Elder Care Law Q & A

What’s the difference between a guardianship and a conservatorship?

Depending on the state, guardians and conservators may have different roles. In Tennessee, a guardian is appointed by the court to make decisions for a minor while a conservator is appointed and makes decisions for an adult. 

How can I avoid a court-appointed conservatorship?

A conservatorship can usually be avoided by proper estate planning. Alternatives include selecting an appropriate Durable Power of Attorney and or a Trustee to manage your assets, as well as appointing a Health Care Power of Attorney to make medical decisions for you when you can no longer do so for yourself. 

When is the “right” time to name a Health Care Power of Attorney or establish Advance Directives?

The right time is as soon as possible after you become a legal adult. Remember, Terri Schiavo was only 27 when she fell into a coma. Truly it is never too early to start planning.

I am concerned about losing control and independence. Do I surrender any rights when I execute a power of attorney?

A power of attorney allows an appointed agent to act for you in the manner you designate in the power of attorney document. You can limit the agent’s authority to specific tasks, or you can specifically exclude certain tasks. Nothing in a power of attorney deprives you of your rights because you are still in charge as long as you have legal capacity.  

My mother needs long-term care. How much will it cost and how do you pay for long-term care?

Costs of care depends on how much care you need and where you receive care.  Genworth publishes an annual survey of long term care costs and the average in this area for 2016 is about $78,000 per year. Assisted living care facilities based on the amenities.

In general terms, there are four ways to pay. Medicare will pay for a maximum of 100 days in the nursing home during a benefit period if you have had a qualifying hospital stay, and currently require a skilled service. Only the first 20 days are covered 100%. After that Medicare stops paying. Medicare does not pay for assisted living care, and only pays for home health care if you need skilled services. Secondly, if you have long-term care insurance, it will pay for those goods and services covered in your insurance agreement. Thirdly, you can use your own money to private pay. The fourth option is to qualify for Medicaid.  If you are a Veteran then you may have a fifth option of Aid and Attendance. 

Does the source of payment affect the quality of care?

No, Federal statutes and regulations prohibit nursing homes from discriminating against residents based on source of payment.

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