On the third Monday in February, we celebrate Presidents Day. Most people think of Presidents Washington and Lincoln when they enjoy a little time off from work, but there’s no better time to remember the last message delivered by President Ronald Reagan. Reagan left the White House in January of 1989. Six years later, he revealed in a hand-written letter that he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. He lived for another decade before dying at home at the age of 93.
In his letter, Reagan reminded us, “Unfortunately, as Alzheimer’s disease progresses, the family often bears a heavy burden.” His only wish was that he “could spare Nancy from this painful experience.” Reagan knew his wife would need help, just as caregivers across Arkansas need help while caring for aging family members.
Reagan was able to live out his final days at home, but most people with major health problems don’t have that option. Caring for someone at home can be challenging. So can managing the transition of a family member to a nursing home.
I recently met a woman who was trying to help her mother with this transition. Until recently, her mother lived at home by herself, but as a result of her declining mental health her home became unlivable. This woman moved her mother into her own house for a while, but that was only a temporary solution. Her mother needed a nursing home.
Emotionally dealing with her mother’s decline was hard. Dealing with Medicare, Medicaid, and nursing home admission rules made things worse. First, she was told her mother would receive up to 100 days of rehab, during which she’d owe nothing because it was covered by Medicare and her supplement. She only got 20 days of rehab. After that, the choice was private pay $6,000 per month or apply for Medicaid. The facility helped her file the Medicaid app and told her it looked like she’d be covered. Almost three months later she learned that her mother was denied because of a previously unknown account worth only $2,300.
The facility told this woman that her mother now owed for three months at the private pay rate, and if her mother couldn’t pay, she’d be held personally responsible because of the way she completed the admission papers. All at once she had to figure out how to get her mother out of the nursing home to stop accumulating a crippling debt, how to cash out this previously unknown account to have any hope of future Medicaid coverage, and how to protect her own assets if the nursing home decided to come after her for her mother’s liability.
At the Elrod Firm, we help families every week protect assets and maximize income during the transition to a nursing home. If you want to go deeper, order a copy of my book, You Need A Plan, while you’re there. Better yet, give us a call to schedule a Strategy Session for straight answers and personalized advice. Reagan was right. Caring for an aging family member is a heavy burden. But you don’t have to do it alone, and it’s dangerous to try.