Dear Sun Spots: I have a dear friend who is elderly. Soon she may have to go into a nursing home. Her biggest concern is the financial responsibility to the nursing home. She has three children living out of state and hopes to pass along her assets to them upon her death.

Here is her situation: She owns her home valued and has savings in a local credit union. She also receives money from Social Security and from a private pension from her deceased husband. Her concern is how much of her assets will have to be depleted before the state of Maine helps her pay for her nursing home expenses? Will she lose her Social Security, pension, savings and house?

She and I both agree she needs professional advice from an attorney, and we have an appointment in August. The fact is she and I both look forward to reading Sun Spots first thing every morning. My elderly friend would appreciate your input before we meet with an attorney. Also, we wonder how many of your readers would benefit from your research. Thank you, and we’ll be watching for your usual witty response to this situation. – Origene Nadeau, No Town.

Answer:
Sun Spots feels it is very prudent for you and your friend to consult an attorney on this complicated matter. In addition you might want to contact David Dittmer, staff attorney at Legal Services for the Elderly’s Lewiston office at 465 Main St., P.O. Box 659, Lewiston, ME 04243, or by phone at (800) 750-5353.

Sun Spots has also learned that according to the Web site at www.mainelse.com, nursing home care is very expensive. In Maine, it costs about $4,000-$6,000 a month. At this rate, most people quickly use all of their savings. Some people think that Medicare will pay for a nursing home stay. In fact, Medicare only pays for nursing home care in limited cases. The guidelines for Medicare coverage of nursing home care are very strict. Even if you meet the guidelines, Medicare would only cover the first 100 days.

This state’s MaineCare, formerly known as Medicaid, is a government health care program that may pay for nursing home care for those in financial need. This summary is about the eligibility rules for MaineCare nursing home coverage. This summary does not include information about the programs that help pay for other kinds of long-term care, such as a boarding homes or assisted living. If you would like to learn more about other long term care programs, call your local Area Agency on Aging at 1-877-ELDERS1 (1-877-353-3771) or the Bureau of Elder and Adult Services at 1-800-262-2232.

According to the Web site, MaineCare will not pay for nursing home care unless you need a high level of care. You must have a medical need for nursing home care. Even if you are unable to care for yourself, or your doctor says you need to go to a nursing home, you may not qualify for MaineCare. You must meet the medical guidelines set by the Maine Department of Human Services. After you apply for MaineCare, a nurse from Goold Health Systems would review your medical records to decide if you need nursing home care. If the nurse decides that you do not qualify for nursing home care, you have the right to appeal the decision.

For more information, please call Legal Services for the Elderly at 1-800-750-5353. Sun Spots also would urge you to check out the Web site for a more in-depth look at this, and contact the Legal Services for the Elderly office. Unfortunately, the matter is much too lengthy to address here in its entirety.

This column is for you, our readers. It is for your questions and comments. There are only two rules: You must write to the column and sign your name (we won’t use it if you ask us not to). Letters will not be returned or answered by mail, and telephone calls will not be accepted. Your letters will appear as quickly as space allows. Address them to Sun Spots, P.O. Box 4400, Lewiston, ME 04243-4400. Inquiries can also be posted at www.sunjournal.com in the Inform Us section under Press Release.


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