Many seniors will be faced with the need for long-term care. The costs of long-term care can be devastating to the spouse living at home, depleting the savings accumulated over a lifetime in just a few years. Medicare only fully covers 20 days of skilled nursing care after a three day stay in a hospital. After the first 20 days, Medicare pays only a small part of the skilled nursing bill for another 80 days. Medicare pays for hospice services such as counseling and pain management medications, but not for hospice room and board. As you can see, Medicare benefits run out quickly, resulting in a shift to Medicaid. However, Medicaid limits how much one can keep and still qualify for benefits. Because Medicaid is a program to provide health care to the poor, one must be poor to qualify.
A will is a document that sets forth how a person's probate property will be distributed upon death. To be valid, a will must meet the following requirements: the person making the will must be at least 18 years old and be of sound mind; with some limited exceptions, the will must be written and signed; and the will must be witnessed by at least two persons.
A health care power of attorney gives another person the power to make health care decisions if the person cannot make them for himself or herself, regardless of whether or not the condition is terminal. The power of attorney is bound by that person’s wishes, which includes the instructions within a living will.
In the event that a person becomes terminally ill or permanently unconscious, a living will is a road map of that person’s wishes as to the use of life-support, the course of medical treatment, and the use of artificial fluids and feeding. Living wills are only used when the person is unable to communicate their wishes. While the person making the living will can revoke or change it at any time, it cannot be revoked or changed by anyone else.