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30 Second Legals: Build Your Future on Firm Foundations

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Do you have your foundations in place? What are foundations. Don’t build your house on sand! Find out about foundations in this quick 30 second legal. #theelderlawguy

Celebrate the 4th!!! VA Aid & Attendance and Service Connected Disability Benefits.

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Celebrate the 4th!!! Celebrate Independence! VA Aid & Attendance and Service Connected Disability Benefits. #theelderlawguy

30 Second Legals: Timing a Lady Bird Deed

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Can you enter a lady bird deed after long term care has started paying? That is the question we address here in this 30 second legal. #theelderlawguy

Article I Promised: Lady Bird Deeds

in Articles by Greg McIntyre Leave a comment

Today, we’re going to look at Lady Bird Deeds, including what they are, what they do, and how they differ from traditional deeds, like regular general warranty deeds or life estates deeds. We’ll also look at how they fit into your estate planning, especially when considering the option of possible Medicaid or protecting against that.

I love these deeds because they can accomplish lots quickly. Why are they called Lady Bird Deeds? They get their name from Lady Bird Johnson, the wife of President Lyndon B. Johnson, the commander-in-chief originally responsible for implementing Medicaid.

I’ll be speaking on these deeds as they exist in the legal system of North Carolina because that’s the state where I practice law. However, many other states in the US also use and accept Lady Bird Deeds in much the same way. Let’s start by talking about why they are important to you and your estate plan.

Medicaid can put a lien on your house and take it when you pass if you have to draw on the system at any point to pay for long-term care. We’ve discussed before how 70% of seniors over 65 years of age are going to require some kind of long-term care, whether it’s in-home or at a nursing facility, before we pass. In order to qualify for Medicaid, we have to spend out of our own assets or have in place long-term care insurance and some type of plan to protect our assets. Lady Bird Deeds can help with that and be used to avoid having to give up your home at your passing to pay the lien that Medicaid may place on that house.

Let us compare Lady Bird Deeds to other deeds.  There are general warranty deeds or regular fee simple deeds, which is when you pass everything to a grantee or whomever you may appoint. You may have chosen a life estate deed. These have been around for a long time and work a bit differently than a general warranty deed. Life estate deeds allow you to give away a future interest in property. You retain what’s called a life estate or a life interest in that property which allows you to sell or mortgage said life interest.

However, it is a very limited interest. At your passing, whomever you sold that life estate, that deed would automatically be jerked from that person’s possession and passed to whomever the future interest holder may perhaps be a son or daughter. This means life estate deeds are very limited. Also, life estate deeds do count as a transfer of assets and that would stick you with a penalty or prevent you from drawing Medicaid.

 You would later have to void that transfer or re-transfer the property back to yourself to be able to qualify for Medicaid. A Lady Bird Deed is really the best of both worlds. This deed allows you to reserve a life interest in a property but it qualifies or defines that life interest as one that is like a fee simple full-ownership interest. You are still allowed to mortgage, sell, or gift the property and extinguish the future interest holder. You can control it fully, but you’ve already named a future interest holder in that Lady Bird Deed, which may be the son or daughter that you want to receive it once you pass.

A Medicaid lien will not attach to the property but because you’ve retained control of it, and it is not a countable asset transfer that will give you a penalty for time to qualify for Medicaid or otherwise deny you eligibility for Medicaid. You can literally give away the home and any surrounding contiguous property, which means property that is not separated by boundaries then go and apply for Medicaid the next day.

This works very well in North Carolina right now.

States such as Georgia and South Carolina, however, do not allow Lady Bird Deeds. At this point in time, they are allowable in North Carolina and this is a very good way, especially in an emergency situation, to transfer assets. There is a possibility in the future that the policy will change but that is always a possibility.

There are other ways to shield property, such as Medicaid Asset Protection Trusts, that are more advanced. However, Lady Bird Deeds are a simple way to transfer property and still qualify for Medicaid, while not allowing a Medicaid lien to be placed against your property. So, what should you do? By doing nothing, you risk losing your home that you have worked for. Some people have worked to pay off their home for 30+ years, meaning you have put a lot of time and energy into this property.

You would be losing, essentially, the American dream. Your home is part of that dream. Protect it by getting your property deeds in order. You can do this by using Lady Bird Deeds and other strategies, which can help save your property, but only if you take action.

Remember that a Medicaid look-back period is important in a lot of pre-planning and emergency situations involving a home. The clock is ticking, so contact an elder law attorney. You can visit our website at or feel free to contact my office directly at (704) 259-7040. We would be glad to consult with you regarding the best approach to use to keep your hard earned properties, savings, and assets.

Call me if you have any questions:

Greg McIntyreGreg_Full
Elder Law Attorney
McIntyre Elder Law
123 W. Marion Street, Shelby


Saving the Farm: Updates…

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Saving the farm is going will be back live for sale Sunday! We had to do a quick change edit and that takes time! You need this book for your planning library.

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Video: 30 Second Lady Bird Deed Explained

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Greg explains the basics of the lady bird deed in 30 seconds. Check out this short video clip!


Be Nostalgic about the old days: Don’t lament a lack of planning.

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nostalgia-gustavo-rondón.0.533.1149.574.960.480.cHey this is Greg McIntyre the elder law guy with McIntyre elder law. I’ve been feeling nostalgic this morning. I wrote this while at the beautiful Gardner Webb University, where I come to get a little peace and quiet every once in a while.

The reason I’m here today is I’ve been working on my book called ‘Saving the Farm, a practical guide to the legal maze of aging in America’ which should be finished in the next 2 days, but I wasn’t happy with the front and back covers for the book, so I came here to get some original photos. I went out to Lattimore North Carolina which is where my grandfather Papa Mac and Mama Mac lived on the farm. My grandfather had lived in assisted living for more than a decade.

So I was looking for wide open spaces. I had envisioned the back cover to be a farm with land and rolling hills and I got a great picture. I’ve edited it for everyone getting the newsletter, or you can see it on youtube, or our website,, just click on the tab that says ‘elder law tv’, and you’ll see what the back cover will look like. I photographed a great barn that I’m going to use for the front cover, and applied a black and white filter to convey the mood for ‘Saving the Farm’.

I got nostalgic looking around at that old house thinking about my grandparents and remembering watching the wonderful world of Disney with my grandfather. I’d get up in the morning, smell the pancakes my grandfather made, coming down to the kitchen and eating and playing out by the barn where there were chickens, or going back to a logging operation behind the house. All kinds of memories, so I was a bit nostalgic. I went around for a few hours before I found what I wanted to photograph.

It’s a big leap between a written document and a printed book or ebook formats, so I’m working with a book designer to organize and achieve that. So look out for it, it’s going to be first on Amazon iTunes, and we’ll do a lot more to get it to everyone affiliated with our firm, or who is a client with our firm.

Now I like word origins. The origins of the word ‘Nostalgia’ comes from the Greek word ‘Nostos’, which means ‘return home’ or ‘homecoming’, and then ‘algos’, which means ‘pain’, or ‘ache’ so, return home in pain. That was different than what I thought it would be. The definition for ‘Nostalgia’ says, ‘a sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place associated with happy personal connections’.

You’re sentimental when thinking about college days, the grandparents, the kids, your own childhood, or it can be: Something done or presented in order to provoke feelings of nostalgia. An evening of TV nostalgia for instance.

Also there is the German word, ‘Heimweh’, which means ‘homesickness’. In the late 18th century these merged into ‘Nostalgia’, or ‘acute homesickness’.

For me, Nostalgia is just thinking about the past in a sentimental or a good way. What I’m cautioning you not to do, is you don’t want to lament the past in a bad way. That Greek word, ‘Algos’ or ‘pain’, you want to leave that out of your nostalgic thoughts, if you can. You want them to be as enjoyable as possible. You want your kids to be nostalgic about their memories with you. What I’m getting at is this; we want to make sure we plan ahead.


Don’t lament the loss of property because you didn’t plan properly, or knowing that hundreds of thousands of dollars are spent down on a nursing home stay that could have gone to sending your kids to college. You might want to set aside money for that nursing home stay in case it happens, or make sure you’re in with your insurance agent on long term care.

It takes minimal effort to plan ahead, to put in place a General Durable Power of Attorney, so that somebody else can handle your personal business for you. Healthcare Power of Attorney, so that someone can manage life and death healthcare situations. You certainly don’t want to lament that if you don’t have it in place. Seeing an elder law attorney would help you put in place a Ladybird Deed that could save the house right now under North Carolina rules. North Carolina policy could save the house even if you need Medicaid assistance for nursing home or assisted living care. Why wouldn’t you put that in place?


That’s a no brainer. It could save a house worth tens, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars, that you worked so hard for, paid so much for and put so much blood sweat and tears into owning and acquiring. Heaven forbid that you’re incapacitated or incompetent at some time in life, where you don’t have a family member appointed to take care of your personal affairs and your cash. If you’re stuck in that situation where somebody has to pursue Guardianship over you to take over the finances, as well as healthcare decisions, that’s not good. Don’t put your family in that situation. Don’t put them in a situation where all the money is being spent down. Plan ahead for that.

We have Trust Planning that we can do for clients that can send the grandkids to college, and can make sure you have plenty of income going into your senior years, and make sure it’s protected against that spend down if you had a long term care incident or need of a stay. At least it gives you options. At least you’re not subject to the whims of the laws and the wind, whichever way it’s blowing right now in the political climate.

You think the political climate and laws change? Of course they do, and this is a perfect time to talk about it. Tax laws change, Medicaid laws will change, the look back periods change. The word on the street is they will go from 3 years for Assisted Living and 5 years for Nursing Home Medicaid, to a look back period of 5 years for Assisted Living and 7 years for Nursing Home Medicaid. And who knows how long the Ladybird protection deed will be in place? I’ve had people in the know tell me about how they wonder if that is going away soon. I’m surprised they haven’t taken it away already? So get that protection while you can. Get your foundational documents in place while you can. Look at Medicaid Asset Protection Trusts while you can. Don’t let your grandkids be nostalgic about how the old home stead now belongs to someone else, because you failed to plan to protect it and keep it in your family.

Nostalgia’s great for thinking about the right things, about the wonderful world of Disney, Disney was special back in those days. I want to say it was black and white but I know it was in color. It came on maybe at 7 o’clock on Sunday nights. Watching it with the grandparents with the smell of pancakes in the air on a Saturday morning, I can smell them right now. It was so special. Don’t let the kids and grandkids lament or be nostalgic in a way where because of a lack of planning, Johnny and Suzie didn’t get to go to college or have a chance to fulfill their potential.

I’m Greg McIntyre the elder law guy. If you need to talk to me or see me, you can follow me on twitter at lawyergreg or give our firm a call at 704-259-7040. We would be glad to set up that appointment.

So call me, I’ll be glad to talk about putting your foundations in place, putting a Ladybird Deed around the house to protect it. We’ll talk about Medicaid Asset Protection Trusts, that’s a really neat trust we draft that can help save your hard earned money and property, not just for you but for future generations.

Call me if you have any questions:

Greg McIntyreGreg_Full
Elder Law Attorney
McIntyre Elder Law
123 W. Marion Street
Shelby, NC 28150


New Video: Nostalgia – Be Nostalgic about the old days – Don’t lament a lack of planning

in Elder Law TV by Greg Leave a comment

I have been going down memory lane today. Remembering my grandparents. Thinking about the good times. Watching Disney. Eating pancakes. Don’t lament your lack of planning. Remember the good times and avoid the bad. I’ll tell you how and what to plan for in this one.

Guardianship NIGHTMARES!!!

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Hey this is Greg McIntyre with McIntyre Elder Law helping seniors protect their assets and legacies. It’s been a long week, and I wanted to wrap it up for you by getting into what I’m really hot on right now, which is Guardianships.

I’m so fired up about this and so I focused this episode on Guardianship Nightmares and how you can avoid them. You just have no idea what you are subjecting yourself and your family to, and your hard earned savings that you worked for your entire life, including your home if you do not plan ahead with some basic documents. I’m telling you right now, guardianships are not good things and are not a good place to be.

If you wind up in a guardianship, all assets are frozen. It is nearly impossible to move them or to help yourself or a family member. So let me tell you what I’m talking about.

Let’s explore what types of guardianships there are.
Guardianship of the Person
Guardianship of the Estate
General Guardianship.

‘Guardianship of the Person’ means you are able to make healthcare and other legal decisions for someone okay. But that doesn’t mean manage their money.

‘Guardianship of the Estate’ means you can just manage their money but not make those other legal and healthcare decisions for them.

If you are ‘General Guardian’ you can manage their money and you can manage their healthcare and make other legal decisions.

Now some requirements for ‘Guardianship of the Estate’ or ‘General Guardianship’ are, you have to file annual inventories, keep all receipts for everything you do, and hope you are making all the right moves with the expenditure because even though I know the majority of people are acting in good faith taking care of their family members, you can get flagged for some funky stuff, and I’ll go into that in a little while. You should always petition the clerk for anything, any way you need to spend money is just a safe bet. Petition the clerk ahead of time.

I have seen clerks petition and remove a guardian okay. I have seen them petition to remove a guardian, a family member, a trusted family member who loves either their mother or sister or brother to death, and would never do anything wrong with their money but the clerk petitioned to remove them because they paid tithe. Yes you heard me right, because even if the ward has a history of always paying tithe and is so important to them, even if they are a spiritual being and trust me, you’re still a spiritual being after you are found incompetent and in need of a guardian, but if you’re paying tithe, even a minimal amount of tithe, the clerk can make a big deal out of that, like something crazy is going on because you’re contributing to the church. This is even if that person is a really strong part of the church okay, and a really great fixture at that church, it’s unreal and sad. Again I’m fired up about this because I can’t believe this happens in our society. I cannot believe it. You shouldn’t believe it either, and you should be up in arms about it, I’m telling you, because it’s horrible the way the guardianships are run today.

I have seen birthday gifts, small birthday gifts for family members that the ward, this incompetent, this family member who loves their niece or nephew or whoever, and wants to buy a little something for them. So the guardian says okay we’ll buy a little something for this child on their birthday, and you would not believe how much this is blown out of all proportions. It is made out that the guardian who is the family member, has taken advantage of this ward by buying this birthday gift for this person. And you’re hearing me right, these are actual events I have witnessed take place, so you need to be aware of that.

You need to be aware that those are potential problems and issues. And that’s just talking about small things. When you start getting into larger conveyances or expenditures, even if you’re acting in the best interest or you feel like you are acting in the best interest of your mother, dad, sister or brother, son, or daughter that you’re guardian of, you are going to be looked upon almost as the bad guy. You will be under a really harsh eye by clerks at the clerk’s office who are really going to give you a hard time. And I don’t mean a little bit, I mean a hard time. That’s happening in my community, Cleveland County all the time. I am sure this happens across the state in North Carolina. It’s harsh, it takes no prisoners and it can tear up a family and really really call out your reputation as well.

So you want to try to avoid these Guardianship nightmares. You want to stay the heck away from them, and there are easy ways to do that.

You can avoid them by putting in place Powers of Attorney. Now I don’t like short form Powers of Attorney, but let me tell you why I equate powers of attorney with guardianship.
You can put in place ‘General Durable Powers of Attorney’, that’s the same and functions the same as ‘Guardianship of the Estate’, which means you are in charge of the money, and charged with spending it correctly. You still have a fiduciary duty to take care of mom, dad, sister, brother and act in their best interests but you are not under the eye of the state. The state isn’t questioning every move you make which is a huge problem.

For example, let’s say you were in a nursing home, I have seen the state allow a person’s house fall to rot, instead of allowing any money to fix that house up. But they will let the money be spent down every single month, that’s about $5000 to $7000 dollars a month just to the nursing home, so you might as well go write a check for everything you’ve saved your entire life and write it out to the nursing home, and the state feels justified in doing that.

It’s not right, and it’s not okay. I advocate against it every single day. However, a ‘General Durable Power of Attorney’ will help you avoid this situation. It will help keep you out of this situation, and that is what you want, and that is what you need.

Again I’m not a fan of forms because they can easily be modified. Don’t print one off online that would be my advice. Don’t let your entire retirement and assets you saved and worked for your entire life be squandered by putting the state in control of it. Take control, take control now. Put ‘General Durable Powers of Attorney’ in place ahead of time. Ours are 21 to 25 pages for long form ‘Powers of Attorney’ because they really enumerate everything you can do. Our ‘Powers of Attorney’ allow your spouse to make any business decision you can make yourself, so they could just step in. Hell, my wife can’t even modify my cell phone bill because I set it up unless she has a ‘Power of Attorney’ or something like that to do so. It’s the same with Utilities if they’re in the spouse’s name. If you’re aging then go ahead and put your spouse and others on there. Everybody, aging or not, needs to have these in place but you should put multiple people on them.

When Michael Jordan fouls out he needs somebody to come off the bench, so your ‘Attorney in Fact’, the person who is acting as you when you can’t because of a healthcare problem, even if it’s temporary, you know if that person can’t act, you do not want to put the state in place, you just don’t want that. Stay the heck away from that okay. We want to go ahead and put a second person in place, a second trusted family member like a son or daughter. You can go as deep on that bench as you want, 2 or 3 people sitting on the bench ready to come in and fill in for a husband or wife who is your primary ‘Attorney In Fact’.

Now why is that important?

If your primary is suddenly unable to fill in and you have no second, then you are at the mercy of the state. The family would either be stuck and unable to move assets or access accounts, or save their home, or the alternative would be seek guardianship but then the assets are frozen solid.

You’re stuck unless your spouse has a ‘Power of Attorney in place’ and multiple people on them. Let’s say you have early onset Alzheimer’s and you’re in your 60’s to early 70’s, and your wife or husband has a good 20 or 30 years ahead of them. All the money is being spent down, and the spouse is in my office crying because all the money is going away, and you didn’t act ahead of time to put in place the ‘General Durable Power of Attorney’.

I see this situation on a regular weekly basis at least and it’s sad, because then you are looking at a Guardianship to do anything, and the state is going to lock it down. They have no mercy, they do not care that you are going to be destitute if all this money is spent down. That’s where you need the ‘General Durable Power of Attorney’, so let’s put those in place ahead of time. It’s very important.

‘Healthcare Powers of Attorney’ will replace ‘Guardianship of the Person’. Now ‘Guardianship of the Person’ is where you are going to have a court proceeding where a family member will be appointed to make healthcare decisions for you. That isn’t so burdensome and over governed okay. That’s a little more reasonable and gives you a little more leeway to make healthcare decisions, legal decisions in the best interests of the ward.

I like to appoint a quarterback. I look at the huddle as being the family. The quarterback goes and meets up with the family and says hey look, Mom’s in this situation where she needs this healthcare procedure, there is a couple of options here for the procedure, what should we do, let’s take a consensus, let’s work this out. One person is going back to the doctor. Only one. Don’t have the sister or brother flying in from another state, that haven’t seen you for 20 years and all of a sudden they have a different idea of how to care for your mom, and the family has been doing that for the last 5 years okay.

Appoint one person because who is the healthcare facility supposed to listen to? Which son or daughter trumps the other if there are conflicting opinions about healthcare? There probably will be. It puts the doctors, the facility and the administration and staff of a healthcare facility really at a disadvantage to make life and death decisions for that member, and life saving measures, including just general healthcare.

So you can avoid a Guardianship situation or a ‘General Guardianship’ or ‘Guardianship over the Person’ by putting in place ‘Healthcare Powers of Attorney’ ahead of time. Those should be separate documents from the ‘General Durable Powers of Attorney’. We call it ‘Durable’ by the way because it’s survives incapacity, mental incompetence or mental disease, or disability. So when you really need it, it is going to be active. If it doesn’t have that clause in it, it does not survive mental incapacity, mental disability or mental incompetence. So you want to make sure you have that in place.

In closing, Guardianship nightmares exist. They happen every single day. It’s a cold hard process, it’s a process of law and unless you want your estate eaten up by attorneys fees or just spent into the ground with no choice, and a guardian with no choice of what to do, put those 2 documents in place ahead of time.

I’m Greg McIntyre the Elder Law guy with McIntyre Elder Law, helping seniors protect their assets and legacies. I’m fighting for you every single day, as hard as I can, I guarantee it, just ask my clients. If you need to reach me or talk to me, call me at 704-259-7040.
Have a great weekend.

Call me if you have any questions:

Greg McIntyreGreg_Full
Elder Law Attorney
McIntyre Elder Law
123 W. Marion Street
Shelby, NC 28150

Hospice’s ‘We Honor Veterans’ Program

in Articles by Greg McIntyre Leave a comment

I love doing the elder law report and I was looking at the blogs and we’ve done around 72 shows, somewhere around there, but today’s is especially close to my heart because we are focusing on the Hospice ‘We Honor Veterans’ program. I talked with the Reverend Doctor Terry Floyd and he is a Hospice Veterans Coordinator and Chaplain at Hospice Cleveland County. Terry has been a chaplain at Hospice Cleveland County for 9 years now. We talked about the chaplain services that Hospice provides, and about upcoming events and other things you can participate in that may be very special and relevant to your experience. So without further ado let’s get started.

Life is special, everybody above ground reading this, celebrate your life today because that’s what we’re going to talk about.

So Reverend Rick you’ve been a pastor for 12 years at the same church, and then 9 years with Hospice and now you’ve taken on a new role with the ‘We Honor Veterans’ program.

That’s right, and I’m very excited about the We Honor Veterans program, it gives us a chance to serve our veterans and tell them one last time how much we care, and not only tell them but show them how much we care.

Not just lip service but back that up with actions.

Every soldier has a face, a name, a unique experience, they have had triumphs and victories during their service to our great country and so it gives us the opportunity to serve them as we entrusted them to take care of us, now we want them to trust us and take care of them.

So let’s talk about your general chaplain duties. They’re different from the veterans role you’ve taken on now in addition to your chaplain duties, but you’ve been doing this chaplain thing with Hospice for 9 years and to me that is amazing because this has to wear on you. Hospice is taking care of patients in home, who are not always in the best physical condition and you’re coming in to offer comfort, solace, spiritual relief, not just to the patient but the family as well.

In my experience dealing with Hospice workers who are all amazing, they are ministering and caring as much for the family as they are for the patient who’s getting treatment, and you are probably no different.

Yes and I would add that we go into the home and also into facilities in the counties we serve. We serve Cleveland, Gaston and Lincoln Counties and we go in and serve the patients and the families, and you know the question is asked many times, do we serve the patient more or the family, and I think we serve them both really. Depending on the family they may have a different need, what we need to give them so we meet them where they are. We always say they are the captain of the ship.

First, talking about it wearing on you, you’ve been there 9 years, so as an attorney let me relate it to what I know. I have worked as what I like to call a ‘door lawyer’ for a long time before I was an elder lawyer. I dealt with criminal law, civil suites, divorces tearing families apart, using my talents in ways that I was not always proud of, and at the end of the day it was very stressful for me and wore on me. That compiled day after day, year after year and that’s why a lot of times trial attorneys will check out early. They have really high rates of suicide, substance abuse and early death because it’s a stressful job. I had to develop ways to cope, luckily I had a great church family, I have a great wife who supports me and loves me, and I had a reason to really work hard everyday and show up, which was our children.

When I first became an attorney we had 2 children and now 6, so daddies got a reason to go to work. And I’ve whined and complained and moaned and my wife is the kind who is going to tell me to pick myself up by the bootstraps and get out to work. And she should, I need that support. In elder law it’s a little bit different. It’s a feel good area of law for me because I help people and it’s a win-win for the families, which I love about it but it took me a long time to find my way to that path. I had to develop coping mechanisms to deal with my job everyday. I would imagine it is sometimes overwhelming the job you do day in day out with patients?

You’re right, I deal with grief, death and dying everyday, and it’s hard seeing people die, it’s even harder for me to see the heartbroken families. I try to care for that by realizing that God has called me to this vocation, and I call it the sticking stuff and if it wasn’t for that simple element, there have probably been days when I walked away that I would not want to come back. But I love what I do because I don’t see it as a job, I see it as a ministry, and so to make sure I take care of myself and my co-workers and staff because I’m not only charged with the responsibility of taking care of families and patients but also the staff of Hospice Cleveland County. So one of the things I try to do is, I know my day ends mentally when I get into my truck, and my truck is a little loud, I’ve been told it roars the seat of the secretary when I pull into the driveway. So when ever I start the truck up I know my day has ended there and I’m going home.

When I first started Hospice it wasn’t that way. I couldn’t sleep for three weeks because I would see dead faces, and eventually over time that went away. My supervisor she has a coping mechanism, I love it, she says, when I walk in the door and place my keys in a bowl and hear them ringing, then I become a mother and a wife and I separate myself, so we do have to have boundaries so that we don’t burn out but going back to the divine appointment of vocational calling is what my main thrust of moving on is all about.

When you say ‘calling’ that really resonates with me. I feel like what I do is also a calling. I can look back on my life and see everything that lead me to the point I’m at now, so I think that’s great to have a calling, that’s what we all need. What you do is amazing, so how do you offer chaplain services to Hospice patients and families, you go in home right, and how do you make that initial contact with the family?

Well, we always call before we go out, and so when we have permission to go out and visit we walk in, and when I first came to work for Hospice one of the questions during my interview was, ‘what will you do with a family when you first meet them?’

My answer was simple, develop a relationship. So when I walk in I am invited in to holy ground into their home so I tread very carefully and delicately to develop a relationship with folks. And I know this may not make sense to a lot of folks but it’s kind of like going to a mechanic when you pull your car up and a mechanic can listen to what’s going on with that motor and determine a diagnosis of what is going on.

I know some of our patients live long enough we discharge them from our care but also there are some who are not going to be with us long. I don’t have a lot of time in cases so I have to expedite the development of a relationship with these folks and I do that by listening to what I’m saying and I look around their wall to see if they have any religious artifacts sitting around, valuables, if they do if they don’t, I listen to what they are saying, what they’re talking about, where they have no peace, where they have concerns, if they have ambivalence with family. We can’t fix every family but we do our best to pull families together and pull pastors in, and our pastors are great in the community about servicing their people, but to pull everyone together so the person when it comes time to take their last breath, that they have as peaceful and good a death as they can have.

I know it’s strange for us to say, well to have a good death, and that’s hard to talk about but there are deaths that are not so good, but I would have to say that in my time with Hospice I’ve only been around one situation that it was just a different spirit in the room is the best way I can describe it, and it was scary. So, but our nurses do a great job of pain management, they are experts at what they do. Our social workers are fantastic and they’re reaching out, getting to know the patient and with veterans they also do their military checklist to know that veteran. Our grief councilors, cna’s, I’ll tell you our patients love our nurses and cna’s, they’re the ones who keep them out of pain and clean but also new studies are out now that say one of the major concerns at the end of life now is the psychological and spiritual aspects, so we try to offer a balance of taking care of the physical and spiritual and psychosocial of our patients and family.

So sometimes you go in and would you see who needs your services the most, is it the patient or the family members?

Well the patient in most cases has already dealt with their illness and what they are going through and are more realistic than the family, and so depending upon the family, I would say the family mostly but then again if you have a patient who, I had a patient once who cried every time I walked in the door. I felt so bad because the chaplain represents death or dying. When I make a telephone call to follow up with the care giver, first thing I’ve learned to say is everything is okay because they’re going, what’s wrong with mom or what’s wrong with dad, so I try to be very careful in that area.

I bet you have experienced tons of different stories and situations over the last 9 years, are there any without naming names or anything, are there any you could share with us today?

Well, I’ll start off with one, it’s the first one that comes to mind. I met this lady and her family, they didn’t live in the best of conditions but they were the most precious family I ever met. She was lying crossways on her hospital bed. Her pain was controlled but if she moved a lot she was in pain. She invited me to sit on her hospital bed and lean back on a ton of pillows and we sat there or lay there for quite some time just talking, good old down to earth folks and that’s what I am, just an old country boy and we lay there and talked. So I got a call back the next day and went out there and she was actively dying, and on the bed where she was dying she called myself and her husband. She had talked previously about her husband being the close kind gentleman she ever met and how good he was to her, and she proceeded to tell her husband, I want you to meet the chaplain, he’s just like you are, he’s one of the most kind and gentle man I’ve ever known in my life next to you. And I just thought someone lying on their death bed fixing to take their last breath and she died within 4 hours that day, and thought that much of somebody like me. That’s one story that comes to mind.

I just debated telling this one or not, but we had a family who was just great. When I first met him he had a problem with his lip and he slobbered really badly and when I first met him and talked to him about the second or third visit he wanted to make things right with his God and he did and we prayed. But I got to learn that this family loved to talk about flagellation, and his days in high school and it’s okay to laugh, I need some support here. So he liked to talk about that.

Who doesn’t like to talk about that come on, I started that in kindergarten and never stopped.

So anyways it brought them comfort and joy his times in high school and his home, and his mother was a caregiver and would talk about how really bad it was at times, they would laugh until they cried. I was reminded of a country song that says we laughed until we cried. And every time I left that day the social worker and I and the nurse sometimes, we would just shake our heads and laugh about this patient who was dying. He was with us for about a year and a half but he loved to talk about this issue and it brought them so much comfort so we met them where they were.

I’ll share one more to bring it back down a little bit. We had a veteran under our care, passed away not to long ago, and as I walked in he shared with me how Hospice Cleveland County had showed him more respect than anyone over the years for his service to our country. We took him a wreath, a red, white and blue wreath that one of our volunteers makes. We talked and made a connection. We talked about his service, he was a man of faith and here he was in a wheelchair and I started out the door after we had prayed and he saluted me, and myself being a former soldier, I snapped to attention and saluted him. I walked out with tears in my eyes that someone who was on their last leg of this life would salute me and it just brought a camaraderie between the two of us that he started requesting me to come out and visit with him almost every other day. That’s a story that will hold dear in my heart and burn in my mind until the day I’m gone.

That’s a great story, all those are great stories including the funny story right, but in that grim situation, if the family accompanied by the chaplain who is bringing spiritual services there and talking about those issues with the family and peace can also have some comedy, some levity in their lives to cut through, that’s great.

You talked about meeting the family where they are, if the family deals with issues like that by joking, you can go down that path too, you’re a jokester and if they want to be serious you can accommodate that too. You’re very used to rolling with or fitting in situations like that, especially going in to those stressful and intense situations, you’ve got to be.

So yes, let’s talk about the new role, the ‘We Honor Veterans’ program, because that’s where we ended with a veterans story where you took a patriotic wreath out there. It sounds like you’re really making sure those veterans are honored as they might not get that full honor, or feel that from the rest of the citizens, community and family throughout their life, you make sure they feel that when Hospice is involved. Tell me about that, what is the veterans program and does that work differ from your regular chaplain duties?

I think it was about 2010 the national Hospice of Palative care organization started this program ‘We Honor Veterans.’ It’s simply a way to say thank you and let our veterans know they were and are appreciated in this life and when I took on this role I’ve learned that one out of every four deaths is a veteran, so 25% of our 2.4 million deaths each year is a veteran. So we have 680’000 veterans a year who die and so puts us about 1800 a day passing away and leaving us, so those are strong statistics that we deal with and only 33% of our veterans are enrolled in the service which means 67% have a lot of benefits that they may qualify for, such as we talked about before, ‘Aid and Attendance’, or Funeral Rites and Rituals or Grave Markers and things of that nature. They also qualify for back pay and pension but it all depends on the veteran, what war they served in and what era. If it was service connected or not service connected and by those terms I mean by service connected, if their disability or illness was a result of being in the armed force or been in war or something. Non connected means it wasn’t.

We had a patient the other day, our social workers really do a great job to try to get all the help they can for our veterans and families, we found out that one guy was receiving Aid and Attendance but couldn’t receive anymore because his illness was not service connected. So we had done all we could but the Veterans Administration was helping them greatly and I’ve met with Debra Kahn at the VA here on Marion Street in Shelby several times, and they’re there to serve our veterans, and that’s our main resource. If our social workers don’t know, they go there or to an elder lawyer such as yourself.

Debra does a great job helping veterans in Cleveland County, and every county out there will have a representative I believe in their county or should, where veterans and their families can check about benefit programs, things of that nature.

You were speaking about veterans Aid and Attendance. In truth, Aid and Attendance is a life long benefit that if you qualify in a health care crisis, you get paid a check that can be used to pay for in-home care, assisted living care, nursing care, adult day care or any service like that, and for two married veterans it’s up to about $2750 a month, or for a single veteran or if only one of a couple is a veteran it would be $1788 a month for the veteran, and it goes down from there. The spouse of a veteran can qualify, the spouse of a deceased veteran can qualify so that’s a really nice benefit and it’s not advertised because the VA doesn’t have enough resources to get it out there.

And there are so many benefits and what blows my mind is 67% of our veterans are not enrolled or signed up, they may not even know. We had a patient who came under our care a couple of weeks ago and they were veterans and we asked well have you applied, no, why not, and they just didn’t know.

I’ve had people sit down with me in my office and I’ve had to convince them that veterans Aid and Attendance benefits are a good thing and a real thing. They don’t believe it, they’re like, is that benefit really available, can I be eligible for it. What I do is, I’ll pull up somebody off the news, you know there is a 5 minute news piece that CBS news or one of the big news organizations did years back, and I’ll show them in my conference room and say, here I‘ll let these guys tell you about it, and they’re like wow, that’s a real benefit. Yes it is but Debra Kahn and the VA doesn’t have the resources to really broadcast that information throughout the counties and to everyone. That’s one reason I do radio shows like this and events, even speaking to Hospice who’ll listen about everything that veterans could be eligible for, or seniors could be eligible for.

That’s one thing that we’re trying to do is also educate our patients who come under our care and the community. I’d say that taking on the new role in the ‘We Honor Veterans’ program at Hospice Cleveland County that I’ve had the opportunity to meet some great people with the VSO’s which are the Veterans service Organizations, such as the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars, I’ve been involved down at the Post 4066 in Shelby and they are just great people willing to help Hospice Cleveland County in any way we can to reach out to the veterans and to make sure they are getting what they need. We are currently working on getting together a veteran to veteran interest group so that we have our volunteer veteran’s going out to visit our veteran patients who all have unique needs, which we talked about earlier in the program. So I’ve had the opportunity to meet some great people and everywhere I go it’s appreciated, so I don’t think you can go wrong talking about veterans.

You know, we want to help all our seniors but you are taking on this role, We Honor Veterans program and implementing that through Hospice. Do other Hospice’s out there in the other counties of North Carolina, do they have a We Honor Veterans program?

They do, not all Hospices have done that. The statistics I saw a little over 100’000 Hospice’s have participated in this but not only Hospice but the funeral services in the Gaston area is actually a level 4 We Honor Veterans. When I came into this we were at a level 1 and I turned in the paperwork two weeks ago for our level 2, so we’re on our level 3 now. What that simply means is, there is some guide lines set up in place that allows Hospice’s and other organizations who become involved in this to stay focused on our veterans and to learn more about the veterans and to do more. For example, I have in obtaining a different level I need to do so many presentations within our staff, within the community, within VSO organizations, I need to stay in contact with our local VA, state Hospice, so there is a lot of footwork in getting out and doing these things to earn the levels. It’s not all about earning a level it’s about caring for our veterans and making sure they get what they need and the honor and respect they deserve so greatly.

You know there may be people out there right now reading this who are wondering how they can get in touch with you, how can I have this gentleman or this program come out and minister to my veteran, the veteran in my life, one who may be suffering from illness right now, who needs to be honored, who needs to be cared for right now, how can someone get in touch with you and your team?

They can just call Hospice Cleveland County at 704-487-4677 and our receptionist will put in touch the person you need to speak with.

Do you have any up coming events?

Yes we do we have a veteran to veteran interest group coming up that’s going to be held on May 24th that’s a Tuesday, we have two separate times, a 10am and 5.30pm and we do this so it’s convenient to working folks but this is a veteran for volunteers, it is specifically for veterans who want to volunteer for veterans because a veteran can have something in common with another veteran and we have already seen a good response from some men and women who are going to be involved in this.

I’d love to see tons of veterans participate in this and other events you have coming up. I really appreciate you talking with me, just digging deep and talking about the seriousness of what you do, and the awesomeness of what you do, and what Hospice does honoring veterans and helping seniors and their families as they go through a healthcare crisis.

I’m the elder law guy, Greg McIntyre of McIntyre Elder Law. If you need to contact me my number is 704-259-7040.

Call me if you have any questions:

Greg McIntyreGreg_Full
Elder Law Attorney
McIntyre Elder Law
123 W. Marion Street

Shelby, NC 28150

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