V. Anne Edenfield, an attorney specializing in elder law, says she loves working with the elderly because they have “such a wealth of life experiences.” It saddens her greatly when she meets clients whose family or friends have taken advantage of them, and she welcomes the opportunity to help resolve the problem. She acknowledges two concerns that people may face as they get older and how to work through the issues.
“There are a lot of myths and misunderstandings about Medicaid and long-term care,” Edenfield says. “Often people have incredible ideas based on things they’ve heard, read or been told about what will happen when a loved one or they go in nursing home.”
A common misconception, she explains, is the thought that if one spouse moves into a nursing home, the other spouse will lose the couple’s home.
“The law is that if one person is married and goes in a nursing home, as long as the other is living in the home, the home is exempt,” she says. “It’s rewarding to give the elderly information that will relieve them. Often it’s not as bad as they believe. Unfortunately, some attorneys that don’t know as much about this area of law as others aren’t as well-equipped to provide this information.”
The longer she is in practice, Edenfield says, the more she sees financial abuse of the elderly, primarily by family members. Typically, someone will take money from them or abuse power of attorney.
“When I first started, there appeared to be more disputes about wills,” she recalls. “Now that people are living longer, and people in their 70s still have parents living, there are more disputes about guardianship and power of attorney.”
Every “grown-up” should have a power of attorney, Edenfield urges, and it should be written by someone experienced in this form of elderly law. She adds that this is one of the best things a person can do to avoid financial abuse.
“Powers of attorney written 30 years ago were different from now,” she says. ”It’s a much more complicated document with a lot more to discuss.”
Edenfield also advises against using a power of attorney form from the Internet and advises in favor of carefully choosing who will handle your finances during your latter years.