The “New” Old Age: Paying for the ‘Institutionalized Spouse’

Caring for a chronically ill spouse sometimes means that medical need separate spouses and financial burden. In this blog post at The New Old Age, elderlaw attorney Craig Reaves discusses information caregivers and families need to know.

By CRAIG REAVES

Craig Reaves, past president of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, practices in Kansas City, Mo., and on occasion fields questions from New Old Age readers. You may submit your question to newoldage@nytimes.com. Please limit your inquiries to general legal issues; Mr. Reaves can’t offer personal legal advice.

Q.What happens when one half of a married couple is retired and in need of expensive nursing home care while a younger spouse is still working and earning income? Are there options for protecting any of the income or accumulated wealth (such as retirement accounts) of the younger spouse? Or does it all have to go to pay for the care of the one who’s ill?

A.There’s no simple, legal way to shelter your income or most of your wealth in this circumstance. Spouses have a legal duty to support each other. The income or assets of a working spouse (known in the Medicaid world as the “community spouse”) must be used for the care of the spouse in the nursing home (in official parlance, the “institutionalized spouse”).

Couples who find themselves in this situation essentially have three options.

Read more here at The New York Times “New Old Age” blog

NEWS: Study Examines Prescribing of Antipsychotic Medications for Nursing Home Residents

Newswise — Older adults newly admitted to nursing homes with high rates of antipsychotic prescribing in the previous year are more likely to receive antipsychotic agents, according to a report in the January 11 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals. Of these treated patients, some had no identified clinical indication for this therapy.

In 2007, almost one-third of U.S. nursing home residents received antipsychotic drugs, according to background information in the article. Safety concerns regarding their use are increasing; in 2005, the Food and Drug Administration issued warnings regarding the risk of death among older adults with dementia taking these agents to control behavioral symptoms. A large clinical trial recently concluded that the adverse effects of atypical antipsychotic drugs outweighed the benefits in patients with Alzheimer’s disease.

Read more at Newswise.com.