Academic journal article The Journal of Rehabilitation

Expanding Rehabilitation Services to Meet the Legal Needs of Aging Americans. (Legal Issues in Aging)

Academic journal article The Journal of Rehabilitation

Expanding Rehabilitation Services to Meet the Legal Needs of Aging Americans. (Legal Issues in Aging)

Article excerpt

As one moves from adulthood into old age, a myriad of transitions must be made. On the positive side, many people either retire from work or begin to significantly reduce the amount of time spent in employment activities. Some will downsize their place of residence by purchasing a smaller home, moving into a retirement community or in some instances, moving in with their children. Others may begin a second career, perhaps turning a hobby into a profit making business, and still others may be financially secure enough to travel, purchase their dream home or return to school.

For some, however, the transition into old age will be filled with concerns regarding healthcare maintenance, financial instability, health and life insurance coverage, and long-term care needs. The majority of adults facing these concerns will do so as a result of the ill effects of the aging process, physical/mental illness, or disability that has impacted or will impact their ability to perform a major life function, such as self care or other activities of daily living sorely compromising their independence. In these instances, the person with the disability and/or his family will be faced with a host of choices regarding future care and well being. Fortunately legal vehicles are available, and in some instances necessary, to assist in decision-making, healthcare planning, and resource management of the affected individual.

This article examines ways in which rehabilitation counselors in private and forensic practices are meeting the needs of aging Americans. Although work with aging clients in legal venues is an area of rehabilitation practice that has been emerging for some time, it remains unfamiliar to a large portion of the rehabilitation community. Consequently, an explanation of the legal terms and concepts discussed throughout this article will be provided to help further the reader's understanding of these complex issues.

Definition of Terms

Grantor--the person signing a power of attorney or other legal document which gives power or authority to another.

Grantee--the person that would exercise the powers or authority given by the grantor.

Power of Attorney--a document which gives a person the right to make binding decisions for another, as an agent. A power of attorney may be specific, applying to a certain type of decision; or general, in that the agent makes all major decisions.

Durable Power of Attorney--a type of power of attorney that is often limited in the kinds of powers that can be assigned. Unlike an ordinary power of attorney, durable powers can survive for long periods of time and can continue after incompetency is established.

Healthcare Power of Attorney/Healthcare Surrogate--a document that allows someone to make medical decisions for another person if they cannot make them for themselves. This person has broad power to act on another's behalf, including the right to make decisions regarding life-support.

Pooled Trust--a trust fund that contains the assets of disabled individuals and is established and managed by a non-profit association. Separate accounts must be maintained for each trust beneficiary, although these accounts may be pooled for purposes of managing and investing the trust funds. The funds are solely for the individuals' health, welfare and benefit (The Florida Pooled Trust, 1999).

Special Needs Trust, aka Payback Trust--is an irrevocable trust with the following requirements: (1) must be funded with assets of the individual; (2) the individual must be under 65 years of age at the time the trust is funded; (3) the individual must be disabled; (4) the trust must be established by a parent, grandparent or legal guardian of the individual; (5) any state which paid medical assistance on behalf of the individual must be reimbursed from any funds remaining in the trust upon the death of the individual; and (6) reimbursement must be up to an amount equal to the total medical assistance paid on behalf of the individual. …

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