Medicaid planning: A love story

Medicaid planning for couplesSome love stories involve red roses and elaborate proposals. This one involves Medicaid and hallucinations.

At Generation Law, we often see what love and marriage looks like in the later years, when age and illnesses begin to take a toll. While it’s not the stuff of Hollywood rom-coms, we think real romance is about providing for those who matter most to us, no matter what.

That was the case with Mike and Laura, a couple we worked with about 10 years ago. Laura was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, and Mike was struggling to care for his wife in their home. When we met Mike, he shuffled into our office with his head hung low and a look of utter exhaustion and frustration on his face.

“My love, Laura, she hallucinates,” he told us.

Laura claimed to see her mother and grandmother on every street corner, yelling at Mike as he drove. She woke him up three or four times a night, and he lived in constant fear she’d wander out of the house. Mike was on medication to deal with the stress – but still couldn’t accept that it was time for Laura to go to a nursing home.

With some encouragement, Mike recognized that he needed to transition from being Laura’s primary caregiver to her caregiving advocate. Mike found a nursing home for Laura with bright, clean rooms; friendly staff; and fresh flowers every day. Laura received the around-the-clock care she needed, and Mike was able to visit her daily while making time for his children and grandchildren, friends, and his own health. We also helped Mike use Medicaid planning techniques to cover nursing home costs while leaving Mike enough to live on at home. Things were looking up – until he got sick, too.

Two years later, Mike was diagnosed with ALS. He soon needed a caregiver to help him with everyday tasks around the house. Because of the estate planning he had done when Laura entered the nursing home, Mike had enough income to hire live-in help and maintain his dignity and independence.

Mike had also completed a special estate plan that would ensure his assets went to his children if he died first, so they could use the money to buy things for Laura that Medicaid wouldn’t cover. A year after his diagnosis, Mike passed away surrounded by Laura and his family, and secure in the knowledge his longtime love would be provided for.

When we take our marriage vows, many of us don’t think about what the “in sickness” part really means. Caregiving is an exhausting, relentless job, but help is out there. With the right planning and support, even love stories about Medicaid and hallucinations can have happy (or at least happier) endings.

For more caregiving tips and details on the planning techniques Mike and Laura used, check out our founder Ben Neiburger’s book, “Brighter Skies: Your Common Sense Guide for Navigating Elder Care.”