Our 21 Top Articles of 2021

As the coronavirus pandemic continues, we reflect on the challenges that last year (2021)  presented, and all of us here at the Farr Law Firm were glad to see it go and are hopeful for a healthier 2022! Those who read our newsletter or follow our blog know that we covered a lot of ground this past year. The second year of the COVID-19 pandemic continued to uproot many areas of life, but thanks to vaccines and boosters, life took on some semblance of normalcy again. Unfortunately, things may be changing quickly once again with variants such as omicron, so be careful out there!

Some laws were enacted in 2021 to help seniors and their families. For instance, in March 2021, President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan Act, a follow-up to the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (the CARES Act), which became law in late March 2020. The legislation continued some programs established in previous efforts, but it also added some new important components.

During the pandemic, seniors in nursing homes (and at home) were suffering from loneliness and isolation due to visiting restrictions. In an updated guidance that was released by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in November 2021, visitation was once again allowed for all residents in nursing homes at all times.

When it comes to charitable giving, CARES Act provisions were extended through 2021, allowing individuals who do not itemize to claim a deduction of up to $300 and couples to claim up to $600 for cash contributions to charity. Note that the $300 limit is per person — $600 for a married couple filing jointly. This deduction is available for cash gifts to public charities.

Legislation making several changes to benefits administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) was enacted after being signed into law early last year.

In 2021, new smart technology for freedom and flexibility in the home was introduced with home security technology and smart contact sensors. In addition, with the emergence of telehealth and the need for social connection, health and medical technology, wearables, and tech to build social connections were also introduced. Learn more here.

Many new findings in dementia and Alzheimer’s research were also uncovered this year. Click here to read about some of them!

To celebrate the new year, we’ve ranked our 21 most popular articles from 2021. Check out the list to see the year’s highlights and remind yourself of the most important issues of the past year, and tell us what you’d like to see next year. And as always, thank you for reading our newsletter and blog! We are here to educate and to make a positive difference in your life and the lives of those you love.

  1. Nichelle Nichols, Star Trek Actress and NASA Volunteer, Is Embroiled in Complicated Conservatorship Situation

Nichelle Nichols, 88, who played Lt. Uhura on the original “Star Trek,” suffers from dementia and is at risk of exploitation by her legal conservators. This article describes her plight.

  1. President Biden Signed the American Rescue Plan Act … What It Means for You!

In March 2021, President Biden signed into law the American Rescue Plan Act, which provides approximately $1.9 trillion in spending to address the continued impact of COVID-19. This article describes how the Act helps individuals and businesses.

  1. What the New Outlook for Social Security and Medicare Means for You

Each year the Trustees of the Social Security and Medicare trust funds report on the current and projected financial status of the two programs. The new 2021 annual report was just released, and on a positive note, the pandemic has had a smaller impact on the Social Security trust funds than many feared.

  1. What You Can and Can’t Do with a Power of Attorney

A Power of Attorney (POA) is a legal document that allows you to choose a trusted person who will act on your behalf if you ever become incapacitated and are unable to make decisions for yourself. The powers that your appointed agent might have can be broad or narrow and will depend on how your documents are written. This article provides a few examples of the kinds of decisions an agent can make with each type of POA.

  1. Compassionate Deception: Is Therapeutic Fibbing Okay to Do When a Loved One Has Dementia?

When a loved one with dementia can’t recall painful events from the past, such as the death of a spouse, reminding them about such a painful event may result in significant distress, and if you remind them about this painful event repeatedly, it results in significant distress every time. Instead, consider using compassionate deception tactics to respond, as described in this article.

  1. CMS Lifts COVID-19 Nursing Home Visitation Restrictions

Before the pandemic and even more so during it, social isolation and loneliness have been considered serious health risks for older Americans. After more than a year and a half of stop-and-go visitation privileges at long-term care facilities, the federal government now wants nursing homes to drop all barriers to visitation in November of 2021.

  1. New Law Vastly Improves Transparency in Doctor-Caregiver Communication

In April 2021, federal rules have mandated sharing clinical notes, as part of the bipartisan 21st Century Cures Act, specifying that eight types of clinical notes are among electronic information that must be made available free of charge to patients and caregivers, while still abiding by Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) rules that govern sharing other medical information.

  1. What to Do When You Are Blindsided by a STUG

A STUG, or a Sudden Temporary Upsurge of Grief, is a term defined by grief expert Dr. Therese Rando in the early 1990s. It is characterized by an intense, unexpected surge of emotion that arrives on occasion to those who have experienced the loss of a loved one, sometimes even long after the person’s death. This article describes what to do when you are experiencing a STUG.

  1. Are RMDs Back This Year or Will They Be Waived Again?

Due to the pandemic, required minimum distributions (RMDs) — intended to spread out a retiree’s savings, and the related taxes, over an expected lifetime — were waived in 2020. RMDs were resumed in 2021.

  1. Avoiding the Most Common Retirement Mistakes

To avoid the worst retirement mistakes, you have to be realistic about your future plans and think ahead. These are five of the most common retirement mistakes, and how you can avoid them.

  1. Is it a Violation of HIPAA to Ask Someone if They’ve Been Vaccinated?

The COVID-19 vaccine has been widely accessible for some time now. As a result, some businesses and workplaces now require full vaccination. Many private and public colleges are requiring it as well. A question that has been recently trending on social media is whether it’s a violation of HIPAA to ask someone if they’ve been vaccinated. Many have been wondering specifically about restaurants, retail stores, grocery stores, or employers.

  1. Could You Be on the Hook for Your Parent’s Nursing Home Bills in the DMV?

Most parents intend to leave some sort of inheritance to their children. However, there is a law that can actually cause a parent to leave their children with significant debt. The law is commonly referred to as the filial responsibility law, and it requires spouses, children, and parents of indigent persons to care for and financially assist them. This article discusses a recent filial responsibility case and the outcome.

  1. 2022 Key Elder Law Dollar Amounts

These are the figures for 2022 that are frequently used in the elder law practice, including the figures for spousal impoverishment, penalty divisors, and more, for Virginia, Maryland, and DC. Medicare premiums and co-pays, Social Security Disability, and Supplemental Security Income are also covered.

  1. Some Major Changes Are Coming to Social Security This Year

Social Security provides a substantial chunk of income for some seniors, but for many people, it’s not enough. These are some of the changes that occurred in 2021.

  1. How Dangerous Is the Omicron Variant for Seniors?

According to a recent announcement from WHO, the omicron variant has been designated as a “variant of concern due to preliminary evidence that it has numerous mutations and could increase the risk for reinfection.” This article describes what we knew about omicron in early December 2021.

  1. 2022 Changes to Medicare

Before finding the best Medicare Advantage plan for you, reviewing changes that are going to occur in the following year is a wise idea. These are some of the major changes that will occur in 2022.

  1. Hospices Are Turning People Away

In a recent New York Times article, writer Paula Span describes how hospice companies are grappling with pandemic-fueled staff shortages, which have forced them at times to turn away new patients or delay their enrollment. This is devastating for seniors and their families who need the services that these hospices provide.

  1. Second-Term US Surgeon General Vows to Combat Senior Loneliness and Isolation

In his second time serving as surgeon general, Dr. Vivek Murthy continues to focus on addressing social isolation and loneliness. Now more than ever, he has found that the COVID-19 pandemic has shown the need to address social isolation and loneliness at the national and community levels.

  1. Robin Williams Would Have Been 70 This Year — What We Now Know About His Lewy Body Dementia

Robin Williams’s suicide brought awareness to the life-changing, fatal disease known as Lewy Body Dementia, and his passing brought much-needed attention to the importance of mental health and symptoms of depression and anxiety that can accompany a neurodegenerative disease such as Parkinson’s.

  1. Things Not to Do When You Get Older

At the age of 64, Steven Petrow published, “Stupid Things I Won’t Do When I Get Old.” His hope was to provide a guide to talking about things that go along with getting older and using humor in real-life circumstances. He also hoped that the list would “address the fears, frustrations, and stereotypes that accompany aging.”

Drumroll, please … Our most read article of 2021 was …

  1. Apple’s New Right of Survivorship Update Eases Access to Your iCloud Digital Assets

Apple is solving a complicated problem with its latest iOS update: right of survivorship. Until now, when a loved one or family member died, there was no easy way to access their iCloud account and no way of unlocking their phone without knowing their passcode. With the new Digital Legacy program first announced earlier this year and now available in iOS 15.2, you can designate up to five people as Legacy Contacts. These individuals can then access your data and personal information stored in iCloud when you die, such as photos, documents, and even purchases.

We’re Looking Forward to Things to Come

Thank you for making these our top 21 stories of 2021. We promise many new and exciting things to come in 2022! As always, if you or a loved one are nearing the need for long-term care or already receiving long-term care, or if you have not done Long-Term Care Planning, Estate Planning, Retirement Planning, or Incapacity Planning (or had your planning documents reviewed in the past several years), please call us for a no-cost initial consultation. Happy New Year!

Elder Law Fairfax: 703-691-1888

Elder Law Fredericksburg: 540-479-143

Elder Law Rockville: 301-519-8041

Elder Law DC: 202-587-2797

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
About Evan H Farr, CELA, CAP

Evan H. Farr is a 4-time Best-Selling author in the field of Elder Law and Estate Planning. In addition to being one of approximately 500 Certified Elder Law Attorneys in the Country, Evan is one of approximately 100 members of the Council of Advanced Practitioners of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and is a Charter Member of the Academy of Special Needs Planners.

Leave a comment

Thank you for your upload