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A large percentage of senior citizens will reach a point where living alone is no longer safe and prudent. An elderly person who is living alone is exposed to many risks and dangers that could lead to injuries such as trips and falls. Living alone often compounds depression, anxiety and feelings of loneliness and social isolation. The senior may forget to take her medication, leave the stove on, or have difficulty bathing herself.

When such a change occurs, the senior and her loved ones must consider the best course of action.

The first option, for someone who is self-directed and wants to remain in her own home, is to hire a home care attendant. A home care attendant can provide assistance with activities of daily living, such as dressing, grooming, toileting, cooking and cleaning, in the comfort of the senior’s home. Seniors who feel isolated can attend adult day care centers and other senior programs in order to engage with others and remain socially active in their communities.

Another option is to move to an assisted living facility. Assisted living facilities are housing alternatives for seniors who choose to reside in a more supported environment. Assisted living facilities have amenities that provide for a broad range of senior’s needs in a holistic setting. The support of the staff and the companionship of fellow residents can greatly improve a senior’s quality of life and provide relief from loneliness and depression. If a senior requires additional assistance she can hire a private aide to care for her in the facility.

When paying privately, home care and assisted living facilities can be extremely expensive. Many people do not have long term care insurance to assist with the costs of care. If they have sources of income or financial assets, many mistakenly believe that they cannot access Medicaid benefits to help shoulder some of the costs. Because of these financial constraints and misunderstandings, people will not hire the help they need in fear that it will cost too much money, or alternatively, they will deplete their entire life’s savings paying privately for care.

It is crucial that seniors and their families know that Medicaid is available for those in need of long-term care who desire to remain in the community. Through New York State’s Managed Long Term Care program, Medicaid will pay for a home care attendant to provide care for those in need of assistance with activities of daily living.

Many assisted living facilities do not accept Medicaid payment for room and board. However, if the facility allows outside attendants, residents may be able to access Medicaid to pay for a home care attendant to provide additional care in the facility. There is also a Medicaid Assisted Living Program (ALP), which provides assistance, including room and board, to qualifying applicants at several assisted living facilities throughout the state.

Many individuals have been told erroneously that they cannot qualify for Medicaid because they have too many assets, too much income, or because they own their home, and that they must spend-down their assets before they can access Medicaid benefits.

After speaking to an Elder Law attorney you’ll realize that most people can qualify for Medicaid and preserve their life’s savings if they plan properly. They can also protect their income so that they may continue to pay their bills and support themselves in the community by using a pooled income trust. An Elder Law attorney can review alternative housing options, such as assisted living facilities, and analyze the potential costs, to help determine if such an arrangement is right for you. Do not make the mistake of assuming that you cannot qualify for benefits due to your current financial status before learning what options may be available to you.

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