How can we keep my mother in her current living facility if her income is gone?

Christineb asked...

My mother has been living in a Sunrise facility in Colorado for seven years. Her dementia has grown much worse over the years and thus her level of care has increased to the point where she is spending nearly $7,000 per month! Her life savings are now completely depleted. I only have one sibling and I am trying to save for college for my two young children. I don't know how we can come up with this amount of money each month, support ourselves in this bad economy and save for my children's future. Sunrise does not take Medicaid and we don't want to move Mom. It is a wonderful facility with caring, compassionate caregivers. My mother has very little quality of life left and this place provides it for her. My sister thought there was some sort of regulation that prevented elderly people from being moved from a facility if they have lived there for seven years. Is this true? If not, where can I go for financial assistance? My father fought in WWII. Can I get VA help?

Expert Answer

There's no simple solution to this dilemma you're in. Medicaid is the only federal government program to pay long-term care costs for people with low income, once they have spent their assets. However, Medicaid will only cover someone in a facility that participates in Medicaid, and as you've discovered, some facilities do not accept Medicaid residents at all. There is a federal law that prohibits a Medicaid-participating facility from forcibly transferring -- evicting -- a non-Medicaid resident once that person becomes eligible for Medicaid. But I am not aware of any federal law that prohibits a facility from transferring a resident who will rely on Medicaid, if that facility does not participate in Medicaid for any of its residents. The law does, however, require that the facility care for your mother until another facility is found that can provide your mother with adequate care and that has space for her.

If there is any Colorado state law that would require the current facility to keep your mother, you may be able to find it by contacting theColorado state Medicaid office. You can also get excellent free counseling on these matters from a local office of Colorado's Senior Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP). You can call the state central office toll-free at (888) 696-7213; they'll give you the number for a local office near you.

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) provides some long-term nursing care in their own facilities, and supports care in VA-affiliated facilities. But space in these facilities is usually reserved for veterans themselves, rather than for surviving spouses. However the widow of a veteran who served during wartime may be eligible for either of two monthly benefits, which could help pay a small part of nursing home costs. One is a widow's pension, the other is known as Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC). To find out about your mother's eligibility for either of these pensions, contact the VA at 800-827-1000. Advisers can answer questions and direct you to a nearby VA benefits office, as well as start a benefits application for her, if appropriate. You can also get information about specific veterans benefits by going to the V.A.'s website.