Questions and answers to help you care for the seniors in your life.
Q: My 78-year-old mother was in the hospital for elective total knee replacement. She had complications after the surgery and every time I asked a question or made a suggestion, I felt that the hospital staff saw me as a difficult family member. All I wanted to obtain was information on my mother, who was unable to remember what the doctors told her. How can I avoid this situation if my mother is hospitalized again?
A: You were not being difficult -- you needed information. The hospital system operates this way: If the patient is competent, then all information goes through the patient. If the patient chooses to share the information with family members, it is their choice and it is up to them.
Your mother may have told the staff that it was OK to share information, but they were still seeing your mother as competent. The hospital felt as if they were doing their job by explaining everything to the patient (your mother).
One suggestion is to have your mother fill out a HIPPA form (if she has not already done so) which will allow personal/medical information to be shared by the hospital with you. Another suggestion is to speak with the case manager at the hospital who is involved in discharge planning, again if your mother gives permission, and he/she can give you an update and assist you. If you feel that no one is listening to you and you have spoken with the attending physician, then hire a geriatric care manager who is able to go into the hospital, read the medical records, talk with the staff on your behalf and advocate for you and mother.
Q: My father wants to give $1,000 gifts in cash to each of his grandchildren and children for Christmas. This amounts to $10,000. Will this affect his eligibility for MassHealth should he need care? Under the federal law he can give away this money.
A: It could affect his eligibility for MassHealth (or Medicaid) under Massachusetts law. The federal government allows gifts of $10,000 without any tax repercussions.
However, if your father needs to go into a nursing home within the next five years, and there are limited assets to pay for the nursing home care, then an application can be submitted to the state for MassHealth benefits. MassHealth will pay 100 percent of care in a nursing home. One of the criteria for eligibility is to have assets below $2,000. Massachusetts looks back five years and asks on the application if there was a transfer of money. You must be honest about the transfer.
Prior to giving away the cash, your father should meet with an elder care or estate planning lawyer to understand the law and the ramifications of his gift giving should he need nursing home care within the next five years. If your father chooses not to meet with an elder care lawyer prior to his gift-giving, then we suggest meeting with an elder care lawyer if and when your father needs nursing home care, especially if it is within the next five years.
ElderCare Resource Services is a partnership of geriatric nurses and social workers that helps families to investigate, assess and recommend medical and non-medical care and resources for seniors.
Send questions to SeniorSavvy@ElderCareResources.com or ElderCare Resources Inc., 29 Gano Road, Marlborough, MA 01752.