Can a widow's pension be protected from nursing home costs?

4 answers | Last updated: Dec 04, 2016
Nancy in pennsylvania asked...

Can a widow's pension be protected from nursing home costs? My mother is 85-years-old and in a nursing home for 5 years. She pays her care with her Social Security check. I, her daughter, have signed her up to receive Veterans Pension from my father. Can she save this pension check without the nursing home taking it for her daily expenes? I travel back and forth to the home and take her food, as the food is horrible there. She had kidney failure due to not eating there, and almost died from that. That's why I take her food. Can she save some of her pension for her burial expenses? She will lose her burial insurance at the age of 86.

Expert Answers

If your mother's nursing home stay is covered by Medicaid, her Social Security payments are automatically used to help pay for her care. If she also gets a veterans pension, that money, too, goes into the pot of total monthly income used to pay for her nursing home care.

Medicaid does have a provision allowing a nursing home resident to keep a burial fund of up to $1,500. The veterans pension could be used for such a fund once your mother's other burial insurance coverage runs out.

Under some circumstances, Medicaid allows some money to be set aside to pay for the "personal services" of a family member who helps care for an elder. This has to be a reasonable amount paid for legitimate care, and should be spelled out in a written personal services contract. But this type of arrangement is almost always approved by Medicaid only for people who get home care, not for people in nursing homes. That's because it's presumed that the nursing home takes care of all resident needs. You can't be paid simply for visiting your mother. As for getting paid for taking her food, you would probably have to have a doctor or licensed nutritionist certify that for health reasons your mother needs to eat your food rather the food served by the nursing home.

Community Answers

Asallen answered...

My son-in-law sent me an advertisement that might prove helpful. I'm not benefitting from this referral in any way.

If you do a Google search for March 30, 2010 and Financial Update: You might find the ad. It also says 3 Proven Strategies For Saving Your Home and Protecting Your Life Savings From Devastating Nursing Home Costs.

They gave a phone number: 800-499-6747.

Let us know what you find out.

A fellow caregiver answered...

Is there any chance of finding a better nursing home, or might a board and care be suitable for her? I know in our area we found that the nursing homes were more expensive than board & care homes, and several nursing facilites had truly appallingly bad food.

If your mother could live in a board and care it COULD be better care and less expensive (if you find a good place) Finding one that will take Medicare might be the big issue, though if it is combined with her pension that might be enough.

I do know when we were looking for somewhere for my Grandmother we found an amazing boarding care that is fabulous, however we saw other places that were nightmares -- (bad part of town, bad lighting, uneven floors,tiny, dark rooms, unappealing food, etc.). At the one we chose, the food is great, the staff are caring and engaged, the house itself is beautiful inside (public spaces AND the residents rooms are nice colors, nicely furnished, big windows, ,etc). Family members are always welcome to stop by (and do - frequently). The house is clean, NO urine smell, and family are even invited to join for dinner or lunch if they happen by at meal time. What is interesting is that the really nice place was only $300/month more, and included things that the "cheap" places charged extra for (Dr. trips, etc. We are in S.Calif - the really nice place is @ $3600/mos, "Bleak house" was $3300. (non-dementia patient, ambulatory but limited mobility, needs to be supervised while walking, assisted dressing & bathing & toileting). I'm not pitching this particular place (they seldom have openings anyhow), but want to encourage you that there ARE really amazing places out there. BTW, this isn't a "memory care" facility, however 3 of the residents do have dementia (moderate to severe). They also won't take residents that cause problems for the other residents (in their opnion it's not fair to the the non-problem-makers).

Namicoordinator answered...

I work for a nursing home in NY. I know for a FACT - that ANY pension received by the VA is EXEMPT! You must report it to the VA that she does live in a nursing home and they will drop the amount down to $90.00 a month and the letter actually states " MAY NOT BE USED TOWARDS MEDICAID CARE COST"