Thursday, 21 May 2009 15:32First, I hope none of my readers will ever have to go through the story presented in this column. It is a true story which recently took place and involved grandparents of one of my family members. The couple had lost their children, and my son-in-law was the only surviving relative. It is also a story about that old proverb which says never put off until tomorrow what you should take care of today.
In your life, everything can seem to be going well until one day the bottom suddenly drops out. In this case, the couple was in their 90s, and until several months ago had led fairly active lives – even driving back and forth from upstate New York to a second home in Florida.
The couple had serious health issues. First, the wife started to lose her memory and could not drive. The husband, having already suffered from some heart problems, had a heart attack and ended up in the hospital. At first, he refused to go into a rehab center – just being stubborn.
Finally, a doctor and his grandson talked him into going to a rehabilitation center. That is when the paper trail had to be checked. As a retired teacher, there was Medicare insurance, a Medicare supplement policy, and a private health care insurance policy as a part of the teachers retirement system. Fortunately, both had executed healthcare proxies. That made the needed care easier to work out.
The question was what would be covered under the policies and how long would coverage last in rehab.
Since it was also clear that the couple could really not live alone after rehab, what were the options for assisted living in a retirement facility or at home? What would be the costs? Would any insurance cover the assistance? What about their wills? Did anyone have a power of attorney should both become totally disabled.
Guess what? No one really had the answers to any of these questions. And then the husband died when his kidneys failed and his oxygen support gave out.
As a memorial service was planned, the new questions unfolded. What was the status of income tax payments? What would the deceased’s spouse do? With a loss of memory, could she live alone? Again, as above, what were her options and who would pay?
Remember before Medicaid comes into play, most of the assets of an individual have to be spent or gifted away five years before applying for Medicaid. Departments of Social Services may look back five years and impose a period of ineligibility for Medicaid depending upon the amount of assets gifted. There is a lesson in all of this for every one of us.
First, understand what your healthcare insurance policies will pay for and what they will not pay for. Make sure you have consulted an attorney about your will – not fifteen years ago, but now.
Prepare a list containing all of your financial information, and seriously consider giving a power of attorney to a son or daughter.
There is one other consideration. Take a look at a long term care insurance policy which could fund assisted living should you suffer a serious health problem. Life can be short, but can be lived in a much better style if you think through the issues outlined in this column.