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Struggling To Help Your Impoverished Parent Pay For Nursing Care? What Are Your Options?

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As the Greatest Generation and now Baby Boomers have begun to enter their golden years, their adult children may often find themselves pushed into the role of caregiver. Unfortunately, competing family, workplace, and other outside obligations can make providing part-time or full-time care all but impossible for many busy adults, while the cost of private nursing services or an assisted living facility can be prohibitive. If your parent doesn't have enough money to fund his or her own care, what are your options? Read on to learn more about how the Medicaid program covers nursing services and what you'll need to do to secure assistance for your elderly parent. 

Does Medicaid cover nursing home care?

Medicaid is the primary payer for "long-term services and supports" for elderly impoverished individuals, which can include everything from temporary rehabilitation after an injury or illness to in-home nursing care or 24/7 care at a nursing or assisted living facility. Medicare, despite offering broad coverage of hospitalizations, doctor's visits, and prescriptions for adults over age 65, doesn't cover nursing home care; if you don't meet the financial thresholds to qualify for Medicaid, you'll be expected to "private pay" (through savings, long-term care insurance, or other assets) until your asset level drops low enough for Medicaid to kick in. 

While Medicaid covers nursing home care, not all nursing homes accept Medicaid, and others may place a limit on the number of Medicaid patients versus private pay patients. This means it's important to begin researching your parent's options sooner, rather than later, so that he or she will be able to make a choice from the widest possible range of options. 

How can you help your parent get started with the process?

If your parent is already on Medicare, not Medicaid, and you think that he or she is well below the income and asset thresholds needed to qualify for Medicaid coverage, you'll want to help him or her apply for this coverage as soon as possible. Waiting until your parent can no longer care for him- or herself without assistance can mean scrambling at the last minute to find (and pay for) care, whereas getting started early can ensure you're able to create a smooth transition from receiving care in-home to receiving care in a nursing facility. 

In many cases, it can be easier to get into a nursing home that accepts Medicaid by starting as a private pay patient, then transitioning to Medicaid once these assets have been exhausted. Even if your parent can only afford to private pay for a term of months, rather than years, this can often be enough to figuratively get their foot in the door and establish a care provider-patient relationship.