PBS’ Nine to Ninety

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7th Jan 2016

The Emmy award winning producer, Juli Vizza,is a producer and editor who typically tells the stories of others in her documentaries.  Recently, however, she had the tables turned on her, as she witnessed her Aunt Sarah struggling with the caregiving of her sick grandparents, Joe and Phyllis Sabatini, while also caring for her 9 year old niece.  Sarah’s mother, Angie, was also acting as a caregiver, but from 3,000 miles away.  Juli knew her family couldn’t be the only ones in this situation, so she decided to make them the subject of a PBS documentary designed to help others in a similar situations. Her documentary, Nine to Ninety airs on national PBS stations throughout the month of January 2016.(See a preview of the documentary at https://vimeo.com/142014613”)  The documentary, tells the story of her “sandwich generation” family, and how they cope with caring for multiple generations of family members.

Phyllis doesn’t want to be a burden
Sarah’s 4’7’’ grandmother may be small in stature, but stands tall as she faces life with both courage and determination.  Phyllis is steadfast as she completes her daily routine of calisthenics, prepares her own meals, and stays on top of her medications. Unfortunately, Joe is just the opposite, and seems to have given up on life.  He’s detached and prefers to sleep most of the day.  Phyllis loves her family, and she especially enjoys the time she spends with her grandchildren.  However, despite her attempts at being as independent as possible, she sees how much strain taking care of both her and Joe is putting on the family and feels guilty about burdening her daughters. She realizes that something has to change.
Juli’s family is forced to make difficult decisions
As Phyllis and Joe are struggling with worsening health problems, their daughters are working from two coasts to stay on top of the many medical appointments and therapies.  At the same time, when the family is hit by the news that Joe has been diagnosed with kidney failure, Phyllis becomes even more concerned about the increasing caregiving work that her daughter’s family would have to take on if both she and Joe remain living with them (especially since Joe needs to undergo dialysis treatments).  After emotional and troubled reflection, Phyllis tells her family that she wants to move back to the East Coast.  She would like to move to a facility where professionals can help her, as needed, but realizes that the family just doesn’t have the money.  Phyllis, after much deliberation, decides to move in with her other daughter, with the hope of easing the financial and time burden on her youngest daughter, Sarah. But this means leaving her husband of 62 years on the other side of the country.

The video follows the family as they make emotional, and heart wrenching decisions that thousands of other families are also faced with on a daily basis.  Phyllis, with fortitude, tells her family members states to the family “We’ve got to talk about it!”  Following, Phyllis sits down with her daughters and granddaughter and brings out her jewelry.  Grandaughter Jacqueline, wonders aloud if this is her grandmother’s “passing away ceremony.”  Unable to face that reality, Phyllis’ daughters avoid the question as Phyllis explains that it time to give these precious things to the younger generation.
The Film

  • The Need to Have the “Conversation”: According to Vizza, one of the goals of her film is to empower families to start discussing the needs and desires of the older members, what expectations they have for their care, and how they can accomplish their goals. Through a campaign of community screenings, educational events, and public television broadcasts of the film, Vizza’s aim is to inspire these conversations, and to help connect families with the resources that exist around them. She hopes the campaign can provide the tools to help foster comprehensive conversations between healthcare professionals and patients, providers and clients, and caregivers with family members.
  • The Stress Sandwich Generation Families Face[1]: Caring for kids and parents at the same time is extremely challenging. However, there are ways to work around the challenges. This film shed light on the stresses faced by sandwich generation families.
  • The Need to Plan Ahead: From the film, it seems the Sabatini’s, like over 75% of the population, did not plan for long-term care. With even a small degree of planning from an experienced Elder Law attorney to protect their assets and get Phyllis and/or Joe on Medicaid, they would have the option of nursing home care for either or both of them, even if they couldn’t afford the catastrophic costs otherwise.

Medicaid Asset Protection
Medicaid Asset Protection is the process of protecting assets from having to be completely spent to pay for the devastating expenses of long-term care, while helping to ensure that you (or your loved one) get the best possible long-term care and maintain the highest possible quality of life, whether at home, in an assisted living facility, or in a nursing home.


Medicaid Asset Protection can be started any time after a person is starting to need assistance with daily living, such as; dressing, bathing, walking, cooking, cleaning, paying bills and managing finances.  This type of planning should be started prior to the onset of disabling events, but can be engaged in at any time the individual retains “testamentary capacity”[2].  Entering a nursing home or receiving other long-term care assistance is not, ipso facto, synonyms with mental capacity.  In fact, many of our Medicaid Asset Protection clients come to us when nursing home care is already in place or is imminent.  However, the challenges are greater at this point, and the Medicaid “look back” period can cause problems.
If you are still healthy now is the time to consider a Medicaid Asset Protection Trust, which is a simpler and less expensive method of Medicaid asset protection for clients who will most likely not need any long-term care for at least five years.
Nursing homes in the Intermountain area range in cost between $3,000-9,000 a month.  To protect your family’s hard earned money and assets from these catastrophic costs, the best time to create your long-term care strategy is before you actually need long-term care.  If you’re over 65, we recommend that you begin your asset protection planning now. But even if you are currently receiving services for yourself or a loved one, it’s never too late to plan.  If you have a loved one who is nearing the need for long-term care or already receiving long-term care or if you have not engaged in estate planning or, Incapacity Planning (or had your Planning documents reviewed in the past several years), please call us to make an appointment for a no-cost consultation.

[1] Sandwich Generation is a term used to define the generation of middle-aged individuals who are pressured to support both aging parents and growing children.  Individuals tasked with taking care of aging parents – who may be ill or require physical or financial help, and simultaneously who are required to take care of children and their financial, physical and emotional support.

[2] The requirement that a person is legally competent in order to enter a contract, sign a will, or make other legal commitments, including appointing someone to act on their behalf.