Commentary

Ask A Care Manager: Affording home care

Mrs. Jenkins is an active older adult in the community. She volunteers at the senior center, drives her neighbors to medical appointments and was her husband’s primary caregiver until his passing. Mrs. Jenkins is on a limited income, does not have long-term care insurance and recently suffered a stroke. In order for her to return to her home safely she must obtain the assistance of a caregiver to help her with showering, preparing her meals and transportation to medical appointments. Mrs. Jenkins’ children live locally; however, they are employed and unable to provide the care she needs. The family is desperate to find a solution but her income is too high for Medi-Cal benefits and too low to pay privately for care.

The example of Mrs. Jenkins is a common situation for older adults in our community. Often times the older adult will have too much income or too many assets to be considered for Medi-Cal benefits. Yet their income is too low to pay for care. These individuals and their families often feel stuck because there is little assistance readily available. The cost of the paying for care privately may be too substantial and not leave enough funds for the adult to provide basic necessities. This may cause an increase in ailments, such as malnutrition or non-compliance with medications due to prescription cost — thus increasing hospital admission rates.

The question remains: What is available for these middle bracket individuals to allow them to remain safely in their homes?

Two such programs are the Veterans Basic Pension and the Aid and Attendance benefit. The Aid and Attendance benefit is an increase to an individual’s basic pension and is available to the veteran as well as their surviving spouse. This benefit provides a monthly sum of money that allows for the adult to pay for caregiving services. There are several requirements for this program, including income, disability status as well as the time served.

The issue remains whether this entitlement program can truly assist the older adult and if so what is necessary to complete the application. The Aid and Attendance benefit has assisted numerous veterans or their surviving spouses with remaining in their own homes or even transitioning to an assisted living facility with the monetary resources to do so. The monthly benefit can vary from $1,000 to $2,000 a month. There is an application process, which requires several pieces of information, including birth certificate, medical expenses and financial information. The application process is often long but well worth the wait. The Department of Veterans Affairs will often take six to eight months to process a claim. However, once the claim is approved they will back date to the date the application was received. A lump sum payment will then be issued to the veteran or surviving spouse.

Entitlement programs, such as VA Aid and Attendance are often not discussed until a crisis occurs. Future planning, including researching if one qualifies for a basic pension, is a great place to start. Once the pension process is started the additional Aid and Attendance benefit will be easier to obtain in a timelier manner, thus allowing for the adult to remain safe at home with the proper care.

Liz Heape-Caldwell, BS, CMC is a Certified Aging Life Care Manager and program manager with Elder Options. She is well versed in long-term care insurance, dementia and end of life care, entitlement programs and community resources.

Special to Village Life

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