How Remote Care Can Help – Even With Covid-19

This morning I dressed to go to work, polished off my coffee, checked to see that my cell phone had been properly charged, and positioned myself in front of a laptop computer for another day of work as we now know it.  This is a new day at “the office.”

Understand that I am the person who scoffed in my columns at telemedicine and, as an elder law attorney, have prided myself for the past over twenty years in meeting with clients in person to learn their needs, concerns, and fears and worked at developing answers to their problems through understanding of federal and state laws and regulations.  Our office also doubled down to learn the financial position of clients to be able to advise them on best actions going forward.  The question now is “is it possible to do good things for clients without seeing them in person.”  It is.  It is different. This called for change and we changed.  We have not been able to address everything yet but some of the important things are falling into place more quickly than expected.  We can still help and this is true not only in elder law but in other fields and with other people servicing seniors, too.

As one example today I was able, with the cooperation and participation of staff at a senior community under quarantine, to take part in a care plan meeting for over an hour and work with family to develop a plan for a resident in transition.  Why is this important?  One of the greatest concerns I see is from family members who need to know what care their parent or spouse is receiving, how they are doing, what can be done to deal with isolation (hint – iPads, for example, might help to communicate between the resident and family especially for those able to use them).  If family is unable to see a parent or spouse, scheduling a conference such as this in the appropriate case can sometimes help and our office has had experience for years doing them.   I expect to be scheduling more. 

In a little over a week I have spent more time in “Zoom” video conferences and teleconferences with clients, facilities, and nonprofit boards than I ever thought I would need to.  People need help, whether it is with care or information even those who, because of financial resources, have typically not needed much in the past. 

There is more.  Now, every working day Jennifer Feld, Esq., our associate attorney and I hold a “staff meeting” to catch up on our activities of the day.  Jennifer handles our estate administrations. Fortunately we were able to take several files home earlier.  We prepared for this time by upgrading our equipment, downloading software and making sure our computers from home could communicate with some at the office.  Inheritance tax returns and accountings, for instance, can be done similarly to what was done while we were in the office.

It does not stop here.  There is a need for information – and quickly.   There are more laws and also multiple changes in the conduct of business in almost every field.

Here are a few things to look out for.

  • Extensions.   U.S. Individual Income Tax Returns and taxes are now due July 15, 2020, not April 15.  For those expecting a refund, this is not an issue but for anyone who may have fallen behind in paying estimated taxes this can be a significant break.
  • Loan Extensions.  Check your lender.  At least one federal credit union I know of automatically extended the due date for the next payments on its loans by one month.  This can give some breathing room.
  • Changes With Unemployment Compensation and Loans to Businesses.  Not strictly speaking an elder issue but many seniors own businesses today or are employees and the rules have changed radically to provide relief.

There are some other changes regarding some, but not all, RMDs (Required Minimum Distributions) from retirement accounts.  If you want to avoid taking your RMD, check to see whether this might affect you.

This Wednesday I expect to conduct our weekly radio show with Phil McFadden – remotely, of course.

About the Author Janet Colliton

Esquire, Colliton Law Associates, P.C. Janet Colliton has practiced law for over 38 years, 37 of them in Chester County, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Philadelphia. Her practice, Colliton Law Associates, PC, is limited to elder law, Medicaid, including advice, applications and appeals, and other benefits planning including Veterans benefits, life care and special needs planning, guardianships, retirement, and estate planning and administration.

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