Silicon Valley and the Sandwich Generation: Apps for the Elderly

They call them the sandwich generation: adults who are simultaneously caring for their children and their aging parents.

You find “sandwichers” everywhere, from factories to firms, and that includes Silicon Valley — home to the country’s leading tech giants.

Reuters recently chronicled Stephanie Tilenius’s journey from her role as Google’s Commerce Chief to the head of her own startup. It’s called Vida, and for $15 a week, it gives elderly patients direct access to doctors, nurses, and nutritionists through their smartphones. Available as a mobile app, Vida even includes regularly scheduled medication reminders.

Tilenius is one of many from the Silicon crowd who’ve ventured into the “elder app” market over the last few years. While the senior population has been relatively slow to embrace smartphone technology, there is now enough utility and demand there to justify a swift influx of former tech execs.

We may very well be on the cusp of a major explosion of IT for the elderly. As it has in most other facets of modern live, handheld technology could absolutely revolutionize elder care in America. It’s an exciting time for the field, and I can’t wait to see what waits in store.

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Lost in the Water

Swim meets are best summed up as sitting on a hard concrete bench for 4.5 hours for a total of two-ish minutes of excitement watching your child. The only other time to reap any rewards as a parent at a swim meet is during “warmups” – which last a lot longer than any of the individual events. Maybe as long as 20 minutes. (I’ve been too focused on watching my son to bother timing it.) 

If you’ve never been to a swim meet, you can’t quite understand the assault on the senses that occurs. The walls are all tile and concrete, leading to an overwhelming roar that forces your hearing to shut off as you focus on your child swimming in the warmup lane. (Pro-tip, noise canceling headphones are a wise investment.)

The warmup lane is its own form of chaos as 40 gangly 10, 11, and 12 year olds cram into 3 yards of water wide and 25 yards long. Swimmers jockey for position as their natural talent carries them faster than people in front of them. There is an elegant sportsmanship as slower swimmers make way for speedsters motoring through. And kids who jumped off fifth from the block, might be 12th in the blink of an eye, and then eighth in another blink. 

Making things worse for me (as a parent) is that everyone on my son’s team wears the same red cap and same black and red swimsuit. The girls have a suit that covers more of them, but picking that out in a literal sea of swimmers takes time and a lifetime of eating carrots. 

With warm ups being the longest time to watch my son at a meet, I hate it when I lose him in the lane (because it’s so crowded, because there’s jockeying for position, because they all look the same). I tend to rely on my instinct as a parent — the instinct all parents have — to instantly pick out the form of my child from a distance. We spend so much time with them, watching their gait and outline — we know which one is “ours” at a quick glance, in a crowd, and from more than  a football field away. 

Today, though, I keep losing him. And it takes me a lot of time to pick him back up. And I realize why I can’t find him in the water — his form and shape are longer and bigger than my heart tells me I should be looking for. 

At 11, and in 5th grade (which is to say “on the cusp of middle school and pre-teen-ville”), he’s no longer my boy, nor really even “mine”. I’ve had him belted into my sidecar as we have hurtled down life and he’s now got to start to steer his own way. It’s something that he’s started to demand as the person he is has become revealed like a sculpture from a block of marble. And I’m encouraged by what I see. 

It’s time. I can still provide the guardrails to make sure he doesn’t steer directly into oncoming traffic. But, he’s got to take the wheel and learn the controls. Because sooner than I’d like, even the guardrails disappear. 

For today, I’m going to make sure I don’t lose him in the water. 

Posted by Victor Medina
Medina Law Group, LLC

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Old Age Is Something to Look Forward To

Barbra Streisand famously sang about memories of “the way we were.” But what if our best memories are still to come?

An interesting debate recently played out on the op/ed page of The New York Times. In response to noted professor Ezekiel Emanuel’s assertion that it’s best to die by one’s mid-70s and avoid years of gradual decline, columnist David Brooks argued that our last years are actually our best.

“If [Professor Emanuel] dies at 75,” Brooks opined, “he’ll likely be missing his happiest years. People in their 20s rate [their happiness] highly. Then there’s a decline…. bottoming out around age 50. But then happiness levels shoot up… the people who rate themselves most highly are those ages 82 to 85.”

Indeed, week after week, we see new stories and studies about the ever-blossoming elder population in America. The Times cites scientific studies about changes in the brain that actually cause increased happiness in elders. But much of it, Brooks reckons, is the result of a long life well lived.

Take Streisand, for instance. At age 72, she just released one of the bestselling albums of her career, becoming the first recording artist in history to score a #1 album in six different decades. It’s already gone Gold!

While promoting the album, Streisand rounded the late-night circuit in high spirits, talking at great length about the hard-earned happiness she feels.

We may not all sell half a million records before we’re 80, but there’s no reason to think we won’t have that same glow of fulfillment on our faces.

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A Retroactive Resolution for New Year’s

Did you forget to make your New Year’s resolutions? Or maybe you’ve already broken them? (Hey, statistically speaking, more than half the population will have already broken theirs by now!)

Well it still isn’t too late to turn over a new leaf!

I recently came across an article out of Wisconsin’s Beloit Daily News that asked why people focus so much on fitness in their New Year’s resolutions rather than finances?

Estate planning is particularly overlooked in the resolution routine, perhaps because it doesn’t feel like a “fun” way to kick off a new beginning. But, as the Daily News points out, there are thousands of totally unexpected deaths every year.

When people pass away without an adequate plan in place, they leave their loved ones a complicated and often-expensive hurdle. That can be avoided by simply spending a little time on a comprehensive estate plan.

After all, New Year’s is the time for taking stock of all those little items we’ve left unmarked on life’s checklist. January is a prime opportunity to finally tackle all our do-it-laters. For many, “estate planning” still has a glaringly empty checkbox beside it.

There is still time to change that! As 2015 gets underway, we encourage you to give your estate plan a little time and attention. You and your loved ones will be glad you did.

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What Does “Elder Law” Mean, Anyway?

Ever wonder what “elder law” really means? I suspect you’re not alone.

Elder law is one of those terms that we all hear a lot but which rarely get defined… maybe because there isn’t any single definition that would work. Elder law is so many things.

As an elder law attorney, I end up working with countless areas of law. The field I find myself in on a given day is really determined by the field my clients need me in. Whether it’s housing, healthcare, property, family law, or financial planning, so-called “elder law” really does run the gamut.

You might even say it’s more a type of client than it is a kind of law – a point a fellow attorney recently made in Michigan’s Times Herald. His column defines “elder law” as “the legal matters affecting seniors,” and that’s not a bad way to put it.

At the end of the day, elderly people are just that: people. And just like all the rest of us people, their interests and needs intersect with virtually aspect of modern living.

An older person’s perspective on business, health, insurance, investments, and more may differ from a very young person’s, but their needs are no more confined to “old stuff” than anyone else’s.

It’s not just about nursing homes or estates. Those play important parts, yes, but they are only pieces in a much bigger puzzle.

The important thing for my clients to realize is that I’m here to help them in life’s many different arenas. Elder law is ultimately a practice of various, intersecting legal fields, and I am here to help protect my clients’ best interests in all of them.

So whatever it is you might have questions about, please don’t hesitate to ask. Even if it doesn’t sound like something you’d call “elder,” there’s a good chance it still falls within an elder law attorney’s fields of practice and passion.

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Snow Means Special Challenges for Seniors, Nursing Homes in NJ

The year’s first snowfall is always an exciting thing, but a little goes a long way. Here in New Jersey, of course, we get more than just a little.

For our state’s senior population, substantial snowfall can be a serious concern, and not just because of the cold weather. When blizzards become emergencies, issues like transportation, evacuation, and access to healthcare present true urgencies for the elderly.

A recent New York Times article describes the turmoil that a Buffalo, NY nursing home is enduring during the most recent snowstorm, which is responsible for more than a dozen deaths. Among those killed is a 92-year-old resident at Garden Gate Health Care Facility, though the circumstances of her death (and the role that snowfall played) remain unclear.

It was Hurricane Sandy that taught nursing homes nationwide to take emergency evacuation plans seriously. Many elderly and mentally disabled patients along coastal New Jersey and New York were stranded.

But even with an evacuation plan in place, the unforeseeable can still arise. That’s what happened in Buffalo, where the nursing home was surprised to find its structural integrity in question thanks to several feet of snow. A nearby warehouse had already collapsed. The available solutions all seemed like a challenge.

Of course, evacuations are never easy. That’s especially true when frail seniors with pressing healthcare needs are involved.

As the winter months press on, it’s important to keep calm but also to have a plan in place for your family. Talk with your loved ones’ nursing homes or assisted living facilities. Are they prepared for sudden winter emergencies? Do you know where your family members will go or how they’ll get there?

If you have questions about senior care and winter-weather preparedness, a New Jersey elder law attorney can help. Feel free to give us a call to talk about your concerns.

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Why the Holidays are the Perfect Time to Update an Estate Plan

We all know the holidays are the right time for sleigh riding, bell ringing, and tree trimming… but what about estate planning?

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette recently suggested something I like to remind my clients of as well: the holidays truly are the perfect time to update an estate plan.

Why? Two reasons, really: togetherness and timing.

The holiday season seems to bring with it an endless parade of family functions and gatherings. Some of us may see more of our families during the last two to three months of the year than we do in the others combined.

It’s a good time, then, to have important conversations about changes in assets, liabilities, and plans for the future. Having the whole family nearby can make it easier to square things away.

If you haven’t already, you should talk with the adults in your family (especially any parents and/or the elderly) about the current status of their estate plans. Do they have all the necessary documents in place? At a minimum, an estate plan should include a will, a power of attorney, healthcare directives, and in most cases, one or more trusts.

And because the holidays come at the end of the year, they also present a prime opportunity to think about your tax planning, both for next year and for the final quarter of 2014 (before it runs out).

If you or your family members have questions about estate documents, tax planning, or elder care, don’t hesitate to give my office a call. I’m here to help, even as all our lives get especially busy this time of year. I’m just a phone call or a quick office visit away.

Happy holidays, everyone!

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Medicaid Facilities Are Like Hotels in More Ways Than One

Sometimes elder care feels a little bit like booking a hotel room.

As one of the world’s most widely recognized travel organizations, AAA offers discounted rates at big-name hotels all across the U.S. If you’re a member, you might be able to knock 10 to 15% off the rack rate.

But those savings aren’t always available in every room. Some hotels might block off a limited number of rooms and designate those as discount-eligible (whether for AAA or any other discount program). Accordingly, you might show up at the hotel without a reservation and find that all the eligible rooms are already gone. You’ll have to pay full price instead.

Medicaid facilities can work the same way.

I started thinking about the AAA analogy after seeing an article by the Houston Chronicle online. It describes the difficulties some seniors have when trying to use Medicaid in a purportedly Medicaid-accepting facility.

That’s because some such facilities advertise themselves as “Medicaid-accepting” but, in reality, reserve only a limited number of beds for Medicaid patients. The remaining residents have to pay full price… just like with those non-discounted hotel rooms.

Unfortunately, some elderly patients enter these facilities with the expectation of enjoying long-term Medicaid care there, only to later learn that all the Medicaid spots are already taken — perhaps after the family has already paid the facility a substantial sum.

One way to head off a problem like that is to ask probing questions of the facility before putting any money down. Find out exactly how many Medicaid-eligible beds are available and what the occupancy rates look like.

Another option is to work with an experienced elder law attorney from the get-go. At my office, we help elderly people and their families foresee potential contingencies like these and work toward a more effective solution.

If you have any questions whatsoever about accessing senior care facilities in New Jersey using Medicare or Medicaid, please feel free to give me a call.

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Nursing Home Life: More ‘Mean Girls’ Than “Golden Girls”?

“You can’t sit with us.”

The classic line from 2004’s Mean Girls movie perfectly embodied just how cliquey and cruel high school life can be in the modern age. The film’s characters carped at each other over everything from boyfriends and girlfriends to fashion and cafeteria seating choices.

But is nursing home life much different from high school?

That question came to mind as I read The New York Times’ recent entry on “nursing home style.” In it, a woman describes her thought pattern as she takes her elderly mother shopping. They were putting together a wardrobe to make a good impression at a new nursing home — an experience she likens to the first day at a new school.

“I want Ma to fit in,” the columnist writes. “I want her to be popular. I want her clothes to be right.”

“Are there mean girls in nursing homes?” she asks. “After a touring a few, I would say yes.”

Of course, residents in nursing homes or assisted living facilities have the benefit of experience and maturity… something Lindsay Lohan’s Mean Girls gals could have used more of. But the truth is that fashion, style, and social skills matter in almost every context… and at any age.

When picking the right community for you or your parents, it’s important to keep personalities and social atmospheres in mind. Some homes may make a better fit than others. And speaking of a good fit, a few new outfits can always help to lift the spirit.

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Maybe the “New Old Age” Isn’t a Good Thing After All

We hear a lot about the “new old age.” As advances in medical science allow people to live longer than ever — and healthily so — we’ve all had to reorient the way we think about “old.”

Many of today’s elderly can work and run and even revel with the best (and youngest) of them… but should they?

Baby boomers’ prolonged vitality is so often celebrated that maybe we’ve never paused to ponder whether an active old-age lifestyle is as freeing as it’s made out to be. But a Wall Street Journal writer is doing just that. Out with the new old age, he says, and in with the way it used to be.

“The ancients,” he insists, “had it right.”

In his mid-70s himself, Daniel Klein has determined that old age was always intended as “a unique and invaluable stage of life,” one that people might miss out on if they opt to stay in the rat race.

If Klein has you questioning your own approach to aging, you aren’t alone. It’s hard to know whether “liveliness” or “leisure” is the more rewarding pursuit in the latter stages of life.

Maybe balance is the key. A little activity here, a little rumination there. Of course, individual personalities and temperaments matter too. What seems stressful to me might feel therapeutic for you. We all find energy and inspiration in different and surprising places.

Klein is to be commended for recognizing that the dominant trend among baby boomers — that is, staying ever active, bustling, and busy — simply isn’t for him. At seventy-something, the man’s earned the right to live life as he pleases.

Let’s hope we all approach our own next stages with the same candor and self-respect, whether it finds us running a race or rocking a chair.

Posted in Baby Boomers, Retirement, Seniors | Leave a comment