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What can you do when dad won’t let you help?

Dad’s dementia may be more advanced than he – or Mom – want to admit.

He may have had a stroke or a heart attack.

Somebody has to do something. But what?

Planning for alternatives

First, file a change of address with the U.S. Postal Service. Once his mail is coming to you, to a geriatric care manager or, if there is one, a guardian, a clearer picture of his situation may emerge.

Second, freeze his credit and put him on the National Do Not Call Registry. His finances are particularly vulnerable at this time.

Third, if dad owns real estate, check on the insurance and the locks.

If Dad is going home for long term rehab, does a relative or someone else he knows need to log hours providing assistance for a license or certificate? Dad might see this as his helping them.

Did Mom’s Will leave money to him in a special needs trust? If not, can it be retroactively reformed to do so? A special needs trust can pay anyone for companion care. Dad might also enjoy mentoring a family member or child of a friend.

If Dad is mobile, he might enjoy volunteering walking dogs at a shelter with a companion.

If Dad is crafty, he might enjoy helping someone make items for sale or for donation to a charity.

One way to get Dad to accept home health care, paid for by Medicaid or privately or both, might be to get him to visit an assisted living facility. Depending on the cuisine and the company, he might accept home health care. He might also decide that an assisted living facility is a good solution “for now.”

If he won’t be going home again, no one lives there and money will be needed to pay for assisted living, what needs to be done to spruce up the home and sell it? Has he granted someone a Durable [Financial] Power of Attorney to do this?

If instead, or soon, he will reside in a nursing home and wants to transfer the home on his death free of Medicaid Estate Recovery, has he recorded a Lady Bird or Transfer on Death Deed in the county deed records? If no, has he granted someone a Durable [Financial] Power of Attorney to do this? Can the family continue to pay the property taxes? Can they lease the home for the cost of utilities and maintenance, using a “triple net” deed so that no income flows to Dad, jeopardizing his Medicaid eligibility?

What about his car? That, too, can be transferred free of Medicaid Estate Recovery.

If Dad is going to a nursing home, sooner or later, is there a spend down plan which will buy goods and services to enhance the quality of his life?

Planning for several alternatives may let you implement whichever one he chooses…and giving him a choice.


Elder law attorney, Terry Garrett, is a member of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and is an Approved Guardianship Attorney. She assists people in elder law, estate and special needs planning, guardianship and settling estates. 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.

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