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Davidow, Davidow, Siegel & Stern, LLP
Long Island's Elder Law, Special Needs & Estate Planning Firm

Friday, February 18, 2011

The 10 Warning Signs of Alzheimer's

Memory loss that disrupts daily life is not a typical part of aging. It may be a symptom of Alzheimer's, a fatal brain disease that causes a slow decline in memory, thinking and reasoning skills. Every individual may experience one or more of these signs in different degrees. If you notice any of them, please see a doctor.

10 warning signs of Alzheimer's:

Memory loss that disrupts daily life
One of the most common signs of Alzheimer's is memory loss, especially forgetting recently learned information. Others include forgetting important dates or events; asking for the same information over and over; relying on memory aides (e.g., reminder notes or electronic devices) or family members for things they used to handle on their own.
What's a typical age-related change? Sometimes forgetting names or appointments, but remembering them later.

Challenges in planning or solving problems
Some people may experience changes in their ability to develop and follow a plan or work with numbers. They may have trouble following a familiar recipe or keeping track of monthly bills. They may have difficulty concentrating and take much longer to do things than they did before.
What's a typical age-related change? Making occasional errors when balancing a checkbook.

Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work or at leisure
People with Alzheimer's often find it hard to complete daily tasks. Sometimes, people may have trouble driving to a familiar location, managing a budget at work or remembering the rules of a favorite game.
What's a typical age-related change? Occasionally needing help to use the settings on a microwave or to record a television show.

Confusion with time or place
People with Alzheimer's can lose track of dates, seasons and the passage of time. They may have trouble understanding something if it is not happening immediately. Sometimes they may forget where they are or how they got there.
What's a typical age-related change? Getting confused about the day of the week but figuring it out later.

Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships
For some people, having vision problems is a sign of Alzheimer's. They may have difficulty reading, judging distance and determining color or contrast. In terms of perception, they may pass a mirror and think someone else is in the room. They may not realize they are the person in the mirror.
What's a typical age-related change? Vision changes related to cataracts.

New problems with words in speaking or writing
People with Alzheimer's may have trouble following or joining a conversation. They may stop in the middle of a conversation and have no idea how to continue or they may repeat themselves. They may struggle with vocabulary, have problems finding the right word or call things by the wrong name (e.g., calling a "watch" a "hand-clock").
What's a typical age-related change? Sometimes having trouble finding the right word.

Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
A person with Alzheimer's disease may put things in unusual places. They may lose things and be unable to go back over their steps to find them again. Sometimes, they may accuse others of stealing. This may occur more frequently over time.
What's a typical age-related change? Misplacing things from time to time, such as a pair of glasses or the remote control.

Decreased or poor judgment
People with Alzheimer's may experience changes in judgment or decision-making. For example, they may use poor judgment when dealing with money, giving large amounts to telemarketers. They may pay less attention to grooming or keeping themselves clean.
What's a typical age-related change? Making a bad decision once in a while.

Withdrawal from work or social activities
A person with Alzheimer's may start to remove themselves from hobbies, social activities, work projects or sports. They may have trouble keeping up with a favorite sports team or remembering how to complete a favorite hobby. They may also avoid being social because of the changes they have experienced.
What's a typical age-related change? Sometimes feeling weary of work, family and social obligations.

Changes in mood and personality
The mood and personalities of people with Alzheimer's can change. They can become confused, suspicious, depressed, fearful or anxious. They may be easily upset at home, at work, with friends or in places where they are out of their comfort zone.
What's a typical age-related change? Developing very specific ways of doing things and becoming irritable when a routine is disrupted.

Source: www.alz.org

Make a Difference in the Lives of Critically Ill Children.
Join the Walk/Run for Friends of Karen at the Long Island Marathon
- taking place with a 5K Run/Walk on Saturday, April 30 and 10K, Half and Full Marathons on Sunday, May 1, Eisenhower Park, East Meadow, New York. New runners and walkers are welcome to join the Friends of Karen team. For a brochure and donor and sponsor opportunities, please contact Patricia Conway at Friends of Karen at 631.473.1768, ext. 303 or patriciaconway@friendsofkaren.org
There is nothing worse than a child with a life-threatening illness and nothing worse than the day to day issues the families of these children must face. Friends of Karen, now in its 33rd year, provides financial, emotional and advocacy support to families living in the tri-state region with children suffering from cancer and other life-threatening illnesses. In 2010 alone, 1,291 children were helped with services from Friends of Karen.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Comparing Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

The two primary disability income programs, SSI and SSDI, sound similar, but they are very different programs with different benefits and different eligibility requirements. This article is a brief summary of these two important benefit programs.

Social Security Disability Insurance

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is a cash assistance program administered by the Social Security Administration (SSA) for people who have a sufficient work history and are either blind or disabled. An individual is considered disabled for purposes of SSDI eligibility if she or he is incapable of performing any substantial gainful activity due to severe physical or mental impairment that has lasted, or is expected to last, at least 12 consecutive months or to result in death.

Federal regulations provide a list of certain impairments and illnesses considered to be of such severity as to entitle an individual to a presumption of disability for SSDI eligibility. Even without a "listed impairment," an individual would be disabled if he or she has a "medically determinable" impairment equal in severity to those listed, or suffers from several physical or mental conditions which, when combined, are considered equivalent to those listed impairments.

With respect to whether a qualifying impairment renders an individual disabled and unable to work, Federal law provides that individuals who have demonstrated an ability to earn in excess of $1,000/month in wages are considered to have engaged in "substantial gainful activity" and, by definition, are not disabled. Therefore, in most cases, an individual who earns income in excess of $1,000/month will not be entitled to SSDI even if he or she has a "listed impairment" or disabling conditions that equal a qualifying impairment. This earned income limit is slightly higher for individuals who are blind.

In addition to meeting the criteria for being considered disabled and evidencing an inability to engage in substantial gainful work activity, individuals between the ages of 31 and 65 who are seeking SSDI benefits based on their own work history must have worked for five out of the last ten years, or twenty out of the last forty quarters, prior to the onset of disability. Fewer work quarters are required for workers under the age of 31 but the same standard of disability applies.

If an individual with disabilities has worked the requisite number of quarters, SSDI provides monthly cash benefits to the worker and his or her eligible dependents. The benefit amount is the same amount that the worker would have received if he or she waited until full retirement age to retire. Disability benefits terminate, however, when an individual is able to return to substantial gainful activity or has reached his or her normal retirement age and is eligible for a Social Security retirement pension.

SSDI is also available to certain disabled individuals who don't have a work history of their own but have specified relationships to workers who are disabled, retired, or deceased. For example, SSDI may be paid to a person who has been disabled prior to age 22 whose parent is retired, disabled or deceased, or to a disabled widow age 50 or over.

Since SSDI is only paid to those individuals who have worked and paid into the Social Security system over a certain period of time (or to their eligible disabled relatives), SSDI actually is an insurance program, not a welfare program. SSDI is not "needs based." A person's assets or other income have no effect on eligibility for receipt of SSDI benefits, and making gifts doesn't affect a person's eligibility. SSDI recipients who are eligible for benefits for at last twenty-four months also are entitled to medial insurance under the Medicare program.

Supplemental Security Income

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) also is administered by the SSA, and is a cash assistance program available to financially eligible individuals who are over the age of 64, blind or disabled. Since SSI is based on financial eligibility and not work history, it is a welfare program, not an insurance program. The same definition for disability applies to SSI as to SSDI, but individuals who are eligible for SSI generally have insufficient work history to meet the requirements for SSDI.

To be financially eligible for SSI, the individual must be both "income eligible" and "resource eligible." To be income eligible, an individual's "countable income" must be less than the "standard of need." For 2011, the standard of need is $674/month for an individual. Countable income includes earned and unearned income, as well as the value of any "in-kind support and maintenance" provided to the individual (examples: payment by a family member or a trust for food, utilities or rent; a parent providing free room and board), subject to certain limits.

Gifts of cash received by the individual are counted as unearned income. The first $20 of income received each month is not counted. In addition, with respect to earned income, the first $65 each month is not counted, and one-half of the earnings over $65 in any given month is not counted. Countable income also includes "deemed" income, which is the income of certain household members such as a spouse or the parents of a minor child. Individuals with countable resources of $2,000 or more per month are not eligible for SSI, and making gifts will affect SSI eligibility.

Unlike SSDI recipients, most individuals receiving SSI will not be entitled to Medicare coverage because they have not sufficiently paid into the federal system through wages. In most but not all states, SSI recipients automatically are eligible for Medicaid benefits. This is not the case in other states, where applicants must file an independent application for Medicaid and may have to meet a more stringent definition of disability.

Although SSI and SSDI are administered by the same federal agency and use the same medical disability criteria, they otherwise are very different programs.

Source: www.specialneedsalliance.com