Should I Divorce My Terminally Ill Spouse?

While catching up on recent news, I came across this advice column about a man’s decision to divorce his terminally ill wife.  It made me very sad for the couple.  It also reminded me that many people might believe this is their only resort when a spouse is facing devastating illness that requires long-term care.  The husband must have felt he had no other recourse.  He did what he thought was best for both himself and his wife.  During my career as an elder law attorney, I can count on one hand the number of times I have suggested divorce as a solution to a couple when one of them is facing long-term care.  I want people to know there ARE other options.

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Ensuring Good Nursing Home Care

The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has identified about 80 nursing homes nationwide that are subject to increased oversight because the facilities have “substantially failed” to meet the required care standards and resident protections mandated by federal and state regulations. These facilities are part of CMS’s Special Focus Facilities Program and are subject to increased monitoring as a result of their poor performance.  A Senate report released this week states that, in addition to those nursing homes, nearly 400 additional nursing homes nationwide have demonstrated a “persistent record of poor care.” These additional nursing homes are considered to be candidates for the Special Focus Facilities Program.  Unfortunately according to CMS, the candidates are not subject to increased oversight or publication due to the federal agency’s limited resources.

In addition to monitoring by CMS, nursing facilities are subject to state requirements, including oversight.  In Ohio, the Department of Health regularly inspect facilities and investigate complaints.  Further information regarding the state’s oversight may be found here.

The Ohio Department of Aging conducts satisfaction surveys asking both residents and family for their input regarding the care provided.  The results of these surveys are then made available to the public.  Further information may be found here.

State inspections and satisfaction surveys are important and helpful to ensuring good care.  However, it is also helpful to have an advocate who visits regularly and can monitor the care that a loved one is receiving.  If family is not local or can’t be available,

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Losing a Parent: Are We Ever Prepared?

On March 16th, one day before St. Patrick’s Day, my father-in-law passed away quietly in the middle of the night. He was 87 years old. Yes, he had been ill, but he was on the road to recovery—or so we thought—recovering in a rehab facility. The 2:00 a.m. call informing my husband of the news was a shock to the whole family. No one saw this coming, not yet anyway.

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Older adults alzheimers alert system

Resource for Caregivers

We have all heard of “Amber” alerts.  They are messages regarding missing orabducted children and are intended to alert us in the event we have any information regarding the missing child’s whereabouts.  Perhaps we’ve received them as texts, emails, or voice mails.  Maybe we’ve seen them on billboards as we’re driving.  The intent is to use the public’s help to locate the missing child as quickly as possible.

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Embracing Death

If you are like me, you may not like thinking or even talking about dying, especially if it’s about you or a loved one. I frequently see the same discomfort in my clients’ faces when we discuss the subject. Discomfort and denial help many of us avoid the topic. Yet death can’t be avoided – at least not yet…

A friend of mine recently sent me a link to a blog called Confessions from a Funeral Director. It is written by Caleb Wilde, who is a sixth generation funeral director from Parkesburg, PA. Reading Mr. Wilde’s blog, I discovered many interesting posts written from the perspective of a person whose job is dealing with death. My favorite post describes nursing homes that have a “front door policy.” Instead of removing a deceased body out of some back door, the deceased is carried out through the front door while the nursing staff line up along the hallway walls, creating a walk of honor acknowledging the life lived and lost. What a wonderful send off!

Mr. Wilde urges us to embrace death, instead of avoiding it. It is the final stage we pass through and by embracing death, we embrace our humanity.

I am renewing my efforts to embrace all stages of life.

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Legislators Introduce Bill Allowing ABLE Accounts for Ohio Residents!

Ever since the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act was signed into federal law on December 19, 2014, individual states have been jumping to get on board with the ABLE Act. 39 states have either introduced or enacted a state version of the ABLE program. We may now add to that list our own state of Ohio. On Wednesday April 15, 2015, Ohio legislators introduced HB 155 and SB 147, the Disability Expense Savings Account bill, also known as the Ohio ABLE Act. Keep reading ...
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Casey Kasem – What Did He Really Want??

The recent death of Casey Kasem made me think about how things can still go wrong even when we believe that we have prepared for the inevitable.

Casey Kasem, a popular radio host, recently passed away at age 82. Many of us remember him as the voice of “American Top 40,” a weekly radio show on which Casey read listener dedications while counting down the hits. The listener dedications were emotional tributes to a loved one, often choking me up.

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Right to Legal Counsel Extends to Guardianship Review Hearings

By Attorney Elena Lidrbauch

When a guardianship application is initially filed, certain steps must be followed by all probate courts. The case is initially assigned to a court investigator who must meet with the prospective ward (the individual under guardianship) and inform the prospective ward of his or her rights. Included among these rights are the right to receive notice that a guardianship application has been filed, that the prospective ward has the right to be present at the hearing, and the right to be represented by counsel. If the prospective ward is indigent, the court must appoint an attorney to represent the prospective ward[1]. Once a guardianship has been established, the ward has the right to seek termination of the guardianship by requesting a review hearing after a period of 120 days has passed from the establishment of the guardianship, and annually thereafter[2].

In Ohio, guardianships are established and supervised by county probate courts. Ohio has 88 county probate courts and although they all must follow state probate laws as well as rules governing probate court practice adopted by the Ohio Supreme Court, the county probate courts may adopt local rules and practices that are unique to each county. This results in variation among county probate court practices and how a particular case is handled. This may also result in different treatment of wards in guardianship proceedings. For example, until recently some county probate courts have appointed counsel to represent an indigent ward in guardianship

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Right to Legal Counsel Extends to Guardianship Review Hearings

When a guardianship application is initially filed, certain steps must be followed by all probate courts. The case is initially assigned to a court investigator who must meet with the prospective ward (the individual under guardianship) and inform the prospective ward of his or her rights. Included among these rights are the right to receive notice that a guardianship application has been filed, that the prospective ward has the right to be present at the hearing, and the right to be represented by counsel. If the prospective ward is indigent, the court must appoint an attorney to represent the prospective ward[1]. Once a guardianship has been established, the ward has the right to seek termination of the guardianship by requesting a review hearing after a period of 120 days has passed from the establishment of the guardianship, and annually thereafter[2].

In Ohio, guardianships are established and supervised by county probate courts. Ohio has 88 county probate courts and although they all must follow state probate laws as well as rules governing probate court practice adopted by the Ohio Supreme Court, the county probate courts may adopt local rules and practices that are unique to each county. This results in variation among county probate court practices and how a particular case is handled. This may also result in different treatment of wards in guardianship proceedings. For example, until recently some county probate courts have appointed counsel to represent an indigent ward in guardianship review hearings, while others

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Does My Adult Child Need a Guardian?

Parents often ask about establishing guardianship for their child.  Usually this occurs when a child has a disability and is about to turn 18.  The parents may be aware, or have been told by someone, that once a child reaches age 18, he or she has reached the age of majority and is presumed (unless proven otherwise) to be competent.  Furthermore, the parent will no longer be the decision-maker when it comes to that child’s education or healthcare.

For many parents, and especially for parents of children with disabilities, this is a scary proposition.  Understandably they want to remain involved as an advocate for their child and be included in discussions and decisions regarding that child’s education or healthcare.  They are concerned that once their child turns 18 the parents will be denied information by the educators and other service providers who care for their child with special needs.  So when some well-meaning person suggests guardianship as a solution, parents will often be ready to file the application and get appointed as their child’s guardian.  But is guardianship the answer for every situation? This is where we begin our discussion.

Guardianship may be established by a probate court in the county where the child resides.  The court generally considers three questions when deciding whether to appoint a guardian: 1) Is the child legally incompetent? 2) Is there a less restrictive alternative? 3) Is the individual applying to be guardian suitable?

Ohio’s definition of legal incompetence is someone who, as a

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Olympics

The 2012 Summer Olympics are about to start and I for one can’t wait.  I will spend the next two weeks glued to the action from the time I get home until I leave my house in the morning.  I will voluntarily deprive myself of sleep (which normally starts for me at 9:00 pm) just so I can catch all of the action and the commentary.  I love the Olympics, the drama, the competition and especially the stories about the athletes.  I always find them inspirational.

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