HOBBIES ARE GOOD FOR YOUR HEALTH

Do you have a hobby? Hobbies can give meaning and purpose to your life in retirement. As Robert Putnam points out in his book, Bowling Alone, it’s easy to discount the importance of hobbies and social engagements. Putnam details the widespread decline in civic engagement, from PTA memberships to neighborhood potlucks and bowling leagues. Over a couple of generations, Americans have misplaced the concept of free time.

SPECIAL PLANS FOR YOUR SPECIAL PEOPLE

Lily is a beautiful, active and full of personality toddler who happens to have Down syndrome. Lily’s parents and I have been friends for years and I have the continuing pleasure of watching Lily and her siblings grow up. While Lily is becoming a physical therapy rock star and hitting all her milestones in a timely fashion, her parents have started planning for the future.

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WHY WE ENJOY OUR HOBBIES

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a hobby as “a pursuit outside one’s regular occupation, engaged in especially for relaxation.” Hobbies include anything from playing a musical instrument to gardening, bird watching or sewing. A hobby is a way of focusing on something you enjoy just for the sake of that enjoyment. It may also be a way to clear your mental palette. You could be stressed out by a situation at work or the challenges of raising children and need an escape.

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their home and one car; and John has $80,000 in a non-retirement investment account.


The Wrong Way for Judy to qualify for Medicaid is to spend down all their assets until they have only $2,000 in family assets. While she will certainly qualify when the application is made, John will be without assets he could have retained.


The Right Way for Judy to qualify is to get a Resource Assessment as soon as she goes into the nursing home. The Medicaid caseworker will tally up the countable assets, which, in this case, is only the $80,000 account (because in the state of Kentucky retirement accounts are exempt assets). Next the caseworker will divide the assets in half. Judy gets $40,000 in her “bucket.” John gets $40,000 in his “bucket.” The home and the car are exempt for the community spouse. John and Judy’s spend-down amount is $38,000; they will need to spend the funds in Judy’s “bucket” until her assets are only $2,000. These monies can be spent on either of them. John could buy a new car, pay down the mortgage, remodel the home, buy special things for his wife like a new TV or clothing. After Judy’s bucket is at $2,000 or less, she can apply for Medicaid and will be eligible.


Tips for Your Resource  Assessment:


  1. Clean up extraneous bank accounts. Think about closing or consolidating accounts you no longer use.
  2. After a nursing home placement, the community spouse’s income should be deposited into a separate checking account in his or her name alone. The institutionalized spouse’s income should continue to be deposited into a checking account owned jointly with the community spouse. The joint account should be used for the institutionalized spouse alone. Any allocation of income from the institutionalized spouse to the community spouse should be transferred to the community spouse’s account before being spent for the community spouse.
  3. After the Resource Assessment, consider moving the spend-down funds to a separate account and spending them from that account. When the account has been depleted, it is time to make the Medicaid application if the patient is in a Medicaid-designated bed.
  4. Keep all your bank records and purchase receipts and be prepared to trace all your fund transfers.
  5. The Medicaid worker should give you or your representative the Resource Assessment with the spend-down amount. (This form is PA-22.) Do not leave the office without it because the Medicaid office will not retain a copy for you.


Interactions with the Medicaid Office can be overwhelming. If you want to know more or need help, contact a qualified elder law attorney.   


*All information in this article refers to Long Term Care Medicaid in Kentucky. Rules and regulations vary by state.  

Many married couples are unaware of an important element of asset preservation when faced with long-term care expenses – the Medicaid Resource Assessment. A portion of the Medicaid rules is designed to protect the community spouse (spouse at home) from impoverishment and unnecessary dissipation of family assets. Only the institutionalized spouse (spouse in a facility) is required to have assets of $2,000 or less and a pre-paid funeral.


The inspiration for this article came from a recent trip one of our staff members took to the Medicaid office. She was waiting to speak to a caseworker and began to chat with a client who had spent down all of his parents’ assets – more than $100,000 – in order to reach a balance of $2,000 so his father could be Medicaid eligible. She came to my office afterwards, heartbroken for the man and his family. They never knew about or obtained a Resource Assessment from the Medicaid office.


The failure to have a proper Resource Assessment in a timely manner can cost couples thousands and even hundreds of thousands of dollars. The community spouse is entitled to keep a portion of the family assets and the Medicaid office establishes that amount at the time of the Resource Assessment. Dur-ing the Resource Assessment, the caseworker will look at the countable assets belonging to the couple and allocate them between them. Depending on the amount of the countable resources, the community spouse can keep half the amount

THE UNKNOWN STEP TO SAVING MONEY FOR MARRIED COUPLES ON THE WAY TO MEDICAID

(or a minimum of $25,728 up to $128,640). At that time, the caseworker will deter- mine the amount of the spend down (if one is necessary) in order to qualify for Medicaid.


The Resource Assessment operates as a snapshot of the assets owned by a married couple. A delay in obtaining the assessment will reduce the amount of assets available to be set aside for the community spouse. It is better to obtain the Resource Assessment sooner rather than later (within the first couple of months of institutional placement) when assets are higher rather than lower – yes, you want to walk into the Medicaid office for your Resource Assessment owning more assets rather than fewer! The patient usually is not eligible for Medicaid at the time of the assessment, which makes the assessment even more important. It may not make sense until you see how it works.


Here is an example: Judy and John, a long-time married couple, were devastated when Judy had to be placed in the nearby skilled nursing facility. Judy and John were both well-educated individuals. They knew for Judy to be eligible for Medicaid, they would have to spend down their resources. John read articles in magazines and on the Internet about Medicaid. He knew Judy could only have $2,000 in assets. Both of them have retirement accounts; they own

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