My Time In Louisville
I arrived in Lousville and got an Uber ride to my Dad's house. He was in pain and didn't look good. He's definitely gone down hill since we were here in early summer. But that was the worst of it. It's slight consolation, but he wasn't as bad as I was expecting. He was pretty sure he wasn't going to make it last week.
During my stay, his pain subsided and he was a little better each day I was there. His physical capabilities have declined as he can no longer get around without a walker, but he can still get himself dressed and his appetite was good.
We changed caregivers a little while back, and I've now increased the times someone is with him. So, between his primary caregivers, the two nurses that come to see him at least weekly, a social worker, and his neighbors, he's in good hands and we can keep him at home. He still doesn't think he'll last much longer, but the nurses don't think he's going anywhere soon, and it was good to see improvement while I was there.
It wouldn't have been possible to cover the cost of his care and keep him at home without his Veterans Aid & Attendance benefit we were able to get for him. For the more recent readers who may be going through healthcare issues themselves or with their parents, there are some significant benefits that may be available to veterans. I wrote a very long, very detailed post two years ago about some of the options - Exploring Veterans Pension Benefits - Veterans Pension, Aid & Attendance or Homebound Pensions. There are some helpful benefits for surviving spouses of veterans as well and that was a big reason we looked into this. Since then, my mother passed away and the 2014 numbers may need to be adjusted for 2016, but the underlying information still applies except for the following.
For the "Net Worth" test for the Aid & Attendance benefit, there is a new proposed "look back" period that is expected to go into effect at the end of fiscal year 2016. What does that mean? Well, until now, you have been able to make parental asset transfers (to an annuity, trust, or other individual) prior to applying for "Aid & Attendance" in order to meet the Net Worth test for the benefit. You can still do that, but now there will be a three-year "look back" period. If it is determined that parental assets were transferred solely to qualify for Aid & Attendance, a penalty can be applied delaying the benefit for a significant amount of time.
This new "look back" proposal is very similar to the five-year "look back" period for transfers of assets done in order to qualify for Medicaid. Fortunately, with my parents' limited assets and the possibility of needed skilled nursing care, we did some Medicaid planning and asset transfers back in 2006/2007. We haven't had to apply for Medicaid to this point, but that planning helped us clearly meet the "Net Worth" test for the Aid & Attendance benefit and depending on how long my father lives, we may very well need to apply for Medicaid for him down the road.
So, if you have elderly parents that may be in need of financial help for their care in the future, it's never too early to start planning. Skilled nursing care can very quickly erode a lifetime of savings, and even though it may seem it won't be necessary to have to use Medicaid or a veterans pension benefit, it doesn't hurt to be prepared in case the necessity arises.
A paltry 5 - 10% of those eligible for the Veterans Aid & Attendance Benefit are using it. For a veteran and spouse, this can mean up to $2,120 a month in additional benefits or up to $1,788 a month for just the veteran, or up to $1,149 a month for the surviving spouse of a wartime veteran. For many families, the surviving spouse benefits may be the most important aspect of these various programs. We had assumed my father would pass away before my mother, and the surviving spouse benefits were a huge impetus for us to pursue Aid & Attendance as she was set to lose quite a bit of household income if my father passed first.
Though this is a tough time for us, hopefully our experiences will assist others in our audience.
My Dad was able to make his way to the car and join us as he and his caregiver dropped me off at the airport on Wednesday. It was a tearful "see you later", and I promised we would see him in early November (or sooner if necessary).
My flight into Bangor, Maine was delayed, so rather than sleepily driving to the Schoodic Peninsula in the middle of the night, I got a room near the airport. I arrived the next morning just as Linda was finishing up her Thursday bird count.
Linda had help with her Sunday morning bird count. Rush & Lola came out to The Point to help her spot birds and the experienced birdwatcher we met yesterday, Roger, also came out to help her. Their assistance, including getting gear back into the Jeep, made a big difference.
Monday & Tuesday were our days off, but Linda got up early and went out to assist Seth with the counts and to get more training. On Wednesday, Seth helped her for a couple of hours in the morning.
Other than the bird counting sessions, Linda just rested her knee while I was gone. And by the time I got back, she was doing much, much better. It looks like she'll be back to normal soon. That was very good news.
So, it's been a trying few days and we'll have more in the upcoming weeks and months, but we're on a positive upswing right now.