Reverse Mortgages: What Seniors Have to Say

Although the idea of retirement may conjure up happy thoughts of enjoying your favorite activities and freedom from a stressful workplace, it may also mean the loss of a growing salary.  Your usual earnings may be replaced with a fixed income, and yet, you may still have the same existing mortgage, credit card debt, and monthly bills you have always had to pay.  If you think this sounds daunting, you are not alone.  In fact, according to an annual survey by the Insured Retirement Institute, 29% of baby boomers are not confident that they will have enough money saved to live comfortably throughout their entire retirement.  Fortunately for homeowners over the age of 62, there is a powerful financial tool available that allows them to access a portion of home equity and help them continue to age in the comfort of their homes throughout their golden years.

Introducing the Reverse Mortgage Loan

Senior homeowners in retirement have enjoyed the benefits of reverse mortgage loans since their inception in the early 1960′s.  With a reverse mortgage, borrowers eliminate house payments and can settle credit card debt.  In a report by the National Council on Aging, 23% of seniors age 62-75 with debt do not believe that they will ever be able to pay it off, while 11% never expect to pay off their mortgages.  However, armed with reverse mortgage proceeds, these homeowners may no longer have to worry.  As long as all loan terms, such as paying property taxes and homeowners insurance are met, they may be able to enjoy the type of financial freedom that comes with their new-found increased cash flow and no monthly mortgage payments.

Reverse Mortgage Questions Answered

Why would seniors get a reverse mortgage and how has it helped?

One key feature of a reverse mortgage loan is that there are no restrictions on the borrower as to how loan proceeds may be used.  This flexibility, combined with the elimination of monthly mortgage payments, helps retirees supplement their income to cover expenses that may have previously been a stretch for them.  Here are some common ways reverse mortgage borrowers use their proceeds:

  • Pay off existing mortgage (required as part of the loan)
  • Settle credit card debt
  • Cover bills
  • Supplement income for daily expenses
  • Afford medical procedures or medications
  • Renovate, modify and repair the home
  • Afford in-home care
  • Take vacations and travel
  • Spend more time with friends and family
  • Live an independent lifestyle

For example, Dyann B. of Bradford, Pennsylvania was able to use a reverse mortgage to remain financially independent.  Before she applied, the cost of her medications had increased and she was unsure if she would be able to continue paying for them.  She knew she may have to ask her children for money – a burden she never imagined having to place on them.  Fortunately, she learned about reverse mortgages and closed her loan with enough money to pay for her medications as well as afford repairs, updates, and maintenance on her home.

Are seniors happy they got a reverse mortgage and would they recommend it to others?

While not for everyone, a reverse mortgage loan can solve many significant financial challenges that seniors face today. This viable financial tool has earned high praise and endorsement from lenders, financial advisors, and seniors alike.  Actually, 84% of borrowers from American Advisors Group, the current leading reverse mortgage lender, say their lives have improved since closing their loan. Particularly with the Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM), many borrowers feel secure knowing that their reverse mortgage is government-insured, and relieved that their financial goals can be met.

For Ellen K. of Sterling, Colorado, her main goal was to pay off the $18,000 left on her existing mortgage.  When her monthly expenses continued to rise, the burden of her mortgage payment prevented her from staying within budget.  Finally, with her new reverse mortgage loan, she was able to pay off her existing mortgage without dipping into her other investments.  Now, the freedom she feels from not having a monthly mortgage payment is something she wants others to enjoy.  As such, Ellen frequently recommends reverse mortgages to other seniors.

For many borrowers in retirement, reverse mortgages may offer a number of features that make it an attractive financial option to consider.  If you are contemplating this loan, make sure to conduct as much research as you can to learn about the benefits and risks.  To get an even clearer understanding of its details, speak with a reverse mortgage professional from an established and credible lender.  He or she can help you find out how much equity is built in your home and calculate an estimate of how much money may be available to you.  With a bit of research and a strong financial plan, you just may join the thousands of senior homeowners who enjoy the financial freedom that comes with a reverse mortgage loan. 


Boomer Expectations for Retirement 2014: Fourth Annual Report on the Retirement Preparedness of the Boomer Generation.  The Insured Retirement Institute.  2014.  Print.

Changing Attitudes, Changing Motives: The MetLife Study of How Aging Homeowners Use Reverse Mortgages.  Metlife Mature Market Institute and National Council on Aging.  New York.  2013. Print.

“Do I Qualify for a Reverse Mortgage?  The Questions You Should Ask and the Requirements You Need to Know.”  ND.  NP.  Web.  28 July 2015.

Lim, Alberta.  “Debunking Myths about Reverse Mortgages.”  18 June 2015.  NP.  Web.  28 July 2015.

Lim, Alberta.  “What Seniors Should Know About Reverse Mortgages.”  23 July 2015.  Griswold Home Care.  Web.  28 July 2015.

Understanding the Pros and Cons of a Reverse Mortgage.”  American Advisors Group.  ND.  Web.  28 June 2015.

About American Advisors Group

American Advisors Group, the nation’s leader in reverse mortgage lending, is dedicated to helping American seniors convert a portion of their home equity, a largely untapped asset, to help fund their retirement needs. To learn if a reverse mortgage can work for you, visit to use the  AAG reverse mortgage calculator.

American Advisors Group is proud of its  A+ rating by the Better Business Bureau, and 97% customer satisfaction rating, and is a proud member of the National Reverse Mortgage Lenders Association (NRMLA). To learn more about reverse mortgages and American Advisors Group, please visit 

About The Author

As a writer for American Advisors Group, the leading U.S. reverse mortgage lender, Alberta Lim is committed to sharing news and information seniors can use to improve their quality of life.

Reverse Mortgage Pros & Cons

For many seniors, retirement is a beautiful stage of life.  It is a time when your everyday professional obligations are over and you have more time than you’ve ever had before to enjoy life’s pleasures.  With this extra time, you have been able to babysit the grandchildren, and have enjoyed taking them fishing or baking cookies with them.  Or perhaps you have finally been able to take that sewing class or visit that antique car show that you were always curious about.  Maybe you have more time to meet some old friends for chess games in the park or Sunday morning brunches.  However, with this newfound freedom from not working comes a tradeoff: you may need to supplement your regular fixed income.  Fortunately for you, having a paid-off, or nearly paid off, home means you have an asset in the form of home equity that can help increase your cash flow.  All you need is the right tool to access it.

The Reverse Mortgage Loan

As many retirees have already discovered, a reverse mortgage is one such tool.  Defined as a mortgage loan for senior homeowners age 62 and older, this option allows its borrowers to access a portion of their home equity.  Although other options of accessing equity are available, such as selling the home or assuming a second mortgage, only a reverse mortgage loan allows borrowers to remain in the home without a monthly mortgage payment.  This is due to the fact that with a reverse mortgage loan, payment is deferred until a borrower permanently leaves the home.  Until then, no repayment is required unless the borrower defaults on loan terms.  For certain borrowers, the chance to age in their home combined with the ability to access equity without a required monthly mortgage payment is exactly what they are looking for.  But like any financial product, it is always intelligent to learn about both the disadvantages as well as the advantages.

The Pros & Cons

The pros and cons of a reverse mortgage can help you determine if this loan can benefit you.

The Pros of a Reverse Mortgage

  • The lender does not take ownership of your home as long as all loan terms are met.
  • Funds can be used as you wish, such as to cover daily expenses or pay off bills and credit card debt.
  • The Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM) reverse mortgage is insured by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) and has numerous consumer safeguards.
  • The loan is non-recourse, meaning that the home is the only asset that can be taken to repay the loan.
  • Insurance also protects the consumer from owing more than the value of the home when sold.

The Cons of a Reverse Mortgage

  • You may not live away from home for more than 12 consecutive months.  Your home must be your primary residence.
  • Because the loan’s repayment is deferred, a lien is placed on the home until repayment.
  • If your heirs wish to inherit the home instead of selling it, they must find another way of repayment, such as refinancing into a traditional mortgage.
  • The loan becomes due and payable if you do not fulfill the obligation to pay your property taxes, homeowners insurance and basic home repairs and maintenance.
  • Some borrowers who get a HECM reverse mortgage may be required to set-aside some loan funds to fulfill financial obligations during the loan.

Is This Loan Right for You?

These pros and cons can help you make a determination about whether or not this loan is right for you.

A reverse mortgage may not be right for you if:

  • You foresee leaving your home for more than 12 consecutive months, such as in a nursing home, a family member’s home, or in a second home.
  • You want to leave a free and clear home to your children as an inheritance.
  • You would prefer a loan without the protection of government insurance and the premium that comes with it.
  • You are unable to continue to pay the property taxes, insurance and regular maintenance of the home in order to meet the financial obligations of the loan.

However, a reverse mortgage may be right for you if:

  • You have no plans to move away from your home or sell it.
  • You prefer to age in place.
  • You want to access a portion of your home equity.
  • You don’t want to pay a monthly mortgage payment.
  • You have no heirs, your heirs are not interested in your home, or they don’t mind refinancing the reverse mortgage if they inherit the home.
  • You appreciate the protection that federal insurance this loan gives.
  • You like how the loan is non-recourse, which means no other asset except the home can be taken by the lender to repay the loan.

Armed with the knowledge of both the pros and cons of reverse mortgages, you can objectively decide if you would find this loan useful for your needs.  Calling a reputable lender and speaking with a reverse mortgage professional can also be a significant source of information for you, as you will get the chance to determine this loan’s benefits based on your personal situation.  For many senior homeowners, this loan has been the perfect fit to accomplish what they wanted in retirement.  With the right research, you are on your way to finding out if a reverse mortgage can work for you as well.

About American Advisors Group

American Advisors Group is the nation’s leader in reverse mortgage lending, and is dedicated to helping American seniors convert a portion of their home equity, a largely untapped asset, to help fund their retirement needs.  To check how much you may receive from a reverse mortgage, visit for the American Advisors Group Reverse Mortgage Calculator.

American Advisors Group holds an A+ rating by the Better Business Bureau, has a 97% customer satisfaction rating and is a proud member of the National Reverse Mortgage Lenders Association (NRMLA). To learn more about American Advisors Group and reverse mortgages, please visit the company’s website at 

About The Author

Alberta Lim is the Digital Content Writer for American Advisors Group, the #1 Reverse Mortgage company in the nation. Writing content for the company’s website, news and updates, and newsletters, plus being surrounded by the top Reverse Mortgage Professionals in the industry, means that she is no stranger to Senior Retirement Planning and Living.


“Do I Qualify for a Reverse Mortgage?  The Questions You Should Ask and the Requirements You Need to Know.”  ND.  NP.  Web.  28 July 2015.

Lim, Alberta.  “Debunking Myths about Reverse Mortgages.”  18 June 2015.  NP.  Web.  28 July 2015.

Lim, Alberta.  “What Seniors Should Know About Reverse Mortgages.”  23 July 2015.  Griswold Home Care.  Web.  28 July 2015.

Understanding the Pros and Cons of a Reverse Mortgage.”  American Advisors Group.  ND.  Web.  28 June 2015.

Elder Abuse: From Risk Factors to Prevention

The problem of elder abuse and neglect is one that every family must be on the lookout for. Whether  your loved one is being cared for at home by another family member, by a professional caregiver or if your loved one is in an assisted living facility, neglect and/or abuse are real possibilities. Understanding the signs of elder abuse and neglect and knowing what to do to prevent or stop abuse can help to keep your loved one safe.

What is Elder Abuse?

The U.S. Administration on Aging defines elder abuse as “any knowing, intentional, or negligent act by a caregiver or any other person that causes harm or a serious risk of harm to a vulnerable adult.” All 50 states have passed laws defining elder abuse and seeking to prevent cases of elder abuse in their jurisdiction. With each state defining abuse differently, it is important to know how your state defines elder abuse.

The type of abuse commonly inflicted on the elderly can be categorized into seven main areas.

  • Physical abuse is exactly how it sounds; inflicting physical pain or injury.
  • Exploitation refers to the misuse of money, property or assets.
  • Abandonment occurs when a caregiver stops providing care for an elderly person.
  • Neglect is the failure to provide a home, food, health care, or other protection for a senior.
  • Sexual abuse is characterized by non-consensual sexual contact.
  • Emotional abuse is caused by inflicting pain through verbal and nonverbal acts.
  • Self-neglect occurs when a senior fails to take care of their personal needs, health or safety.

Risk Factors of Elder Abuse

Elder abuse can be hard for families to accept. You have chosen a caregiver or facility you believe will provide the best care for your loved one. No one wants to think that abuse can happen or that the person they trusted to provide care has done something unthinkable. Even when you are faced with the signs, it can be tempting to write off bruises as accidents. Knowing the risk factors for elder abuse can help you to know when to raise the warning flag.

Some common risk factors for elder abuse include:

  • Isolation. When a senior has limited access to the outside world and little contact with friends or family it is easy for an abuse to take place.
  • Substance Abuse. The use of alcohol or drugs by a caregiver can make him or her more likely to become abusive to a senior.
  • Violence. A family with a history of violence, especially between spouses, is more likely to experience elder abuse.
  • Declining Physical and/or Cognitive Health. When a senior becomes ill or has trouble with Alzheimer’s or dementia the risk for elder abuse goes up.
  • Dependence and Shared Living Arrangements. When the caregiver and senior live together and/or when the caregiver is dependent on the senior for financial support the risk increases.
  • Stress. Caregivers facing stress at work and/or home can often become abusive. Finding regular respite care for caregivers helps to prevent abuse.

How to Identify Elder Abuse

What are the warning signs that a loved one maybe coping with abuse? The warning signs are many and vary depending on the type of abuse suspected. If you believe your loved one is being physically abused, look for bruises on the arms or neck, unexplained injuries and/or a refusal to seek medical help for injuries. If you see marks on the wrists and/or ankles, this is a warning sign that your loved one is being restrained. If the caregiver is dismissive of your questions about injuries or bruises, this is also a warning sign of elder abuse.

When seniors are experiencing emotional abuse, it is common to find them unresponsive to questions, fearful or suspicious, unwilling to go to social outings, and to experience sudden unexplained changes in behavior. Exploitation abuse can be more difficult to identify unless you have access to your loved one’s financial accounts. Large withdrawals, unusual ATM activity, sudden increases in credit card debt, or forged checks are the most common signs a senior is being exploited.

Elder neglect manifests itself in a wide range of ways. Seniors who are being neglected will often have poor hygiene and eating habits. Loss of weight, pressure sores, sunken eyes, and dirty clothes are common signs of elder neglect. If a caregiver is not providing medications, access to eyeglasses, teeth or hearing aids, these are also signs of neglect.

How to Prevent Elder Abuse

Preventing elder abuse falls to the family and friends of seniors. If you suspect abuse or are concerned that a caregiver may be nearing the end of his or her reserve of patience, it’s ok to step in. Ask the senior if he or she is ok or is fearful. Pull the caregiver aside and offer assistance. Find respite care services for the caregiver so he or she can get away for a few hours each week to rest and recharge.

Helping your loved one to get to favorite activities, out to lunch, to the library, or other locations is an easy way to prevent abuse. Social outings can help seniors to feel loved and valuable. Your loved one is more likely to confide in you if they believe you will be there to help them. Taking your loved one on outings also provides relief for the caregiver so he or she can have some alone time. The more people your loved one interacts with the more people there are to notice changes in your loved one’s demeanor, physical appearance and emotional state.

If you fear a loved one, friend or neighbor is being abused or neglected, please don’t hesitate to notify the proper authorities. Every state has an agency whose main responsibility is responding to the needs of the elderly. You can find more information regarding your state’s agency here.

If you suspect someone is in immediate danger, please call 9 1 1.

About The Author

Visiting Angels was established in 1991 in Baltimore as an independent agency caring for seniors in their homes.  Today, Visiting Angels agencies employ only experienced caregivers and conduct the most comprehensive background screenings to ensure that their caregivers meet or exceed the company’s high standards.  For companion care, Alzheimer’s care, Dementia care and the country’s best palliative care program make Visiting Angels your choice in home care services.  For more information about our elder care services or to find a location near you, please visit


What is a Reverse Mortgage?

According to a survey by the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), almost 90% of senior homeowners would prefer to age in the familiarity and comfort of their own homes.  This is not surprising, as many seniors have built their lives around their home.  Fortunately, a majority of seniors have also built equity in their homes, having diligently paid their mortgage every month for the last few decades.  Because of this, many seniors over the age of 62 will be eligible for a retirement planning loan product called a reverse mortgage.

Reverse mortgages have already helped thousands of seniors across the country to continue living in their homes for the rest of their lives, all while receiving their equity without having to pay a monthly mortgage payment, as long as all loan terms are met.  Reverse mortgages have been gaining popularity in the last half century, but for many years before, senior homeowners had a hard time finding the solution that would let them access their home’s equity while still living there.

The History of Reverse Mortgages

Before reverse mortgages were first offered in 1961, senior homeowners had very few options if they wanted to access their equity.  Liquidating equity usually meant having to sell the home and move out, thus defeating the purpose of aging in place.  However, the idea of a loan for this purpose gained traction at a congressional meeting in 1969, when the Senate Committee on Aging expressed interest in “an actuarial mortgage plan that would allow homeowners to stay in their homes while enjoying their saved home equity.”

Interest in this product only continued to grow.  In 1987, Congress passed an insurance bill called the Home Equity Conversion Mortgage Demonstration, which became the reverse mortgage pilot program.  The following year, President Ronald Reagan signed the Reverse Mortgage Bill into law.

What is a Reverse Mortgage Today?

Since then, reverse mortgages have continued to evolve.  There are multiple kinds of reverse mortgages, including the federally-insured Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM).  There is also the HECM for Purchase, which is the version that helps senior homeowners accomplish, in just one transaction, the closing of a reverse mortgage along with the purchase of a new home that is more suited to their needs.

Today, when a borrower works with a reputable reverse mortgage lender to close a loan, they are provided with a personal reverse mortgage professional to cater to their needs in the loan process.  This expert will use their experience to serve as a knowledgeable resource who will ensure that the reverse mortgage process goes smoothly.  For many senior homeowners, reverse mortgages of today are providing them with a solid retirement.

Who is Right for a Reverse Mortgage?

Reverse mortgages are designed for senior homeowners ages 62 years and older who own their home and live there as their primary residence.  Although it may not be right for everyone, reverse mortgages can be the perfect solution for many.  Is a reverse mortgage right for you?  It may be if:


  • You want to access your equity while aging in your home
  • You plan to live in your home as your primary residence
  • You want to pay off your existing mortgage, your credit card bills, or any medical expenses
  • You want to eliminate a monthly mortgage payment
  • You need to tap into your equity now
  • You want to continue your financial independence
  • You want a line of credit for emergencies
  • You are confident in your ability to continue payments of property taxes and homeowners insurance

With all the benefits a reverse mortgage offers, it is not hard to see why this loan product has grown so popular since its beginnings in the early 1960′s.  To learn if a reverse mortgage would be right for you, it is most helpful to speak with a reverse mortgage professional.  These experts can answer questions you have that are particular to your situation.  If you determine a reverse mortgage is right for you, you can begin to take advantage of a loan product that is already helping many senior homeowners achieve a financially comfortable retirement.


“The History of the Reverse Mortgage.”  NP.  ND.  Web.  20 July 2015.

Lim, Alberta.  “Debunking Myths about Reverse Mortgages.”  18 June 2015.  NP.  Web.  1 July 2015.

“What is a Reverse Mortgage?”  19 March 2015.  NP.  Web.  1 July 2015.

“The Truth About Reverse Mortgages.”  ND.  NP.  Web.  1 July 2015.

“Do I Qualify for a Reverse Mortgage?  The Questions You Should Ask and the Requirements You Need to Know.”  ND.  NP.  Web.  1 July 2015.

About American Advisors Group

American Advisors Group is the nation’s leader in reverse mortgage lending, and is dedicated to helping American seniors convert a portion of their home equity, a largely untapped asset, to help fund their retirement needs.  To check how much you may receive from a reverse mortgage, visit for the American Advisors Group Reverse Mortgage Calculator.

American Advisors Group holds an A+ rating by the Better Business Bureau, has a 97% customer satisfaction rating and is a proud member of the National Reverse Mortgage Lenders Association (NRMLA). To learn more about American Advisors Group and reverse mortgages, please visit the company’s website at

Author’s Bio

Alberta Lim is the Digital Content Writer for American Advisors Group, the #1 Reverse Mortgage company in the nation. Writing content for the company’s website, news and updates, and newsletters, plus being surrounded by the top Reverse Mortgage Professionals in the industry, means that she is no stranger to Senior Retirement Planning and Living.

Recognizing Verbal Abuse Against Elders in Nursing Homes

Most of us love our parents and want them to have the best possible life in their old age. But we don’t live in a culture that’s very friendly towards older people. They are often left to fend for themselves and not all of them have children who have the time to visit them regularly.

Nursing homes have long been an option for people in such situations. In many cases we keep our elderly family members in nursing homes thinking they will receive the best possible care and treatment there. But unfortunately, things don’t always work out like that.

The truth is that abuse against the elderly in nursing homes is a surprisingly common occurrence in our society. I still remain in dark about the reasons behind this this inhuman practice, but after witnessing a number of such cases and hearing a string of heartbreaking accounts I can safely say that I can identify and recognize elder abuse when I encounter it.

Physical abuse is usually quite evident, but verbal abuse, while tricky to detect, can be as damaging and dangerous for the health of an elderly person, and needs to be detected and stopped at the earliest.

In this post I tell you how to identify signs that point towards your loved one being mentally tortured and verbally abused in the nursing home you trust to look after them.

Being Expressionless and Lost

So you visit your elderly father in the nursing home and find that instead of being happy to see you he is being inattentive and incoherent. He is talking to you but appears lost and expressionless. He does not have answers to simplest of questions and starts appearing more and more incapable of taking even the smallest of decisions. If you observe such behavior, don’t ignore it thinking it is normal, especially when your father was fine in the beginning. Question yourself why has there been this change in his behavior.

Chances are our elders will not tell us they are facing verbal abuse from the staff as they might feel embarrassed or frightened of the consequences of doing so. Study their behavior instead. Feeling blank, being unusually quiet and painfully lost are all indicators of verbal abuse.

Run a check on the nurses and caregivers dealing with your parent. Talk to other patients and their relatives and ask them if they too are facing similar situations and if they suspect anything.

Not Wanting to Deal with Money

Your father used to love his freedom and financial independence. But now he wants you to not leave any cash in his possession or remove money from a certain bank account citing various and inconsistent reasons. It is likely that somebody within the nursing home is exploiting him and probably even threatening him when he refuses to comply.

Create a secure environment for your dad. Take him along with you and talk to him if he is indeed facing any such abuse. It’s likely that if somebody within the staff is threatening your dad about finances, these threats are manifesting themselves in various other cruel ways as well, like not feeding him properly, delaying his medication, restricting his activities, and falsely imprisoning him.

Being Scared and Asking You Not to Leave

When somebody humiliates you constantly, pokes fun at you, calls you names and uses derogatory language while talking to you, knowing you are the weaker one, you feel all the more helpless and vulnerable. You want to run away from that person and the situation. This is what is happening to your loved one, too. That is why they are fearful and helpless, and constantly asking you to take them home with you.

Sometimes we dismiss their fears and pleadings as irrational or delusional behavior, but most of the times it is anything but.

Check with the authorities soon as you can. Ask your loved one why they want to leave and why they are scared. If they are insisting on you staying back or them leaving, they will most probably also tell you the reason behind it. Take immediate action. Your priority should be to keep your loved one safe.

When You Are Not Allowed to Visit without Supervision

In order to keep you in the dark about the abuse inflicted on your loved one, nursing homes sometimes do not allow you to visit or interact with them without supervision.

Don’t assume this is some weird, twisted rule of the nursing home. Why should your meeting with your loved one be supervised? What are they keeping an eye on? And what about privacy?

Watch the body language and speech of your loved one around them. If there is some problem, the tension in the interaction between the staff and the elderly person will be evident. Pick on that tension and talk to senior authorities. In such cases, verbal abuse is usually accompanied by physical abuse as well. Watch for unsightly marks on your loved one’s body and fight for time alone with him. Talk to him and find out the truth.

The Staff May Not Always be at Fault

The staff is not always responsible for the verbal abuse suffered by people in nursing homes. Aggressive and dominant inmates could also be at fault. They could be threatening, humiliating or embarrassing your loved one by saying mean and menacing things to them.

The moral of the story is that whenever you witness anything that makes you suspicious about the living conditions of your loved one in their nursing home, take immediate action to find out the truth and rescue them and others like them from the oppressive place.

More than half a million elderly Americans get abused each year in the U.S. We cannot just sit back and let this continue. Each one of us has an elderly person to take care of and all of us are going to grow old someday. We need to take action against these erring institutions to fight and prevent elder abuse.

About the Author:

Dan Brown is one of the principle partners and attorney at Brown & Brown Law Office based in St. Louis, MO. He has successfully handled many cases related to nursing home abuse and home assaults. The firm represent individuals from Missouri who are suffering from nursing home abuse and always ready to help personal injury victims.

Families: First Line of Defense in Elder Abuse

Many adult sons and daughters make every effort to visit their aging parents in nursing homes and other retirement communities in order to stay in touch and reduce the feeling of isolation their loved ones may have. There is a larger benefit to doing so and it extends beyond just one family. Nursing home abuse is not uncommon and it takes little effort for families to help elder law attorneys and senior advocates.

Many aides at nursing homes are trained very little and asked to work long hours at little pay. This is in part because facility operators do not get any more money from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services if they provide exemplary care. Therefore, many operate at the bare minimum. Working with aging residents who have varied and significant needs can also be taxing. Many aides snap.

While the situation creates the conditions, those actions are unacceptable. Families on visits should watch for any signs of bruising or injuries suffered by their loved ones. It may be difficult to assess any problems in the case of mental disability such as Alzheimer’s Disease, but that is not a reason to completely discount any complaints. Any repeated comments should be addressed with the facility’s staff at a start, and an elder law attorney if incidents seem to continue.

It also does not hurt to check in with nearby residents, especially if you know that they rarely receive visitors. Seniors in nursing homes are a very vulnerable population and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and state agencies only make annual inspections at best. It does not take more than a minute or two to ask about a parent’s roommate or the man or woman across the hall.

Finally, in addition to checking with the facility, making a complaint to the state Department of Aging or Health and Human Services should be made so that an investigation can be made (for more information on agencies related to nursing home care look here). In some cases, calling the local police department may also make sense. In any case, making examples of elder abuse public help not just your loved ones, but those of many others.

Finally, keep in mind that abuse is not always easily visible. If an older parent is acting differently, they may be depressed from a lack of independence. However, they could also not be fed properly or having their medications restricted without good cause by nursing home aides or nurses. These are more difficult to identify, but adult sons and daughters should be wary of these as well.

Ensuring that one made the right decision can be difficult, especially if there is not a clear sign of abuse. Check with a local senior advocate or even the family doctor to see what signs should be visible, or consider getting in touch with an elder law attorney. Abuse can be devastating to older residents, and family visitors can be on the front lines of making sure it stops sooner rather than later.

This was written by attorney Jonathan Rosenfeld. Jonathan is the founder of Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers in Chicago, IL and has a law practice concentrating in cases involve nursing home negligence.

Elder Care Abuse: How to Know and When to Act

Elder abuse is something that occurs in the United States more frequently than many of us know.  According to Elder Abuse Daily in 2010, there are almost 6 million elder abuse cases every year.  This estimate demonstrates a growth since the American Psychological Association reported in 1999 that an average of over 2.1 million elder abuse cases occur every year.

According to the U.S. Administration on Aging, elder abuse is the, “knowing, intentional, or negligent act by a caregiver or any other person that causes harm or a serious risk of harm to a vulnerable adult.”  The administration states that these are the common abuse types:

  1. Physical Abuse is the infliction of “physical pain or injury on a senior, e.g. slapping, bruising, or restraining by physical or chemical means.”
  2. Sexual Abuse is the “non-consensual sexual contact of any kind.”
  3. Neglect is “the failure by those responsible to provide food, shelter, health care, or protection for a vulnerable elder.”
  4. Exploitation is “the illegal taking, misuse, or concealment of funds, property, or assets of a senior for someone else’s benefit.”
  5. Emotional Abuse is the infliction of “mental pain, anguish, or distress on an elder person through verbal or nonverbal acts, e.g. humiliating, intimidating, or threatening.”
  6. Abandonment is the “desertion of a vulnerable elder by anyone who has assumed the responsibility for care or custody of that person.”

According to the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), emotional abuse, financial abuse, and neglect are the most prevalent of all elder abuses.

Unfortunately, elder abuse is not a crime commonly reported.  The National Center on Elder Abuse estimates that 83 percent of elder abuse cases never get reported.  According to a 2009 NIJ research report, the majority of the elderly’s abusers are people they know.  Through surveys, the NIJ found that the elderly are most likely to underrepresent abuses:

  • That happened more than a year ago.
  • That they did not report them to the police.
  • If the abuser was not a stranger.

Sadly, the unwillingness of the elderly to properly represent or report these abuses is detrimental; the majority of elders surveyed by the NIJ had been abused over a year ago, had not reported the abuse to police, and knew their abuser/s.

How to Protect the Elderly from Abuse

In order to protect your elderly loved one from abuse, you must:

  1. Ensure he/she is in a quality elder care program.
  2. Do research.
  3. Ask the elder care facilities that you visit for their state survey reports.
  4. Visit, inspect, and ask questions.
  5. Ensure that your chosen facility has a proper staff-resident ratio. According to the Health and Human Services (HHS), 90 percent of nursing homes are understaffed. Nursing home staffs spend less than 3 hours total with residents each day (HHS) despite about 4 hours being what the government and expert recommendation for patient care each day.
  6. Check on your loved one frequently.Visit your loved one as much as possible to ensure he/she is receiving sufficient senior care.
  7. Physically check your loved one for signs of abuse. A list of abuse symptoms can be found on the NIJ website.
  8. Know your loved one’s rights as a resident. You can view these rights on the website below or by asking your loved one’s care facility for a copy of your state’s “Resident’s Bill of Rights.”

About the Author: Amber Paley is a guest blogger and article writer specializing in elder abuse prevention. Amber spends much of her professional life writing about abuse in nursing homes.

Photo credit: pedrosimoes7

Understanding Assisted Living Residency Agreements: Part Two

In the previous post, we defined what an assisted living residency agreement is and the key tenets of such an agreement. We also worked our way through several basic sections of a sample agreement and highlighted questions to ask and language to look for in each section.

Let’s continue walking through the sections of a sample residency agreement. For each section, we’ll provide some tips and advice on what to look for.

IX. Use of Unit
The purpose of this section is to clearly define how and for what the unit can be used. This section normally addresses issues like pets, parking, guests and storage of materials. The language in this section is usually specific, so make sure and ask questions about items you don’t see in the text.

Some common questions to ask:

  • Is parking included? If not, is there an additional fee?
  • Can your loved one have overnight guests? Are there restrictions to how many nights they can stay? Are there additional costs associated with it?
  • Are pets allowed? How many? Are there optional services available such as dog walking, grooming, etc? What are the additional fees associated with pets?
  • Can there be joint occupancy? This is particularly relevant if spouses want to live together in an assisted living community. How does this affect the cost? Is there a cost benefit to joint occupancy? How do the costs change if one resident leaves? For example, at my mother’s community, a resident’s wife spends the night several times a week, but maintains her own home down the street. How would a scenario such as this be treated under the agreement?
  • Are caregivers considered to be joint occupants? Are the fees or meal charges associated with live-in caregivers? At one local community, a monthly surcharge is assessed for caregivers, which is nearly $1,000.

XI. Termination
The termination section of the contract defines in what situations the contract may be terminated, what money is refunded after termination and what sections of the agreement continue after the end of the contract. Our sample agreement defines termination rules in a variety of scenarios, including: termination by the resident, termination by the community and termination in the event of closure.

Most communities will negotiate little on this section of the agreement, as it defines much of how their business is operated. You should still be aware the rules in each scenario so that you can plan accordingly. It never hurts to ask what can be changed negotiation, so give it a shot!

Some things to be aware of:

  • What are the resident’s termination rights? What notice is required? Thirty days is fair, but don’t let it be more than that, as you will lose your flexibility. Is there a shorter notice period in the case of death or health reasons, such as admission to a hospital or the requirement for extended skilled nursing care?
  • Ensure that you can terminate, with notice, without reason.

So what are the community’s termination rights?

  • Ensure the community can only terminate for cause rather than for any reason. Cause typically includes things like failure to pay rent, failure to meet residency requirements, intentional damage of the community, being a danger to other residents, etc.
  • In the event you are under threat of termination, attempt to negotiate a period of time to remedy the situation. Most contracts allow for thirty days to remedy contractual issues.
  • What is the appeal procedure if you feel you are being terminated or evicted unjustly?
  • The community may also terminate contracts in the event they lose their license or close. What happens in this case?

What happens when the contract is terminated?

  • How long does your loved one have to remove his or her belongings?
  • What should you expect in terms of refunds, e.g. security deposits, community fees or unused monthly fees? Depending on the amount of the community fee that was prepaid, you may be entitled to some type of refund.
  • Within how many days is the community required to issue these refunds?

Other Legal Stuff
Most contacts have several pages of standard legal language. Most of the time, these sections have no impact on the substance of your agreement. While much of this section is standard legal language, it does make sense to alert you to a few “gotchas” below:

  • Costs and attorney’s fees. If there is a provision that resident shall bear all costs and fees (including attorney’s fees) to enforce the agreement, try to remove that language. Attorney’s fees can become quite costly and these fees should be part of the community’s cost of doing business.
  • Insurance and liability. First, most communities will require the resident to maintain their own insurance to cover personal property. You’ll likely be unable to change this, but you should get insurance if it is not provided. Second, the community will likely try and disclaim all liability. You want to try and negotiate this such that the community is at least responsible where the community or its staff has acted intentionally, recklessly or with gross negligence.
  • Assigning or subletting. Most agreements will not allow you to sublet the unit to someone else. However, in the event the community does this, you may still be responsible financial. In other words, make sure you protect yourself in the event of subletting so you are not on the hook for damages, rent and other expenses. Read this section carefully.
  • Arbitration. Arbitration is a clause put into contracts so that disagreements are resolved by a third party and not in court. Arbitration can be conducted anywhere, and many companies would like to have arbitration close to their corporate offices. In the case of a residency agreement, you want to make sure the arbitration location is near your home. You don’t need to incur additional expenses should the need for arbitration arise.
  • Entire agreement. Make sure the residency agreement presented to you represents the entire agreement. You have a right to review all auxiliary materials referenced in the contract, including documents, handbooks or verbal representations.

Residency agreements are not very complex. In fact, they usually very clearly articulate what happens in what scenario and what fee will be assessed. Some key things to remember:

  • Ask questions
  • Negotiate
  • Walk away if you are not comfortable

Photo credit: Waponi

Understanding Assisted Living Residency Agreements: Part One

One of the most daunting tasks of a transition to assisted living is the signing of the residency agreement. Similar to a rental agreement or lease on an apartment, the residency agreement governs cost, services and termination options for your loved one’s stay in assisted living.

It always struck me as odd how little families pay attention to these agreements. We spend hours test driving cars or strolling through the mall, but oddly, very few people read these agreements in detail. And even fewer take them to an attorney for review.

What is a Residency Agreement?

If you Google search “assisted living residency agreement,” you will find many agreements from state or local agencies or assisted living communities. For the purposes of this blog, I’ll be walking through a standard residency agreement from a typical assisted living community. While many agreements may be smaller, this particular agreement is relatively thorough, easy to read and provides a great example for discussion. And with the consolidation occurring in the industry, it makes sense to start there.

Core Components of a Residency Agreement
A residency agreement has many specific sections, but they can be grouped for the sake of discussion into several topics. They are:

  • Accommodations and Term. This topic deals with the actual unit being rented and the duration of the residency agreement.
  • Fees, Core Services and Meals. This topic sets the fee schedule and identifies both included and extra costs. This topic also discusses the “what, when, where, how” of meal service.
  • Residency Qualifications. This topic discusses the qualifications required to be admitted to the community and maintain residency.
  • Maintenance and Use. This topic communicates the service levels regarding building and unit maintenance, and identifies how the rented unit is to be (and not be) used.
  • Termination, Legal Stuff and Arbitration. This topic sets how the agreement can be terminated and includes a lot of standard legal language. One important item discussed in this section it arbitration.

Always remember with contracts that many things are negotiable, so don’t hesitate to ask. This is especially true if the community has many vacancies.

Now we will look at each section of the sample agreement and provide tips, concerns, items to be aware and suggestions to negotiate. I recommend you have an attorney review any contract that is presented to you.

I. Living Accommodations
This section of the contract describes the unit and common areas to be leased by the resident. The language in this section is fairly self-explanatory. Some things to be aware of include:

  • Confirm the exact unit identified in the contract is the unit you’ve agreed to rent
  • Confirm that your loved one, his/her friends and your family have the right to use common areas. These are areas of the community that are freely available to residents, although some communities put restrictions on who other than residents can use them.

II. Term of Residency Agreement
This section of the contract defines the term of the agreement and what happens at termination. Several things are defined: the resident’s rights to ownership (there are none), the length of the agreement, and the “what do to” at termination and with personal property. Things to be aware of in this section include:

  • The length of the agreement should preferably be monthly. Be cautious of longer agreements, especially if you have no termination rights in the event your loved one is no longer able to live there.
  • No auto-renewal. In the event you agree to a term longer than monthly, ensure there is no auto-renewal clause. As you may imagine from its name, auto-renewal automatically renews the contract for a specified period of time, unless you notify in writing your desire not to renew. If the term is monthly, then auto-renewal doesn’t matter as much as you’ll only have 30 days exposure financially.
  • Limit obligations at vacancy. Whether it is due to health or death, inquire about your obligations in the event your loved one is no longer able to reside in the community. Some examples include: How long are you obligated to pay after your loved one has left? How long do you have to remove his or her belongings?
  • Reasonable notice. Ensure your loved one is provided reasonable notice before the community shows your unit to a potential resident. 24-48 hours is reasonable in most situations. Try to avoid anything that doesn’t require notice, as this can be stressful to your loved one.

These sections are fairly standard, but the above tips will help you ask the right questions and negotiate where you feel necessary.

VII. Residency Qualifications
This section is designed to protect both your loved one and the assisted living community. Why? Assisted living communities are only licensed and staffed to provide certain types of care. By defining the qualifications of residency, the community ensures they have the staff and resources to take care of your loved one. There are also requirements to protect other residents such as those requirements around contagions like tuberculosis.
Some things you should be aware of:

  • Review the minimum requirements carefully and make sure your loved one meets these requirements. It’s important to be honest with yourself, as you don’t want to be in a situation where you’ve violated the agreement within the first week.
  • Does the contract state what happens in the event your loved one ceases to meet these requirements? For example, will they be forced to move out and with what notice? Is there an appeal process to dispute whether your loved one meets the requirements? How does that process work?
  • Some communities may require the presentation of medical records or results from a recent medical exam. Make sure the contract ensures the results of the exam are kept confidential except as released by you or your loved one.
  • Some communities may require a pre-admission assessment in which a nurse and community executive conduct an interview and/or medical exam. Make sure to understand in advance the purpose of the exam and what will be covered.

Skilled Nursing Transfers
My mother came to assisted living from a skilled nursing community. In her case, the assisted living community did not conduct a pre-admission assessment. However, they did require medical records from the skilled nursing community and had a lengthy conversation with the head nurse.

In this case, you should follow up with both parties to ensure consistency of the results. The goal here is to avoid any inconsistencies during the admission process. While this part of the contract may in some cases appear intimidating, it is important to realize that it benefits both parties.

VIII. Maintenance, Repairs and Alterations
This section defines the rules to be followed regarding redecoration, alterations and basic housekeeping. It also defines to what extent the assisted living community will be responsible for maintenance and repairs, as well as the resident’s responsibility for damages.

I think most people will find this section to be reasonable and consistent with renting a house or apartment. However, you should read it closely to be sure there are no unreasonable requirements in the contract.
Some things to be aware of:

  • You and your loved one will likely want their unit to feel like home, and therefore may want to redecorate. While our sample agreement provides for things like paint and wallpaper, you should ask specifically if you intend to do something not mentioned. If the community agrees with your request, get it in writing during the contract negotiation. Similar, if you are already a resident, all redecorations should be pre-approved in writing before the project begins.
  • Similar to redecorating, should you wish to make structural or non- structural alterations to the unit, make sure you get written permission during the contract negotiation. Usually, the cost for non-structural alterations like fixtures, toilet items and shelving are the responsibility of the resident. If your loved one is handicap or disabled, the community should make reasonable efforts to accommodate their needs. In our sample agreement, this language is very vague. Make sure you articulate your loved one’s needs and get in writing the community’s intent to provide those alterations. You should also insist that these alterations are completed prior to your agreed up move-in date.
  • Most communities provide some housekeeping services and things like routine carpet cleaning. Some communities charge extra for additional housekeeping. If you intend to have an outside housekeeper visit your loved one’s unit, make sure this is allowed for in the agreement.
  • Damages are often ambiguous in many lease agreements and residency agreements are no different. Ask the community to define damages versus normal wear and tear and to give examples. Some questions to ask: Who conducts the repairs? Are costs based on actual material cost or does the resident pay for asso-ciated labor as well? How do residents resolve situations in which repair costs appear to be abnormally high? If the resident can repair the damage on their own, how much time do they have to complete the project?

Stay tuned for part two of this post next week, where we’ll continue to work our way through the sections of a sample residencey agreement.

Photo credit: Orin Zebest