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This article is one in a series by elder law attorney Richard Habiger, published exclusively in the SENIOR VOICE, which discuss changes to the Medicaid law that will have a devastating impact on many middle class families in southern Illinois.

Life Care Planning, Estate Protection, Disability,
VA & Medicaid Assistance Lawyers

Protecting Your Home From Medicaid and Nursing Homes

Protecting Your Home From Medicaid and Nursing Homes

 

 

This article is one in a series by elder law attorney Richard Habiger, published exclusively in the Senior Voice, which discuss changes to the Medicaid law that will have a devastating impact on many middle class families in southern Illinois.

 

The muddled "reform" of the Medicaid law (the so-called Deficit Reduction Act or DRA) enacted by Congress and signed into law by the President on February 8, 2006, has been "clarified" by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).

 

In a series of "enclosures" to a letter addressed to state Medicaid Directors issued by the Director of CMS on July 27, 2006, the Center sought to bring some clarity to the transfer of assets provisions of the new law.  Unfortunately, the contents of the "enclosure" are no clearer than the DRA itself.

 

The DRA will have a severe impact on families that have a loved one who needs long-term care.  For most families, this means that the family home - often the only asset or most valuable asset owned - will be at risk.

 

Preserving the family home allows the community spouse (the one who is not in a nursing facility) to continue to live at home - to maintain her independence and dignity. This is particularly true of family farms.  Often, in family farm situations there are two generations that depend upon the income generated by the farm.

 

For example, just before I sat down to write this article, I met with the wife of a client.  I'll call him Gus and her Genevieve.

 

They do not have much, only the home and farm they have struggled to maintain for nearly sixty years. Their daughter Charlene and son-in-law Joe have lived on the farm for nearly forty years, helping Gus and Genevieve with the farm operation. Joe and Charlene work in town, but basically have been working the farm for the last five years because Gus' health has been declining.

 

Genevieve has been caring for Gus at home until recently.  He now lives in a nursing home.

 

Genevieve had tried to get Gus to do some estate planning, but he kept putting Genevieve off.  Basically, Gus was a "do-it-myself" kind of guy.  He had always been the kind of guy who could fix anything. So why pay someone to take care of something that he just knew he could do himself.

 

The problem is, Gus never got around to it.  Perhaps Gus had a hard time letting go. Perhaps he had grand plans that were beyond his ability to implement.  In any event, Gus and Genevieve still jointly own everything - including their 10 acre homestead and the 100 acres a mile down the road.

 

Now that Gus is living in a nursing home, Genevieve struggles to maintain her independence at home.

 

She is a proud and fiercely independent woman.  It broke her heart when her husband's health took a turn for the worse and she was no longer able to continue to provide care for him at home.

 

As we wound up our business and we were saying our "goodbyes," she reached out to hug me. Then she held my hands in hers.  She said that without the income she derives from the farm, she would not be able to "keep body and soul together."  Knowing that she will be able to keep the entire farm, not just her home, gives her great comfort and peace of mind.  She said that we have helped her to keep her dignity and her independence and she wanted me to know how deeply appreciative she was for the sunbeam of hope that we have given her.

 

With the warmth of those words still ringing in my ears as I sat down to write this newsletter, I knew the subject of this article had to be about spouses at home and saving the family home.

 

            Richard Habiger is an elder law attorney.  You may contact him at 618-549-4529 or Richard@HabigerElderLaw.com.