As I have stated in my previous posts my mother did not shelter her assets and I have watched them go to the nursing home month by month over the last 14 years. The importance of planning ahead for this situation cannot be emphasized enough. No one likes to think about their mortality but few people have loved ones or a charity they would not rather see their hard earned assets transfer to rather than go for nursing home care that could be covered by Medicaid.
When my mother was committed by the county after a night when she called 911 six times claiming there was an intruder in her tiny house (she was hallucinating) an attorney had to be hired to “defend” her person hood. It is not an easy task, rightfully so, for the government to take away a person’s independence and be placed in the care of the state and/or another guardian.
My mother was first placed on a 48 hour hold in the mental ward of a local hospital and was then brought to court in a squad car. I was furious that my mother, who had lived her life lawfully and morally, was made to suffer this humiliation but there was nothing I could do about it. At this 48 hour court date the judge asked her some questions about the circumstances surrounding her being taken into custody by the police and it was obvious she was completely confused and had no idea of why she was there. The judge then extended her hold for medical observation. After about three weeks of hospitalization and evaluation by medical doctors and psychiatrists there was another court date at which medical professionals testified by phone concerning her mental state. I was called to the stand and had to testify that I did not think my mother could live alone unsupervised. This was not the happiest moment in my life.
Throughout this proceeding a court appointed attorney attempted to defend her rights and I had to pay his fee out of her assets after I was appointed guardian. Every year since a county appointed attorney visits her in her nursing home to see if she wants to fight for her independence. Of course she does not have a concept of what is going on but this is a law that has been set up to protect individuals from losing their “person hood” unfairly. I am glad this law is in effect, as if there was some miraculous medical breakthrough in the treatment of dementia my mother would be able to live independently again. She is charged about $400 every year for this attorney visit, which always results in a short report stating that her circumstances should remain the same.
By looking back I estimate that my mother’s legal bills for all these proceedings is in the $20,000 area, with most of the cost incurred during the initial two court dates.
In the months proceeding these events I had been trying to get my mother some help and even contacted the county Department of Aging and had a social worker visit her who immediately observed and shared my concern. The social worker visit occurred three days before her crisis when she made the fateful 911 calls. But my mother, like many people, fought any help or admission she may be failing in mental capacity.
Aside from the most important human aspects of this sad story, the fact is that a person’s hard earned money can be sheltered from going to a nursing home. One of the most prolific authors on sheltering funds is K. Gabriel Heiser, an elder law attorney with over 25 years of experience. I recommend the book in the sidebar to the right- much less expensive than the fees that my mother has ended up paying for her legal defense.