What do you do when parents run out of money for health care and basic expenses?

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VA benefits, takes a long time for them to process, but in about 18 months you will have an answer (speaking from experience). Better apply immediately.
Go to your county Social Services immediately, too. They will coordinate benefits with VA.
For VA to pay, they must have no more than $80,000 in assets (unless I'm out of date, someone else can update please).
To qualify for Medicaid, it's even less assets than VA. They may have to sell the house, and move into subsidized housing.
The biggest hurdle I see, is they probably have been living far beyond their means, for a LONG time. It might be a radical adjustment for them.
I would suggest renting out part of their house to a student or boarder, but, that would mean income....and they wouldnt' qualify for Medicaid.
Tough situation. They ought to teach every high school student in the nation about these issues! Be prepared for older age, by saving NOW, and don't live beyond your means.
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Veronica91 - My parents lived through the Depression/WW2, and it changed them, even if they were little kids back then. They were a good 15 years older than my peer's parents. I was was reared to "Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without" before it was a hipster thing to Upcycle. All these blogs and websites about boiling your grocery store rotisserie chicken carcass to make broth crack me up. The cloth diaper people really crack me up. The new ones are cute and easy to use, but the cost per use is higher than disposables if you get the "chic" ones. Full disclosure - I used cloth diapers on my daughter becaues her butt was allergic to paper disposables. I bought used & sanitized ones on ebay from a diaper service. Never had a problem.

It's amazing how many modern conveniences we really could do without but I wouldn't want to (internet!) I would be OK to give up cable, but it's bundled with the internet!
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There is no such thing as a free ride, despite what you might hear on the radio.
Don't put your eggs in the Medicaid basket yet.
Medicaid requires that you be down to your last $2,00-$3,000 in assets. They do an inventory and research back 5 years to see if you have any hidden sources of funds to use up first, including saleable property. There are other rules that vary by state.

You need to see an elderlaw attorney ASAP. They are specialists who are versed in all the ins & outs of elder affairs and can tell you what to do.

You also can't have Medicare and an Affordable Care Act /Obamacare plan at the same time. That is the first question asked on the ACA application!

I can tell you without being an attorney that mom & dad are going to need to downsize, downsize, downsize. You might need to hold something much like an estate sale now, to generate some cash. Believe me, get rid of as many belongings as possible sooner than later.

Maybe move them into a small senior apartment and sell the house to generate some money to support them for a while. But as other posters have said, they have to trim out every single thing that is not 100% necessary to live. It's brutal, it's not fair, and this is the reality for more people than not. Don't plan on an inheritance.

Talk to that attorney first thing Monday morning.
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As CM said I was not knocking living frugally. I was brought up during WW11 when there was no choice down to saving the elastic from a pair of worn out underwear.
I still grow a garden,can food and make jam etc. Thrift stores, rummage and garage sales are an enjoyable outing for me. Why even my cat is recycled!! I also look forward to the arrival of my copy of the Mother Earth News every two months. I was looking at it from the perspective of a young family of four I am friendly with. the wife is an LPN and her husband is disabled - still trying to get qualified. They live on that $22k a year. Some months they just can't find the $100 for the electric bill or $600 to fill the propane tank. If I was running that family I could do things a lot differently but they were never taught the skills although they try hard. I personally have taught them a lot of things about home improvement etc.
Now I am old and tired and often take the easy way out but the spirit is still willing.
The younger generation would not be seen dead with darns in their socks but I still mend my good wool winter ones
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CM, not grumpy, just brought up in a different time and way. We had one of those single cup coffee salesman at the office, telling me how the system also had tea. I'm thinking, they already come single serving (teabag). The cost was $14 for what I get for $3 full retail. But I'm taken aback at how hard it must be to eat healthy in urban neighborhoods where there are only corner stores with convenience foods because there is no supermarket. I read an article a while back about neighborhoods in Detroit that are "underserved", I think was the word.
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GA, the shock was that this store was about four geographical miles from my parents' house, but sociologically on a different planet. It made me realise that eating well isn't only a matter of money: it's no use thinking you'll make a fabulous lentil curry if the merchandisers decide you're in the frozen horse meat and cheesy puffs demographic. Horrifying. Thank God for ethnic diversity or millions of people in that city would never see a fresh vegetable.

I agree with you absolutely about some of the things people pay good money for. Yesterday I goggled at ready-peeled garlic, in little plastic tubs, for about - I didn't actually check the price, but - £1.79 I think for five cloves, so £3.60 for a bulb, give or take, so about four or five times the sensible cost (assuming you forgot - again - to plant it in time, of course). Really? What, just so you don't have to take 30 seconds to peel it and another 30 seconds to wash your hands? Seriously??? And ready-spiced lamb chops. Because it's too hard to put your own spices and quite a lot less salt on your own lamb chops? Oh my. And don't start me on disposable floor wipes… And *electronic* air fresheners! - rub some lavender, for heaven's sake. Or open the bloody window...

[Getting a bit grumpy in my old age!]
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CM, that was my impression also. My point was that some of the options are far better and healthier than those made by people who do have choices, especially the healthy food issues.

I hope you don't go back to that area of London again!
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GA it's true that a growing number of people are choosing less wasteful lifestyles, as they might see it. I think, though, that Veronica is thinking of people who don't have a choice. Which tends to make the whole exercise a lot less fun and feel-good.

I once accidentally went grocery shopping in a pretty deprived area of London, maybe 30 years ago this was. Because the store belonged to the same supermarket chain I normally used, I assumed, naïvely, that it would stock more or less what I normally bought and just breezed in there. Well! - that was a shock. No fresh produce to speak of. No wholemeal bread. A LOT of frozen rubbish, snacks and sodas. And it wasn't like the residents could hop in their cars and go to another branch. Even the nearest markets were a couple of bus rides away. I learned a lesson or two that day.
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Veronica, you have an interesting perspective on bare bones living. A lot of people actually voluntarily choose and enjoy a lifestyle incorporating some of the things you cite.

I know people who do have good incomes who shop at thrift stores and often get brand new clothing donated by large retailers.

Many people do make their own cleaners, or use ingredients common in the home (baking soda, for example) which are less toxic than prepared cleaners.

And growing and preserving one's own food is far more healthy and rewarding than eating food that may contain chemicals and preservativs, from cans or packed in plastics that might have BPA. For families who grew up on farms or had gardens from WWII, growing one's own food is part of life; it's not done because they can't afford to buy processed stuff from stores. It's a choice for a safer and healthier lifestyle.

Bean based meals? Beans are high in B vitamins. What could be wrong with that?

The other aspects you mention such as struggling financially just for basics such as heat, water and shelter of course are nothing anyone would desire. And I'm not criticizing your standards.

But if you read any organic gardening literature, visit the Mother Earth News website, read about sustainable gardening, xeriscaping and similar topics, you'll find there are a LOT of people who voluntarily choose a more healthy, natural and safe lifestyle, incorporating aspects which apparently are consideed by some as subsistence living.
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Reverse mortgages are only for owner-occupied homes. Once you move out, the loan is immediately due in full. If you apply for Medicaid, they would expect to see a fair market rent coming in from the house. Even with a life estate, here in NY, the rent must flow to the life tenant as long as she lives.
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