Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The medicaide application is IN! Now we wait....

I submitted an application for Medicaide (State assistance) on Mom's behalf  today.   This means we've exhausted her existing cash resources and we are asking the state to contribute to her rent/care at the assisted living center.    Before compiling all the relevant paperwork I tried for four months to get some information from the State of Idaho about a couple of things but I got know where.   We have an odd situation concerning Mom's property - which I'll save for another post - so I wanted to understand what the state would do.  Starting 4 months ago, I began emailing, calling and contacting friends who work for the Idaho Dept of Health and Welfare.  I got little information other than a standard reply, "we must consult our manuals and get back to you".  Well, I heard nothing until I bugged just the right person and got a number for a "customer service center".  They  readily found someone who could actually answer my questions.  I called them three times to see if I'd get a consistent answer.  I did so figured it was safe to submit the application.

I'm not trying to "game" the system but I needed to understand how the State would approach some jointly held property and just what evidence the state wants to see regarding taxes and assessed values.   I felt pretty good after submitting an 1 inch thick packet of material, that is until I spoke with the Director at her ALF.  My mood quickly soured.  She told me some not-so-good stories about applications getting lost, delayed more than 60 days and in general, made me concerned.  I kept copies of everything so I can resubmit the materials if necessary but I'm just worried about paying for her care until Medicaide kicks in.  We worked out a plan to use Mom's Social Security and pension plus some funds from me for the time being but I can't contribute much for long.   So - I'm left waiting again.  At least I have a short-term plan until we know more.

I must admit to having qualms about being so open that Mom's applied for state assistance.  On one hand, she's proud and I'm proud; I hate to admit that she's broke.  On the other hand, she's never taken a dime from anyone else and my parents worked hard to provide for themselves, their parents, their kids and other extended family.   Often they went without and lived simply.  They never let anyone go without food, shelter and the basics even when it meant they didn't save a thing.  In her old age, she's paying for that "take care of your own" attitude.   What's worse, to let many go without years earlier or have one person accept some help now?

This is by no means a free ride.  The state will ensure that she contributes all she can (social security and pension) and will permit her to keep $90 a month for her personal needs.  She's spent just about that much on hair appointments and minor things each month.  It's not a lot so I'll have to supplement for things like clothes, shoes, treats or soda pop.  I'm happy to do that for her; it's relatively little money and if it makes her happy then it's worth it.    Her sacrifice years ago meant that I and our family had what we needed so now we can give up some to ensure she's comfortable.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Reverse mortgage - approach with CAUTION!!!

A friend recently helped her mother get a reverse mortgage on her home.  Though I'd hear of them, I didn't know the specifics until she shared some details with me.  Some company offers to give you money for "ownership" of the home.  The home owner gets to live in the home for as long as they wish - but I believe there's a 10 year maximum on this one - and when they move or pass away, the bank sells the house to recover the amount.   It all sounds terrific until she told me about the $11,000 in fees and that her mom was still responsible for upkeep and property taxes.  I suppose the fees are no different than a standard mortage one would take out to buy a house.  By the time you add realtor fees, "points" and a down payment, it could be more than $11,000.  BUT to take it for something like this; from elderly people who need the money, just seems mean and WRONG.

I have another concern about this situation.  I learned later that my friend's mom used $40,000 of the $100,000 she received for cosmetic "fixes" to the house.  This really disturbs me because the only one to really benefit from the beautification is the bank; they'll reap the added equity and the elder won't.  She will be more comfortable with her surroundings and will worry less about what the neighbors think.   Some of the $40,000 went for "real" repairs to keep it safer and cleaner which is readily understandable.  If it were my mom, I'd try to be very cautious and to maintain as much of the original principle as possible.  The remaining $60,000 or so will only pay for  2 to 2.5 years in a quality assisted living center and much less in a nursing home.   That $40,000 might be greatly missed later.

Worry, worry, flashes and indigestion, you'd think I have teenagers

For the third night in a row, I woke up about 4am and just could not return to sleep.    My mind races. I wake up with all sorts of worries on my mind; here are a few
  • paying for Mom's needs/comfort as her funds run low and I have no job
  • paying off the debt I've incurred for Mom's comfort over the past 6 months
  • how she'll get in/out of her room now that she's wheel chair bound
  • upkeep of her little old house and yard now that it's temporarily occupied by my brother
  • property taxes for her house
I've always considered myself a worry-wort but until now I was able to handle it.  I tackled stressful things by DOING something - I'd make a plan to fix the matter or I'd make something to take my mind off it.  Those approaches just aren't working this time because there is little that I can do for Mom other than BE there. Being there is difficult because I've established my life in a different location.  Jobs in the region where she lives are scarce .  I worry most about paying for everything but the bigger concern for me is keeping my MOM from worry.   I don't want her to go without the basics, especially things like new socks, undies, warm slippers or hair cuts.   I want her to always have her favorite cookies on hand because it's a simple indulgence that will enhance her quality of life and make her feel at home.

Getting all worked up at my age means two things - hot flashes and / or indigestion.   So far the hot flashes pass quickly but the indigestion lingers and fails to respond to anything like tums, milk or water.   I've remember my Dad going through the same thing.  I'd wake up in the night and hear tinkling glasses in the kitchen; he was after milk or tums to kill his heartburn.  He'd lay awake at night and fret over work issues, adult kids and their kids, things he had to fix around our home or his parents or in-laws.   Friends tell me their worries about (and FOR) their teenagers and young adult kids - paying for college, helping with first cars, recovering from illnesses or surgery.   It's all part of being human I guess... we want good things for those we love; being unable to help them get it is painful.  I feel the need for the old prayer:
Lord, grant me the ability to change the things I can, 
the strength to endure the things I can't
and the wisdom to know the difference. 
My parents quoted this often in various forms.  Dad worried in silence and told the rest of us NOT to worry.  Mom worried out loud and worked at fixing things but she always slept well and never needed tums.    I am trying  to follow her example but my nature is more like my Dad.  I'd better stock up on the Tums...