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Monday, February 21, 2011

Be On the Lookout for Financial Fraud of the Elderly

It seems that calls to my office that paint a picture of financial fraud of the elderly are increasing. Apparently, the statistics show that 1/5th of Americans older than 65 have been the victim of some sort of financial swindle.  That's 7.3 million seniors!
Elder financial abuse is becoming the crime of the 21st century as the growing senior population is increasingly targeted. - Fred Joseph, President of the North American Securities Administrators Association

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Caregiver of 38 Years Loses Home to Medicaid Nursing Home Costs

Will Medicaid take my home if I need to go to a nursing home?  How can I protect my house? These are two of the most common questions I hear as an elder law attorney.
On Monday, Rita Price of The Columbus Dispatch published a related story entitled "Thanks to Medicaid, Caregiver Faces Eviction - Forced Sale of Home".
Murrell Lewis cared for owner Alma O'Brien, 94, for 38 years
Price tells the tale of Murrell Lewis, a single man in 1973 with a doctorate in physics that needed a place to live, and Alma Ruth O'Brien, a widow that opened her home to Mr. Murrell.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Beware of Nursing Home Arbitration Agreements

Nursing Home Arbitration Agreements are something to pay close attention to when entering a nursing home or assisted living facility.  Many residents sign these without a second thought, but some  commentators characterize these contracts as an "incredible disservice" to nursing home residents and their families.

Why are these considered a "disservice"? Well, some would say these arbitration clauses are often "buried" within 20, 30, or even 40 pages of legalese text, not unlike that which might be seen when buying a car. You might say that this can make it difficult to understand the full terms of the contract.

In a 2009 case, Hayes v. Oakridge Home, the Hayes family alleged that Mrs. Hayes was a victim of negligence, as she suffered serious injuries when she fell from a wheelchair while at a nursing home.  The nursing home produced the arbitration agreement indicating that Mrs. Hayes had agreed to forego a lawsuit in favor of binding arbitration.

The family felt that they should not be held to the arbitration clause because:
Hayes lacked any business or contract experience; no one explained the terms of the agreement to Hayes, including the fact that she could alter the agreement; the rescission clause was buried among a myriad of terms, and she was required to fill out numerous other forms at the same time; and there were no alternative sources of supply because finding a quality nursing home is difficult.
Regardless, the court found the clause to be enforceable and the Hayes family did not have the option of following through with the lawsuit in court.

Before you or a loved one signs anything, make sure to read it closely.  If you are not comfortable with agreeing to take any complaints or disputes to arbitration rather than court, ask them to strike the arbitration agreement clause, or speak to an elder law attorney before signing.