More Legal Myths

AUGUST 8, 1994 VOLUME 2, NUMBER 5

Continued from Last Issue)

#4: When I have to go into a nursing home, “they” will just take all my money. Wrong! Most social and medical providers realize that the nursing home will not take the patient’s assets, but many do not realize how firmly ingrained this misinformation is among caregivers and elderly prospective patients. Many have gotten the same information from well-meaning (but uninformed) friends and relatives, but about “the government” rather than the nursing home. Of course, the reality is that government assistance will not be available until eligibility criteria have been met, and the patient will usually have to pay from his or her private funds until eligibility is established, but no one literally takes away the patient’s money or assets.

#5: In order to qualify for nursing home assistance, I should give my house to my children now. Wrong! Your home is not counted in determining eligibility standards. If you give it away, however, it may make you ineligible for Medicaid (ALTCS) for up to 3 years (or even 5 years in some cases). In other words, giving your house to your children can (and usually does) make your situation worse. It may still be a good idea, but only after you know all the facts and the true result of your decision.

#6: I don’t want to become my mother’s agent (“power of attorney”) because then I will have to pay her bills with my own money if she runs out. Wrong! Acting as agent (or “attorney-in-fact”, as the position is properly titled) does not subject you to any liability for the bills of your “principal” (as the person signing a power of attorney is called). Some organizations may try to get you to accept responsibility, but you have no obligation to do so.

#7: I am covered by Medicare, so I don’t need to worry about nursing home costs. Wrong! Medicare covers only a tiny fraction of all nursing home costs. In general terms, Medicare will only cover short-term nursing care for rehabilitative purposes. Less than 5% of all nursing home costs are paid by Medicare.

[Send us your favorite candidates for most prevalent legal myth so we can share them in future issues. Or let us know what legal concept you have always wondered about so we can respond. We promise not to identify contributors without permission.]

Alcohol’s Effects

A recent report in the Harvard Women’s Health Watch should give caregivers pause about even moderate alcohol consumption. Three observations about the effect of alcohol are of particular importance:

Alcohol interacts with a number of drugs, particularly sleeping pills, antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications–occasionally with fatal consequences. Caffeine enhances rather than counteracts alcohol’s effects.

A nightcap before retiring may help you get to sleep faster, but it is also likely to cause disrupted sleep and bad dreams.

The ability to metabolize alcohol declines with age. As we grow older, every drink begins to have a greater impact.

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