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Again She Worries… “Will We Lose Everything”

With the right help, you don’t have to lose your life savings to nursing home costs.

Here is where you can discover how things can get better.

Mary sat in her silent home. Thoughts whirled around her like leaves in the wind. Good God, how she hated leaving Joe at the nursing home every day! After 53 years of marriage, she didn’t like to be separated even a single night…and she’d already kissed her Joe good night 18 times in the nursing home since he started his rehabilitation stay there .

And now today’s news was almost too much to take! Closing her eyes tighter, Mary bowed her head and let the day’s events flood back over her…

Mary thought about today’s meeting with the social worker and business manager at the nursing home. She’d stopped by to see Joe and they’d asked her into their office. They told her that Joe’s condition wasn’t getting any better. And since Joe no longer was rehabilitating, his Medicare payments would stop in a couple of days. Then the social worker looked at Mary and asked this question, starting Mary’s mind racing without stopping since.

Looking at Mary the social worker asked, “Are you ready to bring Joe home? Because if he stays here, are you prepared to start paying $8,000 each month for his care? The choice is yours. And we need an answer right away.”

Mary couldn’t believe her ears. She knew there was no way she could care for Joe on her own. Her children were very supportive but they couldn’t help much because of jobs or living too far away. Mary’s heart burned to bring Joe home but she knew it couldn’t happen.

No, as much as Mary wished otherwise, Joe would need to receive nursing home care for many more months and perhaps even years. She wanted him to be safe, and to get the care he needed. She counted her blessing that Joe could be in a nursing home near by where she could visit often.

But how could they afford $8,000 a month? Mary’s thoughts kept circling back to what that number meant. How much was that a year? She tried the math in her head to but that number seemed impossibly high. So Mary tried her calculator and punched in the numbers. To her dismay she was right: $8,000 for 12 months equals $96,000 per year paid to the nursing home.

That’s a huge number.

And the nursing home expected to get paid every month and on time.

Mary was frantic, and her thoughts kept whirling. Writing those big checks, she would run out of money in less than 3 years! And then what would she live on?

She and Joe had always lived frugally and their hard-earned nest egg had always seemed like plenty. In fact, if Joe hadn’t needed expensive care, they planned to leave their savings to their children. Mary felt like her financial security was going down the drain, and that there was no way that either she or Joe expected this.

Are you prepared to find a way to write a big check each month to the nursing home…paying $8,000, $9,000 or more…month after month?

My hope is that you’re blessed with a long and healthy life, and that your spouse is too if you’re married. I hope you never must hear the gut wrenching question that Mary was asked.

But if your spouse needed care today, are you prepared to handle that expense? Or if you’re worried about your parent, can he or she pay that expense without going broke in in 2 or 3 years?

The time to answer this question isn’t when you’re sitting at the nursing home worried about a loved one’s care. Still, when that nursing home crisis strikes, remember that you’re not alone and there is help if you know who to ask.

Thankfully Mary got help…and you can too!

I’ve seen people in Mary’s situation find themselves feeling trapped. They go to the Medicaid office needing help. Instead they are told to keep spending their money and come back later. Some people have drained their bank accounts, sold jewelry, given away pets, and asked their children for financial aid. Some people even mortgaged or sold their home… just to keep paying the devastating nursing home bills.

And after all of that, they become another nursing home casualty. The money runs out. They come to the end of their rope and try to hang on but the bills keep coming. They drown is despair and debt.

Still…even in dark times like these…there is hope. Remember you’re not alone. For Mary (who represents other clients we’ve helped like her and Joe), she was able to get good news when she finally heard through her friend that I could help.

When Mary came to my office, we spoke about her concerns. She knew that I understood, and quickly agreed we’d be able to help her, just like we’d helped many others with a spouse or parent in nursing home care. She took a deep breath, and she finally felt calm knowing things could be OK again. She could stop worrying. She could guide her step-by-step along the path out of her troubles.

Mary nodded I said many people learn too late that it’s not the Medicaid office’s job to help protect people like Mary and Joe. Medicaid just tells you the rules, and gathers enough information to approve or deny a Medicaid application.

Mary’s face relaxed and a smile came on her face when I explained how there was a way to protect nearly all of her and Joe’s assets, in a way that was honest, ethical and legal. She and Joe would be following the rules, but with our help they could have the rules work for them not against them.

And these Medicaid rules are very complicated. Some judges have said Medicaid is even more complicated than the tax code!

By not knowing the rules, too many good people spend more money than they must, simply because they don’t get experienced legal help. One false step or wrong turn and you’ll be lost in the “Medicaid maze.” You’ll experience unnecessary headache and heartache that could have been avoided. Don’t let that happen to you!

That’s why experienced, responsive and knowledgeable legal help is important. Feel comforted and avoid sleepless nights by trusting these important matters to a Certified Elder Law Attorney who helps families with Medicaid applications every week. Locate someone who specializes in this. At our office, our practice revolves around planning for the second half of life. We have the systems in place to get started quickly and to make sure that Medicaid applications are processed smoothly.

Here’s what Mary could expect with the right help

In Mary’s situation, she and Joe have about $300,000 of savings, mostly in the bank but some mutual funds and IRAs. They also own their home together. They heard from one person that they had to spend everything down to $2,000. Another person told them they could keep half of their assets. She didn’t know where to turn.

Fortunately for Mary and Joe, with our help Mary is able to protect their home (so that they doesn’t have to sell it and Medicaid can’t take it later), and Mary can take steps to protect nearly all of her $300,000 hard-earned savings. In addition, Mary can keep all of her monthly Social Security and small pension. Joe’s income would go to the nursing home and Medicaid will take pay the difference between his income and the cost of his care. In addition, after a few years Mary also will keep some of Joe’s monthly income, with the result that she eventually will get paid part of Joe’s Social Security even before the nursing home if he has a long nursing home stay.

Essentially, Mary keeps all of her income, and nearly all of the couple’s assets. Medicaid benefits can start very quickly, and are retroactive to when we have rearranged assets to achieve eligibility. That is often within 1 to 2 months, which is a tremendous savings.

This would still work about the same way, to protect the couple even if they only had $50,000 or if they had $800,000. In either way, we would guide them through the Medicaid rules using the “Division of Assets” strategy, to avoid spousal impoverishment.

Mary and Joe represent situations for clients whom have helped many times, and theirs is not an actual real-life fact situation.

Should you let the nursing home prepare your Medicaid application or do it yourself?

If you have very low assets and no prior gifting, you may be able to apply for Medicaid on your own. We sometimes recommend that to people because they really have nothing left to protect and Medicaid can be readily available.

But if you’re married with retirement savings to protect, this is too important to trust to the nursing home or Medicaid office. The fact is, they will focus on spending down your assets, instead of protecting them.

That’s why it’s especially important that married couples get experienced legal help for Medicaid applications. I’ve seen people who delayed and didn’t come to see us and spent over $300,000 that they didn’t need to…just because they were listening to the wrong people. Don’t let that happen to you!

Some people let the nursing home handle their Medicaid application, or they try to file the Medicaid application themselves. We only advise that if there are no assets to protect. Why? Think of it this way: asking for help from the Medicaid office is like asking the IRS to prepare your tax return. Why would you ask the IRS to help because you know their answer would not favor you; instead, you would be better off getting help from an experienced CPA who would understand the law and look at it from your side instead of for the government.

You should get help from a Certified Elder Law Attorney and has been guiding families through Medicaid applications to pay for nursing home and assisted living care

I’ve been helping families with elder care concerns for over 2 decades. My law firm was founded to make sure that local residents have a trustworthy guide to the elder care journey.

When you meet with us, you’ll see that we care about and understand what you’re going through. And we have the ability to handle your matter promptly and efficiently. Some law firms never seem to get things done. Not here. We handle Medicaid application matters every week, and we’ll get started right away.

Our approach is to meet with you and guide you step by step through the intricate process of paying for long-term care. We’ll make you don’t become another victim of the Medicaid system, losing nearly everything you (or your loved ones) have spent a lifetime accumulating.

When you choose an elder law attorney to help with your spouse or parent’s Medicaid application, be sure to ask whether your application will be presented in person to the Medicaid office. Some firms mail in their application, rather than speaking directly with the Medicaid caseworker. We take the time to organize the needed materials, carefully identifying any potential problems and fixing them, and then meeting directly with the caseworker in the Medicaid office to file the case. We have found that gets cases off to a better start.

Another way that we help make sure the Medicaid application proceeds quicker is that our firm communicates directly with the nursing home to ensure they know what information the Medicaid office needs and when. That way the client doesn’t feel caught in the middle, wondering why Medicaid hasn’t made a decision due to missing information from the nursing home.

And when caseworkers sometimes try to delay or deny an application because they have misinterpreted the rules, we’ll make sure to point out their mistake to correct it. Unfortunately, those mistakes happen more than ever these days, and we shudder to think about how many people are denied benefits they would be entitled to… if only they knew the rules as well as we do.

When we help, in nearly every situation we are successful at getting Medicaid approval the first time (without having to file an appeal or re-applying because of a denial). Plus, families appreciate our meeting with the Medicaid office, since that means they don’t have to deal with the government.

With the wrong help, the Medicaid application process drags on month-after-month. Then the family experiences the pain of delay, delay, delay. They may even ultimately be denied benefits and have to start all over, simply because they didn’t get the right help from the start.

Because of our help. many families often tell us things like, “We are so glad we found you. You were great to work with. We never could have done this on our own or gotten this approval so quickly.” It’s our honor and privilege to assist families through these difficult times. We understand it’s not their fault, we’re glad to help.

When Now is a Good Time to Get Started

People sometimes ask me, “When is it too late to file a Medicaid Application?” My answer: “Don’t delay. It’s only too late to apply if you have no assets left to protect!”

Naturally after this reading this article you would want to apply for Medicaid soon after a nursing home stay starts, because now you know the truth about Medicaid. But if you’ve been paying for nursing home bills for a while now and watched your lifetime savings disappear like tears in the ocean, you’ve still got time to act.

If your spouse or loved one is facing a nursing home monetary crisis, you owe it to your family to know your Medicaid rights and options. It’s your choice, and we’re ready to help.

Get the facts and get results. Learn if you qualify for a free consultation with The Elderlaw Firm by calling 336-378-1122 today. Why suffer through needless anxiety and financial stress; discover how The Elderlaw Firm can help!

About Dennis Toman

Dennis Toman is one of the first Certified Elder Law Attorneys in North Carolina. He founded The Elderlaw Firm to make certain that local families could have a trustworthy guide to the elder care journey. Dennis has appeared on television and radio as a guest expert, including the monthly “Ask The Elder Law Attorney” segment for a morning news show. He also delivers a regular series of seminars to help local boomers and seniors discover what to do so they (or their loved ones) don’t go broke in a nursing home.

At the Elderlaw Firm, our goal is to provide remarkable client service. People who are going through difficult times deserve a law firm that takes the time to understand and to work with families rather than lecture them. Our staff of attorneys, paralegals and social workers know how to help families through the steps of paying for nursing home care with Medicaid.

Dennis has co-authored two books about planning ahead and paying for long-term care. He is also a VA Accredited Attorney, and he is a member of the Counsel of Advanced Practitioners (CAP), an invitation only group of elder law attorneys recognized for their specialty. Dennis is also a charter member of ElderCounsel, and he is a member of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA) and WealthCounsel, as well as a past Chair of the Elder Law and Special Needs Section of the North Carolina Bar Association. He also serves on the Elder Law Specialization Committee of the North Carolina State Bar.

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