Getting back to reality and writing about it

My poor blog has been ignored too long! Something I learned at a recent columnists’ conference was not to waste the good stuff on FaceBook. How true…spending much too much time over there. To be honest, though, I’ve been putting some research on the back burner and just haven’t taken the time to get into it…like info my son sent me about the use of marijuana serum to treat dementia…sounds like something worth looking into. I also have a problem with “self-promotion”…feeling like anyone reading this doesn’t want to hear about how my grandsons are the most perfect little Einsteins in the world – not true but we all probably think that of our grandkids. And you don’t want to know what I had for breakfast while on the South Beach diet. TMI!

I do need to get back to the business at hand which is how to help my aging parents deal with dementia, depression, boredom and everything else that goes along with making them miserable. By the time you reach your mid-eighties, you deserve to be happy. Unfortunately, that is not the case in our situation. Dad is falling deeper into his alternate world and mom is not dealing with it well.

So this blog needs to address those matters more often, both reaching out for help and giving it when I can.

On a positive note, my sister, mom and I are signed up for a caregivers’ seminar at a local library in August – tried for July but was already booked – a reaffirmation that we are not the only ones out there dealing with the downside of aging.

Looking at the upside of getting older, especially in retirement, we’ve done some traveling over this past year to include a cruise to the Western Caribbean and a cool (in more ways than one) trip to Michigan, taking in Detroit and the upstate regions of Lake Michigan. The weather was wonderfully chilly and the wine was tasty. I’d definitely recommend a visit to this friendly and creative state. Ready for another northern adventure to get out of this damned heat. Sounds like Alaska is the only place to escape – even Montreal is in the 90’s today! Aargh

So, if anybody out there is interested, I will be committing to at least 3 times a week of updates, links, etc. Please feel free to send along any helpful info regarding aging parents, dementia, etc…as we need all the help we can get!

Medicaid or Private Pay…there are options

We met with Hallie Zobel to discuss the financial aspects of my parents going into an assisted living facility (ALF). First the topic was Medicaid. Many nice long term care facilities which include independent living, assisted living and skilled nursing, have Medicaid units among the private pay rooms. Hearing the term Medicaid, one might think of destitute individuals who qualify for Medicaid benefits due to their economic issues. There is also a portion of Medicaid called the Institutional Care Program (ICP) which, in Florida, is overseen by the Department of Children and Families (DCF). In order to qualify, elders must be 65 years of age or older; their home must be worth less than $500,000; they must have less than $2,000 cash. Their home, car, wedding and engagement rings are not included in their assets. Their gross monthly income must not exceed $2,022 ($4,044 for a couple). The spouse of the individual applying for ICP benefits can hold assets in the amount of $109,560 in his or her name, so it would behoove mom to have her own bank account and transfer any cash assets over to her name. If the individual has more than the $2,000 in cash assets, there are ways to distribute the funds and, basically, hide them. Since 2007 the laws have changed gifting. Used to be one could sign over large amounts of money and properties to family members and not have it counted towards their cash assets. This can still be done but it has to be done more than five years prior to their application. Hallie listed many ways to divert funds legally so the person can qualify; loopholes with names like Qualified Income Trust, Special Needs Trust, Medicaid Asset Protection Trust. They could also purchase an adult child’s home and live in it one full year to qualify. Spending down is also an option if the money goes towards upgrades on their home – renovating a kitchen, bathroom, adding a room, etc. (A good resource for questions about elder care issues is Caring.com.)

Once we determined that neither mom nor dad were needing a Skilled Nursing Facility yet or an ALF memory care facility, we broke down their monthly income to see if they could afford a place where they could live together in a small apartment as part of an ALF scenario. Since dad is a Foreign War Veteran, he would qualify for a program called Aid and Attendance through the Veterans Administration. The VA assists with funding a stay in an ALF along with surviving spouse benefits – these benefits amount to around $1,500 to $1,900 per month. That’s a nice chunk of $$ to help with monthly ALF expenses.

We were told about a few facilities in our area which are quite nice but don’t require a large buy-in from the potential resident. In a perfect world our parents would be in an ALF sharing a small apartment, having meals supplied in a central dining room, with activities available along with opportunities to have social encounters upon stepping outside the apartment. Of course, medical care being close by in case of need would be great.

All of this is not relevant, however, if we cannot convince dad that a move like this would be beneficial to both he and mom. Mother seems to be amenable to the idea but dad will be another story. They have such a nice condo on Lake Howell with a killer view and central location. Dad likes to take 2 mile walks which would be safer if he weren’t alone. It would be great for them both to stay in their own house but the dementia will probably preclude them from that scenario in the not too distant future.

Next on our agenda is to try and talk dad into signing over a Power of Attorney to Patty or I. He drifts in and out of thinking that we are all out to get his money and are just waiting for him to die. That, of course, is not the case but one cannot argue with dementia. More to come…