A lifeline

Since the meeting with the neurologist things around here have been going pretty smoothly. Miss Cathy is still doing her “victory lap”; calling everybody she knows to tell him or her what the doctor said (or more accurately-what she “wanted” to hear him say).

Anyway, she called me into the living room recently to tell me that she had an idea about how to make “me” feel more comfortable about her staying home alone (what she doesn’t seem to realize is that I am “so fine” with recent events, I went through whatever upset and changes I was going through and now I’m moving on-next!).

She suggested that “she” should get a “medical alert necklace” (you know the one, you’ve seen the commercials on TV late at night, “Help! I’ve fallen and I cant get up!”) Well, I was surprised that she came up with the idea but after thinking about it I gotta say that I was impressed (even if “I” am the one that is going to have to look into getting it).

So, I added researching the “necklace” to the list of things to do. Tops on that list were contacting lawyers to get information about her estate planning. It’s not like there’s much of an “estate” but what little there is has to be carefully managed so that Tony and I can do the right thing by her and (hopefully) set up the future so that when she needs long term care everything is in place for her to take full advantage of Medicaid.

I got a list of lawyers from The Alzheimer’s Association and they also suggested I check out the NAELA (National Assoc of Elder Law Attorneys) website. Unfortunately, the list from the Alz Assoc needed to be updated. A lot of the lawyers that I called no longer practiced or the numbers were wrong and the NAELA website had some incorrect information, too. But, I persevered and came up with about half a dozen lawyers in the area to contact. And being the good little “do-bee” that I am I called my local contact at the Alz Assoc to tell him about updating the list (hey, it’s the least I can do with all the help they have given me).

It took about a week for the various lawyers to get back to me (for some reason four of the six all called on a Friday). They all seemed “capable” (over the phone) and took a fair amount of time to talk with me about what I wanted to accomplish. I knew that I needed something to try to distinguish one lawyer from another since I didn’t have personal experience or a recommendation from someone who had worked with any of them. The Alz Assoc takes great pains to say up front that they are not endorsing or recommending anybody, they are simply providing information.

I had my list of questions to ask and I found a way of “testing” how knowledgeable they were so that I could separate the competent from the cash seeking by asking all of them about the “look back” that Medicaid does for all applicants (something any lawyer worth his salt should know about if they handle any elder law cases).
The “look back” is the time frame by which Medicaid considers personal wealth in determining who gets “how much” money from the government agency that will be paid out for a persons’ long term care (the correct answer: under the current guidelines the “looks back” covers looking into the last five years worth of a person’s assets and holdings (and not three years that some lawyers are still quoting, by the way.

If Medicaid is satisfied that a person did not dispose of property or assets in order to qualify for benefits they will appropriate the necessary funds for care, if they feel someone has assets of any significant value (a relative term) they can determine that the person should shoulder most or part of the financial responsibility for care until their resources are exhausted or Medicaid can put a lien on the property to recoup monies paid out for care after the person dies and the property is sold).

They all agreed that it was wise to start the process sooner rather than later and told me that we are lucky to have Miss Cathy’s support and co-operation. A couple of the lawyers told me horror stories of how family members were trying to do the right thing by their loved one with Alzheimer’s but the person was unwilling to cooperate or too far gone in the disease to be able to help. Some (because of the disease) had become paranoid, combative and stubborn to the point of sabotaging plans by refusing to sign documents or not agreeing to what was in their best interest. So, more often than not they leave a mess for the loved ones to deal with (and sometimes a huge bill for care-remember, long term care can run up to thousands of dollars a day).

I did find two lawyers that I’m felt comfortable enough talking to over the phone to want to follow up with. One lawyer in particular impressed me because she was the only one to suggest that there may be other ways of planning for her long-term care other than (or in addition to) Medicaid. She told me that Miss Cathy could be eligible for a Veteran’s Administrating Pension Benefit that is given to widows of war veterans, the caveat is that the deceased only has to have been enlisted during a time of war-the soldier did not have to have seen combat. If she qualifies, it could mean a possible thousand dollars a month more toward her care so that’s definitely something worth investigating.

This same lawyer invited me to a monthly estate-planning workshop that she holds in her office, the next one is on April 5th and I plan to be there. It will give me a chance to not only gather some information but to check out the lawyer as well.

As for the medical alert necklace, I found two companies online that l felt comfortable calling based doff their websites. The first was “Lifeline”, the one that advertises on TV and the other was a competitor that seemed to offer the same product a t a lower price but I just didn’t get a good vibe from them so I was leaning toward the more expensive company that originated the product.

The good news is that their local rep called to give me a much better deal than was quoted to me originally (so be sure to have the Lifeline agent give you the contact telephone number for a rep in your area-there could be deals and specials that you can take advantage of to lower the cost of the service).
I signed Miss Cathy up, the equipment (which just plugs into a telephone landline power source to monitor activity in addition to the necklace) came on Saturday. I’m waiting for the fist of April to do the installation. I’m planning a trip to New York and Kansas City for two weeks starting on Aril 7th so Miss Cathy gets her freedom (she was sooo happy when I told her my plans).

She said that she changed her mind about the medical alert necklace after she found out how much it cost. Well, I said using her own words against her when she told me that, “Too bad, it was your idea and now I happen to think it’s a good one so we’re keeping it and you’re going to wear it.”

Whether or not she does remains to be seen-all I can do is all I can do and today I’m okay with that.


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