Can I still keep my house if mom goes into a nursing home?

Asked by

Hello,
I started out as a care giver for my father in 1997 when he had severe dementia, at that time my mother could not take care of him alone and asked me to quit my job and help take care of him. She promised to give me their home (which I've lived in all my life) as a show of gratitude.
I cared for my father until he passed away, then as fate would have it my mothers health started to decline so I went from taking care of my father to taking care of my mother.
My mother and her attorney signed the house over to me in may of 2008. I've been faithfully taking care of my 85 year old mother but a few weeks ago she was diagonosed with dementia. The last few weeks have been absolutely terrible for me because my mother has been suffering from hallucinations and restlessness through out the night. Just a few nights ago I was awakened at 3am to smoke alarms sounding. My mother had gotten out of bed during the night and turned every burner on the stove up to high, then she had unlocked and opened all the doors entering the house. I was petrified over this because she could have burned down the house killing herself, me and my 18 year old son or some violent intruder could have easily walked right into the home since all the doors were opened.

I'm sorry for all the back-story but my question is,

If I feel that I can no longer care for my mother and put her into a nursing home, will medicaid still take the house from me because five years have not passed? I have not worked a job since 1997 because I've been giving my life to take care of both parents and now I'm worried that me and my 18 year old son would be left homeless. I live in the state of Georgia if thats helpful.

I would be most gracious to everyone that can advise me. Thank you.

Answers 1 to 10 of 18
Raine, this is a good question for an elder attorney. I had a friend in south Georgia who lived with and was taking care of her mother. The house was still in the mother's name, so when her mother went into a NH and they had to apply for Medicaid, the house was considered in spending down. This would have left my friend and her husband without the house they had lived in for over 10 years. They contested the inclusion of the house in recovery because they had lived there as primary caregivers for over two years. Their being there had enabled the mother to stay at home longer.

There are several factors, though, that may affect the outcome of your case. The house was signed over to you during the look-back period. I do not know how that will affect things. I also do not understand why sometimes the house is a "life estate" that can be used by the caregiver while he/she lives, but is not owned by the caregiver. If your parents signed the house over to you, it may be that she will not be qualified for Medicaid for a while. I would get some good legal advice on what is the best way to proceed.

There are some things you can do to dementia-proof your home. Take the knobs off of the stove. Hide or get rid of any potentially dangerous objects. Install locks on doors you don't want her opening (given that she will not destroy something in order to get the lock open). Put alarms on her bed that will alert you if she gets up at night. I hope that the elder lawyer gives you some good, positive news, but if not, there may be other ways you can work things out without putting yourself and son in danger.
I forgot to mention that my friend in south Georgia was able to keep her house. She and her husband still live there.
Top Answer
See an attorney who specializes in elder law. The fact that you have been living there and taking care of her and thus keeping her out of a nursing home will make a difference.

I know you are overwhelmed right now with dementia symptoms. As JessieBelle says, you may be able to learn to deal with these symptoms.

First you need to make sure that your mother is being treated by a specialist in dementia. This may be a geriatric psychiatrist or a neurologist. Very, very few GPs or internists have the knowledge or interest to treat dementia. Most throw up their hands and say good luck.

If visual hallucinations are among the first symptoms, that suggests the possibility of Lewy Body Dementia. If no one has mentioned that, Mom has the wrong doctor.

A specialist may be able to come up with a treatment plan to significantly reduce the symptoms. For example, there may be medications to help your mother sleep peacefully through the night.

By all means, move forward with preparing to apply for Medicaid for your mother. Even if you are able to keep her at home, being on Medicaid will be a huge help financially. But at the same time, look into medical help with the symptoms, and learn how others cope with the issues you are facing.

I am so sorry that all these tasks come crashing down upon the caregiver at once. It is overwhelming. (Been there. Done that. Lived to tell about it -- but I'm not sure how!)

Best wishes to you as you struggle with so many urgent tasks at once. Please come back often and let us know how you are doing.
I have to echo what Jeanne said especially on getting a gerontologist. You probably are out of the woods on the lookback because you have been providing care for the last 2 years and it also sounds like you & your son qualify as low income so that works in your favor too as you'd be homeless if not for the house.
It will be a stack of paperwork on the house, but not a worry imho.

For NH Medicaid eligibility, an individual must show that:
1) are 65+ (can be younger if qualified disability),
2) medical condition requires skilled level of nursing care, more on this below...
3) monthly income at or below their states max (about 2K),
This is the “income test”– how much $ do you make. Texas is $2,094.
4) all countable assets are at or below 2K
This is the “asset test” – how much $ do you own.
5) not gifted away anything of value during 5yr look-back period.
If you do, could be a “transfer penalty” when items are gifted. Penalty different for each state as it’s based on each state’s NH reimbursement rate. For Texas, it is $ 142.92 a day rate (2011).

Max look-back is 5 yrs. Most states require 3 – 6 mo. of financials with initial Medicaid application. Can require more financials if something pique’s interest. Financials are bank statements, social security and retirement statements, insurance policies, etc.

The financials are what most folks focus on. But remember that they also need to medically qualify for skilled care for Medicaid.

Most NH admissions come from a hospital discharge. If an individual covered by MediCARE is discharge from a hospital to a nursing home for continued care (rehabilitation) after an inpatient stay of at least 3 days, MediCARE will cover 100% of the first 20 days and MAY pay up to 100 days, subject to a co-payment by the patient of $141.50 per day for days 21 to 100 (for 2011). Medicare does not pay for the many months/years that some people reside in a NH for long-term custodial care. In general, Medicare is limited to short-term acute care. But this MediCARE paid period of time in the NH is when you need to get the documents together to apply for MedicAID.

ISSUES IF MOVING FROM HOME TO a NH: If they are living at home or in IL, and need to move to a NH, you will need to work with their MD to get the criteria in their medical history to show they need skilled nursing care. Just because they are old, or have dementia or incontinent, etc. is not enough.Often when they are living at home, there is no documented medical history. So often you will be told they just need Assisted Living, which is usually private pay except for some states that do AL Medicaid waivers.

My mom went from IL to NH and bypassed going to AL. She was able to do this as she had a critical weight loss (more than 10% in 30 days), critical H & H and some other conditions. Sometimes the MD will need to change their meds – like go from Exelon pill to Exelon patch (more “skill” to apply); or change a med to one that needs to be compounded daily which you can’t do at home. Each state has it’s own criteria for admission under Medicaid. They will be evaluated and often are denied because they don’t have enough “critical” conditions because there is no history when living@ home. You will have to work with NH and your parents MD’s to get whatever done to establish the need for NH if they are coming from being at home or IL. There is a whole medical appeals process in each state for this and separate from the financial appeals. For those still living at home without a huge disease history, becoming a patient of the MD who is the medical director of the NH (who will be a gerontologist) is good as they will know how to create & write up the health history chart so that it passes NH's Medicaid medical review. The gerontogists know what needs to be in a chart to pass the Medicaid review.

This would depend on whether or not the house was "sold" to you and legally registered as your property alone before the dementia. It could be said if it occurred after the dementia that you and the attorney took advantage of a woman who was in no condition to make such a decision and they could make out that you were only there to get the house. They could also decide that your mother signed the house over to you in order to try to be able to get Medicaid in the future and disposed of an asset. Do see a good lawyer about this before making any decisions. I tended to my grandmother who did the same darned thing (got up at night and turned on all of the stove burners with the burner covers on them!!!) and I urge you not to put her in a nursing home. You can always put her to bed at night and put a latch on the outside of her door to keep her from escaping and doing these things. She needs you now. They are also going to wonder why you have an adult son who does not work or if he does, they may wonder about his income. I would suggest keeping Mom at home until she dies or needs hospice.
JessieBelle - I think what you are asking about is why no actual property ownership by the caregiver when there is a life estate????

What some elders do is rather than a traditional real estate transaction to actually "sell" their home, is that they instead put the property into a "life estate" in which the elder is the "grantor" of the life estate and the adult child is the "grantee" of the life estate. A life estate allows the elder as the grantor to live at the property and because it's a life estate they pay the taxes, etc on the property at senior citizen rate. They can live at the property and do whatever they want with it short of torching it as it is their life estate to control until death. Also if it is a life estate, the grantee has NO right to possession of the property until after the grantor's (elder's) death. Life estate's can get kinda sticky when they go wrong when the elder becomes incompetent and does truly careless stuff.

Terri - 15 years of caregiving is a lot of time and Raine may just feel that mom needs another level of care and socialization than being at home. We just don't know her situation. Your "Put her to bed at night and put a latch on the outside of her door to keep her from escaping" as per your suggestion is not, imho, a proper way to provide for nighttime caregiving for a dementia patient living @ home. So you locked your grandmother in a room? As far as her son -- well at 18, he could be in HIGH SCHOOL or going to university rather than having a job outside of the help he probably does for his gran.
I am truly shocked that a caregiver would consider locking someone in a room while they blissfully slept. there are all kinds of alarm systems that are very inexpensive. If you have an electric range simply go to your switch box and cut the power to the range. Never lock someone in a room especially if they are having hallucinations. I'm sorry for getting off topic but this is too much!
Thank all of you for your helpful replies... I consulted with an elder care attorney that said in Georgia medicaid would not take the house from me but would penalize my mother for a year or longer and if she went into a nursing home I would have to raise the money myself or get it from other sources. He said that someone in my mothers condition would probably cost $5000 a month.

When I took my mother to her Doctor today he examined her and I told him that I didn't have the strength to continue taking care of my mother and that I needed to place her in a nursing home. He told me he would take care of everything and now I'm blessed with hospice care for my mother that will be paid through medicare. My mothers Doctor is truly a good man and he really helped me today.
Raine, this is wonderful. Your doctor had the perfect solution. We should have thought about Hospice. I called them in when my father was dying. They accept Medicare as complete payment. Yea! Are they going to keep her at their facility?
From my understanding or in my case hospice would probably be the best route to take and ultimately it is going to happen. My problem is I'm a male and it's my mother that needs changing and bathing. Even if I could it would be hard, I say could because I have a very bad back and can't lift much weight. Changing and bathing is the only thing keeping her from coming home, hospice would pay for someone to come in and do that, I think.

Share your answer

Please enter your Answer

Ask a Question

Reach thousands of elder care experts and family caregivers
Get answers in 10 minutes or less
Receive personalized caregiving advice and support