Many people can find themselves in a position where they need to help their parents prepare for life changes that can include the need for significant in-home healthcare or a move to a nursing home or assisted living facility. The impetus that can prompt that process could be an illness, a fall, a car accident or a sequence of small challenges like repeated, significant absentmindedness or inappropriate comments or actions.
The tight-knit nature of the families in the Midwest can motivate people to try to care for their loved ones themselves. But, even if someone is a medical professional, the toll of being a caretaker for a loved one usually, eventually becomes mentally and physically overwhelming, particularly after a couple months.
When the possible need for nursing home, assisted living or professional in-home healthcare arises, there are three steps that should be undertaken as soon as possible.
First, ensure that the loved one has updated his or her powers of attorney and living will (usually called “advanced directives”). These documents are legally necessary for people to make financial or healthcare decisions for other people who may be facing the need for long-term care.
More directly, the law requires very specific language in a power of attorney if that power of attorney is going to allow the agent to transfer assets to help someone become eligible for any one or more of the many government assistance programs to help with the cost of long-term care, including programs such as Medicaid and Passport. Even recently updated powers of attorney that lack the necessary language can be legally insufficient in this context.
Second, consult with an attorney to develop a financial plan. That plan development should include an analysis of all assets, liabilities, monthly income and monthly expenses. The numbers will obviously change if the loved one is relocating to a new residence, but a good plan will anticipate those changes.
Most people are aware of the five-year lookback rule for Medicaid. However, even if the loved one is already in a nursing home, this rule typically does not prohibit the ability to eventually become eligible. Notably, the five-year lookback is usually measured from the date of the initial application for Medicaid, not the date of nursing home admission.
Third, work closely with the attorney so that (a) the agent does not become personally liable for the long-term care bills and (b) asset transfers can be accommodated at the proper times. Additionally, the attorney’s advice can ensure that any applications for assistance (for Medicaid or other programs) are not made too early or too late.
Specifically, kids’ love of their parents coupled with the incredible stress of situations like this can sometimes lead kids to unintentionally, personally guarantee payment of a parent’s long-term care expenses. Obviously, there is no law that prohibits such generosity, but it is often not necessary because there are other methods to ensure that the loved one gets the appropriate and loving care that the loved one deserves.
Lee R. Schroeder is an Ohio licensed attorney at Schroeder Law LLC in Putnam County. He limits his practice to business, real estate, estate planning and agriculture issues in northwest Ohio. He can be reached at Lee@LeeSchroeder.com or at 419-659-2058. This article is not intended to serve as legal advice, and specific advice should be sought from the licensed attorney of your choice based upon the specific facts and circumstances that you face.