Can I Give You A Hug? Absolutely!

By: Jerold E. Rothkoff, Esquire

Recently, I met with Michele regarding her mother, Helen.  Michele was referred to our office by the admissions director at the nursing home where her mother currently resided.

Michele and I spent about 90 minutes together in our firm’s conference room.  During our time together, Michele confided in me her concerns that her mother would not be eligible for Medicaid to cover her mother’s nursing home care and that Michele and her husband were at risk to be financially responsible for any outstanding charges being due.

Michele went on to discuss her mother‘s health and living arrangements over the past five years.  Approximately five years ago, due to her mother’s deteriorating health, Michele and her husband agreed to have mom move into their home.  Two years into the move, as Helen’s health continued to deteriorate, she became wheelchair bound.  For over two years, Michele was her 24/7 caregiver on many days, causing her to miss significant work time.  Michele bathed, dressed, and prepared meals on a regular basis for her mother, as well as went shopping and took her mom to all doctors’ appointments.  Her goal was to keep her mom at home and avoid nursing home placement.

Helen, like many of our senior clients, is a very proud individual, and did not want a free ride.  Therefore, Helen gave her daughter $25,000 as well as paid her a monthly rent because she said “you are the only one taking care of me.” Some of these funds were used to renovate a  bathroom to make it wheelchair accessible.

Unfortunately, as Helen’s health continued to deteriorate, nursing home placement was unavoidable.  Thinking that she would qualify her mother for Medicaid since her mom was under $2,000 in total assets, Michele went innocently to the local Medicaid office to apply for nursing home Medicaid coverage. Michele was shocked when the Medicaid caseworker told her that her mom would not qualify due to the previous alleged uncompensated gifts and that Michele had to give her mom all the money back in order to qualify.

Why did Michele care for her mom for five plus years prior to nursing home placement?  Because she thought is was the right thing to do.  She witnessed the care and dedication her parents gave her grandparents, and she thought it was necessary to do the same for her mom.  She was completely shocked by the Medicaid caseworker’s matter of fact statement that she would need to give all the money back.

I sat quietly as a listened to Michele’s story as I felt and heard the concern and angst on her face and in her voice.  I then advised her how I believe we can assist her in qualifying her mother for Medicaid in such a fashion that neither she nor her husband would be responsible for any outstanding nursing home bill.  As the tears rolled down Michele’s face, I witnessed the anxiety being lifted from her.  As I accompanied her to our parking lot, she said to me, “If it was appropriate, I would hug you right now.”

Wow!  That is what elder law is all about.  I love this job.

Our entire staff is very fortunate to do what we do.  Whether we are meeting with a caregiver child, caregiver spouse, or the elderly client, we get the opportunity to help relieve their anxiety, to give them peace of mind.  While we help the client, the client also helps us.  They expose us to an appreciation of a humanity we discover in ourselves that we may not have understood or felt before – and could not, except for them.

In case you were wondering – we love hugs.


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