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60+ Plan

By Deb Miller - West Virginia Senior Legal Aid Contributor


Facing the fact that you’ve arrived in your senior years means it’s time to prepare for future needs and potential challenges ahead.        


Call it your “60+ Plan.”      


When turning 60, or somewhere near there, an important learning curve starts by contacting your county’s Senior Center to talk with the social worker. They have expertise with senior programs and support services.


The question to ask is:  In the scenario I have a stroke or heart attack and can’t care for myself, what are my options? Can I be cared for at home? Does Medicare pay for that? 

Also, what services are there and for how long?  Is there a sliding scale fee? What eligibility is involved?  How long does the application process take? And is there Estate Recovery on Medicaid care?


The basics are that while Medicare covers home health care services for a short period of time, that’s not the same as what is known as long-term care received at home under the

Medicaid system (low-income individuals) or via long-term care coverage purchased from an insurance company. That distinction is very important:  Medicare’s short-term home health isn’t the same as Medicaid’s long-term care services.


Under Medicare, home health services are short term for an acute situation, especially after a hospitalization, and involve the services of a visiting nurse, a therapist, and other basically skilled clinicians for the recovery period. Long-term home care under Medicaid or private insurance basically involves a full-time plan where an aide comes every day for hours at a time to bathe, dress, cook, clean, etc.


Special income and asset qualifications are needed for Medicaid coverage.


Nursing home care is also available under Medicaid, long-term care policies, and private pay.


If you can get these answers at 60 and plan financially for the worst, it would be ideal. Most people don’t want to think about this, but knowledge is power.


Your 60+ Plan also needs to include doing a Will (or equivalent after-death account beneficiaries, when appropriate) and a pre-paid burial plan to save your family a lot of heartache and hassle.


Thanks to various urban myths, some rush to put the house in their kids’ names.  Don’t even think of doing that without meeting with an elder law or estate planning attorney who understands Medicaid and will evaluate your overall situation.


Downsize as you become less mobile. For your own health, always keep the house clean (or hire someone to help with that).


Clean out clutter. Don’t keep broken stuff. Look for fall risks:  stairs, loose rugs, stuff left all over the place often ends up causing injury.


If there are family antiques, make an occasion of it and give them away while you are living.


Face the reality that reliable family members often don’t live close by these days. There is no one available to bring a person home from the hospital or stay a few days afterward.


Adult children assume they can come for two days, set up free caregivers for mom, and then leave to continue their lives.


Getting any kind of benefits from the county or state takes at least three weeks. Even for private pay situations, a lot of time and effort are needed.


Your 60+ Plan lets you figure out where the bridge is before you need to cross it.


If you are a state resident, 60 or older, and need assistance with legal questions about senior programs or other legal issues, contact the West Virginia Senior Legal Aid program at 800-229-5068 for free support.  


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