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When Somone You Love Gets Sick

During a crisis, my goal is to prioritize the basic steps that will create order out of chaos. This clear-headed approach usually follows several minutes of panic, disorderly behavior and exasperation at the universe’s casual disregard for my family’s well-being.

With that out of the way, we can now focus on the three most important things to do when someone you love gets sick.

The first thing to do is make sure your loved one has created a well-drafted Power of Attorney. If they have not made one, get it done. A Power of Attorney’s benefits cannot be overstated. If a person cannot make financial decisions, a Power of Attorney authorizes an agent to make those decisions and gain access to financial records.

For many families, tight-lipped loved ones may not have enlightened others as to their financial holdings. A Power of Attorney gives you legal authority to find out important financial information. Asset transfers, beneficiary designation changes and trust planning for Medicaid are built into well drafted Powers of Attorney.

Powers of Attorney found on the internet or drafted by non-elder-care professionals may be missing important sections.

A lousy Power of Attorney will screw up your planning.

Without a Power of Attorney, your family members would have to seek an Article 81 Guardianship in New York State Supreme Court, which I can assure you is not a piece of cake.

The second thing to do is find out the Medicare situation. Does your loved one have straight Medicare with a supplemental insurance, or do they have a Medicare Advantage plan? This is important once the discharge from a hospital to a short-term rehabilitation facility is completed.

Ideally, a short-term rehabilitation patient is allotted 100 days for their recovery. This may include physical and occupational therapy, nutrition management and mental health management. The first 20 days are usually covered at 100 percent by straight Medicare, with the remaining 80 days covered at 80 percent. A decent supplemental insurance should cover the 20 percent co-pay.

Medicare Advantage plans are more reasonably priced and fit better for healthier seniors, but they may not be the best option for someone in the midst of a major illness. Find out disenrollment and enrollment procedures to maximize health insurance coverage for a loved one.

Please, reach out to the rehabilitation facility to find out when Medicare coverage will terminate. A lack of physical therapy progress may end coverage early, before the 100-day period concludes.

Remember, once Medicare ends, private pay or Medicaid begins, potentially costing many thousands of dollars.

The third thing to do is contact an elder law professional to set up a long-term care plan. The overwhelming impact of an illness on a family’s equilibrium is not something to minimize. Doing it yourself works until it doesn’t work. Skilled elder law professionals may be able to organize and protect assets, obtain Medicaid coverage, and create legal documents that avoid probate and limit capital gains taxes.

Reducing anxiety and stress during difficult times is our profession’s lasting legacy.

Alan D. Feller, Esq., is managing partner of The Feller Group, located at 625 Route 6, Mahopac. He can be reached at alandfeller@thefellergroup.com.

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