Quirk in Medicare System’s Observation Status – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning

There is a troubling quirk in the Medicare system that occurs when older patients are hospitalized and instead of being officially admitted, they are placed on “observation status” reports the article “Caught Paying for Rehab Due to Observation Status? Medicare May Owe You” from The National Law Journal.

Observation status originally was meant to serve as a temporary status for people who were receiving medical care and tests in a hospital setting until they were either sent home or a diagnosis was made, and they were officially admitted.

However, in the past 10 years or so, the number of patients in hospitals deemed to be in observation status has increased enormously, even when patients have received a diagnosis and their doctors have admitted them to the hospital. This is a direct result of the Medicare claims review process, where hospitals risk not being paid because of inpatient services being billed without documents of certain diagnoses and levels of care.

The hospital seeks to protect itself, by designating a patient as observation status. There is no downside to the hospital, since this is covered by Medicare, just under Part B, rather than Part A.

However, for the patient, it is not that simple. First, the denial of Part A inpatient coverage means that the patient has to pay for each and every deductible and copay for each service. Prescription drugs received while the patient is in the hospital are billed separately and are not included under the Part A inpatient payment.

It gets worse. Medicare coverage for post-hospital care is denied or extremely limited for observation status patients. Medicare only covers rehab costs in a facility, if the patient was admitted to the hospital for at least three days.

Observation status days do not count towards those qualifying days. It does not matter if the treating physician had the patient admitted to the hospital, because hospitals can change the status of the patient retroactively.

Until recently, there was no recourse for patients. However, a recent class action suit in Connecticut may see that begin to change. A federal judge held that Medicare beneficiaries whose hospital stays were changed to observation status may appeal to Medicare for reimbursement of their payments to rehabilitation facilities. As a result of Alexander v. Azar, patients have the right to recover payments for their nursing home rehabilitation stays.

Patients whose doctors placed them on observation status still are not permitted to appeal.

Speak with your elder law estate planning attorney, if this scenario applies to you or family member.

Reference: The National Law Review (May 26, 2020) “Caught Paying for Rehab Due to Observation Status? Medicare May Owe You”

 

Sims & Campbell, LLC – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning Attorneys

Your Children Wish You Had an Estate Plan – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning

It is the adult children who are in charge of aging parents when they need long-term care. They are also the ones who settle estates when parents die. Even if they cannot always come out and tell you, the recent article, “Why your children wish you had an Elder Law Estate Plan” from the Times Herald-Record spells out exactly why an elder law estate plan is so important for your loved ones.

Avoid court proceedings while living. In a perfect world, everyone over age 18 will have an advance directive, including a power of attorney, a health care proxy, and a living will. These documents appoint others to make financial, legal, and medical decisions, in case of incapacity. Without them, the children will have to get involved with time-consuming, expensive guardianship proceedings, where a judge appoints a legal guardian to make these decisions. Your life is turned over to a court-appointed guardian, instead of your children or another person of your choosing.

Avoid court proceedings after you die. If you die and assets are in your name alone, then your estate will go through probate, a court proceeding that can be time consuming and costly. Not having any assets in trusts leaves your kids open to the possibility of wills being challenged, disputes among family members and litigation that can drag on for years.

Wills in probate court are public documents. Trusts are private documents. Do you really want a stranger to access your will and learn about your assets?

An elder law estate plan also plans for the possibility of long-term care and costs. Nursing home care costs can run between $12,000—$18,000 per month. If you do not have long-term care insurance, you can create a Medicaid Asset Protection Trust (MAPT) that protects assets in the trust from nursing home costs, once the assets are in the trust for five years. The MAPT also protects assets from homecare provided by Medicaid, called “community” Medicaid, once the assets are in the trust for 30 months under a new rule that starts on October 1, 2020.

The “elder law power of attorney” has unlimited gifting powers that could save about half of a single person’s assets from the cost of nursing homes. This can be done on the eve of needing nursing home care, but it is always better to do this planning in advance.

Having a plan in place decreases stress and anxiety for adult children. They are likely busy with their own lives, working, caring for their children and coping in a challenging world. When a plan is in place, they do not have to start learning about Medicaid law, navigating their way through the court system, or wondering why their parents did not take advantage of the time they had to plan properly.

You probably do not want your children remembering you as the parents who left a financial and legal mess behind for the them to clean up. Speak with an elder law estate planning attorney to create a plan for your future. Your children will appreciate it.

Reference: Times Herald-Record (May 23, 2020) “Why your children wish you had an Elder Law Estate Plan”

Sims & Campbell, LLC – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning Attorneys

What Should I know about Financial Powers of Attorney? – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning

A financial power of attorney is a document allowing an “attorney-in-fact” or “agent” to act on the principal’s behalf. It usually allows the agent to pay the principal’s bills, access her accounts, pay her taxes and buy and sell investments. This person, in effect, assumes the responsibilities of the principal and can act for the principal in all areas detailed in the document.

Kiplinger’s recent article from April entitled “What Are the Duties for Financial Powers of Attorney?” acknowledges that these responsibilities may sound daunting, and it is only natural to feel a little overwhelmed initially. Here are some facts that will help you understand what you need to do.

Read and do not panic. Review the power of attorney document and know the extent of what the principal has given you power to handle in their stead.

Understand the scope. Make a list of the principal’s assets and liabilities. If the individual for whom you are caring is organized, then that will be simple. Otherwise, you will need to find these items:

  • Brokerage and bank accounts
  • Retirement accounts
  • Mortgage papers
  • Tax bills
  • Utility, phone, cable, and internet bills
  • Insurance premium invoices

Take a look at the principal’s spending patterns to see any recurring expenses. Review their mail for a month to help you to determine where the money comes and goes. If your principal is over age 72 and has granted you the power to manage her retirement plan, do not forget to make any required minimum distributions (RMDs). If your principal manages her finances online, you will need to contact their financial institutions and establish that you have power of attorney, so that you can access these accounts.

Guard the principal’s assets. Make certain that her home is secure. You might make a video inventory of the residence. If it looks like your principal will be incapacitated for a long time, you might stop the phone and newspaper. Watch out for family members taking property and saying that it had been promised to them (or that it belonged to them all along).

Pay bills. Be sure to monitor your principal’s bills and credit card statements for potential fraud. You might temporarily suspend credit cards that you will not be using on the principal’s behalf. Remember that they may have monthly bills paid automatically by credit card.

Pay taxes. Many powers of attorney give the agent the power to pay the principal’s taxes. If so, you will be responsible for filing and paying taxes during the principal’s lifetime. If the principal dies, the executor of the principal’s will is responsible and will prepare the final taxes.

Ask about estate planning. See if there is an estate plan and ask a qualified estate planning attorney for help. If the principal resides in a nursing home paid by Medicaid, talk to an elder law attorney as soon as possible to save the principal’s estate at least some of the costs of their care.

Keep records. Track your expenditures made on your principal’s behalf. This will help you demonstrate that you have upheld your duties and acted in the principal’s best interests, as well as for reimbursement for expenses.

Always act in the principal’s best interest. If you do not precisely know the principal’s expectations, then always act with their best interests in mind. Contact the principal’s attorney who prepared the power of attorney for guidance.

Reference: Kiplinger (April 22, 2020) “What Are the Duties for Financial Powers of Attorney?”

Sims & Campbell, LLC – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning Attorneys

Planning for Long-Term Care Before It’s Too Late – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning

Starting to plan for elder care should happen when you are in your 50s or 60s. By the time you are 70, it may be too late. With the national median annual cost of a private room in a nursing facility coming in at more than $100,000, not having a plan can become one of the most expensive mistakes of your financial life. The article “Four steps you can take to safeguard your retirement savings from this risk” from CNBC says that even if care is provided in your own home, the annual median national cost of in-home skilled nursing is $87.50 per visit.

There are fewer and fewer insurance companies that offer long-term care insurance policies, and even with a policy, there are many out-of-pocket costs that also have to be paid. People often fail to prepare for the indirect cost of caregiving, which primarily impacts women who are taking care of older, infirm male spouses and aging parents.

More than 34 million Americans provided unpaid care to older adults in 2015, with an economic value of $522 billion per year.

That is not including the stress of caring for loved ones, watching them decline and needing increasingly more help from other sources.

The best time to start planning for the later years is around age 60. That is when most people have experienced their parent’s aging and understand that planning and conversations with loved ones need to take place.

Living Transitions. Do you want to remain at home as long as is practicable, or would you rather move to a continuing care retirement community? If you are planning on aging in place in your home, what changes will need to be made to your home to ensure that you can live there safely? How will you protect yourself from loneliness, if you plan on staying at home?

Driving Transitions. Knowing when to turn in your car keys is a big issue for seniors. How will you get around, if and when you are no longer able to drive safely? What transportation alternatives are there in your community?

Financial Caretaking. Cognitive decline can start as early as age 53, leading people to make mistakes that cost them dearly. Forgetting to pay bills, paying some bills twice, or forgetting accounts, are signs that you may need some help with your financial affairs. Simplify things by having one checking, one savings account and three credit cards: one for public use, one for automatic bill-paying and a third for online purchases.

Healthcare Transitions. If you do not already have an advance directive, you need to have one created, as part of your overall estate plan. This provides an opportunity for you to state how you want to receive care, if you are not able to communicate your wishes. Not having this document may mean that you are kept alive on a respirator, when your preference is to be allowed to die naturally. You will also need a Health Care Power of Attorney, a person you name to make medical decisions on your behalf when you cannot do so. This person does not have to be a spouse or an adult child—sometimes it is best to have a trusted friend who you will be sure will follow your directions. Make sure this person is willing to serve, even when your documented wishes may be challenged.

Reference: CNBC (Jan. 31, 2020) “Four steps you can take to safeguard your retirement savings from this risk”

Sims & Campbell, LLC – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning Attorneys

How to Spot Problems at Nursing Homes – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning

The best time to shop for a nursing home, is when you do not need one. If you wait until you can no longer safely or comfortably live on your own, you probably will not be in a position to do a lot of legwork to investigate facilities. Do your research well ahead of time, so you know the nursing homes in your area that provide high-quality care and, more importantly, the ones that have significant problems.

As you evaluate and compare facilities, you need to know how to spot problems at nursing homes. The marketing brochure, website and lobby might be lovely, but you should base your decision about a long-term care facility on much more data than those things. Here are some tips on how to dig for possible problems at nursing homes:

  • Online search. Check out the nursing home’s website to get an overview of the services it offers and the industry affiliations or certifications it has. Look at the daily menus to see if the meals are nutritious and have enough variety. Most people would not enjoy eating the same main course two or three times a week. Look at the activities calendar to see if you would be happy with the planned social events. On some websites, you can view the floor plans of the resident rooms.
  • Ask your primary care doctor to name a few facilities he would recommend for his parents, and those where he would not want them to live.
  • Local Office on Aging location. Every state has an Office on Aging. Contact them to get as much information as you can about safety records, injuries, deaths, regulation violations and complaints about local nursing homes.
  • Your state’s Long-term Care Ombudsman (LCO). Every state also has an Ombudsman who investigates allegations against nursing homes and advocates for the residents. Your state LCO should have a wealth of information about the facilities in your area.
  • State Online Database or Reporting System. Some states have online databases or collect reports about nursing homes.
  • Medicare’s Nursing Home Compare website. Medicare maintains an online tool, Nursing Home Compare, that provides detailed information on nursing homes. Every nursing home that gets any funding from Medicare or Medicaid is in this database. You can enter the name of a specific nursing home or search for all the facilities in a city or zip code. The tool includes information about abuse at long-term care facilities. On the webpage, you can explore the Special Focus Facility section to find nursing homes with a history of problems.
  • Word of mouth. Ask your friends, relatives and neighbors to recommend a quality nursing home. Personal experience can be extremely valuable.
  • Make a short list of the top candidates. After you collect as much information as you reasonably can, narrow your options down to four or five facilities that best meet your needs and preferences.
  • Visit your top choices. There is no substitute for going to a nursing home and checking it out in person. Pay attention to the cleanliness of the place throughout, not just in the lobby. Give the facility the “sniff” test. Determine whether they use products to mask unpleasant odors, instead of cleaning thoroughly. See whether the residents are well-groomed and wearing fresh, clean clothes. Observe the interaction of the staff with the residents. Notice whether people who need assistance at mealtime, get the help they need without having to wait.
  • Take online reviews with a grain of salt. Fake reviews are all over the internet. If you see a nursing home with only a few reviews, and they are all five stars, be skeptical.

Once you gather this information, you will be ready in the event you need to stay in a nursing home for a short recuperation from surgery or longer term.

References:

AARP. “Finding a Nursing Home: Don’t Wait Until You Need One to Do the Research.” (accessed December 5, 2019) https://www.aarp.org/caregiving/basics/info-2019/finding-a-nursing-home.html

CMS. “Find a nursing home.” (accessed December 5, 2019) https://www.medicare.gov/nursinghomecompare/search.html

Sims & Campbell, LLC – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning Attorneys

Alternatives to Medicaid – A Short Primer on Long-Term Care Insurance – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning

Medicaid is a state-run program that caters to those surviving on less than 125% of the official poverty level. Many elderly individuals forego purchasing long-term care insurance, in favor of relying on Medicaid to cover their expenses. Unfortunately, after bankrupting themselves to qualify for Medicaid nursing home coverage, many of these same individuals find themselves dismayed at the lack of choice and care options.

Qualifying for Medicaid Long-Term Care

To obtain long-term care benefits through Medicaid, you must meet the income and asset requirements. In addition, you must be unable to perform at least two of the following six activities of daily living:

  • Feeding
  • Bathing
  • Walking
  • Transferring
  • Toilet Use
  • Dressing

If you qualify, you may be able to get all or most of your care covered, but you don’t have as many options when it comes to choice of facility. Medicaid also doesn’t typically cover adult daycare, assisted living, respite care, or in-home care.

Alternatives for Medicaid Long-Term Care – Not Medicare

With Medicare covering about 1/5th of nursing home care in the U.S., elderly individuals are forced to look at alternative means to cover skilled nursing and other long-term care needs. As it stands, Medicare Part A covers up to 100 days of skilled nursing care. Requirements to qualify are stringent, and few people have the time or understanding to correctly navigate the Medicare system.

Long-Term Care Insurance

If you’re insurable and can afford the premiums, long-term care insurance may be the best option for your long-term care needs. Coverage will vary based on your insurance company and plan options. Be sure to get coverage for all you anticipate you’ll need.

In 2019, the average cost of a semi-private room in a nursing home was $7,513 per month. Private rooms average over $8,000 per month. Even if you don’t anticipate needing that level of care, you should be aware that a one-bedroom apartment in an assisted-living facility costs over $4,000 a month. With inflation, this will likely increase. You don’t want to come up short on coverage.

If long-term care insurance is an option for you, be sure to start planning early. Insurance companies are known to reject more applicants, the older they get. Review your plans each year to ensure your policy still meets your anticipated needs. Make changes if necessary, and never stop paying your premiums, unless you want your insurance to lapse.

Resources:

ElderLawAnswers. “Alternatives to Medicaid: A Long-Term Care Insurance Primer” (Accessed November 28, 2019)  https://www.elderlawanswers.com/elder-law-guides/5/a-long-term-care-insurance-primer

Investopedia. “Medicaid vs. Long-Term Care Insurance: What to Know” (Accessed November 28, 2019)  https://www.investopedia.com/articles/05/031005.asp

Investopedia. “Strategies to Help Pay for Eldercare” (Accessed November 28, 2019)  https://www.investopedia.com/articles/personal-finance/102014/top-5-elder-care-strategies.asp

Sims & Campbell, LLC – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning Attorneys

Caring for Parents – 4 Alternatives to Nursing Home Care – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning

As our parents continue to advance in years, questions about how best to care for them often come up, especially around the holidays. Maybe they’re slowing down a bit. Perhaps their memory is slipping. Is it time to shop for nursing homes? Maybe. However, there are alternatives to consider, when it comes to caring for aging parents.

Alternative #1 – In-Home Care

According to studies of aging Americans, this population prefers to remain in their own homes, if possible. They want to retain their personal autonomy, have familiar surroundings, and mostly—they don’t want to be filed away and forgotten. Most seniors that choose to remain in the home are cared for by family, and to a lesser extent, professional home healthcare workers.

While in-home care can be less expensive than a semi-or private-unit in a nursing home, it does have its downsides. This is particularly true, when it is a family member that is providing care. A sense of inequality often arises in the family dynamic, when one person is taking on all of the caregiving duties. When considering in-home care, it is critical to communicate with all family members and come up with an agreement, as to the division of labor for mom and dad.

Alternative #2 – Adult Daycare

Adult daycare may be used as an alternative to nursing home care, or in concert with in-home care. These types of centers enable elderly members to maintain a sense of community. These community centers are growing in popularity, due to the reduced cost of care, which is more than 50% less, according to the MetLife National Study of Adult Day Services. Studies have also shown that these types of facilities improve quality of life in older adults and their caregivers.

Adult daycare centers provide social activities, door-to-door transportation services, meals and snacks, assistance with activities of daily living and other therapeutic services, as needed. There are even specialized facilities for people with dementia or other developmental disabilities.

Alternative #3 – Assisted Living Communities

If the family home has become a hazardous environment for your aging parents, the next step could be an assisted living community. This type of facility offers some of the autonomy that the older “young-at-heart” family members still crave, while offering a scaled level of service onsite. These communities can provide:

  • Transportation
  • Medication Management
  • Healthcare monitoring
  • Entertainment
  • Community Activities
  • Help with Activities of Daily Living
  • Housekeeping
  • Laundry Services

These facilities are more affordable than nursing homes and offer active older people the assistance they need, while encouraging autonomy.

Alternative #4 – Accessory Dwelling Units

Bridging the gap between in-home care and other offsite care facilities, the accessory dwelling unit can be a viable option for those with property that will accommodate an extra unit. Also referred to as “granny flats,” these smaller dwellings provide privacy and autonomy for an aging parent, while also providing proximity of family and caregivers.

Depending on the layout of your property, units may be built over garages or adjacent to the family home. Costs vary by location, property and needs. However, in the long-run it may be less expensive than full-time nursing home care.

Before deciding to place family members in a nursing home, do your research. There are plenty of alternatives out there that may be more affordable and socially-preferable to nursing home life.

Resources:

ElderLawAnswers. “Alternatives to Nursing Home Care” (Accessed November 28, 2019) https://www.elderlawanswers.com/elder-law-guides/7/alternatives-to-nursing-home-care

National Adult Day Services Association. “Comparing Long Term Care Services” (Accessed November 28, 2019) https://www.nadsa.org/

Caring on Demand. “7 Alternatives to Nursing Homes” Accessed November 28, 2019) https://www.caringondemand.com/blog/alternatives-nursing-homes

Sims & Campbell, LLC – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning Attorneys

How Can I Plan for Medical Expenses in Retirement? – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning

Healthcare can be one of the biggest expenses in retirement.

Fidelity Investments found that a 65-year-old newly retired couple will need $285,000 for medical expenses in retirement. That doesn’t include the annual cost of long-term care. In 2018, that expense ran from $18,720 for adult day care services to $100,375 for a private room in a nursing home, according to Investopedia’s recent article, “How to Plan for Medical Expenses in Retirement.”

Despite saving and preparing for retirement their entire lives, many retirees aren’t mentally or financially prepared for these types of expenses. A survey by HSA Bank found that 67% of adults 65 and older thought that they’d need less than $100,000 for healthcare. However, Fidelity calculated that males 65 and older will need $133,000—and females, $147,000—to pay for healthcare in retirement.

There are two important numbers for healthcare expenses in retirement: how much money is coming in and how much is going out. A typical person in their 60s has an estimated median savings of $172,000. On average, those 65 and older spend $3,800 per month, but Social Security only replaces about 40% of their working-life income.

Medicare can pay for some healthcare spending in retirement. However, there are some limitations. If a senior doesn’t have a Part D prescription drug policy, Medicare won’t cover medications. Medicare Parts A and B won’t cover dental and vision care, but Medicare Advantage plans typically do. Medicare also doesn’t offer coverage for long-term care. Medicare Advantage plans are offered through private insurers.

There are two ways pre-retirees can create a safety net for healthcare spending when they retire. One way is with a Health Savings Account (HSA). HSAs are available with high-deductible health plans and offer three tax advantages: (i) deductible contributions; (ii) tax-deferred growth; and (iii) tax-free withdrawals for qualified medical expenses. HSA funds can be used to pay for certain medical premiums, like Medicare premiums and long-term care insurance premiums. If you’re in your 50s, you can still maximize these plans by taking advantage of catch-up contributions and employer contributions. However, those already enrolled in Medicare can’t make new contributions to an HSA.

You can also buy long-term care insurance to fill the gap left by Medicare. This policy can pay a monthly benefit toward long-term care for a two-to three-year period.

Healthcare spending can easily take a big bite out of a retirement budget. Estimate your costs and design a strategy for spending to help preserve more retirement assets for other expenses.

Reference: Investopedia (June 25, 2019) “How to Plan for Medical Expenses in Retirement”

Sims & Campbell, LLC – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning Attorneys

Are You Prepared to Age in Place? – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning

If aging in place is your goal, then long-term planning needs to be considered, including how the house will function as you age, accommodations for the people who will care for you and how to pay for care, says the Record Online in the article “Start planning now so you can ‘age in place.’”

Many homes will need to be remodeled for aging in place and those changes may be big or small. Typical changes include installing ramps and adding a bathroom and bedroom on the first floor. Smaller changes include installing properly anchored grab bars in the shower, improving lighting and changing floor covering to avoid problems with walkers, wheelchairs or unsteady seniors.

Choosing a caregiver and paying for care are intertwined issues. Many adult children become caregivers for aging parents and for the most part they are unpaid. Family caregivers suffer enormous losses, including lost work, career advancement, income and savings. Stress and neglect of their own health and family is a common byproduct.

You’ll want to speak with an estate planning elder care attorney about how or if the parent may compensate the child for their caregiving. If the payment is deemed to be a gift, it will cause a penalty period when Medicaid won’t pay for care. A caregiver agreement drafted by an elder law estate planning attorney will allow the parents to pay without a penalty period. The child will need to report this income on their tax returns.

The best way to plan ahead for aging in place is with the purchase of a long-term care insurance policy. If you qualify for a policy and can afford to pay for it, it is good way to protect assets and income from going towards caregiver costs. You can also relieve the family caregiver from duties or pay them for caregiving out of the insurance proceeds.

Without long-term care insurance, the next option is to apply for community Medicaid to pay for care in the home if available in your state. To qualify, a single applicant can keep $15,450 in assets plus the house, up to an equity limit of $878,000 and only $878 per month of income. For a married couple, when one spouse applies for community Medicaid, the couple may keep $22,800 in assets plus the house and $1,287 per month of income. If the applicant or spouse are on a managed care plan, the couple may keep more assets and income.

Another option is spousal refusal, which may allow the couple to keep more assets and income. When an applicant has too much income, a pooled income trust may be used to shelter income from going towards the cost of care. This is a complicated process that requires working with an estate planning attorney to ensure that it is set up correctly.

Self-paying for home care is another option, but it is expensive. The average cost of home health care in some areas is $25 per hour, or $600 per day. When you get to these costs, they are the same as an expensive nursing home.

Planning in advance with careful analysis of the different choices will give the individual and the family the best picture of what may come with aging in place. A better decision can be made once all the information is clearly assessed.

Reference: Record Online (Aug. 31, 2019) “Start planning now so you can ‘age in place’”

Sims & Campbell, LLC – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning Attorneys

Design Strategies for Memory Care Centers to Meet the Needs of Dementia Patients – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning

If your loved one has Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia, you should try to find a quality memory care facility that incorporates the best elements of design tailored to people with dementia.

When a long-term care facility designates part of an existing center to memory care, they often try to retrofit the space for people with dementia care. Unless the memory care center employs design concepts that address common aspects of dementia, the facility itself can actually increase the residents’ anxiety, sleep disturbances, wandering, falls, injuries and need for medications.

A well-designed memory care facility can make residents less anxious by its mindful design, reducing the amount of prescription drugs the residents need. Here are some design strategies for memory care centers to meet the needs of dementia patients.

Ground Floor Is Problematic

Every winter, there are tragic news stories of dementia patients who wander outside and succumb to the elements. Despite this fact, many facilities have their memory care rooms on the first floor. A better plan is to have the Alzheimer’s portion of the center on the third floor, with multiple security points, locked doors and keypads between the memory care residents and the great outdoors.

Speaking of the Great Outdoors

Having ready access to safe, peaceful spaces outside can reduce anxiety for people with dementia. One facility uses the roof of an adjacent building for the memory care garden. The space has lovely plants, seating for individuals and small groups and discreet fencing to keep the residents safe. There is even a non-functional classic Cadillac for residents to sit in and reminisce. You would not realize that venue is a rooftop garden.

Circular Walking Paths Indoors and Out

When an older person moves away from her home, she might get confused and feel lost. She might walk around, trying to find her home. She might simply feel restless and have a need to walk. An accessible circular walking path in the garden can satisfy her need.

The interior layout of the facility should not have long hallways that end with doors. When an exit door is the destination of the hall, it is logical the resident will try to open the door. Instead, the layout should have a social room, kitchen, restroom, or other room at the end of a hallway.

Design Principles for Memory Care Facilities

Savvy design will camouflage exit doors, place them to the left or right of hallways and use keypad locks that do not look as if they guard Fort Knox. By nature, human beings do not thrive in an institutional setting. The more the memory care facility looks like a home and less like an institution, the happier and healthier the residents will be.

Since memory loss is central to memory care centers, the residents should not have to remember their room numbers. Well-placed personal objects next to the door should readily identify the room for the resident.

Another tailored design feature is to do away with nursing stations and staff uniforms. Having the staff dress in regular clothing and eliminating the nursing stations makes the facility feel more residential. When people feel at home, their anxiety levels go down and they need fewer medications.

References: A Place for Mom. “Alzheimer’s Care Facilities Design.” (accessed August 21, 2019) https://www.aplaceformom.com/planning-and-advice/articles/alzheimers-care-facilities

Sims & Campbell, LLC – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning Attorneys