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`We get calls all the time from folks who want us to check on their parents`

Professional firms adapting to Mississippi’s aging population

In addition to CPA firms providing broader services for the aging population, other agencies and service companies are adapting to an increased senior population.

“Mississippi is primarily a rural state, so most older residents live in rural areas,” said Betty Burgess, administrator for the area agency on aging for CMPDD, whose services include Meals on Wheels, transportation and homemaker assistance. “Many older residents are isolated because their children have had to leave the state to get good-paying jobs and have to leave their parents here. We get calls all the time from folks who want us to check on their parents and make sure they are getting the services that are available.”

Aging Baby Boomers have financial resources to seek sound advice and counsel for financial planning.

“Over the past 20 years, the majority of our clients had limited income and resources,” Burgess said. “Now, we’re beginning to see individuals who are able financially to take care of themselves but still need us for direction and recommendations.”

Betty Lou Reeves, a CPA and partner at Smith, Turner & Reeves in Jackson, Barry Jones, a tax attorney and a CPA at Wise Carter Child & Carraway, and Phillip Gunter, CFP, of Raymond James Financial Services of Jackson, often team up to teach continuing education courses on issues that affect the elderly.

“I never knew I’d have to deal with this situation with my own parents, who have been married for 60 years,” said Reeves. “They lived in Memphis, my sister took care of our parents and I visited them. Several months ago, we made the decision to move them to an assisted living center in Brandon and I became the primary caretaker. I never dreamed of what a tremendous responsibility it is for adults with elderly parents. This experience gave me increased emphasis.”

It’s not only seniors who may need eldercare services, said Gunter.

“My wife was in a serious car accident in April,” said Gunter, 51. “She’s okay now, but her injuries required serious surgery that could have left her paralyzed. It occurred to me that if the surgeon slipped or if the wreck had happened a little differently, I would need to come up with $30,000 to $40,000 a year for at-home care. That would upset our retirement strategies and investment plans and everything else in our lives, as it would for most people. It hit me that long-term care is not only for older people. I recently wrote policies on me and my wife for that very reason, mainly for accidents.”

Because it is relatively new, many CPAs, particularly one-man shops, do not provide eldercare assurance services — yet. And many consumers are not aware of eldercare assurance, which serves primarily as an audit of services, said James Earnest, a CPA in Jackson.

“It’s coming to the point that CPAs are going to have to be well-versed in eldercare products so taxpayers can derive the greatest benefit,” he said. “Every situation is a little bit different. Some CPAs are becoming specialized in eldercare, but I don’t think it’s going to be the forefront of their practice.”

As newly appointed “point men” in the team approach to elder care, CPAs are plowing new ground, Gunter said.

“I’m glad somebody is trying to help clients do what they need to do to maintain their independence and get whatever services and benefits are due them,” he said.

“The inner workings of the Social Security, Medicare and other systems is bewildering. As people get older, they generally don’t want to be bothered with all of that but it can be a costly experience, not knowing how the system works.”

Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne Wilbanks Jeter at lwjeter@yahoo.com or mbj@msbusiness.com.


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