If your elderly mom or dad has a problem and suddenly cannot live on his or her own, it can be a terrible shock to everyone in the family.

It can also cause big financial problems.

“To have somebody in your home for a day or so is probably going to be about $200 a day," New Jersey elder law attorney Victor Medina said. "To be at assisted living at a very low-level tier of care is probably between $5,500 and $6,500 per month, and then once you’re looking at skilled nursing, you’ll be looking at $8,500 and up depending on the amount of care that you receive.”

New Jersey is one of the more expensive areas for long-term care, so when looking at paying for that care and trying to protect assets, it’s important to work with someone who specializes in elder law “so that they’re not just doing legal documents but they’re also handling counseling issues related housing and placement and care level.”

Tuesday evening at 7 p.m., New Jersey 101.5's Eric Scott will lead a conversation about one of the most difficult and complex transitions many adults ever face — the time when they take responsibility for caring for their own parents. The presentation will be seen on Facebook Live as well. 

“The cost of having some hiccup with that kind of planning can be catastrophic," Medina said. If you try to do this planning and then it blows up in your face, there’s no way to put Humpty Dumpty back together again.”

According to Medina, it’s a common misconception that you will have to spend someone’s entire savings or assets before becoming eligible for some type of government assistance.

He said there are four ways to pay for elder care — your own money, long-term care insurance, Medicaid or the VA, and it’s the job of an elder law attorney to try and protect as much of the person’s individual assets as possible.

“The sooner you start the process, the more options you’ll have in terms of the flexibility of the kind of care you receive, and how long you’re able to afford it," he said.

Medina said there's always an opportunity to protect the assets of someone going into long-term care.

“The strategies generally focus on using the Medicaid and VA regulations to our advantage, and so if we have certain rules that we can follow and protect assets, those are the rules we are using," he said.

He said how much of an individual’s assets will have to be liquidated to pay for a nursing home or assisted living will depend on whether the person is single or married.

“Many times when we have a married couple what we’re doing to protect assets is to maintain the quality of life of the healthy spouse,” he said. “When we have somebody who is a single individual, my normal conversation with a client family is to say that we can protect about half — half of whatever is left when you come and see me if you’re in crisis is protectable, and the other half we’re going to have to lose and spend.

“For those families it’s often better than losing 100 percent.”

He said when an elderly person needing round-the-clock care exhausts all of his or her financial resources, Medicaid can help — and "allows you to remain in at the care that you are at once you’ve spent everything down."

Medina said sometimes when an elderly parent needs a lot of care and his or her assets must be used to pay for assisted living or a nursing home, things can get tense. Their children may be looking ahead to inheritances to help with their own retirements — and be resentful when that money's being spent.

He stressed, however, most families are most concerned about the welfare of the elderly parent or relative.

He stressed when people are facing a crisis with an aging parent, they need to understand it’s OK to ask for help.

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com

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