Wealthy Socialite Brooke Astor Estate Finally Settled

Estate planning can be a complicated process, especially when age-related illnesses, such as memory loss develop.  Unfortunately, some will take advantage of a senior’s forgetfulness.  The fact that one of the wealthiest families in the U.S.A. could not succeed with the implementation of their estate plan speaks to the challenges of this.  So if you thought you were the only one with a family where everyone did not get along, well, even the very, very wealthy have the same challenges - and even when they are paying for top lawyers to establish solid legal documents.  Anything can be argued, it turns out.

Adult children want to inherit their money, in most cases.  It is important and that a trust or will is set-up well before any age-related illnesses develop.

Brooke Astor, the wealthiest socialite in New York City, did plan ahead for her death.  As she had actively raised money for many non-profit organizations as a philanthropist during her lifetime, she wanted some of her money to be left to these groups.  However, it turns out her son decided to have her sign a new will, after her memory loss had developed, which shifted some of this money to him.

After five years in limbo, the attorneys will now get the most generous share of this son’s inheritance.  But the cultural institutions, parks and schools will now receive the money that Ms. Astor had intended for them to receive. 

The Metropolitan Museum of Art will receive $20 million and the New York Public Library will receive $15 million and $30 million will go into a fund to improve education in New York.

The tabloids have had a field day covering this story, as those testifying in the court rooms gave many juicy tidbits, such as a maid who said the daughter-in-law was called “Ms. Piggy”.  She was the wife of Anthony Marshall, Ms. Astor’ son, who was the one who had her sign his new version of her will.  Now he will receive just $14.5 million and must give the majority of that to the attorneys who fought the case for him.  He was convicted on 14 charges, including grand larceny, related to an alleged scheme to loot his mother’s fortune in the final years of her life. Mrs. Astor died in 2007.

A senior himself now, at 88 years old, he has said he is happy the probate proceedings have been resolved.

Other groups to receive gifts include Rockefeller University, Central and Prospect parks, the Wildlife Conservation Society, the Morgan Library and Museum, the Brooklyn Museum, Carnegie Hall and the Trust for Public Land's New York City playgrounds program.

New York University's School of Education is to receive $2 million and Historic Hudson Valley expects to get $1.2 million.

Drawings and other artwork valued at $4 million will go to the Metropolitan Museum, the Morgan Library and other charities.

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Spring Break Grandparent Scam

Spring break is notoriously known as a time when college kids travel to let loose and blow off a little steam. Parents know it, grandparents know it, and, unfortunately, so do unscrupulous scammers who use the opportunity to play on the sympathies of the elderly.

It’s known as the "Grandparent Scam". Scam artists will call a grandparent pretending to be a grandchild or friend of a grandchild, requesting money to bail them out of a tough spot—to help get out of jail, fix a broken car or otherwise get them out of trouble. They ask the grandparents not to tell anyone, and they always ask for cash in the form of wire transfers.

Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites have taken the scam to a new, frightening level. Scammers learn about a student’s travel plans through these sites, along with personal information such as names of family and friends, the college they attend, and their home town—information that convinces the senior that the call and the need are legitimate.

The Better Business Bureau has released a updated alert and offers the following tips to avoid the “Grandparent Scam” this spring break:
  • Students should share spring break travel plans with family members before leaving the state or country.
  • Students should provide the cell phone number and email address of a friend they are traveling with in the case of an emergency.
  • Family members should remind students to be cautious when sharing details about travel plans on social media.
  • If a grandparent or relative receives a phone call from someone claiming to be their grandchild in distress, BBB advises not to disclose any information before confirming the person’s true identity. Ask a personal question about their childhood that only close family would know.
  • If a grandparent is new to a social networking site such as Facebook, family should caution them not to reveal too much personal information.

Caregiverlist previously blogged about senior scams during the holidays and the same advice holds true for spring break’s Grandparent Scam. If you or a loved one has been the victim of a scam or fraud, report it to your local police department and Department on Aging. You may help prevent others from becoming victims as well.

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TSA Relaxes Security Requirements for Seniors

Airport security has evolved into an experience that can be cumbersome and even a bit uncomfortable. It just is not enjoyable to receive the “pat down” from a stranger in a public environment. And for seniors who may be wearing special undergarments it is even more unnerving.
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) announced this week that they will begin testing a program that would allow passengers age 75 and older to keep their shoes on along with light jackets as they pass through security.
Since it can be difficult for some seniors to quickly bend over and kick off their shoes, this will be welcomed by both seniors and everyone else.
The TSA will begin testing the program at Chicago's O'Hare airport, Denver International airport, Orlando International airport and Portland, Oregon International airports tomorrow. Older passengers may still be subject to normal screening procedures if the full-body scanners detect any anomalies, the TSA said.
Last year, the TSA instituted a similar program to reduce the time spent getting children 12 and under through security.
Seniors will welcome this new program.   The TSA has made the move in the hopes of reducing the number of pat-downs conducted on the elderly and this is part of a broader initiative to target riskier passengers and speed up check-ins.
Right now, the TSA will make a visual inspection to determine which elderly can keep their shoes and jackets on.
If the program proves successful, the TSA said it would consider expanding it. 
This is good news for seniors and their caregivers!

Senior I-Pad Apps

Senior caregivers know the challenges of introducing their seniors to new routines and new concepts.  As the saying goes, for a reason caregivers well know, it is hard to teach an old dog new tricks.  However, some seniors are first-movers with technology and it turns out as we age, women are first-movers more so than men. 

While I feel like I am a first-mover with technology, and have years of experience in senior caregiving, I am embarrassed to admit that I have not been successful in convincing my Dad to use e-mail.  He is in his mid-70's and just doesn't see the need to check e-mail.  I even sent him a gift certificate to his e-mail address to try to motivate him but so far he is still resisting.  He does use a cell phone, but he won't check the voicemail.  If you call him and he doesn't answer, we all know to just hang up.  He'll see that we called and eventually call us back but he will not take the time to listen to a voice-mail.

My sister still holds out hope and is planning on giving my father an I-pad, and she has already pulled in my brothers and me to start the sales process on convincing Dad the enjoyment he will find in communicating with the world via the internet.  The good news is that there are now special Apps for the iPad that are customized just for seniors.

Even social workers are joining in the development of Apps, to customize tools for seniors.  The Applie iPad does it make it easy for seniors to communicate without needing to sit at a desk and feel like they are working.  They can even sit in a wheelchair while using it.  And the best part is that many Apps are free!  We have found a few Apps that senior caregivers may want to know about.

U.S. News and World Report profiles 10 "Starter Apps" that are recommended by online reviews and experts.

  1. ABC:  Video App
  2. Netflix:  Streams movies and TV shows
  3. NPR:  Radio audio and text version
  4. iBooks:  E-book Apps
  5. Google Earth:  GPS capabilities ties to Google Maps
  6. Zinio:  Free access to feature stories in Magazines
  7. The Weather Channel:  weather conditions by zip-code
  8. Virtuoso:  music which includes a keyboard to play the piano
  9. Epicurious:  recipes from the publishers of Gourmet and Bon Appetite
  10. Pandora:  free music via the internet radio

Seniors can expand their horizons and maintain a connection with the world through Apps on iPads and as the costs of technology become cheaper and cheaper, caregivers can assist seniors to enjoy this new world.

Sernios can also find the daily costs and ratings of nursing homes and senior home care services in their area - some of the realities of aging are knowing you may need to rehabilitate in a nursing home after a hospital stay and Caregiverlist allows you to easily review senior care options along with costs and quality standards.  Seniors may also compare hospitals, home health, Medicare Plans and other senior services on Caregiverlist's Comparison tools.


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Martina Navratilova, AARP Fitness Ambassador on DWTS

Dancing With the Stars began its 14th season Monday, March 19, on ABC, with what many thought was its best opening night. Martina Navratilova, 55, is AARP’s fitness ambassador, Grand Slam tennis champ and one of Sports Illustrated’s "Top 40 Athletes of All Time".

She joins a long list of illustrious older adults willing to subject themselves to the grueling training associated with the competition. This season sees Jack Wagner, 52, and Glady Knight, 67, joining Ms. Navratilova on the competition floor, each paired with a professional dancer. At age 82, actress Cloris Leachman of season seven was the oldest contestant to compete on the show. At age 51, singer Donny Osmond of season nine was the oldest contestant to win the competition.

According to the AARP website, “Navratilova will post regular 'Dancing Diaries' entries on AARP.org offering her perspective on the training, competition and vibe from behind the scenes at one of Hollywood’s top TV shows.” Leeza Gibbons also provided an online account of her experience on the show in an AARP column, A View From Here. Ms. Navratilova is also scheduled to guest-blog for the LA Times while part of the competition.

Part of the show’s appeal are the “backstage” video vignettes showing just how tough preparing for competition can be. You can see gallery photos and video of Martina as she trains, rehearses and competes with her partner Tony Dovolani on the show’s website. You can also vote for your favorite team through the site.

Experts agree that healthy living—physical fitness and good nutrition, while not necessarily turning us into DWTS competitors, can certainly help us age well.

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Senior Care Training Tools

Senior caregivers require training in order to deliver quality caregiving services and meet training requirements for licensed senior home care agencies in the states which require training.  More and more states are passing legislation to requrie standardized training for senior caregivers in order to maintain a minimum standard for care services and to protect seniors from fraudulent hire-direct scenarios.

Caregiver training also benefits the caregiver, enabling them to know the best methods for transfers, monitoring nutrition and interacting with senior's as they deal with emotional issues around aging and losing friends to death.

The Professional Association of Caregivers offers a 10-hour online caregiver training course, powered by aQuire, and meeting the skills required for training by departments of health, including the state of Illinois.

Review the caregiver training course modules and become a certified caregiver.  You may also apply for a senior caregiving job near you as a companion caregiver or Certified Nursing Aide.


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Participate in Caregiving Survey for $20

Caregiver survey participants wanted for Towson University study.  Participants will receive a $20.00 check as compensation and has one week to complete the survey.  Dr. Shifren at Towson University is conducting a study on early caregiver experiences and the effects of these experiences on adult mental and physical health.

Caregiver Survey Participant Requirements:

  • Provided care as caregiver while under 18-years of age
  • Provided care as caregiver age 18 to 25-years of age

Caregivers must be screened to qualify and the questionnaire takes about 40 minutes to complete.

Caregivers interested in participating in the study should email Dr. Shifren at:  kshifren@towson.edu or call: 410-704-6239


Mitt Romney Turns 65, Opts Out of Medicare, Social Security

Mitt Romney, GOP presidential hopeful, turned 65 on March 12 but has no plans to enroll in Medicare. Instead, the Republican front-runner will continue coverage through his private health-care plan.

Wealthier individuals, according to Mr. Romney’s campaign website, should pay more for government Medicare benefits, while lower-income seniors would receive more generous support. His plan would include a “premium support” contribution, allowing beneficiaries a choice between private plans and Medicare.

Social Security is another government benefit that the former Massachusetts is passing up. In response to Fox News host Neil Cavuto’s question if he was planning to sign up for Social Security on this, his eligible birthday, Mr. Romney emphatically declined. Citing the fact that retirement is far off, he stated, “I have no plans to retire at the current moment. I’m not going to be doing that anytime soon. I’m still very much in the work force, I hope.”

For both Medicare and Social Security eligibility, Mr. Romney proposes to “gradually raise the retirement age to reflect increases in longevity.” Beginning in 2022, the proposal would incrementally raise the eligibility age for both programs from 65 to 67 by one month per year.

How would the change affect beneficiaries today?

AARP Research & Strategic Analysis recently released Social Security State Quick Fact Sheets comprised of recently released 2010 data. In its findings, AARP shows that in 2009, more that one-third of the elderly population would be living in poverty if they did not receive Social Security benefits. Even in states where personal income is high, Social Security is the only income for a segment of the population.

How do you feel about delaying Social Security and Medicare benefits? While admirable from a personal (and political) standpoint, do you think Mr. Romney’s decisions and options are viable for the country at large? For information on your state’s services and resources, check your own individual Senior Services by State.

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Earthquakes, Tornadoes Highlight Need for Senior Disaster Preparedness

The San Francisco earthquake and recent tornadoes that tore their way through the Midwest are grim reminders of how quickly we can fall victim to natural disasters. Seniors often find themselves especially vulnerable. Perhaps they live alone and family is not nearby to help ensure their safety. They may become confused and panic without a clear plan of action. The time to map a strategy and lay in supplies is before they are needed.

The American Red Cross has published a handy document entitled, “Disaster Preparedness For Seniors By Seniors.” Written by a group of seniors who experienced a two-week power outage after an ice storm hit upstate New York, the booklet addresses the disaster planning tips for seniors with varying degrees of limitations. Whether the older adult is healthy and agile or limited in physical capabilities, everyone should take the necessary precautions and make plans to prepare for any emergency.

The Red Cross Disaster Plan has three main components:
  1. Build and Maintain a Kit: Designate a duffel bag as the go-to kit for three days worth of survival essentials. This would include water, non-perishable food, flashlight and batteries, a first-aid kit and medication, and some cash and coins. The Red Cross list is extensive but it covers all possible needs.
  2. Make a Plan: Planning ahead reduces anxiety if disaster strikes. Designate a family member, friend orcaregiver to be a point person to check in during time of disaster. There should also be an out-of-town contact person--someone who won’t be directly affected by a local event. Plan evacuation routes and meeting places if friends and family cannot be reached.
  3. Be Informed: Assess your community. Tsunamis do not occur in Ohio, but home fires can happen anywhere. Investigate what plans the community has in place and where they offer shelter. Find your local Red Cross before you need them. Also, help others be aware and make their own evacuation plans.
Scam artists love to prey on those affected by disasters, when victims are at their most vulnerable. Be on your guard. Planning ahead can reduce the instances of relying on strangers when susceptible and unprotected. Visit the Red Cross site for more information on preparing for the unexpected and check with your own State’s Services to research what assistance is available to seniors during a crisis.

My mother always told me, Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.

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Chicago Hospital CEO's Discuss New Healthcare Law

Chicago area hospital CEO's actually are welcoming the new healthcare law - - yes, it is not perfect, they admit, but it is a step in the right direction.  It is refreshing to hear the viewpoints straight from those who provide health care.

Crain's Chicago Business hosted the panel which included Pamela Davis, CEO of Edwards Hospital, Ramanathar Raju, CEO of Cook County Hospital, Sandra Bruce, CEO of Resurrection Health and Jim Skogsbergh, CEO of Advocate.

Some of the issues they all agreed upon:

Medicaid pays far less than the cost of care

Current Course is Unsustainable (people are living longer and Medicare not set-up to handle)

Social Issues and Obesity Impact Higher Care Costs

Unreimbursed Costs are Hindrance (Provena wrote off $124 million in unreimbursed costs last year)

Listen to this panel of hospital CEO's to learn more about the realities of the current healthcare system and why these CEO's are welcoming changes through the new healthcare law, with concerns that everyone may not be covered due to political wrangling.  They predict that hospitals of the future will be more accountable and efficient and integrative.  This means more integration of home care and physician care and accountability for outcomes.

Caregivers for seniors, many times, do not have health insurance under our current system and because many people never have healthcare until they retire and qualify for Medicare or Medicaid, health issues are allowed to escalaate.

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