Unfortunately for most caregivers, the first time that they start to think about Medicaid planning is after its too late.
That’s what happened with me.After my mother’s heart attack when I had to apply for Medicaid for her, I realized how unprepared I was. So for this article about Medicaid planning, I am going to focus on two aspects…
- How caregivers can prepare for the inevitable Medicaid application
- Resources that are available to assist caregivers in the application process
Information You Will Need
The list of paperwork you will need to apply for Medicaid is loooooooong…I have thee complete list on my “How To Apply For Medicaid” page so there is no reason to re-list it here, but when you see it, you will get the point. The government is going to want every single piece of information relating to the financial life of the applicant…and want that information for a 5-year look back period.
Here, you can see my mother’s pile of information. That is the result of 4 months of work where I had to put my life on hold and simply do the Medicaid planning and the Medicaid application process. It isn’t easy…and I understand why.
My mother’s nursing home costs $14,000 a MONTH!!! Yes, a MONTH. So I understand that the government wants to make sure that she is not independently wealthy and hiding the money to avoid paying for the nursing home herself.
But the amount of paperwork required and the time it takes to compile it will definitely be a problem for you.
So the one bit of advice I can give you…before you have to start the process if possible…is to work with your parents and start to compile this information now. At the very least, know where they keep everything and understand how you can get access to the information in the event of an emergency.
You should also have certain documents notarized by your parents that will assist you in the Medicaid planning process…
- A power of attorney
- A health care proxy
- A living will
These documents will allow you to act on your parents behalf in the event you need to.
Resources You Will Need
Most of all, you will need information. There will be a thousand questions you have, and while the social workers at my mother’s nursing home were terrific I still felt like I was groping around in the dark. So of course I took to the internet and started to read up all the information I could on Medicare, Medicaid, caregiving, checking out nursing homes, etc…
[Note: This is ultimately the reason I created this website…to put all of this information in one place.
And as I searched I came across one resource for caregivers that I felt was invaluable.
It is not often that I will recommend a product or information but for all of those who are either going through the Medicaid planning process or are actually starting to apply for Medicaid, a MUST HAVE resource in my opinion is Gabriel Heiser’s “Medicaid Secrets: How To Protect Your Family’s Assets From Devastating Nursing Home Costs“
Since my mother’s heart attack last January, I have devoured tons of information about Medicaid and government assistance. And I have to say that of all of the books and articles I have read, nothing comes close to what you will learn in this book….that’s my copy you see on the right.
As Mr. Heiser points out in the introduction, this book should be used as an “idea book” in conjunction with a qualified elder law attorney. This is because Medicaid is a joint Federal/State program…and this means that there are 50 different sets of rules governing certain circumstances.
So while all the strategies outlined in the book are legal, not all of them will work in your state. However, in reading the book there are enough variations to how you can legally structure your assets or your parents assets so that you can protect them.
Here are some of the things that you will learn in Medicaid Secrets…
- What is covered by Medicaid? (page 11)
- When to apply for benefits? (page 17)
- How to get retroactive benefits? (page 19)
- Income qualification rules (page 27)
- What assets are counted and what assets are excluded (page 40)
- How to legally exclude your home from Medicaid (page 41)
- How to legally transfer assets to reduce your asset levels (page 59)
- The power of irrevocable trusts when it comes to Medicaid (page 72)
- How to legally spend down assets (page 90)
- Planning ideas for the home (page 119)
- Legally using promissory notes to reduce your assets to qualify for Medicaid (page 159)
Get the idea? This book is a must have for any caregiver thrust into the role of having to apply for Medicaid for their family.
Of course there are other resources that helped me…one book that I loved is “ElderCare For Dummies” and it covers a wide range of topics for caregivers, but Heiser’s book really covers the Medicaid planning process from soup to nuts.
So take the time to read that book and you will be able to talk intelligently to the elder law attorney (actually the last section of the book tells you how to find the right elder law attorney for you) so that the two of you can work together to protect your family’s assets.