If you were unable to attend the recent seminar on protecting your assets when you need nursing home care, you may have missed out on vital information that could bring you some peace of mind as you get older. Many people reach a certain point in their lives when they can't avoid the fact that their bodies -- and maybe their minds -- aren't so reliable anymore. It's no shame to admit needing help.
You likely watched your parents and perhaps even your grandparents aging. They may have been fortunate to have good health throughout their senior years or to have family members available to provide for their needs. You may hope to have that same good fortune, but with nearly 70 percent of people needing skilled care after age 65, the odds are against you.
What are my options?
When you think of paying for health care in your senior years, you may think Medicare and Medicaid. However, you may also have heard stories of people who lost everything and died in poverty just to qualify for federal assistance. You have worked hard all your life and probably hoped to leave something behind for your children, even if it is just the beloved home in which you raised them. While turning 65 may qualify you for Medicare, this program may not meet your needs.
Medicare helps you obtain medical care. However, you may not need medical care. Instead, you may simply need custodial care, whether in a nursing facility or your own home. Custodial care includes things like the following:
- Cooking meals
- Bathing or showering
- Getting in and out of bed
- Getting dressed
- Using the bathroom
Medicare, including the gap plans, does not cover these non-medical services, even if you receive them in a nursing home. To bring a home health aide into your home, you can expect to pay an average of $4,000 a month. Nursing home care can be twice that much, especially if you opt for a private room. For these services, you may need Medicaid, and this is where you may fear for the loss of your assets.
Preparing for Medicaid eligibility
Medicaid coverage is based on your means. In other words, you may not qualify for this important coverage until your assets have dwindled to less than $2,000. Any hopes of leaving your loved ones an inheritance may seem to disappear if you reach the point where you require the custodial services of a specialized caregiver.
You do have options to protect your estate, but doing so requires planning ahead. There are certain estate planning options that can shield your assets from the Medicaid means test and allow you to qualify for assistance without reaching the poverty level. Depending on your age and health, time may be of the essence. Improperly or untimely transfers of assets may delay or jeopardize your eligibility for much-needed coverage.