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Waiting is not a good option

“Betty” called my office in 2011. She was trying hard to care for her husband who had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. We spent some time on the phone trying to find out more about her circumstances. We could tell that she needed some immediate planning done. An appointment was scheduled. A few days later, Betty cancelled the appointment, telling us that she was not ready to take action.

Providing long term care is a balancing act. It involves personal time, family dynamics, and effective management of resources. Long term care is actually the process of providing care to someone who cannot care for themselves. The care can be in their own residence, by bringing someone into the home, using independent living, moving to assisted living and finally, residing in a nursing home.

Paying for that care can be daunting. The first step may be using one’s own private resources. If fortunate enough, long term care insurance can be very helpful. Family assistance provided for free can be a solution but it will be a short solution with a significant impact on the family. For some, Medicaid may be an answer. Medicaid is a program that will pay for long term care, provided certain income and asset limits are not exceeded. When a member of a married couple goes into long term care, preservation of resources for the “well spouse” becomes the focus.

Accurate and timely planning for families may become critical - even more so for families that do not start out with a lot to begin with.

While Medicaid does allow for preservations of assets for the “well spouse”, if action is not taken timely and those assets are spent, there is nothing Medicaid can do to return those resources.

It is important to me that as soon as a person enters long term care, they engage in something called a Medicaid Division of Assets. Even if there is no current intent to apply for Medicaid, it is much better to be proactive.

Under certain circumstances, there are ways to divide resources between the “ill spouse” and the “well spouse” even before admission into a nursing home or other long term care facility.

The key point is that by acting early, you are able to preserve more resources than if you delay.

Let me go back to Betty. Betty re-contacted us a couple of weeks ago. She was exhausted from trying to take care of her husband. She had spent a lot of the families resources trying to make the home safe for her husband, trying to have people come into the home to help her while she ran errands, and she had completely curbed her activities in the community because of the 24/7 care she was required to provide to her husband.

While we were able to help her, unfortunately she had already depleted over $50,000 in care for her husband. If we had met together in 2011, we could have preserved that money for her. I was heart sick for Betty but did not say anything.

So many families in western Kansas come from strong stock. They do not like to ask for help. I find that even more prevalent when it is some type of dementia that they are dealing with.

I always urge families to take action immediately when there is a diagnosis of a chronic illness. In addition to legal help, I always urge them to use support groups. Hays has a wonderful Alzheimer’s support group. It also has a wonderful Parkinson’s support group. I am sure there are many others that I am leaving out.

Take action: Get help early.

*article previously published in 2015


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