Can I recoup caregiving costs?

4 answers | Last updated: Nov 07, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

I have been caring for my father alone since October 2006. My brother helped a bit and I have paid house payments, electric bills and personal care items for my father. I have lived in the house with my father and away from my husband since October 2006. It has almost cost me my marriage once. We have had my father's place on the market for sometime now. With the economy the way that it is we have had no luck at selling at this point. We are always told by the realtor that the clients love his place but, no one seems to be able to come up with the money. Due to our own finances we can't continue to pay his house payments, etc. I am also out of work on leave due to physical exhaustion. I am so tired that I am concerned for my own health. I am only 43 years old and have only been married for five years. My husband and I are at a lose and have looked into putting my father in a nursing home. He does receive Virginia Retirement, Military Retirement and SSI, which mainly covers the sitters so that I can work and a few utility bills. If we apply for Medicaid to cover his nursing home costs, will we be responsible for his debts? And is there anyway we can recoup the money that we have spent taking care of him and trying to keep him in his own home?

Expert Answers

Let's take your questions one at a time. There is probably good news for you about both.

First, if you apply for Medicaid for your father and he becomes eligible for Medicaid coverage for a nursing home, this does not place any obligation on you to pay his debts. His debts are his own, regardless of whether you take care of him at home or place him in a nursing home and help him apply for Medicaid. Be aware, though, that his creditors can try to collect their debts out of the value of the house, either by placing a lien on it or making a claim against your father's estate when he passes away.

Also, under most circumstances, Medicaid itself can seek reimbursement from someone's estate, out of the value of a house, for all the money it pays a nursing home to care for the owner of the house. But there's a special Medicaid rule that could protect you and your father from such a Medicaid claim against your father's house. Here's how it works. Since you have lived in the house for more than two years, and during that time you have taken care of your father, which has allowed him during that time to stay at home instead of entering a nursing home, he can now transfer ownership of the home to you and Medicaid will not make a claim against the value of the house. In order to qualify under this special rule:

(1) Your father has to transfer ownership of the house to you.
(2) You have to show that you've lived in the house for at least two years (with a driver's license or other documents with your name and that address, and if necessary by sworn statements by your father, brother, and husband, neighbor, or anyone else who has personal knowledge that you've lived there).
(3) You have to show that you have cared for your father during that time and that otherwise he would have needed to be in a nursing home. You can show this through a letter from his doctor indicating that he has been unable to care for himself during this time, as well as sworn statements about your father's condition from family members, neighbors and paid caregivers or other "sitters."

When you apply for Medicaid for your father, notify them of your intention to make use of this special rule, and ask them what specific proof they will need to see in order for you to qualify.

Community Answers

Deborah jean answered...

There is a hidden VA financial resource available to our veterans and their surviving spouses that can represent over $23,000 annually to help pay for care. The VA's Improved Pension is a 3-tier Pension Benefit that includes Basic, Housebound, and Aid and Attendance.

On the Housebound level, a family member can provide the care in the home and the veteran or surving spouse can be compensated for the services being provided. It is recommended that a contract be made with the parent, and charges should be in line with what local agencies charge for the same services. Claimant may be eligible for the higher level of A&A depending on thier needs for assistance.

This little known VA Pension has been an entitlement for 58 years sitting idle. The veteran does not have to been injured during his service as this is a Pension and not disability. Currently there are over 2 million widows alone missing out simply because they don't know about it.

As the daughter of a WWII veteran I discovered the pension at the passing of my dad. I applied on behalf of my mom as his widow, and she was awarded the Pension. Had we known during the 9 years they were both in assisted care they would have received over $160,000 to offset the costs of their care.

I launched 4 years ago with the hope of making a difference for another son or daughter while honoring the sacrifice of service.

The site is the most respected resource on the subject of Aid and Attendance. I hope this information will make a difference for someone you love.

Jeneration answered...

Deborah Jean - this is great news for some, sadly I did find out about it, applied, was rejected because of their income being slightly higher than allowed. I felt I did not get good council from the VA but being full time caregiver did not have time, energy or resources to "appeal" which I believe now I am ineligible for.

Bless you for helping those who are eligible. I guess I'm just stuck at 58 with no income, and no retirement prep of my own. God will provide.

Kathy snell answered...

I too have been the caregiver of my 77 year old Uncle (he raised me more like my dad). I had been taking care of him at a senior living apartment for a year. I went there 3-4 times a day for meds, meals, personal care, errands etc. I have been his Social Security and POA for 3 years. Long story short, he had a fall and broke 4 bones in his foot and needed a nursing home-rehab unit. I checked him in and still tended to him everyday several times a day. Health complications progressed until I had to make the decision for long term placement. When medicare stopped paying Medicaid (Indiana)now pays for his care. His car, house, etc were liquidated through foreclosure and repossession. I saved his life insurance through a living trust. As his POA I paid numerous hospital, medical, personal expenses (including lawyers)from his social security and very modest pension. NOW the nursing home is saying I misappropriated his funds. They should have been paid before ANY other debits (including phone,life insurance, medical, eye (glaucoma), dental. Others should have been made as write off. I have been threatened with legal action, charges of elder abuse(financial) with threats to terminate my POA and care if I do not sign a promissory note (my assuming legal responsibility) for his outstanding nursing home care balance. Their corporate attorney has called me at home with threats of charges if I do not pay his outstanding balance, trying to pressure me into turning over his financial management and bank account over to them, I was even instructed to cancel his Humana insurance by the facility because "it is not cost effective or necessary". Since the facility does not give an itemized statement(even if requested) I track his charges through Humana, I can't get one regarding Medicaid. After insurance for his semi-private room and all other charges for the facility are tallied (insurance pays nearly $9,000 a month for an alert oriented man who can't walk (Medicare and Medicaid says he no longer qualifies for physical therapy)his responsibility to pay above that is $2,004 per month leaving $52 per month for me to pay all other expenses. Here is the kicker- his life insurance (no cash value) is $58.68 , his phone $55 , his personal hygiene products $20 a month(which frequently disappear), snacks - clothing-haircuts-transportation fees as needed ... amount to much more! Be very careful of nursing home placement, I am fighting to get him out to live with me (a former nurse and a current student of Theology). If the corporate attorney does file a motion of guardianship to the facility using these bogus charges - I will not be able to move him. I was told I may even be banned from access to his care. I am all he has left in this world fighting for him, but I will not give up-no matter how exhausted I am becoming. I can not recoup from the past, but I know he deserves a future until God takes him home.