In this week’s column, Phil Moeller, the author of Get What’s Yours for Medicare: Maximize Your Coverage, Minimize Your Costs and co-author of the updated edition of How to Get What’s Yours: The Revised Secrets to Maxing Out Your Social Security, answers a reader question about caring for an aging parent.

Got a question of your own about Medicare or Social Security? Send it to askphil@considerable.com.

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Question

Dear Phil:  

I need help for my wonderful, loving, kind, intelligent, funny and caring mom. Her name is Ginny and we have run out of money to care for her at home. I will do anything I can to keep her in her beloved home surrounded by happy memories for 61 years. 

My brother, who has power of attorney for mom, wants to put her in a very nice retirement home that would be paid for by selling mom’s house. Mom does not want this solution.

My dad passed away in 2012, but mom soldiered on. During the past three years, unfortunately, she has suffered a string of physical problems that have left her unable to care for herself. I have tried my best to take care of her, but it has become too much for me, financially as well as physically. My own health is suffering and I am away from my own family a great deal of the time.

I recently took a one-month break to recover a bit. During this time, we had four caregivers that cost my mom nearly $15,000!

Here mom’s financial information:

Income: about $49,000 a year

Assets: $130,000 in the bank

Home equity: about $750,000

I hope to hear from you soon.
–Holly

Answer

Dear Holly:

I’m so sorry to hear about your mom’s worsening health issues and your own health and financial problems trying to help her.

You’ve already explored many of the possible solutions that I would have suggested.

Were I in your position, the first thing I’d want to do is to be on the same page as your brother. If he has the legal power of attorney, you would need him to sign off on any strategy, so reaching agreement on an approach for your mom is necessary.

As part of this approach, I would find an estate attorney to explore whether there’s a plan where your mom could qualify for Medicaid. There are some strategies here that might work. You first need to find out the Medicaid qualifications in the state where she lives. Even if she did qualify for Medicaid, you would need the provisions in her state for letting her receive care at home rather than in a nursing facility. Even states that permit such care may have long waiting lists for application approvals. 

If Medicaid was not a feasible solution, I’d next explore tapping the equity in her home but not necessarily going to the step of doing a reverse mortgage. You could quickly find out the parameters of your options here and, I’d hope, come to some agreement with your brother on what makes the most financial sense.

I’d also explore whether there are attractive adult day care options nearby. This could permit you to get help during the day that might be more cost effective than paying for an aide in her home. She might not love such a solution but at least she’d be able to sleep in her own bed every night. 

There is a program providing such daytime help called Program of All Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) that I admire. You can find more details here, including a directory of PACE locations.

I hope you can find a workable solution and admire your resolve to honor the commitment you made to look out for your mom.

Got a question of your own about Medicare or Social Security? Send it to askphil@considerable.com.

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