L. Michael Hankes  |  ATTORNEY AT LAW
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Being Prepared for Elder Care

Like most peo­ple, I never really con­tem­plated what steps I might be required to take to care for my par­ents as the years passed and they pro­gressed from the exalted sta­tus of senior cit­i­zens to the elderly. Even as an expe­ri­enced attor­ney deal­ing with com­plex busi­ness lit­i­ga­tion, I had lit­tle inkling of the con­cept of elder care and what the emer­gency care of my par­ents might ulti­mately entail. I didn’t know that there were such legal spe­cial­ties as “elder care” or that plan­ning for the care of one’s par­ents was as impor­tant if not more impor­tant than tra­di­tional estate planning.

When Dad began to fail from a long term ill­ness, we exe­cuted pow­ers of attor­ney and took other steps to ensure the pro­tec­tion of my Mother. I thought we had all the bases cov­ered, until Dad fell two years later and broke his hip. The moment Dad sta­bi­lized, we found our­selves in a dis­cus­sion with a “social worker” about how soon we could get Dad out of the hos­pi­tal. Mother was actu­ally con­tem­plat­ing the con­cept of a hos­pi­tal bed in her kitchen until I reached a good elder care lawyer.

I received a crash course on the piv­otal nature of the hos­pi­tal dis­charge plan to the life or death of my Father and the san­ity of my Mother. I learned that by mak­ing good faith efforts “to par­tic­i­pate in the for­mu­la­tion of a dis­charge plan,” the pres­sure to imme­di­ately remove Dad from the hos­pi­tal was relieved. As a lawyer, I was taken back more than a lit­tle bit as I real­ized that legal skills were nec­es­sary to ascer­tain respon­si­bil­ity for Medicare/Medicaid’s pay­ment oblig­a­tions for Dad’s care and to pro­tect my Mother’s future. Sud­denly, my Mother’s pri­vate world was being turned upside down by what was referred to as the Med­ic­aid Cer­ti­fi­ca­tion Process. Each and every bank account, tax bill and check over $500.00 was scru­ti­nized to deter­mine Med­ic­aid eli­gi­bil­ity and the allo­ca­tion of monthly pay­ment respon­si­bil­ity for Dad’s care in a pri­vate veteran’s facil­ity. While the deci­sion was being made, monthly bills for Dad’s care piled up and the result­ing strain on Mother was palpable.

My legal skills and those of four other attor­neys were needed to nav­i­gate my folks through this stage of their lives for which none of us had planned. After almost a year, Dad was deter­mined to be eli­gi­ble for Med­ic­aid assis­tance and Mother was able to relax a lit­tle. We inves­ti­gated and obtained long term care insur­ance for Mother after learn­ing hard lessons with Dad’s care.

It was only after my own expe­ri­ence, that I began to hear about other peo­ple whose elderly par­ents had not faired as well because there were no fam­ily lawyers to make the right calls to the right peo­ple at the right time. My folks ulti­mately enjoyed more than two and a half years that they would oth­er­wise not have had, but only because we learned the right lessons on a crash basis.

For those of you who may be senior cit­i­zens or have older par­ents and aren’t mil­lion­aires, you might want to sit down with a com­pe­tent elder care lawyer and an estate plan­ner. Both were nec­es­sary for us. Some com­mu­ni­ties offer sem­i­nars on plan­ning for elder care and the pro­tec­tion of assets. None of us likes to con­tem­plate our own mor­tal­ity and it may all seem a lit­tle droll in the abstract, but when Mom or Dad falls and breaks that hip, there isn’t time to plan.

Long term care insur­ance is a con­tro­ver­sial sub­ject advo­cated by some and decried by oth­ers. A good, long term care pol­icy will cost nearly $10,000.00 per year, but on the other hand, the real cost of nurs­ing home care in some com­mu­ni­ties is nearly that fig­ure per month. Unless you want to sell the fam­ily home­stead to pay for Mom or Dad’s care, you need to dis­cuss the uncom­fort­able issues and plan ahead.

This is not the typ­i­cal arti­cle that I write as an attor­ney, but if any of you who read it are able to effec­tively plan for the events that we faced, then it was a mes­sage worth imparting.

This article is intended for informational purposes only and is not to be relied upon as legal advice, as individual facts and circumstances may vary.