We’re not superheroes. We can provide care for aging family members, but we can’t do everything, and for many of us, things get to a point where we’re overwhelmed and out of our depth because our loved one needs a level of expertise that we’re simply not capable of providing. That’s OK. It’s not a moral failing. Once we realize something has to change, the next question is “But what?” A nursing home may be a good option. But while sending your loved one to a nursing home will simplify your lives in some way, it can also make a few things more complicated.
Nursing homes and Medicaid
Quality care does not come cheaply, and you’ve probably heard plenty of horror stories about nursing homes leading to financial ruin: There are stories like “We put my dad in a home, and then Medicaid came and took the entire estate.” Or “We wanted to get Medicaid, but the government said my dad would have to divorce my mom in order for her to be eligible.” It’s a lot to handle, and you really shouldn’t try to handle it alone.
Bad things happen when people take a complicated topic like Medicaid and decide there’s a simple solution. People think they can just transfer family money to a different account, but doing that can land you in a world of trouble. Medicaid fraud isn’t something the government takes lightly. If you’re trying to hide or move around money, that’s not going to look great. The same is true of real estate. You need to consult with a Medicaid attorney before you do anything drastic. Yes, attorneys can be expensive, but there’s a lot at stake here, and it’s one of those cases where you can’t afford not to have legal representation.
Don’t listen to friends who say, “My cousin’s dentist’s florist’s did this, and it worked out great!” Friends are well-meaning, but they’re not experts in the field of Medicaid law. It’s easy to get frustrated with the system and decide you’re going to fight back by moving assets around willy-nilly, or by doing something else that’s reckless and short-sighted. Don’t be that person. Get a Medicaid lawyer first. Talk to a few different attorneys if you aren’t sure what you’re looking for. There’s a very good chance you’ll be able to find someone whom you can work well with, as well as someone who can take a complicated legal topic and make it understandable. Ask plenty of questions. Your lawyer is there to answer your questions, so you might as well ask him or her.
For instance, some states make certain assets exempt, so you may be panicking about losing the family home for nothing. We tend to make bad decisions when we don’t have enough information. When you’re looking for nursing homes or assisted living facilities, you’re probably not going to base your decision on something like the type of plants in the front lobby, right? That would be ridiculous. You’d wait and talk to people and take a look around to get the lay of the land. Allow yourself the same thing here. Needing to decide fairly quickly isn’t the same thing as not having any time at all.