Health Care help and beyond

(CREDIT: please see below)

 Benefits bonanza – Aid & Attendance

Perhaps the single most overlooked benefit is Aid & Attendance, which is an Improved Pension Benefit for Vets and their surviving spouses who need assistance with basic self-care.

A doctor has to qualify a candidate and a person must be legally blind or need assistance with one or more of the following:

  • Bathing
  • Dressing
  • Transferring
  • Walking
  • Medications
  • Personal care

The tax-free money, ranging from $1,094 to $2,020, can be used for care at home, in an assisted living facility, or at a nursing home.

There are stringent qualification guidelines and in addition, those who qualify typically must have limited – the VA says $80,000 or less per couple—assets.  But there are exceptions.

And since the VA, unlike Medicaid, doesn’t currently have a look-back period, you can do some advance planning to qualify for the benefit without incurring a penalty.  But do your planning early, you never know when the VA will revise their rules .

6 things to know

1. Snowbird benefits. If you have dual residences, you need to register at hospitals in both places’ especially if you spend months living in different parts of the country

2. Know your benefits.  Don’t overestimate benefits. It’s important to know what the VA does and doesn’t provide when you’re doing your long-term planning. Do plenty of research.

3. Be patient. Be prepared to wait for appointments and when you’re picking up medicine since the VA isn’t known for speed.

4. Pre-screen facilities.  If you’re looking for nursing care and you or your relative qualifies for a VA facility, visit the facilities in your area and take a close look at them. Not all are created equal.

5.  Agent Orange exposure: Anyone that served in Vietnam could be affected by Agent Orange.  Ailments can include early heart attacks, prostate cancer, and Parkinson’s disease. For more information on Agent Orange exposure and making a claim, see http://www.publichealth.va.gov/exposures/agentorange.

6. Hire an expert.  Don’t go it alone, especially if you’re applying for Aid & Attendance. It’s a complex process and not all the details, exceptions, and updates are easy to find for the average consumer. So get help from an eldercare attorney or consultant with VA expertise.



Apply for VA benefits online https://www.1010ez.med.va.gov,  by  calling  1-877-222-VETS (8387), or in person. To find VA facilities, see www2.va.gov/directory/guide/home.asp.

Consultants and eldercare lawyers:

VA benefits basics:

Aid & Attendance:

Do you have a real estate question? For FREE Real Estate Help and Advice tailored to Seniors and their Families please visit www.aseniorsrealtor.com, or call me at (916) 421 5421

CREDIT: This blog was distilled from a recent SRES article By Elyse Umlauf-Garneau including contributions from Carlotta Katra, president of Aging Avenues Eldercare Consulting, Indianapolis, Ind., a fee-only consulting company with an expertise in VA benefits.

VA Health Care help and beyond.

Maybe you’ve never tapped U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) benefits because you’ve never needed them, or perhaps you’ve forgotten they’re available.
But if you or someone you know is retired from the military, you may be overlooking a host of health and financial benefits. The VA won’t deliver the high life, but some of its services can ease the burdens associated with aging.

The most well-known VA benefits are related to health care, but the package is more extensive than many realize. It includes:
Preventative services, such as:
• Immunizations
• Health care assessments from a team that includes doctors and a social worker
• Health and nutrition education
Medical care, including:
• Outpatient/inpatient hospital, medical, surgical, mental health care, and substance abuse care
• Prescription drugs
• Rehab services
• Durable medical equipment, such as hearing aids and glasses.
• Respite and adult daycare. If you’re a full-time caregiver to a Veteran, you can get 30 days per year off.
• Hospice care; for Vets with a terminal condition with under 6 months to live.

Easier aging in place
Other lesser known benefits have the power to ease day-to-day aging challenges and, in some cases, transform lives by allowing for greater independence.
Some non- health care benefits include:
• Home loans: See http://www.benefits.va.gov/homeloans
• Home modifications: Grants may be available
• Vehicle modification: For information, (see Dependents and Survivors Benefits)
• Aid & Attendance (Please see my VA benefits blog Part 2)
[ In part 2, my Senior’s blog covers additional benefits including where to go to learn more about Agent Orange issues and other VA benefits.]

Do you have a real estate question? For FREE Real Estate Help and Advice tailored to Seniors and their Families please visit www.aseniorsrealtor.com, or call me at (916) 421 5421

CREDIT: This blog was distilled from a recent SRES article By Elyse Umlauf-Garneau including contributions from Carlotta Katra, president of Aging Avenues Eldercare Consulting, Indianapolis, Ind., a fee-only consulting company with an expertise in VA benefits.

Constantly Changing or Changing Constantly? 

As if  our experiences in getting to midlife weren’t enough, the housing freefall and the almost (it seems) constant  drumming of poor economic news suggests one truth: things change.  It reminds me of the reality learned during my days of consulting for a Fortune 500 company and when managing law firms: The only constant is change! 

Maybe you’re working from home more often these days, or maybe you’re not sure where (or whether) you’ll be working after the next quarter. Perhaps you’ve lost a loved one, or want to work less so you know you’ll have less income.  Or, perhaps your (former) home equity was the biggest part of your nestegg and most of it’s gone.

Many people in such circumstances consider downsizing — moving to a smaller, easier-to-manage home.  But if that new job doesn’t come along or furlows get removed, or if loss of equity has robbed you of your ability to move today, then downsizing may not be an option right now. 

But rightsizing may be. We tend to think of our home as a fixed and inflexible structure, but homes can change, too.

Rightsizing is the concept of working with what you have by making better use of existing space. It is a process in which you analyze the spaces in your home, how you currently use them and the practical possibilities to adapt them to better serve your needs and lifestyle. The expectatiation is that you can live more fully in your longtime family home if you rightsize — and avoid the wrenching process of moving, at least for the foreseable future. Whether you’re driven by immediate or future needs, now may be the time to look at your home in a new way.

Rightsizing questions

The rightsizing process starts with an analysis of the existing spaces within your house and how they’re being used. Since home designs and individual lifestyles are diverse, it’s not possible to formulate a definitive list of questions, but typical issues include:

  • Do you really use all the rooms of your house?
  • Are there rooms that are used more for storing furniture, books and papers than any other activity?
  • Is your dining room a walk-through space on the way to elsewhere?
  • How many times a year does someone visit your guest room?
  • What routine activities seem uncomfortable or inefficient in your home’s current setup — in the kitchen, bath, or wherever you relax or do professional or hobby work?

The point is to assess how you actually use the defined spaces in your home. For example, a foyer may be superfluous if your main entry is through the back patio or garage. Similarly, the oversized great room of the 1990s doesn’t necessarily work for every family. This space might incorporate too many functions to be shared comfortably: TV viewing, eating, homework, reading or game playing. The dining room that gets used three times a year can be repurposed. And for many of us, one home office may simply not be enough; in this economy, more than one family member may be working from home.

How do you want (need) to live in your house?

Next, ask yourself what kind of spaces you really need in your home now. These questions often arise from lifestyle changes that typically occur in midlife, which may make new demands on the spaces available in your home.  For example:

  • Now that it’s just the two of you, how can you make the house truly your own?
  • When Bill cuts his hours next year and starts writing his memoir, where will he work? (You don’t want that messy guy in your home office.)
  • With the tough economic tomes of today is there a chance one or more of your childre may move back in?   Would you be able to make them and you comfortable?
  • You’ve always wanted to paint. Where can you set up a studio?
  • When Dad or Mom can’t live on their own anymore, how will you accommodate them in your house if y ou need to?
  • What do you have to do so that you can grow old in this house?

 Of course, there are many more questions depending on the size and floor plan of your home. But the answers to this set of questions typically can be found in your answers to the first set, which pinpointed the underused and misused areas of your home.

Rightsizing solutions – as varied as your imagination

Start by forgetting about the traditional room names. Give yourself permission to reimagine how these spaces can be used based on your emerging needs.  Essentially, start with a blank sheet of paper and write/draw some ideas and answers to the questions you’ve raised in the above exercise.  If walls or doors need to be moved, then get some help with what’s practical and what it will cost by calling in a couple of contractors to get additional ideas and cost estimates.

Finally, decide if you want to spend what it will take to make you home livable for your current needs until you are willing or able to make a move in the future.

a Seniors Real Estate Specialist


Do you have a real estate question? For FREE Real Estate Help and Advice tailored to Seniors and their Families please visit www.aseniorsrealtor.com, or call me at (916) 421 5421

CREDIT: Information for this piece was drawn from a recent AARP.com article written by Gale Steves.  She is the author of “Right-Sizing Your Home” and her book is available online at Amazon, www.BarnesandNoble.com and other bookstores.

Would  you like to make better use of the “lost” space around those doors in your home?  You know, the dead space behind the door. Or how about organizing that pile of dirty duds in the laundry room?

Check out these ideas for rightsizing your home by making it more usable or efficient:

  • Laundry Room Storage: 5 Naked Truths

    Unless you do your laundry in the buff, it’s one chore that’s never really done. Follow these laundry room storage ideas, however, and you can breeze through your dirty duds in no time. Read

Visit houselogic.com for more articles like this.


Do you have a real estate question? For FREE Real Estate Help and Advice tailored to Seniors and their Families please visit www.aseniorsrealtor.com, or call me at (916) 421 5421

The First Fork in the Road: Should I stay or should I go?

It’s often difficult to tell when you really should be thinking about moving  from the family home.  Is it time to downsize? Is maintaining the home becoming a chore? Others, including family and friends may sense that the home is too much for you but you may have a more difficult time seeing when that point has been reached.

But sooner or later the time will come.  Why not start to think about it now, when you still have control over your choices and you are not under the pressure of a significant life shaping event such as illness or loss of a loved one?

Start with an honest self evaluation.  You may want to jot down your thoughts and answers by yourself first then later have a trusted friend or relative answer the same questions of how they see you.  Then compare notes.

Here are some self evaluation questions to ask yourself that may help:

  1. Considering my age, what is my overall physical and mental health?
  2. How am I presently able to function? The answer can range from being totally independent to needing long term care.
  3. How long have I lived at my present address?
  4. Why am I thinking of moving? Is it because you don’t want to live alone or you have health concerns for example?
  5. Where would I go if I did move? Would you want to be nearer family or friends or a in a warmer climate?
  6. What kind of living arrangement do I want (or need)? What senior housing options are available?
  7. When do I want to make this move? In a few months or years from now?
  8. How will the decision be made? do I decide for myself or get input from others?
  9. Who can help me move?  Do I need to hire someone or will friends or family be able to help?
  10. Do I have people around me that I can trust regardless of my decision?

If you still have questions, say about downsizing for example, contact a Seniors Real Estate Specialist for advice.  They are equipped with the training and experience to help you with senior’s issues.

Once you’ve completed your self evaluation you are ready to delve further into the “Stay or Go?” question.  If your decision is to stay, then how much longer and what, if anything do you need to do to make your home more suitable for aging in place? If you believe it’s time to go then how do you get ready to go down that path? What senior housing or retirement community options are there?

Do you have a real estate question? For FREE Real Estate Help and Advice tailored to Seniors and their Families please visit www.aseniorsrealtor.com, or call me at (916) 421 5421


Phony “Foreclosure Counselors” offer Loan Modification false hope

One of the ugliest effects of this economic downturn is how it’s brought out crooks who prey on financially distressed and frightened homeowners, including seniors, by ensnaring them in home-loan modification scams.  This is just the right scenario for scam artists to come in and victimize people and endanger the homeowners with foreclosure

As the “Great Recession” has dragged on, some seniors are struggling too and may be facing a more difficult time paying their mortgage.  With a strong desire to stay in their home (known as “aging in place”) they may be tempted to consider a loan modification.  And scammers know they can prey upon them, they are vulnerable because they are part of the “Trusting Generation” .

Loan modifications typically involve a reduction in the loan’s interest rate, an extension of the loan’s term, or a different type of loan or any combination of the three.

Loan modification scams come in various forms. Here are some of them:

Phony counseling or foreclosure rescue scams: The scam artist poses as a counselor and says he or she can negotiate a deal with your lender to save your house, but only if you first pay them a fee.  They may even tell you not to contact your lender, lawyer, or real estate advisor and that they’ll handle all details. They might even insist that you make all mortgage payments directly to them while they negotiate with your lender.

Don’t fall for it! Once you pay the fee, or a few mortgage payments, the scammer disappears with your money. Never send a mortgage payment to anyone other than your lender.

Protect yourself! Avoid anyone who asks for a fee in advance to work with your lender to modify, refinance, or reinstate your mortgage. They’ll likely do little or nothing to help you save your home from foreclosure.  There is legitimate help available.  A few REALTORS® have special training in loan modification programs; contact a Certified HAFA Specialist.  They will not take an upfront fee and will be able to explain your options.

Also, don’t stop communicating with your lender. That’s the worst thing you can do. The minute you have trouble paying your mortgage, contact your lender.

Fake government modification programs: Some scammers may claim to be affiliated with, or approved by, the government.  The scammer’s company website may look like a real government agency. You may even see words on the site like federal, TARP, Home Affordable, or others related to official government programs.

Don’t be fooled!  Before you sign up, contact your lender, who can tell you if you qualify for any government programs. And you don’t have to pay to benefit from these programs.  Or, talk to a Certified HAFA Specialist who knows the government’s home loan modification programs.

Bait and switch: The scam artist may try to convince you to sign documents for a new loan modification that will make your existing mortgage current.  This is a trick! You’re actually signing documents that surrender the title of your house to the scam artist in exchange for a so-called rescue loan.

Rent-to-own or lease-back scheme: The scammer tries to deceive you into signing over the deed to your home and promises that you can remain in the house as a renter and eventually buy it back.  Don’t do it! The terms of this deal are usually so demanding, sometimes raising your rent over time, that the buy-back becomes impossible. The homeowner gets evicted, and the “rescuer” walks off with the home and or the equity.

Don’t be afraid to report scams:

Many seniors fail to report scams because they don’t see themselves as victims of a crime.  They often believe instead that they made a poor business decision or that that they misplaced their trust.

If you find yourself the victim of a scam, report it so that more people aren’t victimized. It will help authorities build cases against the scammers.

You may have other options too:

Perhaps now is the time to seriously consider downsizing to a smaller home or joining an active adult/retirement community.  Many seniors have sizable equity, (even now, after the housing bubble has burst) and can take advantage of Proposition 60 and transfer their low property tax rate into another home.  Seek the advice of a Seniors Real Estate Specialist ( SRES)  who understands how this works.


Do you have a real estate question? For FREE Real Estate Help and Advice tailored to Seniors and their Families please visit www.aseniorsrealtor.com, or call me at (916) 421 5421

Developed with excerpts from an article by Pamela Yip, The Dallas Morning News

MM900234746[1]The first nip of Fall in the air reminds us that energy costs will soon start to increase. Here are some tips to help save on energy costs:

  • Install these energy-efficient measures:
    • Replace and recycle your old refrigerator and purchase energy-efficient models. Units only 10 years old can use twice as much electricity as a new ENERGY STAR® labeled model.
    • Insulate ceilings to R-38 levels if your attic has less than R-19.
    • Caulk windows, doors and anywhere air leaks in or out. Do not caulk around water heater and furnace exhaust pipes.
    • Weatherstrip around windows and doors.
    • Wrap heating and cooling ducts with duct wrap, or use mastic sealant.
    • Install energy-saver showerheads.
  • When buying new appliances, be sure to purchase energy-efficient ENERGY STAR® labeled models.
  • Set the furnace thermostat at 68 degrees or lower, and the air-conditioner thermostat at 78 degrees or higher, health permitting. 3 percent to 5 percent more energy is used for each degree the furnace is set above 68 degrees and for each degree the air conditioner is set below 78 degrees.
  • If your old air conditioner is on its way out replace it with ENERGY STAR® labeled energy-efficient model.
  • Use compact fluorescent lamps. You can lower your lighting bill by converting to energy-efficient low-wattage compact fluorescent lighting and fixtures.
  • Replace old windows with new high performance dual pane windows.
  • Clean or replace furnace and air-conditioner filters regularly, following manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Set the water heater thermostat at 140 degrees or “normal.” If you have a dishwasher. Otherwise, set it at 120 degrees or “low.” Check your dishwasher to see if you can use 120 degree water. Follow the manufacturer’s direction on yearly maintenance to extend the life of your unit.
  • Fix defective plumbing or dripping faucets. A single dripping hot water faucet can waste 212 gallons of water a month. That not only increases water bills, but also increases the gas or electric bill for heating the water.
  • Wash only full loads in a dishwasher and use the shortest cycle that will get your dishes clean. If operating instructions allow, turn off the dishwasher before the drying cycle, open the door and let the dishes dry naturally.
  • Defrost refrigerators and freezers before ice buildup becomes 1/4-inch thick.
  • Install shades, awnings or sunscreens on windows facing south and/or west to block summer light. In winter, open shades on sunny days to help warm rooms.
  • Close the damper when the fireplace is not being used. Try not to use the fireplace and central heating system at the same time.

Do you have a real estate question? For FREE Real Estate Help and Advice tailored to Seniors and their Families please visit www.aseniorsrealtor.com, or call me at (916) 421 5421


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