Walter thought his $120,000 in savings account plus his pension from United Technologies would carry him through for the rest of his life. He often told his daughter, Peggy, that he would have plenty of money and that she would get a nice inheritance when he died.
However, at 82, while still physically able to get around, Walter’s memory was no longer dependable. Peggy was shocked when Walter’s doctor told Peggy that her father’s Alzheimer’s disease had progressed to the point where he needed nursing home care for the rest of his life. Peggy learned a difficult lesson.
“I called around and found that nursing homes in my area cost around $15,000 per month. Medicare won’t pay for it and Dad’s savings will only last eight months or so. He thought he had saved plenty of money. I guess he never counted on this happening.”
The doctor referred Peggy to an elder law attorney for help.
If the need for custodial care in a nursing home arises, most people find themselves financially unprepared. While Medicare, the federal medical insurance plan for older American and people with disabilities, sometimes covers up to 100 days in a skilled nursing facility, Medicare generally does not cover the kind of long-term care an Alzheimer’s patient, like Walter, needs.
Medicare’s limited nursing home coverage is intended for patients who need recovery or rehabilitation from surgery or illness. And for Medicare to pay, patients must continue to improve during their stay.
People with mid- to late-stage Alzheimer’s disease, however, usually need custodial (rather than rehabilitative) care. Custodial care includes assistance with preparing meals, bathing, grooming, toileting and other daily activities of life. In fact, a patient’s inability to manage these kinds of activities often spurs the move into a nursing home.
The problem is Alzheimer’s disease is one of the most expensive illnesses in the United States. Over a patient’s lifetime, health care cost average more than $341,840.
Most people simply can’t manage these costs on their own. Others are afraid to deplete their resources and impoverish their spouses and families. At some point, most patients who need long-term nursing home care turn to Medicaid for help. Few alternatives exist.
The three most common ways to pay for nursing home care are long-term care insurance, private pay and Medicaid. Some people are fortunate enough to have long-term care insurance. However, this type of insurance has only recently become popular and most people facing a nursing home stay do not have this protection.
An elder law attorney could have helped Walter protect his hard-earned assets so that he could have given an inheritance to Peggy, as was his desire.
Attorney Daniel O. Tully is a partner in the law firm of Kilbourne & Tully, P.C., members of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys Inc., with offices at 120 Laurel St., Bristol (860) 583-1341.