When I became Power of Attorney for my father, I wasn’t entirely sure what I was agreeing to. Actually, I had no idea. The paperwork was signed in his hospital room amidst an air of desperation.
I knew one thing: if decisions needed to be made, I had to make them.
Everything was coming at me so quickly, and nothing was explained. A social worker came to talk with me, and I thought, ‘finally, someone is going to check on me, and talk with me – finally someone is going to tend to me.’
I was so wrong. I felt stupid for being so naive. The social worker had one objective: get my dad out of there and moved somewhere else. She told me he needed to go to rehabilitation and she told me the facility his insurance would cover. I said, “okay.” The social worker returned with “they have a bed for him.” That was that.
The greatest challenge was still ahead of me: managing my father’s finances. This journey included discovering debts, lines of credit, multiple checking accounts. Since my father had dementia, he couldn’t tell me about all of his accounts – he didn’t remember. I stumbled my way through this – in fact, I am still resurfacing, gasping for air while being pulled under here and pulled under there.
I helped him see his way through a divorce from his second wife (he had filed for divorce a few days before the stroke). When she got the house post-divorce, I helped him move out, trying to keep items lean because I didn’t know where he would be next. I procured an apartment and hired someone to come over and help him with his daily functioning.
During this time, I had no thought of the future. I was trying to survive one moment to the next. One day at a time. No one was helping me. My siblings were absent. No one counseled me. I wasted money. I didn’t make smart decisions.
Then, his law firm became defunct. A casualty of the recession and a casualty of my father’s illness. I moved him out of the office, which held years of sentimentality and years of paperwork.
Do you see the one-thing-after-another pattern I was in? A tornado of a person, putting out fires left and right, making decisions without counsel.
When there was no money left to pay a caregiver to come over everyday, we moved him out of his apartment, out of South Carolina, and all the way up to our house in New Jersey. I saw it as a solution – my dad could save money, and I would take care of him on a daily basis.
As it was expected to, his illness progressed. At about the 8-month-mark, I experienced my rock bottom. It was Halloween. He’d had another stroke and was just discharged. My husband had to work. I was alone with him and he was unmanageable. Because of the recent stroke and hospitalization, he was deep in paranoia, and I was an enemy. I floated above myself and said, “Lucinda, this is one of those moments where you get help. Call out for help.”
I first called the hospital to ask if there was anyone who could help me with managing his discharge. I said I couldn’t do it alone. I needed help. They gave me a phone number to their ‘aftercare agency.’ I called them. It was one woman, and she said, “This is Halloween, you know? I don’t know if I can find anyone.” She never did. Panic grew within me as a resource I thought would always be available, paid professional help, was disappearing. I called agency after agency. The realization hit me, once again, but FOR REAL this time: no one is going to help you, Lucinda. No one is coming. No one is going to answer your call for help.
A few days later, a social worker from the hospital called me, actually following up on my panicked calls for help on Halloween. When I told her what happened, she said,
“Can you get him on Medicaid?”
I asked for further clarification. She said,
“If he needs to be in an assisted living facility, everything will be at least $8,000/month. Does he have income?”
She was whispering urgently. “Find out if you can get him on Medicaid. That is my best advice if you need paid help or a facility.”
I googled. I found out about the five year lookback. I finally emailed the attorney I had been working with for my company, and she referred an attorney in elder law. This new attorney read my Power of Attorney paperwork, and explained it to me. Years after, I finally had this legal document explained to me. I found out exactly what I was responsible for and entitled to. I found out what I had suspected for years. I was doing a job. I had a full-time job and it was just explained to me.
She also explained Medicaid to me. I felt like I’d been punched in the gut, because any option I had of my father being even remotely close to eligible for Medicaid had to have been completed in a window of time that is far in the past. By now, I’d made so many mistakes and wasted time all I wanted to do was take this event like cut and paste and cut it from the present and paste it in the past. Then I could have planned. I could have helped my dad plan.
Now, it’s just knowledge I have that must be passed on. Every young person who is taking care of an ill or aging loved one, PLEASE LEARN ABOUT MEDICAID AND WHAT IT IS IN YOUR STATE.
When I discovered NavigAid, an online tool that helps caregivers or patients step-by-step through the Medicaid application process, tells you what paperwork is needed and where to get it, setting you up for success rather than failure -- I knew I had found something worth its weight in gold. For caregivers, especially young ones, NavigAid spreads the knowledge about planning and the foresight that the Medicaid application process is extremely complex and easily failed. NavigAid instills the ‘aha’ moment that your loved one might need Medicaid one day. You better be ready for it when that time comes. NavigAid will be there to guide you through.