News & Resources: Blog

Technology in Senior Care and Elder Law

Published: March 2, 2023

Smart homes, self-monitoring medical devices, telehealth, and the internet of things make it possible for many older Americans to remain in their homes for longer periods of time.

Elder law and at-home medical technology uses can intersect in several ways. Whether you are a senior looking to stay in your current home or have an aging parent and want to implement systems that create better safety and communication, an elder law attorney can help you craft a plan.

Strategies

Legal Documents

Elder law attorneys can assist older adults when creating legal documents, such as durable powers of attorney and health care proxies, in an online environment. These and other legal documents are crucial to have in place as they authorize someone to make decisions about the older adult’s medical treatment and the use of at-home medical technology.

Meetings with your estate planning or elder law lawyer and family members can happen virtually, and some states now legally recognize e-signatures. Creating these documents without leaving your home benefits seniors with mobility and transportation issues and protects against exposure to infectious diseases.

Privacy and Security

Elder law attorneys can advise older adults on the privacy and security of their personal information and medical data when using at-home medical technology. Secure network communication protocols will keep hackers from stealing your information and ensure the data integrity of communications with medical professionals and entities.

Medicaid Eligibility

Medicaid, the government health insurance program for low-income individuals, may pay for certain at-home medical technology if it’s deemed medically necessary. An elder law attorney can help older adults navigate the Medicaid eligibility process to ensure they receive all the benefits to which they are entitled.

Telehealth services allow Medicaid to reach more seniors at a lower cost than ever. Whether you’re having issues with eligibility, understanding home health services, or selecting home health providers, an elder law attorney can help you understand your Medicaid options.

Long-term care planning

Elder law attorneys can help older adults plan for future needs of long-term care, including using at-home medical technology to help them age in place and maintain their independence for as long as possible. Incorporating at-home medical technology into long-term care planning may include the following:

  • Monitoring Health – Technology such as wearable devices, remote monitoring systems, and telehealth services can track vital signs and send alerts to caregivers if there are any concerns.
  • Medication Management – Personal emergency response systems (PERS) and smart home devices can ensure that older adults are safe and can call for help if needed.
  • Mobility Aids – Robotic exoskeletons, stairlifts, and smart home devices can help older adults with mobility issues move around their homes and control the environment (locks, lighting, temperature) more easily.
  • Social Engagement – Virtual reality, video conferencing, and social networks can connect older adults with loved ones and socialize with others combating isolation and feelings of loneliness.
  • Care Coordination – Medical technology can connect older adults with care providers and healthcare professionals, such as doctors, nurses, and social workers, to monitor the care and support they receive at home.

At-home medical technology is a more affordable option than expensive institutional care. When planning for long-term care, it’s important to consider how technology can help older adults maintain their independence and quality of life.

Guardianship and Conservatorship

In some cases, older adults may be unable to make decisions about their medical treatment or use of at-home medical technology due to cognitive decline or other health issues. Elder law attorneys can assist in appointing a guardian or conservator to make these decisions on behalf of their loved one.

Getting Started

An elder law attorney can help an aging adult, and their family understand what at-home medical technology is available and if government programs will pay for it. Getting seniors to use at-home medical technology can be challenging and generally falls under the direction of the family. There are several strategies to implement to make the process easier:

  1. Keep it simple by starting with the basics. Then gradually introduce more advanced features as your loved one becomes more comfortable with the technology.
  2. Make sure the senior understands the benefits of the technology. Explain how it will help them stay healthy and independent and make their life easier.
  3. Demonstrate how to use the technology. Walk your loved one through the setup and use of each device, making sure they know how to operate it.
  4. Provide your loved one with a user manual or guide for reference.
  5. Schedule regular check-ins with your loved one to see how they’re doing with the technology, answer any questions, and ensure their communications with medical professionals are timely and accurate.
  6. Provide your loved one with technical assistance while visiting, and have them contact you if they experience technical issues. Everyone needs reliable IT support.
  7. Look for local support groups and online communities so your loved one can connect with others using similar technology.
  8. If your loved one is having difficulty understanding or not using the technology, consider hiring a professional to help with device setup, training, and guidance.
  9. Encourage your loved one to engage in a trial period with each new technology and see how they feel about it. If they don’t use or are uncomfortable with that particular technology, there might be better solutions.

Many providers make smart home technology for aging adults. The best options depend on the specific needs and preferences of the older adult and compatibility with existing technology and devices. Technology needs will also change with additional health challenges that invariably occur when aging.

Summary

Elder law attorneys can recommend at-home technology so that an aging adult can safely live at home. Family members must participate in the installation of the technologies to ensure their loved one’s security and privacy. Technology alone is not a solution. A support system, including family, friends, lawyers, and healthcare providers, must coordinate efforts in the senior’s best interest.

Whether you need to plan for future at-home health care or already require care management via remote health monitoring, consumer health technology can make senior care more patient-centric, personal, and accessible. Talk with an elder law attorney and see what senior technology strategies can benefit you or your loved one.

If you have questions or would like to discuss your legal matters, please do not hesitate to contact our office at 215-364-1111 to schedule a consultation.

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- Nahla F., Upper Freehold, New Jersey

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It can be quite confusing to determine which Medicare plan is best for you. There are several types of plans, and each has its own advantages and disadvantages. Understanding some basic features will help you decide how to maximize your healthcare dollars and choices. You should review your choice periodically, especially as elements of the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 change prescription medication and vaccine policies. Coverage can also change from year to year..

There are three basic types of plans:

  1. Original Medicare
  2. Medicare Advantage
  3. Medigap

Original Medicare

Medicare is a government health insurance plan for people 65 and older. Original Medicare, sometimes called traditional Medicare, comes in several parts. Each part covers different things and has various associated costs. 

Most people do not pay for Part A as it was deducted from their taxes paid while working. It is primarily for hospital visits and nursing care. However, there are many fees associated with being in a hospital that Medicare does not cover, which you still might have to pay out of pocket.

Part B requires monthly premiums, which can be deducted from your social security. You can elect to enroll in part B through Original Medicare. It covers a portion of doctors' visits, durable medical goods, and more. 

Part D covers the cost of many prescription medications. You can add it to Original Medicare or purchase it as part of a Medicare Advantage plan.

Medicare Advantage

Medicare Advantage is offered through private insurance companies that Medicare approves. Most plans include Parts A, B, and D of Original Medicare with some variations from the original. There are a wide variety of Medicare Advantage plans, including Preferred Provider Organizations (PPO) or Health Maintenance Organizations (HMO). PPOs tend to have higher premiums and offer more choices than HMOs. Medicare Advantage HMOs and PPOs often have higher premiums than traditional Medicare because they usually cover more expenses, including prescription drug costs, vision, hearing, and dental.

However, the overall costs, premiums, plus out-of-pocket expenses for Advantage plans can be lower than Original Medicare because the private insurers manage patient care and limit choices. They assemble networks of hospitals and physicians to control their costs and reduce their customer's premiums. They also restrict access to certain providers and increase the cost of care obtained out-of-network.

Traditional Medicare allows people to seek care from any provider participating in Medicare, which includes virtually all hospitals and physicians.

Medigap

Medigap is a co-insurance or supplement to Original Medicare. You can enroll when you first enroll in Part B. It is also available through Medicaid, a union, or a former employer when you qualify for both programs. You can’t have both Medicare Advantage and Medigap plans. Medigap helps cover expenses that Original Medicare does not cover, such as co-pays and deductibles. Due to the enrollment restrictions, you should strongly consider Medigap when you first become eligible.

The Right Choice for You

With all the different plans, parts, choices, and restrictions, it is crucial to consider your priorities for care. Limited access to doctors and hospitals may become important if you need specialized medical care, such as cancer treatment. Before enrolling, consider what specialty hospitals are included in Advantage plans. Likewise, Advantage plans can make it difficult to see a specialist for ongoing and chronic conditions due to limitations in long-term care services. An estate planning lawyer or elder law attorney can help address long-term care planning and the potential to qualify for Medicaid when necessary.

The Kaiser Family Foundation has put together a cost analysis to help you determine when Medicare Advantage would save you money. As you can see, the longer you stay in the hospital, the less advantageous an Advantage plan becomes.

Consumer Reports notes that the JAMA reported that seniors on Advantage plans often get more preventive care than those on traditional Medicare plans. JAMA published a comprehensive paper about how Medicare plan choice affects spending and discovered that Medicare Advantage enrollees usually spend less.

Consumer Reports notes that the JAMA reported that seniors on Advantage plans often get more preventive care than those on traditional Medicare plans. JAMA published a comprehensive paper about how Medicare plan choice affects spending and discovered that Medicare Advantage enrollees usually spend less.

A Guide in Choices after 65

Enrolling in the right Medicare coverage is one of many decisions that will affect your quality of life in your senior years. We are here to help you navigate a wide variety of choices.

If you have questions or would like to discuss your legal matters, please do not hesitate to contact our office at 215-364-1111 to schedule a consultation.

- Medigap, Medicare Advantage, and Traditional Medicare