Just as so many baby boomers and other Americans are entering the stage of life when they want to reap the rewards of a lifetime of work, the COVID-19 coronavirus has disrupted everything. Those of us who assist seniors with elder law matters are seeing the changes from both sides as we adapt and work to help our clients avail themselves of our legal services and counsel.
Social Distancing and Its Effects on Elder Law Moving Forward
During recent months, everyone has learned a new phrase —“social distancing.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines social distancing as “keeping space between yourself and other people outside of your home.” It also referred to as physical distancing.
Social distancing includes staying at least 6 feet (about two arms’ length) from other people, not gathering in groups and staying out of crowded places and avoiding mass gatherings.
Staying away from others to avoid the coronavirus is especially important for people who are at higher risk of getting very sick:
- People 65 years old and older
- People who live in a nursing home or long-term care facility
- People of any age with underlying medical conditions such as heart or lung conditions, particularly if not well controlled.
The most immediate impact social distancing requirements will have on elder law is how our meetings with clients will be conducted. Fortunately, technology makes video conferencing and meeting remotely a feasible alternative. Our attorneys are available to talk to you about legal matters by phone or video conference.
Until August, the remote execution of wills and other estate planning documents is available via video under Part IV of North Carolina’s omnibus pandemic aid legislation. When your signature is required, we also offer drive-through signing appointments.
We miss the one-on-one contact we have always had with our clients, but we recognize and support the need to adhere to safety protocols to prevent infection and to protect everyone.
How Technology Will Play a Larger Role in Elder Law After COVID 19
Technology is playing an increasing role in how we meet with clients and move forward with elder law planning during the coronavirus pandemic. In addition to telephone conversations, we stay in touch with clients through such free video conferencing services as:
We’ve found these apps to be more easily used than we expected, and that clients adapt to them quickly and easily, too.
An April 2020 survey by TheSeniorList.com found that Americans aged 60 and over are adopting new technology faster than younger people. Survey results showed that 28 percent of seniors had downloaded a new app in the previous two weeks, and 7 percent had tried out a new video conferencing tool. Seventy-seven percent had made a financial transaction or paid a bill online.
It was also good to see that many seniors were protecting their privacy by disabling cookies on browsers (25 percent), disabling geolocation data (20 percent) and having up-to-date anti-virus software installed (75 percent). Only a handful (7 percent) reported using the same password for all sites. Here are some tips for keeping track of multiple passwords.
Video conferencing technology not only allows us to meet with clients safely during the pandemic. It will enable us to meet more easily face-to-face with clients who live in remote locations, or who are in the hospital, a nursing home or another long-term care facility. We expect some clients will prefer the convenience of video conferences to visiting our offices or having visitors in their homes.
Video conferencing will allow us to make elder law services more widely available to the people who need it the most, even after the current public health crisis ends.
Long-Term Care Facilities and How They Will Change Due to COVID 19
Video conferencing stations may become a standard feature in long-term care facilities that are interested in residents’ comfort and safety. Video conferencing apps eliminate travel time, so some nursing home residents may hear from family members more often if they’re available.
We expect nursing homes to adhere to guidelines from the CDC and from the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), which funds most nursing homes, for preparing for and responding to COVID-19 in long-term care facilities.
As you’ll recall, nursing home residents – elderly people often with debilitating medical conditions living in close proximity to each other – proved particularly vulnerable to the coronavirus.
A later CMS directive with temporary regulatory waivers and new rules to give long-term care facilities flexibility to deal with COVID-19 had many changes that could be kept in place moving forward. Chief among them may well be the final directive to “put Patients Over Paperwork” to provide temporary relief reporting and audit requirements so health care facilities, Medicare Advantage and Part D plans, and states can focus on providing needed care to Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries.”
How a Brady Cobin Lawyer Can Help You Through This Changing Time
At Brady Cobin Law Group, we are taking the threat of COVID-19 very seriously and taking appropriate safety precautions while continue to serve clients. You still have access to us for all your elder law needs. Our lawyers are available to meet with you remotely to answer your legal questions and discuss the plans you should have in place as you age.
While many people are focused on the present, we are here to help you prepare for the long-term with planning to protect your assets and assurance that your stated wishes will be carried out. Contact us today to schedule a remote consultation with our experienced Raleigh elder law lawyers.