A message from Virginia to internet lenders that prey on our residents:

Door Mat that says: Go Away, I bite with a dog and bite out of the mat

This is a doormat for sale online: http://bit.ly/2thm3IN

The Virginia Poverty Law Center has teamed up with the law firms of Kelly and Crandall and Consumer Litigation Associates.  Our goal is to “bite” unlawful internet lenders in a way that sends a message: Your loans violate state and federal law and are hurting Virginians by trapping them into extremely high-cost debt, ruining their credit and making their personal information available to scammers.  We won’t actually bite them—instead, we want to take a piece out of them where it counts, their pockets. And why not? They have drained millions from the bank accounts of Virginians.  We are asking the courts to make them pay restitution to Virginians harmed by their products, stop harassing Virginians to collect their illegal loans, and order them to stop making loans in Virginia.  We filed six lawsuits against internet lenders in the past few weeks.   We settled a class action lawsuit against a large internet lender a few months ago, and with the help of the Virginia Attorney General’s Office, we obtained $15 million in relief for 15,000 Virginians.  We are suing these lenders for violating Virginia usury laws (charging interest as high as 600%!) and violating the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act.

Help us take a bite out of this activity! If you have an internet loan or know someone who does—contact us for help or just to tell us your story! Email stories@vplc.org or call our Predatory Loan Hotline: 866-830-4501.

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The Key to Longevity May Lie in This Village

Boxin Huang (115) is the oldest resident of China’s Bapan Village, a tiny village where some of the oldest people in the world reside. At 115, Huang’s age is remarkable, but he is not alone, as many residents live long past 100 years. In fact, the town has around one centenarian for every 100 people living there; whereas the average ratio of centenarians in the US is one in 5780. Could this tiny village in China hold the secret to longevity?

John Day, MD, a cardiologist and medical director at the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute in Utah, discovered the village during a trip to China several years ago. He was amazed with what he saw, so he studied it extensively, and co-wrote a book about it with his wife, Jane, titled “The Longevity Plan: Seven Life-Transforming Lessons from Ancient China,” focusing on a lifestyle program that is grounded in the longstanding tradition found in the Chinese village.

A Mandarin speaker, Dr. Day came across intriguing research in a Chinese medical journal about Bapan Village, located in an area with one of the highest concentrations of people over the age of one hundred anywhere in the world. Deciding to investigate this potential fountain of youth further, Dr. Day first ventured out there in 2012. He discovered a place where incredibly low levels of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and dementia are the norm, even among its oldest residents.

Dr. Day not only studied the village. He also practiced its philosophies for good health, and he is living proof that the time-tested principles of well-being found in Bapan really do work. Just a few years ago when he was in his 40’s, Dr. Day was overweight due to a poor diet, in constant pain, and completely stressed out. He took six different medicines daily to combat his various conditions, which included high cholesterol, high blood pressure, degenerative joint disease, and insomnia. He had to heal himself. But how? The answers came in his research of the people of Bapan, China.

Since his initial visit to Bapan in 2012, Dr. Day has shed 35 pounds, shaved nearly 100 points off of his cholesterol level, reduced his blood pressure significantly, and improved his sleep. He’s been able to stop all of his prescriptions and resume vigorous workouts. The simple, yet profound, steps that he followed and wrote about in his book, include:

  • Eat good food: A good diet, free of added sugars and processed foods naturally plays a role, as does physical activity.
  • Master your mind-set: Some simple changes in mindset can help, too. He suggests that people smile more often. One resident, named Mawen, was 107 years old when they first met. She was feisty, funny and always smiling. When Dr. Day asked if she smiled even through there were the hard times in her life, she replied in Mandarin, “Those are the times in which smiling is most important, don’t you agree?”
  • Build your place in a positive community: All of the centenarians Dr. Day spoke to in Bapan told him that they are living the best years of their lives. Looking forward to later years that could be truly golden and seeing the positivity in things might be among the best things you can do for your health.
  • Be in motion: The older residents of Longevity Village never intended to exercise, but they did get exercise — lots of it. Almost every waking moment of their lives was spent in motion.
  • Rethink Stress: Among the people of Bapan, Dr. Day found an exceptionally low level of perceived stress. One day, he found himself picking vegetables with a man named Li Yu, who told Dr. Day that he was 50 years old. When Dr. Day mentioned that working in the field seemed like difficult and stressful work, Yu said, “It is hard work. By the time I am back at my home, though, I don’t think about how hard it is. I am always feeling satisfied about what I have accomplished during the day.”
  • Don’t forget to play. Many of us spend at least some of our lives engaged in exercise and athletics, but most of us don’t play. The villagers incorporated play throughout their days. Mawen, for instance, told Dr. Day about the adlibbed songs that she and her husband would sing as they worked in the fields. Day stresses that you can add play even in small ways. He says, “(w)hen I’m on call, I am often running from one end of the hospital to the other. Now, to make it a game, I try to see how many steps I can log on my iPhone.”
  • Make the most of your environment: The people living in Bapan Village are a five-hour bus ride away from the rest of civilization, so air pollution is not a problem there, at least not yet. But even here, you can take steps to ensure your air is as clean as possible. “If you smoke, stop. And invest in an air filter if you need to,” says Day.
  • Be socially connected: “Study after study shows the more social support, the longer people live. People have better survival when they are socially connected,” says Day. “Having a sense of purpose can significantly increase your longevity.” Research shows that men and women with stronger social relationships have a 50 percent higher likelihood of surviving longer, according to a review of studies including 308,000 participants.

Dr. Day has also used the lessons he learned to change his patients’ lives, as well, and he shares many of their inspirational success stories in the book. He says everyone, young and old, can benefit from the implementation of these choices and attitudes, too.

“The elderly residents of Bapan don’t just survive. They thrive physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually,” said Dr. Day. “And everyone can follow their lead. From consuming fresh, nutrient-rich fare to harnessing reserves of resilience in the face of inevitable hardships to setting (and resetting) fulfilling goals, our book provides a blueprint for greeting each day with optimism, energy, fortitude, and balance-and ensuring sound minds and active bodies for all the tomorrows to come.”

How Could We Live to Be 100 Or More?

In Bapan Village, people age very slowly and don’t struggle with obesity; villagers in their 90s and even 100s are often still out in their gardens and farms. There is virtually no heart disease or cancer. Dementia is all but unheard of.

Hopefully, some of the lessons Dr. Day shares from Bapan Village can be incorporated into our lives here. Remember, as you are eating healthy, exercising, and minimizing stress to maximize your longevity, it is also a good idea to plan for your future and for your loved ones. Our firm is dedicated to helping protect seniors by preserving dignity, quality of life, and financial security. 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), or if you have a loved one who is nearing the need for long-term care or already receiving long-term care, please call us to make an appointment for a no-cost initial consultation:

Fairfax Elder Law Attorney: 703-691-1888

Fredericksburg Elder Law Attorney: 540-479-1435

Rockville Elder Law Attorney: 301-519-8041

DC Elder Law Attorney: 202-587-2797

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First RAM Clinic to Southside VA Sponsored by Healthcare Navigator

VPLC Healthcare Navigator team joins effort to bring healthcare clinic to Southside Virginia

RAM Emporia Vision Clinic

Elise Brown, a healthcare navigator in Emporia, VA, took on the massive undertaking of getting the RAM (Remote Area Medical) clinic, famous for providing healthcare to thousands in Southwest Virginia, to the Southside region. Emporia and other parts of  Southside Virginia have many people in need of Medical care live in the Medicaid Gap.

Picture of Emporia RAM Clinic Event ENROLL! Virginia Healthcare Navigator team

Pictured are ENROLL! Virginia Healthcare Navigators Andrea Mora, Deepak Madala, Elizabeth Cunningham, and Sara Cariano

A team of ENROLL! Virginia healthcare navigators from Virginia Poverty Law Center (VPLC) and the Virginia Legal Aid Society (VLAS) joined  VLAS’s Elise Brown to enroll people in health insurance while the RAM Clinic provided health, dental and vision screenings at Greensville High School. The collaborative effort  had  664 patients who were able to register and $250,469 in services had been provided in the one-day clinic. VPLC would like to thank Elise for being persistent to bring the RAM Clinic to her community, the RAM Clinic who provides essential services and gives hope to many who would otherwise be without access to healthcare, and lastly to the many volunteers including the VPLC navigator team, as such events would not be possible without their help. This is the first time the RAM clinic came to Southside Virginia to provided free medical, dental and vision services, and we hope that there will be more events to come help to lower-income residents from Emporia and other parts of the Southside region.

RAM Clinic In Emporia Participants getting treament

RAM Clinic In Emporia Participants getting treament

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Could Lyme Symptoms Be Mistaken for Alzheimer’s?

Q. I recently read an article about songwriter and actor, Kris Kristofferson, who was told he was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease or some other type of dementia, and was actually misdiagnosed and had Lyme disease. He and his wife were amazed that after three weeks of Lyme treatment, along with dropping his Alzheimer’s and depression meds, his memory came back and he was back to normal!

My mother has memory loss that seems to be getting worse, and her doctor hinted that it could be Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. She used to camp and hike often, and never used any sort of insect repellent. I know Lyme can be a debilitating disease also, but it would be amazing if the symptoms she is experiencing could be Lyme disease instead of Alzheimer’s or dementia, because I know Lyme is treatable. And I know Alzheimer’s has no cure and only a handful of treatments available, which can alleviate some of the symptoms. To your knowledge, how common is Lyme being misdiagnosed as Alzheimer’s, what are some of the other symptoms of Lyme, what’s involved in getting tested? What if it really is Alzheimer’s? Thanks for your help!

A. Lyme disease is caused by an infected blacklegged tick, also known as a deer tick. If left untreated, it can eventually cause a host of debilitating symptoms, including severe headaches, rashes, stiff neck, severe joint pain and swelling, heart palpitations, facial paralysis, dizziness, nerve pain and memory loss, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Lyme disease has been misdiagnosed as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and up to 350 other diseases.

About 300,000 people are diagnosed with Lyme disease each year, according to the CDC, and the government has recognized it as a “major health threat.”

These symptoms of Lyme are usually seen between three and 30 days after a tick bite, the CDC says:

  • Fever and chills, headache, fatigue, muscle and joint pain, swollen lymph nodes
  • Rash known as erythema migraines (EM)

Later Signs and Symptoms may be experienced weeks or months after the bite, the CDC says, and can include:

  • Severe headaches;
  • Neck stiffness;
  • Additional rashes on other parts of the body;
  • Arthritis with severe joint pain and swelling, often in the knees;
  • Facial or Bell’s palsy;
  • Muscle and joint pain that comes and goes;
  • Heart palpitations or an irregular heartbeat;
  • Dizziness or shortness of breath;
  • Nerve pain;
  • Shooting pains, numbness, or tingling in the hands or feet; and
  • Problems with short-term memory.

Lyme Disease in the US

For years, medical practitioners and the public have been told that Lyme disease is rare to nonexistent in certain parts of our country, including the Southeast part of the US. However, recent evidence shows that Lyme has tripled in the United States over the last 2 decades. If diagnosed early—a rash (often shaped like a bullseye) commonly appears around the site of the tick bite—Lyme can be effectively treated with antibiotics, but longer term infections can produce more serious symptoms.

Called “The Great Imitator,” Lyme disease is often mistaken for illnesses such as fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, lupus, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS), Parkinson’s, ADHD, and Alzheimer’s. The symptoms mimic some of the symptoms of these diseases leading to misdiagnosis, as was the case with Kris Kristofferson and his Alzheimer’s diagnosis.

Testing for Lyme

According to LymeDisease.org, Lyme is a clinical diagnosis—based on your medical history, symptoms, and exposure to ticks. Sometimes, people who have Lyme disease can test negative for it until their body builds up antibodies. People who don’t have it can also test positive for other reasons, including autoimmune disorders, which is why the CDC recommends a two-tier testing process.

Two-tiered testing uses two tests. The first is a screening test that should detect anyone who might have the disease. This test is followed by a second test that is intended to make sure that only people with the disease are diagnosed. Read more about Lyme testing here.

In the situation with Kris Kristofferson, his wife believes that the singer must have been infected with Lyme disease by a tick bite when he was in Vermont, crawling around the woods while filming the movie “Disappearances,” which was released in 2006. The change in diagnosis – and treatment – has made a huge difference in his day-to-day life, as well as his career. After he was treated, the singer, who turned 80 last year, traveled to Canada to record with fellow legends Gordon Lightfoot and Ronnie Hawkins, and also played the lead in the movie “Traded,” which was released last June.

What if it Really is Alzheimer’s?

It would be amazing if a lot of the cases of Alzheimer’s turned out to be Lyme, and could be cured. Lyme isn’t easy to live with, but it’s much more treatable than Alzheimer’s, especially if it’s caught early. If you think your mother’s memory loss symptoms could be Lyme, since she may have had exposure to ticks, it doesn’t hurt to check with your doctor and for her to get tested.

Whether she has Alzheimer’s, Lyme, or something else, it is important for everyone to plan for the future, but legal plans are especially important for a person with Alzheimer’s disease. The sooner planning starts, the more the person with dementia may be able to participate.

At The Law Firm of Evan H. Farr, P.C., we are dedicated to easing the financial and emotional burden on those suffering from Alzheimer’s and their loved ones.  We help protect the family’s assets while maintaining your loved one’s quality of life, comfort and dignity, by ensuring eligibility for critical government benefits such as Medicaid and Veterans Aid and Attendance. Please call us as soon as possible to make an appointment for a no-cost consultation:

Fairfax Alzheimer’s Planning: 703-691-1888

Fredericksburg Alzheimer’s Planning: 540-479-1435

Rockville Alzheimer’s Planning: 301-519-8041

DC Alzheimer’s Planning: 202-587-2797

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Critter Corner: Are Ticks Especially Dangerous for Seniors?

Dear Baxter,

My grandfather insists on taking my brother and me camping every year. My mother has Lyme Disease, so she is very aware of how it spreads, and protects us with natural repellants. My grandfather throws caution to the wind, and won’t use sprays and wears shorts. Are tick bites especially dangerous for seniors, and how can he protect and check himself?

Cam Pingg


Dear Cam,

Ticks may be tiny, but they carry big threats for humans, and can be especially dangerous for seniors.

According to a report in the Journal of Medical Entomology, seniors are among the most vulnerable demographic when it comes to tick bites. This season, health experts have said that the tick populations are coming out particularly strong. They’ve been able to spread farther, invading new areas and thriving in places they haven’t been seen before. As ticks continue to expand their reaches, so do the diseases that they carry, and the number of people who have been infected steadily climbs.

Because seniors often have weaker immune systems, they face an especially high risk from tick bites. Lyme disease in particular, which is often not fatal in young adults, can be deadly for seniors or mistaken for other diseases with similar symptoms, such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s.

The best way to avoid getting Lyme disease is to fight the risks for tick bites. Your grandfather needs to take precautions when going out into areas that are likely to be tick infested. He should wear long sleeves and pants whenever possible and use a bug spray or natural tick repellent. After coming back inside, he should check his clothes, hair, and skin for the parasites.

Pet owners need to be especially careful, because dogs and cats can carry ticks inside the home. Domestic animals, such as myself, should be treated with a tick repellent and checked when they come indoors as well.

If seniors find ticks on themselves, they should immediately check for bites. Even if they aren’t sure they’ve been bitten, if they think they might have been they should seek medical attention.

Hope this is helpful,


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Plan Your Lifespan: A No-Cost Tool for Planning in Advance

Phyllis Mitzen, a 72-year-old semi-retired social worker, has worked with seniors for many years and understands the value of planning for future healthcare needs. Yet, she herself has put off the task. Phyllis’s husband is turning 76 this year. And although she and her husband are both still quite healthy, who knows what might happen a few years down the road?

To help herself, and others in similar situations, Mitzen, along with Lee Lindquist, MD, MPH, MBA, a geriatrician and associate professor of medicine at Northwestern University, envisioned PlanYourLifespan.org. PlanYourLifespan.org is a site designed to help older adults create concrete strategies for dealing with health crises that occur frequently with age, such as a hospitalization, a serious fall, and memory loss or dementia.

The basis for the website “was the need for a tool to help older people plan for the fourth quarter of their lives,” says Lindquist, and to understand their future potential health needs, and plan how to address them before a crisis occurs. Older adults can use the website to learn about what services they may need over time, what choices they can make now, and how to access these services when needed. The website also encourages users to talk about these plans with family members or other people they trust.

The Need to Think and Plan Ahead

Many older Americans underestimate the need to plan for future health events. In fact, most older adults don’t plan for the 5, 10, or 20 years before they die. “These years are when their medical conditions may worsen, and they may require more help to remain in their own home,” says Lindquist. “Often, because the older adult is ill or incapacitated, he or she doesn’t get a voice in what happens. If older adults and their families planned ahead, individuals could maintain more control and potentially remain safely in their homes as long as they chose.”

Website users get a variety of practical information, including not only how to prevent falls at home but also tips on remembering to take medications, finding a caregiver, and planning which rehab facilities they’d prefer using, if necessary. Older adults helped the team prepare the site, developing the topics and text, as well as advising that the site needed high-contrast illumination and a large font for easy readability.

The website walks users through the planning process. Without that planning (and legal planning done with an experienced elder law attorney), if you are hospitalized or develop memory loss, somebody else makes those decisions for you. The tool, when used with proper legal planning, is intended to give seniors a voice in their future.

Testing the Website

The team’s initial evaluation—comparing older adults sent to either PlanYourLifespan.org or a control website—showed that the new website is effective in increasing planning, knowledge about support services, and communication about preferences.

  • The project team enrolled 600 volunteers aged 65 and older, randomly assigning the volunteers to either PlanYourLifespan.org or a control website.
  • Volunteers were interviewed about their planning activities just before and after using the websites, as well as one and three months later.
  • Compared with older adults who had used the control website, the people who had used PlanYourLifespan.org had made more plans for their future, had a better understanding of what they would need, and had communicated these plans with loved ones.
  • During the study, volunteers who were randomized to the PlanYourLifespan.org website were asked not to discuss it with others, but there was a lot of leakage which was not necessarily a bad thing because it helped researchers to realize how helpful the site was.

The researchers stopped the study early so that the website would be freely available to all the participants—as well as to the general public.  According to Lindquist, “It was awesome. We met with our patient partners and stakeholders, who were equally thrilled. It is a researcher’s dream to create a product that proves effective in helping seniors.”

Building the Tool

PlanYourLifespan.org is currently available for free, through support from Northwestern University.

The tool presents questions related to scenarios based on common health crises and provides information about options for future care. It generates a personalized report of the user’s expressed preferences. Users can save the report, print it out, or even email copies of it to loved ones. Lindquist says, “It can serve as a checklist that families and friends can follow if something happens to the older person.”

The tool is available in both electronic and paper versions, so older people who aren’t comfortable with computers can still benefit. The paper version will provide mailing addresses and phone numbers, as well as web addresses, for home-care and other support services.

Lindquist encourages “seniors and seniors-to-be” to visit PlanYourLifespan.org. “No one knows what their future health holds, but we all want to have our voices heard throughout our lifespans,” she says. “Are you prepared to turn 80, 90, or 100 years old?”

Some Takeaways to Consider

In conducting the focus groups for the PlanYourLifespan.org tool with older adults and follow-up interviews with those supporting them (spouses, other family members, and friends), older adults shared their concerns, including:

  • being able to remain in their homes;
  • their views about and experiences with home-care services;
  • the extent to which they had discussed their long-term care plans with family members.
  • how they may not want to ask for help;
  • how a caregiver in their home would be intrusive;
  • how to find the services that would be helpful;
  • reasons for delaying planning for their future health needs;
  • having tough conversations vs. denying the possibility of future needs and avoiding the discussion altogether.

Spouses, family members, and friends reported worries about:

  • their loved one’s future;
  • any conversations about long-term care needs; and
  • their readiness to make decisions with or for the older person when necessary.

Do you and your loved ones share these concerns? If so, be sure to talk to your loved ones, using the PlanYourLifespan.org or a similar website or tool, if desired, and make an appointment with an experienced elder law attorney such as myself. Knowing that you are prepared will provide you and your family with much-needed peace of mind and a measure of confidence about your future.

Do Your End-of-Life Planning with Us

Planning for end of life issues is an emotional and difficult task for most of us, and it is an important first step to making sure your wishes are clear. Luckily, there are tools such as planyourlifespan.org that are designed to help. Once you have taken the step of speaking with your loved ones about your wishes, it is important to develop incapacity planning documents, including an Advance Medical Directive, to make your wishes legally enforceable. If you and your loved ones have not done Incapacity Planning, Long-Term Care Planning, or Estate Planning (or had your Planning documents reviewed in the past several years), now is a good time to plan and get prepared. Call us to make an appointment for a no-cost initial consultation:

Fairfax Estate Planning Attorney: 703-691-1888

Fredericksburg Estate Planning Attorney: 540-479-143

Rockville Estate Planning Attorney: 301-519-8041

DC Estate Planning Attorney: 202-587-2797

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When A Senior Neighbor Needs Your Help

Q. My neighbor, Sam, has lived alone in his home ever since his wife died three years ago. He used to come outside and greet us and attend neighborhood events. Now, he goes days on end without speaking to anyone. His son, who lives an hour away, used to stop by twice a week to help with household chores and bring groceries. As his work responsibilities have increased, however, he has not been visiting.

It seems to me that Sam lacks regular and positive social interactions with anyone. He keeps his shades pulled tightly, and his yard is unkempt, and if I didn’t see him scurry to the end of the driveway to get his morning paper, I would wonder if he even still resided there. We tried to ring the doorbell to say hello, but he pretends like no one is home and doesn’t answer. We are concerned. How can we check on him without seeming intrusive, and if he needs help, what can we do to help him, without overstepping our boundaries as neighbors?

A. As we age, and as our families spread out, we all need to show concern for each other and lend a helping hand when needed. Thank you for being a concerned citizen and neighbor.

Problems can certainly arise when seniors have no one to check in on them and no family to step in and help out. Seniors who live alone, similar to your neighbor, can suffer from social isolation and health problems, and without any support, can exhibit poor self-care, a neglected home, and problems running errands and caring for pets.

Signs That Your Older Neighbor May Need Help

Below are some signs that your neighbor may need assistance. Sometimes, these changes can be an indication of loneliness, depression, poor mobility or cognitive, financial, or social decline:

  • A decline in home or lawn maintenance: Less mobility and/or a lack of desire to leave the home means your neighbor may be unable to maintain his property.
  • Doors, windows, and curtains remain closed: If you neighbor is having trouble with chores, he may be hiding the condition of his living space. On the other hand, if you neighbor is experiencing social isolation, he may be disengaging by shielding his safe zone.
  • Vehicle rarely moves, very few visitors: Declined mobility or social isolation (as well as a lack of financial resources) may influence how often your neighbor ventures away from home, or how often he or welcomes people inside his home. If your neighbor isn’t leaving home (or routinely visited) for long periods of time, chances are he is not interacting in social spaces with friends, family, church members, etc.
  • Change in physical appearance: Although illness is a major culprit in altered physical and mental conditions, self-esteem and mental wellbeing can also contribute to changes in physical appearance. Talk to your neighbor (if you can) or solicit the assistance of an outside party.
  • Leaves mail unattended: If your neighbor is not stepping outside of his home to collect mail for long periods of time, this is a strong indication of social isolation or possible cognitive decline.

How to Step In

When we become aware that a friend, family member, or neighbor needs some extra assistance, we are sometimes hesitant to step in. Your neighbor may not want anyone to get involved, or may not want his privacy intruded upon. Here is a good place to start, when you truly want to help:

  1. Approach the subject gently, conveying your concern. Talk to your neighbor first, in a tactful way. Try knocking on the door once again, or approaching him while he is getting his paper. You might start by asking how he’s doing and then mention something you’ve noticed, such as an unmowed lawn or mail spilling out of the box. Offer to help, if you’re willing and able to do so. Some people will gladly accept; others may not.

Your neighbor may open up to share his situation from his perspective. He might have solutions, but no way to carry them out. He may want someone specific to be called in to help, but he may not know how to start the conversation to ask for help. Whatever the situation, some attention needs to be brought to the forefront.

  1. Once you have investigated the problem, follow your neighbor’s suggestions and his lead, and help him to help himself. Always try to preserve independence and dignity, as much as you can.
  2. Contact one of his family members. Many times, families are simply unaware that their loved one is having these issues. By communicating with his children or siblings, you can ensure that they are mindful of the issues and can respond accordingly.
  3. If you can’t get in touch with family and your neighbor is truly isolated, or if he needs more services than neighbors can provide, get in touch with your local Area Agency on Aging and describe the situation to them. These agencies are the experts on what’s available in terms of assistance programs to help seniors live safely at home, such as: health and wellness programs; in-home care coordination; adult day care; senior housing options; transportation; and more. In addition, if your neighbor belongs to a religious congregation, ask the head of the congregation if they have resources to help their senior members at home.
  4. Involve the police, if necessary: Remember that if you’re ever worried about a friend, neighbor, or loved one’s immediate safety, you can request a wellbeing check from your local police department or sheriff’s office. If you believe that your neighbor is in a life-threatening situation, contact 911

Identifying and Combatting Elder Abuse

This week, we observe World Elder Abuse Day. Elder abuse can be in the form of neglect, financial exploitation, emotional abuse, or physical abuse. Read more about elder abuse here, and be sure to educate yourself on the issue. If you suspect your neighbor is being abused or neglected, report suspected mistreatment to your local adult protective services agency or law enforcement.

Visit Your Father this Father’s Day, if he is still with us (or your neighbor or other senior loved ones)

Father’s Day is on Sunday, and it’s a great day to spend time with those you care about, so visit your father if he is still around, your neighbor, or a senior loved one. When you visit someone who doesn’t get regular visitors (even when he or she has Alzheimer’s or some other form of dementia) you may have impacted that person in a major way, especially if he or she is lonely and/or feeling isolated or depressed. The feelings you create by showing you care can change how he or she interacts with others and improve his or her mood. Remember, the benefit of your visit (or a call, if you cannot visit) will likely last, so call and visit senior loved ones whenever you can.

For your neighbor (suggest to him or his family) or if you have a senior loved one, or even for yourself, 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. As always, please contact us when you’re ready to make an appointment for a no-cost introductory consultation:

Fairfax Elder Law: 703-691-1888

Fredericksburg Elder Law: 540-479-1435

Rockville Elder Law: 301-519-8041

DC Elder Law: 202-587-2797

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Critter Corner: 15 Things to Ask Your Father/Grandfather This Father’s Day

Dear Ribbit,

My children are very inquisitive and want to find out about their father and their grandfather. We are all going to brunch at my parent’s house on Sunday. While were there, they want to ask them questions, but don’t know exactly what to ask. Do you know of any questions/talking points I can give them to get the conversation started?


Ann Sirrs


Dear Ann,

Father’s Day brings back a lot of memories for and about fathers and grandfathers. It is great that your children are interested in learning more about your husband and his father, and that they have the opportunity to share their experiences, memories, and guidance with them. As you know, part of that process is asking the right questions. Here are some they can use to get the conversation going:

  1. Where and when were you born, and do you remember anything about your early childhood?
  2. What do you remember about your siblings from growing up?
  3. What do you remember about your parents and grandparents?
  4. Did you have any dogs or cats (or other pets) growing up?
  5. What did you like to do for fun? Did you play any sports?
  6. Did you live in a house or an apartment? What was it like? What was your room like?
  7. Where did you go to school? Who were your best friends? What was your favorite subject, and who was your favorite teacher?
  8. What did you want to be when you grew up?
  9. Who were your heroes or role models when you were young?
  10. What big world events do you remember from when you were growing up?
  11. What kinds of clothes, hobbies, slang terms were popular when you were a teenager?
  12. Did you go to college? What did you study? If you didn’t go to college, do you wish you had had the opportunity? What did you do instead?
  13. What was your first job? What was your favorite job?
  14. How did you meet your spouse? How old were you when you met/got engaged/got married? What was the wedding like?
  15. Do you know any stories about the history of the family name, or the origins of the family?

There is a longer list of questions on the Legacy Project web page, as well as games and activities, from art projects to writing activities to guessing games.

Here at the Farr Law Firm, we offer our clients a way to easily capture and pass on their personal legacies, through the award-winning LegacyStories.org website and companion mobile app.  With the Legacy Stories App, your family can compose, organize, preserve, and share teir legacy stories with their own Legacy Story Blog; curate, preserve and share photos in a format that helps future generations learn about family history. Learn more about Legacy Stories here.

Happy Father’s Day. Have fun sharing memories with your children!


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Should You Collect Social Security Earlier for a “Happier Retirement?”

For years, Social Security experts were suggesting that seniors wait as long as they could to collect their Social Security benefits. But the tide is turning, and now, some experts are saying to go ahead and collect your benefits earlier, rather than waiting.

The full retirement age is going through a slow change. However, the range when you can claim Social Security will remain the same for the foreseeable future: from as early as 62 to as late as 70. For many, it clearly makes sense to wait until your 70th birthday to claim benefits for maximum payouts. But many Americans are claiming Social Security early, with 38% of men and 44% of women filing for benefits as soon as they become eligible.

The “Leisure in Retirement: Beyond the Bucket List” Study

Recently, Merrill Lynch and Age Wave launched the “Leisure in Retirement: Beyond the Bucket List” study to understand the priorities, experiences, and challenges of leisure in retirement, and the topic of when to collect Social Security was addressed. According to study results, the best reason to claim Social Security early is because even if the payout is less, you can use the money earlier to make your day-to-day experience of retired life happier. This study is based on a nationally representative survey of more than 3,700 respondents, nationally representative of age, gender, ethnicity, income, and geography.

Unless you’re truly in love with your job, there’s something that the added income of Social Security can buy you that nothing else can: free time. If you have extra income from working, you can buy things like a nice car, vacations, fancy gadgets etc. This is called material affluence. What many of us don’t consider is time affluence, or the time we spend enjoying our retirement. Knowing that the added income of Social Security can give you the freedom you need to live your golden years the way you want, it’s important to maximize these years, and sometimes that means taking less money, but taking it a lot sooner.

Taking Social Security Administration Mortality Rates into Account

According to the Social Security Administration, a 62-year-old man has on average another 20 years to live, while a 62-year-old woman has 23 years. If you waited until you were 70 to collect Social Security, as a man you would have on average, 10 more years, and as a female, 13 more years (Remember, this is an average. A lot of us are living much longer!) Taking these numbers into account, do you want to enjoy less extra income ten years sooner, or wait to get more ten years later?

Why Retirees Are Taking Social Security Earlier

Retirees who collect Social Security earlier are using the extra income to enjoy more freedom, more fun, new beginnings, and greater emotional wellbeing than at any other point in their lives. According to the Merrill Lynch/Age Wave survey:

  • Greater freedom: 92% of retirees say retirement gives them greater freedom and flexibility to do whatever they want—regardless of how much money they have. Between ages 61-75, retirees reach the “freedom zone,” where they enjoy the greatest balance of health, free time, fun, and emotional wellbeing.
  • More fun: Despite popular media portrayals of fun as primarily the domain of youth, it turns out that the experience of fun rises in midlife and peaks in retirement.
  • Greater emotional wellbeing: Lifetime emotional wellbeing peaks in retirement. Feelings of happiness, contentment, and relaxation soar, while anxiety seems to plummet.
  • More experiences rather than things: Most retirees (95%) say they would prefer to have more enjoyable experiences rather than buy more things. Retirees enjoy two types of leisure: “everyday leisure,” where most seek to de-stress and improve their health and “special occasion leisure,” where retirees seek unique or rare peak experiences that give them lasting memories. 81% of retirees say they want a retirement filled with many peak experiences.
  • More time with family and friends: Retirees tell us who they spend time with (61%) is far more important than what they do (39%), and that’s even more true for women than men.

Why Some People Wait

For those who can afford to wait — and that would include anyone with retirement accounts that can be drawn down, penalty-free — claiming social security early will cost you, on average, thousands of dollars a year. By waiting to collect benefits until age 70, you are in effect buying extra insurance — insurance against what is perhaps the greatest danger of retirement: outliving your savings.

Here are some things you should know:

  • Depending on your age, you may choose to take your Social Security benefits at age 62, but doing so may result in a reduction of as much as 30% of your benefits, according to the Social Security Administration (SSA).
  • For early retirees, the SSA reduces a retirement benefit by 5/9 of 1 percent for each month before normal (or full) retirement age, up to 36 months. If the number of months exceeds 36, then the benefit is further reduced by 5/12 of 1 percent per month.
  • The Social Security Administration also imposes limits on income for early retirees. For instance, if early retirees earned more than $16,920 in 2017, their Social Security benefits would be reduced by $1 for every $2 they earn above the limit.
  • Each year you wait past full retirement age to claim Social Security benefits up to age 70, you earn an 8 percent delayed retirement credit that will increase your Social Security benefits in addition to cost of living adjustments.

Be Sure to Educate Yourself About Social Security

Social Security rules and strategies are very complex. Before making any decisions, be sure to educate yourself. Below are tools related to Social Security and retirement planning, that can provide more details:

Specialized Long-Term Care Financial Planning

Whether you collect Social Security earlier or later, it is important to plan in advance to live comfortably, and to deal effectively with challenges as they arise. For 30 years, my law firm and I have been providing you and our other clients with caring and compassionate legal services designed to ensure that your wishes will be carried out when you die, and that your assets are protected from the catastrophic expenses of long-term care. What many clients don’t realize is that we also do specialized financial planning to help clients pay for long-term care, because the legal strategies we use for asset protection are not right for everyone, and many clients benefit from a combination of legal and financial long-term care asset protection strategies. If you haven’t yet done your own long-term care planning, or think you current long-term care plan may not be fully adequate, come see me for a no-cost initial consultation.

Fairfax Retirement Planning: 703-691-1888

Fredericksburg Retirement Planning: 540-479-1435

Rockville Retirement Planning: 301-519-8041

DC Retirement Planning: 202-587-2797

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Advice from the Caregiving Experts

Q. I am new to caregiving. And, when I say new, I mean completely new. I am a workaholic who is divorced and doesn’t have children, and never even had a pet. I am very close with my mother, who I speak with on the phone daily.

Recently, I got some troubling news about mom — that she’s been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. She’s in the early stages right now, so she is still very much the person I have always known and loved. I’m her only child and my dad died years ago, so I’m all she has. She asked if I could move in with her to help her out. Of course I said yes. Unfortunately, I will have to be a long-distance caregiver for the first six months, since I am currently under contract with my job and cannot telecommute. Then, I will become a freelance consultant and will hopefully be able to juggle work and caregiving.

Since I am so new at this, can you offer any tips for long distance caregiving, and tips for when I move in and care for someone with Alzheimer’s? Thanks in advance for your help!

A.  Family members provide 80% of the long-term care in the US, and the need for assistance and education is great—and growing. Similar to many people with a senior parent, most of us are not completely prepared for what caregiving entails, or the tough reality of a loved one’s age-related decline.

Sure, we all know our loved ones are growing older, but we don’t always face up to all the implications. Below are some of the many lessons experienced caregivers have learned, from their ongoing experiences as caregivers, and the difficulties faced (and ultimately overcome) along the way:

-If you are a long-distance caregiver, include local people on your caregiving team. Amy Goyer, author of Juggling Life, Work and Caregiving, describes how her paternal grandparents lived far away, without any other family members nearby. Her family had to manage their care via phone and intermittent in-person visits. They relied on the area agency on aging, home care providers, church members, her grandmother’s hairstylist, and other service providers and neighbors, to keep up with what is happening with her grandparents when she and her immediate family couldn’t be there in person.

-When you move in with your loved one, make local connections. Carlen Maddux, author of A Path Revealed, was a caregiver for his wife with Alzheimer’s, until she passed away a few years ago. He describes how caregiving can be isolating and caregivers often feel as if they are all alone. He stresses the need to make connections wherever you can, and suggests finding support (and counseling, if available) through your religious community.

-Keep the love connection going. Joan Lunden, TV personality and author of Chicken Soup for the Soul- Family Caregivers, stresses the importance of telling your loved one that you love them as much as possible! James Ashley agrees that the love connection will help your loved one to thrive. Show your love with hugs, kisses, and by simply talking to them. For loved ones with Alzheimer’s, remind them of their past, show them pictures from their lives, and help them to experience moments of happiness.

-Finding yourself a qualified senior advocate can help save time and stress. James Ashley, an Alzheimer’s caregiver, stresses the valuable resources a senior advocate can provide that you may not have known about otherwise. A reputable senior referral service, such as your local Area Agency on Aging, or A Place for Mom, can help you with things such as determining the needs and desires of your loved one, and/or find the right living arrangement for him or her.

-Forgive and seek forgiveness. Dr. Alexis Abramson, author of The Ultimate Caregiver, urges family caregivers to forgive a parent who may have been uncaring or abusive in the past, even if you feel he or she may not deserve it. Try your best not to hold grudges, as it will surely affect your ability to care for your parent, and it will also hurt you.

Take care of yourself first. Feylyn Lewis, a caregiver, believes that self care is something that everyone tells caregivers to do, but for most caregivers, they just don’t have the time. She stresses that it can be a real challenge, so caregivers should be sure to give themselves a break and to avoid being over-critical and feeling guilty when they simply can’t do it all. Her advice is to prioritize tasks and give yourself permission to not do it all!

-Keeping a journal is good for emotional well-being. Carlen Maddux believes that keeping a journal helps caregivers keep track of research and information, and can also be used to vent and track a caregiver’s emotional journey. After his wife passed away, going through his journal became an important part of his grieving process.

Face the Facts. Dr. Alexis Abramson stresses that even if a family member wants to offer the help, sometimes an aging loved one needs round-the-clock care and constant supervision that a caregiver can’t provide. When that happens, caregivers should acknowledge that someone (or some place) may be better equipped for a loved one, and accept that that is okay.

Seek financial aid and advice. Carlen Maddux acknowledges that caregiving takes a huge financial toll on people in all economic situations and families of all backgrounds. Many of us who can’t afford to care for our loved ones around the clock. In addition to looking for subsidized programs, he encourages family caregivers to invest in an experienced elder care lawyer. His elder law attorney helped his family through the Medicaid process to pay for nursing home care, and he admits that they’d be broke if they tried to do it themselves. He insists that caregivers should NOT let caregiving destroy their financial well-being.

Continually reassess and monitor your loved one’s situation. Amy Goyer conveys that long-distance caregivers should ask those who are local to keep an eye out for red flags, such as mail piling up outside, a dangerously messy or cluttered house, less attention to personal care, repeated falling, or loneliness and isolation. If needed, be sure to make adjustments to your caregiving plan, and increase support, when the time is right to do so.

-Get your Parents Involved in Eldercare and End of Life Planning Gail Sheehy, bestselling author of 16 books, including Passages in Caregiving: Turning Chaos into Confidence discusses the importance of knowing your loved ones wishes as part of end-of life planning. Be sure to meet with an experienced elder law attorney while your loved one is still competent, to plan for when he or she may need more help.

As you can see from the advice above, caregiving for a loved one can be rewarding, and both emotionally and mentally taxing. While caregiving is not always without joy, it is also never without sacrifice. For many, caregiving takes a toll on emotional well-being, physical health, careers, and quality of life. There is also a lack of support and training for caregivers (although resources do exist). Please be sure to take care of yourself and take advantage of services that offer respite and support.

At the Farr Law Firm, we recognize that caring for a loved one strains even the most resilient people. If you’re a caregiver, take steps to preserve your own health and well-being.  Part of taking care of yourself is planning for your future and for your loved ones. Please call us to make an appointment for a no-cost initial consultation:

Fairfax Elder Law: 703-691-1888

Fredericksburg Elder Law: 540-479-1435

Rockville Elder Law: 301-519-8041

DC Elder Law: 202-587-2797


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