The holidays are a time for all of us to come together and celebrate. It may also be the only time during the year that families who live far apart from each other can visit, face-to-face. We find this to hold especially true for our Florida seniors who have either moved away from their adult children or whose children have moved out of state. 

We encourage you to carve out time during your holiday celebrations to discuss the future with your aging parents. While none of us want to consider a future that includes long-term care it does not mean the conversation should be avoided. Difficult conversations are, for the most part, better to have in person.

It may not seem necessary to have this conversation, especially if your parents are only recently leaving their middle-age years and in relatively good health. We would counter, however, that there is never a wrong time to begin to plan for your aging parent’s potential need for long-term care and their nursing home eligibility. A sudden, incapacitating stroke could leave them with diminished capacity or Alzheimer’s Disease at any time, and we all need planning in place that contemplates these issues. In fact, right now the cost of long-term care in Florida presently exceeds $8,000 per month. Without a plan in place to qualify for nursing home Medicaid in the future, your parents’ assets could be substantially depleted due to long-term nursing home care. 

In addition, the community spouse may only retain his or her income plus the portion of the institutionalized spouse’s income necessary to allow the community spouse $2,058.00 in income per month with a maximum to include an excess shelter and a standard utility allowance of no more than $3,161.

It is important to understand that Medicaid is a means-based program. For example, a parent in a nursing home can only own $2,000 of countable assets and be eligible for Medicaid nursing home assistance. The non-institutionalized parent can only own $126,420 in countable assets.  This means that your parents will not receive Medicaid assistance if they have too many assets. This is why it is important to begin far in advance of applying for Medicaid eligibility to divert their assets from the countable assets that will disqualify them for Medicaid eligibility to non-countable assets. Presently, examples of non-countable assets can include, but are not limited to, a residence, improvements made to their residence, Individual Retirement Accounts, a prepaid burial account or an automobile regardless of its value. 

If your parents wait too long to make gifts of their assets to someone other than a spouse they may be penalized for making the gift too close to the time that they need to apply for Medicaid assistance. Assets given to another person, such as a son or a daughter, at least five years in advance of applying for Medicaid assistance, however, may not give rise to their disqualification for assistance. Further, a good elder care planning tool can be to transfer their countable assets to an irrevocable trust at least five years in advance of applying for Medicaid nursing home assistance.

We know this article may raise more questions than it answers. Planning for elder care issues, at any time, can feel as if you are navigating a long-term care maze. We encourage you not to wait to get the advice you need. Do not wait to schedule a meeting with our office with your parents while you are visiting, or any time throughout the year.