Loved Ones and their Long-Term Care Options

As seniors become older, they tend require assistance with their activities of daily living (such as toileting, bathing, or dressing) as a result of health issues or general forgetfulness.  Often, the role of primary caregiver falls to the spouse, and if he or she is unavailable, then to the children.  Caregiving can be an exhausting and demanding job for loved ones, so it is important to know what long-term care options are out there for seniors.

The biggest caregivers in this country are spouses. Spouses are worn out over time in caregiving, as it is taxing mentally, physically, and financially. Spouses are even more exhausted today as caregiving for their husbands or wives than they were fifty years ago due to changing family dynamics in our society. Today, it is rare to see multiple generations all living together in the same house with all of the family members caring for one another.  Instead, most families generally live in disparate households.  Instead of living right down the road from one another, where it is easy to check in on an elderly grandparent, family members today often live in separate states.

For those seniors whose spouses are unable to act as caregivers but who are fortunate enough to have their children to take them in, those senior’s health insurance will not pay for the cost of their long-term care.  Our health insurance, including Medicare, does not cover long-term care needs, whether at home (where we want to receive these services), at an assisted living facility, or in a nursing facility.  Health insurance will cover acute sickness, but if you have Alzheimer’s, dementia, or are generally frail, it will not provide coverage. Health insurance will not pay for many of the increased costs that are associated with aging.  This lack of insurance coverage for general old age, coupled with the high costs of caring for someone full time often cause the loved ones of a senior to seek out various options to help pay for the cost of his or her care, such as Veterans Benefits or Medicaid.

The Veterans Pension benefit is a long-term care reimbursement for war period Veterans, their spouses, or their widows if they need long-term care. If the Veteran qualifies as a “war period Veteran,” then the pension is a long-term care reimbursement for money spent on necessary long-term care needs. This monthly reimbursement, ranging from $1,113 for widows to $2,054 married couples, can alleviate the financial burden of caring for a loved one.  However, be sure to visit an experienced Elder Law attorney to make sure that your application is in order before you apply for this reimbursement, as the VA has several rules that may disqualify you based on your income and assets.  It usually takes roughly eight months for the VA to process applications, so it is important to do your application correctly the first time.

Another option is Medicaid, which is a means-tested government assistance program that pays for the cost of nursing home care.  Everyone hopes that they will never see a nursing home.  Some seniors have worn their spouses or children out, however, and face no other options but going to a nursing home, which can be more than $6,500 a month. Often this is far more than the senior’s income, as usually Social Security and an individual’s retirement cannot meet these amounts. Only 1% of the population has an income stream that can pay for these costs.  If we have a spouse that cannot take care of us and our spouse needs to be taken care of as well, then this can be a difficult crisis to face financially. Most seniors can qualify for a nursing home if the need arises. You do not have to be destitute in order to qualify, as Medicaid for nursing facility care is not based on net worth. Instead, the program involves complicated rules where you can have property and still qualify. Furthermore, if you are still married, Medicaid does not count the community spouse’s income. Most middle class Americans with a home, two cars and a nest egg can qualify for Medicaid with a little bit of help from an experienced Elder Law attorney.

To see if your loved one qualifies for Medicaid, Veterans Benefits, or other public assistance programs, contact an experienced Elder Law attorney today. Call W.G. Alexander and Associates for more information!