends are very concerned about him, and claim that Jean Kasem has been preventing contact with him.

In hopes of getting the word out and getting through to Jean, Kasem’s family and friends held a protest at the Kasem estate in Holmby Hills. According to Gonzalo Venecia, Casey’s former personal assistant for 24 years who attended the protest, “We fear that he’s been isolated and neglected, and so that’s why we stand here today.” According to Kerri Kasem, ”We don’t want to see him go and not say goodbye and not love him and not support him. We don’t know how long he has,” she said.

On October 7, 2013, Julie Kasem and her husband, Dr. Jamil Aboulhosn, filed a conservatorship petition to place Casey Kasem under their care. The petition claims that Julie and her husband have been unable to check on Kasem’s health even though her father signed papers in 2007 giving them the Power of Attorney over his heath care, in the event he was unable to make his own health decisions. The filing contends that they ”have been prevented from exercising their duties by Jean Kasem.” The petition also claims that Kasem’s wife has refused to provide the children with the name of their father’s primary care physician. That doctor would be consulted to determine Kasem’s ”ability to act on his own behalf,” which is the question that would cause the Health Care Power of Attorney to take effect, it said. The judge dismissed the case, ruling that Kasem was being well cared for by his wife, Jean Kasem. However, the adult children were given visitation rights. Jean Kasem allowed Julie Kasem to visit her father for a while after the settlement was reached, but starting in January 2014, she refused to allow any of his daughters to see him “in violation of the visitation agreement,” Kerri Kasem alleges.

Kerri Kasem went on to file a second petition to help her and her siblings try to gain access to their father and have some oversight over his care. “The fight is not about an inheritance, ”Kerri Kasem said. “My dad told us a long time ago we were not in the will, and we’re OK with that. We’ve known that for years,” she said. “I’ve never asked him for anything, nor have I asked Jean for anything.”

Yesterday, May 12, 2014, Kerri Kasem was granted temporary conservatorship, despite Jean Kasem’s objection. The temporary conservatorship expires June 20, 2014, when a hearing is scheduled on whether to make the conservatorship permanent. The only problem is, Jean Kasem is the only person who knows where her husband Casey is. Jean Kasem’s lawyer, Craig Marcus, said to the judge that Casey Kasem was “taken somewhere out of the country” and that “the judge may not have jurisdiction to issue a temporary conservatorship order,” but the judge rejected the argument. Kerri Kasem’s lawyer, Troy Martin, said he believes his client’s father was moved to an Indian reservation in Washington state. Superior Court Judge Daniel S. Murphy ordered a court investigator and adult protective services to find out where Casey Kasem is being treated and report back to the court. Kerri Kasem said that once they find her father, she hopes that the truth about his care comes out and that she and her siblings can visit with their father and ensure that he is receiving their support and the best possible care.

Do you have an incapacitated family member like Casey Kasem, or just a “borderline” or “unstable” family member such as Amanda Bynes or Lindsay Lohan, and you would like to learn more about your options for Guardianship and Conservatorship? Have you done a Power of Attorney, Advance Medical Directive, Living Trust Estate Planning, or Medicaid Planning, or do you have a loved one who is nearing the need for nursing home care or already receiving nursing home care? Please call us at 703-691-1888 in Fairfax or 540-479-1435 in Fredericksburg to make an appointment for an introductory consultation at The Fairfax and Fredericksburg Elder Law Firm of Evan H. Farr, P.C.

Yellow Dot on Car Can Save Your Life

Q. My wife, Joanne, was recently in a car accident. Luckily, it wasn’t serious. What would happen if one of us were in a serious car accident? How would the emergency personnel know that she is diabetic and that I have Parkinson’s Disease? What if we are hurt or shaken up and cannot communicate with the first responders?

If you have not done Incapacity Planning, Estate Planning, or Long-Term Care Planning, or if you have a loved one who is nearing the need for long-term care or already receiving long-term care, please contact The Law Firm of Evan H. Farr, P.C. as soon as possible at our Virginia Elder Law Fairfax office at 703-691-1888 or at our Virginia Elder Law Fredericksburg office at 540-479-1435 to schedule your appointment for an introductory consultation.

Challenges Faced by the Aging LGBT Community

The Administration on Aging estimates that there are between 1.75 million and 4 million Americans over the age of 60 who are LGBT. Although many LGBT seniors are satisfied with their lives, there are still many who remain closeted despite the recent societal advances our country has made in accepting this community. These aging members of the LGBT community face significant issues as they age, and these issues are chronicled in a recent documentary entitled Gen Silent.

Gen Silent tells the story of several members of the LBGT community and how they are facing aging and illness. The film displays the challenges these people face when it comes to securing proper care without discrimination.  It also explores the following issues as challenges for the aging LGBT community:

  • Older LGBT adults are less likely to have children to assist them, and are less likely to have someone to call upon in time of need.
  • Many LGBT seniors are socially isolated and rely upon a partner or friend.
  • When social agencies or private health-care providers, such as aides or home nurses, are needed, the prospect can be frightening. They do not want to be outed.
  • Many LGBT seniors are returning to the closet, if they ever came out, in fear of discrimination and reprisal by the very people who are supposed to assist them in times of need.

According to “The Aging and Health Report: Disparities and Resilience among Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Older Adults,” released at the first White House Conference on LGBT Aging, the aging LGBT population has a greater rate of disability, depression, and loneliness than their heterosexual counterparts. The unique needs of the aging LGBT population require special medical care and conversations with medical providers with sensitivity and openness.

Whatever your sexual orientation, if you haven’t done so, now is the time to get started with planning for your future and for your loved ones! Read our recent blog post about why it is especially important for the LGBT community to plan ahead. We here at The Fairfax and Fredericksburg LGBT Law Firm of Evan H. Farr, P.C. have strategies in place to help LGBT couples. With advance planning, each person, regardless of sexual orientation, can retain the benefit of the money, income and assets it has taken a lifetime to accumulate. Learn more at, or call us at our Virginia Elder Law Fairfax office at 703-691-1888 or at our Virginia Elder Law Fredericksburg office at 540-479-1435 to make an appointment for a no-cost consultation.

Amazing Stories of Animal Therapy for Alzheimer’s Patients

As Lisa Abeyta’s father’s Alzheimer’s is progressing, his ability to communicate and cope with unfamiliar surroundings and noises is diminishing. Noises of laughter and happy conversation that used to make him smile now cause him distress. Despite these disturbing changes, one thing is positive and encouraging—his ability to communicate with Lisa’s dog, Roscoe.

When Lisa’s father visits her home, Roscoe immediately greets him at the door. Until recently, Lisa didn’t realize that Roscoe has an incredible ability to give voice to her father, who has lost most of his verbal communication skills. She is simply amazed at how, when Roscoe is in the room, her father’s ability to speak reappears. According to Abeyta, “More than once, I’ve watched [my dad] coo and talk to [Roscoe] even as his ability to form sentences and find the words he needs to communicate has deteriorated.” Not wanting to lose the memory of the moment, she filmed a few moments of his interaction with her dog and uploaded the video to YouTube and Reddit. The video went viral with more than 4 million views and lots of positive comments from others in similar situations. She had no idea the video would touch so many people, and hopes others will have similar positive experiences with therapeutic animals.

Another astounding case of an animal’s effect on Alzheimer’s patients is Oscar, a cat who resides on the third floor dementia ward of Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Providence, Rhode Island. Oscar has the almost mystical ability to sniff out patients who face imminent death, and he invariably stays with them to offer comfort until they have passed. Often, Oscar will not leave a patient’s bedside until someone arrives to remove the deceased. Then, he will turn to the next most needy patient. Oscar’s story has been told in the masterful book, Making Rounds With Oscar, by David Dosa, M.D., a staff physician at Steere House. No one knows precisely what alerts Oscar to the pending demise of a dementia patient, but what is known is the comfort he gives to these patients at a time when they are most in need.

According to the Alzheimer’s Associationpet therapy dates back to the 1860s, though the positive impact of animals on Alzheimer’s patients wasn’t studied in earnest until the 1980s. Since May is National Pet Month, it is an ideal time to explore the many amazing cats, such as Oscar, and dogs, such as Roscoe, who offer such help and unconditional love to those with Alzheimer’s. Now, bunnies are also being used more and more for pet therapy. Please read our recent blog post about this topic for more details.

How do pets help those with Alzheimer’s? Due to the anxiety that social situations can cause those with Alzheimer’s, they often avoid social situations altogether, including interacting with family and loved ones. Research shows that people with dementia recognize pets as friendly and non-threatening. When they have a pet with them, studies show they display more interactive behaviors, as is the case with Lisa Abeyta’s father in our example. Check out this video which elaborates on the positive effects therapy animals can have on those with Alzheimer’s.

In addition to stimulating a social response, dementia patients may benefit from the presence of therapy animals because of:

  • Reduced agitation. Agitation behaviors, including verbal or physical outbursts, general emotional distress, restlessness, pacing, shredding (paper or tissues) that are common among later stage dementia patients, are reduced in the presence of a pet.
  • Physical activity. People dealing with Alzheimer’s can lose motivation to maintain physical activity. Depending on a patient’s mobility, he or she may be able to brush the animal, toss a ball, or even go for a short walk.
  • Lower blood pressure. Spending time with an animal has even been correlated to lower blood pressure and increased odds of survival after a heart attack.
  • Improved eating and personal hygiene. Those with Alzheimer’s sometimes neglect necessary daily activities such as eating or basic personal hygiene. Alzheimer’s patients have been shown to eat more and pay closer attention to basic hygiene following a pet’s visit.
  • Pleasure. Some patients simply enjoy the presence of the pet and its human companion, as well as the tricks that some therapy animals can do.
  • Increased socialization. Many individuals with Alzheimer’s, who respond to little or nothing else in their environment, will respond to the non-threatening presence of a gentle therapy animal. An animal provides a natural and easy conversation topic for dementia patients, who often feel a great deal of strain from being put into social situations.

Although therapy animals for Alzheimer’s patients are a recently emerging therapeutic treatment, there are certifications and registrations that exist to uphold a high standard for these animals. Visit Pet Partners and Love On A Leash for more details about training and certification programs. It is important to note that it takes a very special kind of animal to be used for therapy. It is crucial that the animal is of pleasant and suitable temperament. Therapy animals must be able to sit, stay, and resist distractions such as other animals or attractive smells. The animals must be bathed and groomed regularly, as the individuals they are interacting with on a daily basis are likely susceptible to disease and infection.

Do you have a loved one with Alzheimer’s who is nearing the need for long-term care or already receiving long-term care? Whether you are looking for a facility that allows pets or not, if you have not done Long-Term Care Planning, Estate Planning or Incapacity Planning (or had your Planning documents reviewed in the past several years), now is the time. Please call The Fairfax and Fredericksburg Medicaid Asset Protection Law Firm of Evan H. Farr, P.C. at 703-691-1888 in Fairfax or 540-479-1435 in Fredericksburg to make an appointment for a introductory consultation. While you are here, you will have the opportunity to meet our delightfully cuddly therapy bunny and therapy cats, as well as our cute but not-so-cuddly African dwarf frogs. 

P.S. Don’t forget about protecting your pet after your death! Read our post about Pet Trusts and be sure to include them in your planning. In addition, be sure to read “Critter Corner” each Friday, where our therapy pets answer elder law and estate planning questions.

The Perils of Dying With No Estate Plan

Q. My lifelong friend, Bruce, is in his 70’s and has never been married and has no children.  His parents and his sister and brother have predeceased him, and he has no nieces or nephews. On his father’s side, he has a cousin, Steve, who he has always been very close to – they grew up together and are more like brothers than cousins.  On his mother’s side he has twelve second cousins, most of whom he never met because his mother had a “falling-out” with that part of the family when before Bruce was even born. Bruce owns a home worth $500,000 in Northern Virginia and has some savings and investments. However, Bruce is stubborn and every time I suggest he should do Estate planning, he says he doesn’t need to.  Bruce (who went to one year of law school) says he’s certain it will automatically all go to his cousin Steve (which is what he wants) since Steve is a first cousin, and that nothing will go to the second cousins on his mom’s side because they’re second cousins. Because of this, Steve says he doesn’t need to do any Estate Planning.  He’s so sure about this that he was even willing to bet me money that he was right.  I’m not a better, plus I have no idea whether he’s correct of not, but I did agree to a “gentleman’s bet” just so we can find out the answer.  Can you please help us settle our gentleman’s bet?

A. Despite his one year of law school, Bruce is wrong in assuming that everything will to go to Steve.  On the contrary, if Bruce dies without having done Estate Planning, then half of Bruce’s estate will go to Steve and half will be divided among his 12 second cousins on his mother’s side – not the result that Bruce wants.  Keep reading to understand the details of why this would happen.

When a person dies intestate (without a Will or Living Trust) in Virginia, and has no surviving spouse, children, parents, siblings, or descendants of siblings, the decedent’s estate is divided into two equal parts, called “moieties.”  One moiety goes to the decedent’s father’s side and one moiety goes to the decedent’s mother’s side.

The recent Virginia case of Sheppard v. Junes, 2014 Va. Lexis 56, dealt with very issue.  In the case, John Sheppard died without a will.  Like Bruce, he never married and had no children.  His sister and parents predeceased him.  On his father’s side he was survived by a half-uncle (i.e., his father’s half-brother); on his mother’s side he was survived by fourteen second cousins.

The administrator of the estate sought advice from a circuit court to determine whether (i) John’s half-uncle was entitled to only one-quarter of the estate because half-bloods under Virginia law typically take half as much as whole-bloods or (ii) John’s half-uncle was entitled to one-half of the estate, because he was the only heir on the paternal side.  The circuit court held that John’s half-uncle was only entitled to receive one-quarter of the estate.  The Supreme Court reversed and held that John’s uncle was entitled to one-half of the estate because he was the only heir on the paternal side.

The Supreme Court based its decision on Section 64.2-200 of the Code of Virginia, stating that if a decedent has no surviving spouse, children, parents, siblings, or descendants of siblings, the estate is divided into two moieties.  Each moiety is entirely separate from the other, and keeps to its own side, as long as there is at least one person to take the moiety.  Under the statute, John’s uncle, even though he was only a half-uncle, was entitled to receive the entire paternal moiety, and the second cousins were entitled to the maternal moiety.

The court also reviewed section 64.2-202 of the Code of Virginia, which describes how to distribute the decedent’s estate. The court noted that the statute clearly instructs that the division among the heirs is applied separately to the paternal and to the maternal moieties created under section 64.2-200.  Because John’s uncle was the only relative for the paternal side, he was entitled to take the entire paternal moiety, and because the maternal moiety and the paternal moiety were separate, it did not matter that John’s uncle was a half-uncle and not a full uncle. 

As you can probably imagine, the court proceedings, time, publicity, and costs involved, were a nightmare for these families, that could have been easily avoided if Mr. Sheppard had simply done some basic Estate Planning. 

Many people think that Estate Plans are for someone else — not them. They may rationalize that they are too young or don’t have enough money to reap the tax benefits of a plan, or don’t have any family to leave their estate to.  Or, like Bruce, they may incorrectly think that the law will do what they want automatically. 

However, Estate Planning is for everyone, regardless of age, marital status, or net worth. Without proper Estate Planning and depending on how assets are titled, half of your friend Bruce’s assets could go to family who he has never met or hasn’t seen in decades, rather than to the one person who he wants to give it to. To avoid all this, it is highly recommended that your friend and others in his situation meet with a Certified Elder Law Attorney to explore their estate planning options to avoid unwanted consequences when they pass.

Estate planning strategies such as those employed by the Fairfax and Fredericksburg Estate Planning Firm of Evan H. Farr, P.C. are extremely valuable techniques for everyone — single or married – and of whatever sexual orientation. Most people work their entire lives to accumulate what they own.  Everyone needs the peace of mind that comes with making sure that their legal and financial affairs are taken care of if they become incapacitated, that decisions about health care are carried out the way they’d like even if they’re not able to make them, and that their loved ones are taken care of when that time eventually comes. To begin your Estate Planning or to update your documents, please call 703-691-1888 in Fairfax or 540-479-1435 in Fredericksburg to make an appointment for an introductory consultation.


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