“YOU COULD LOSE HALF YOUR ASSETS BY NOT PLANNING AHEAD” WARNS ELDER LAW ATTORNEY JENNIFER B. CONA AT CAREGIVER CONFERENCE
Too many people wait for a loved one to enter a nursing home or require home care before they even think about planning for Medicaid long term health care benefits. “Using proper legal strategies, you can potentially save all of your assets and get the care you need by planning ahead – the sooner the better,” explains Jennifer Cona, elder law attorney and managing partner at the Melville based firm Cona Elder Law. “By waiting for a crisis to occur, you can only save half of your assets at the most.”
At a recent Caregiver Conference sponsored by Cona Elder Law and Dowling College Center for Intergenerational Policy & Practice, four speakers addressed over 150 people regarding important issues when caring for elderly loved ones.
“Remember that one size does not fit all when it comes to Medicaid planning,” explains Ms. Cona. There are many variables, such as family composition, including whether there is a spouse or other exempt persons, such as a minor or disabled family member, and whether care will be provided at home or in a nursing home. “And above all, don’t assume your plan can be the same as your friend’s or neighbor’s plan as their situation may be entirely different from a legal standpoint.”
Ms. Cona discussed asset protection strategies, such as different types of trusts that can be used to transfer assets out of a person’s name who may have future care needs. For those that haven’t planned ahead, she spoke about the use of a promissory note to retain one half of the assets even after someone is in a nursing home.
“Breaking Through the Home Care Myths” was presented by Denise Tripodi, Administrator of Personal Touch Home Care in Suffolk County. Ms. Tripodi addressed such issues as identifying when home care is needed, what a home health aide does and does not do, what the requirements are to get Medicaid home care, and how to select the right home care provider.
Ms. Tripodi explained that home care can be needed when a person’s physical capabilities are diminished. If a person needs assistance with daily living activities such as bathing, dressing, feeding, toileting, grooming, etc., most people opt for home care. “Some think that home care means the aide will scrub the floors, wash the windows and do the family’s laundry,” which is not the case said Ms. Tripodi.
A regulated industry by the Department of Health, home health agencies are licensed by the state.
If you’re choosing an agency, Ms. Tripodi said it’s important to find out about their screening process, how long they’ve been in business, and how the aides are supervised and trained.
Paying for home care was discussed by Melissa Negrin-Wiener, elder law attorney and partner at Cona Elder Law. The application and requirements for Medicaid home care are not the same as for nursing home care. “You can transfer your assets one day and be eligible for home care the next month,” says Ms. Negrin-Wiener. “The five year look back and penalty period rules only apply to institutional Medicaid benefits.”
To qualify for Medicaid home care benefits, a single person is currently allowed $13,800 in total assets and $767 in income each month. Excess income generally has to be spent on cost of care. However, to preserve the extra income, Ms. Negrin-Wiener explained that an applicant can use a pooled income trust. The excess income can them be saved and used for a participant’s living expenses such as mortgage payments or rent, food, clothing, utilities, real estate taxes, etc.
When it comes to the emotional side of caregiving, Dawn Friedland Perez, clinical social worker and owner of Wisdom of the Aged, gave excellent tips on how to keep your sanity and physical health while taking care of the needs of a parent or elderly family member. “It’s our coping strategies that will help the caregiver maintain their own wellbeing,” explained Ms. Friedland Perez. She stressed the importance of living your own life, focusing on your needs too and accepting the situation. “Ask for help and get respite care when you need it,” she noted. “Share what you’re going through with others and if necessary, join a support group.”
Genser Dubow Genser Dubow & Cona is recognized as a leading elder law and estate planning firm on Long Island. The firm provides a full range of services and has been featured in many publications including: The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Newsday, L.I. Business News, Kiplinger’s, Reader's Digest and many others. Cona Elder Law attorneys are frequent contributors to Newsday’s Act II “Ask the Expert” column and have appeared as guests on WNBC-TV, CNN-fn, News 12, News 55, Channel 21 "Act II With Newsday" and many radio stations including WOR, WCBS AM and WFAN.