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Many children promise never to put their parents in a nursing home. Unlicensed board and care homes are the 21st century equivalent of poor farms. Nursing homes are often little better: underfunded, understaffed with no privacy, they offer almost no autonomy or attention to personal preferences. Medication errors abound. Even dentures go missing. Can children keep elderly parents out of a nursing home?

When a parent has dementia or another condition which requires monitoring 24/7, even the most well-intentioned of children cannot keep their promise: they need to sleep.

At other times, children lack the needed training and skills and do not know where to turn or how to evaluate private or government resources.

Paying for long-term care with a life insurance policy

The right long-term care insurance policy with a financially strong company will pay for care at home, in a daycare or assisted living facility as well as a nursing home. Today these policies can be purchased as part of a life insurance policy. If you don’t need long-term care, you can leave life insurance benefits for your heirs.

There is even “short-term long-term care” which has no elimination period and will pay for up to a year.

Using Home Health Care

Medicare home health care can be a big help – and just what the doctor ordered. It can take some, but not all, of the burden off working children, children who are raising their own children, and children who are themselves retired.

Medicaid home health care may be eviscerated by Congress’s repeated attempts to limit how much the federal government will give (or give back) to the states. States simply do not have strong enough taxing regimes to make up the difference.

By helping their parents navigate these possibilities and pitching in where they can, children can make a difference. On average, Americans who need nursing home care but have no children spend 279 days in a nursing home; those with children average 233. Those with daughters average less.1

None of us is average. Your children may keep you out of a nursing home altogether – or not at all. One incentive for them to do so is that Medicaid will not seek recovery from your home if a child has moved in to help care for you, postponing your need for nursing home care for at least a year.

Preserving VA and Medicaid Benefits

If you and your children are putting together a plan of care, visit your local Area Agency on Aging and talk with an elder lawyer about how to do this while preserving VA and Medicaid benefits.

1 National Institute on Aging and Social Security Administration “Health and Retirement Study”



Estate Planning attorney, Terry Garrett, is a member of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and is active in the Texas and Austin Bar Associations. She graduated with honors from Cornell University. She was on the Dean’s List at Wharton Business School. She earned her J.D. at Columbia Law School, receiving the Parker Award and a Mellon Fellowship.

She assists families of people with special needs, people planning for the retirement years and people administering estates.

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