The Elder Law Forum

The Elder Law Forum
Two back-to-back helpline calls – one from New York City and the other from a small town outside St. Louis–reinforced a paradoxical reality: Better medicine and conservative politics have increased the chances you will die poor.

The New York call came from a 71-year-old man who had fought in the Korean War. His wife, also 71, had sustained a disabling stroke and he was preparing to admit her to a nursing home. Their monthly income totals $1,350, in the form of two social security payments.

"We have been getting by okay," he said. "We don't go anywhere, but we get by. We have one asset – our house. It has been in the family for three generations and we expected to pass it on to our daughter. Is there anyway we can do that?"

The Missouri call came from a woman in her sixties, preparing to admit her 94-year-old mother to a nursing home. She said after her father died 14 years ago, her mother sold the family home and moved in with the caller and her husband.

"Mother and I jointly own two CDs and a checking account with a total value of about $85,000. Can I withdraw my half without jeopardizing mother's eligibility for Medicaid?" she asked.

I advised the New York caller that he will be able to reside in the family home for the remainder of his life; that the state of New York will have a running lien on the home, and upon his death the lien will be exercised against his estate.

I advised the Missouri caller that she has the legal capacity to withdraw half or more of the CDs. But for Medicaid purposes she would have to demonstrate that the monies she withdraws constituted payment for documented support and services.

The calls reflect the fickleness of federal policy. Medicare routinely pays hundreds of thousands of dollars to hospitals and physicians for acute care without forcing patients to first spend their life savings. But a stroke victims requiring long-term care must first divest their life savings.

Medical science allows us to live longer. But if you live longer in a nursing home, rather than a hospital, this Congress will take your life savings. "A person's better off not to save anything," said the New York caller. He has a point.

(Pro bono legal information, advice and assistance is available to persons 55 and older through the USD Senior Legal Helpline, 1-800-747-1895;

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Mrs. Alma Nelson, born July 20, 1904, when William McKinley was president, and only six months after the Wright Brothers made their first flight, celebrated her 102nd birthday last Sunday at the Sioux Valley Vermillion Care Center. Many people came to wish her well.

Mrs. Nelson, who grew up on a farm near Canton, says she feels just the same as she did when she was young. "There's nothing wrong with me, I eat and sleep and enjoy life. What more do we want?"

Mabel Aune of Vermillion said at the party, "She's the dearest friend I've ever had." And her niece, Jeanne Peterson, whom Alma helped to raise, said "I just want to thank her for all she's done for me in the last sixty years or so, including the sewing, cooking and cleaning lessons!"

Exhibit Entry Deadline Extended for State Fair

(Huron, SD)- The South Dakota State Fair has extended the deadline for static exhibits until August 11th for the 2006 State Fair.

Exhibits for the Women's Building, Art and Education and Horticulture can be entered through August 11th. No entries will be accepted after that date. The deadline for livestock is also August 11th. Late entries are allowed for livestock, but late entries pay double the total regular entry fee.

"We try very hard to accommodate everyone that wants to enter an exhibit at the State Fair," stated Susan Hayward, State Fair Manager. "What people sometimes do not realize is the amount of work that has to be done in our office after the deadlines. It takes 3-4 weeks and a considerable number of people to have these exhibits ready for display. Next year we will move the deadline back an additional week and remind exhibitors of the deadlines with notification from the fair."

Hayward also wanted to encourage fairgoers to enter their prize winning exhibits in the Governor's Award category. The winners will meet and award their winning exhibit to Governor and Mrs. Rounds – and receive $50! This year the entry for the Governor's Award must be in the photography division under the landscape class–scenic, architecture, buildings, sunsets or sunrises. For the First Lady's Special, entries are in the glass division under the painted glass class. The art can be done on either colored or clear glass; artwork can also be done via sandblasting, etching or other glass techniques considered eligible by judges. Following the same format as the Governor's Award, the winner of the First Lady's Special will also receive $50 and the honor of meeting First Lady Rounds.

The Governor's Awards will be presented on Thursday at 11:30 a.m. on the Freedom Stage immediately following the Veterans Program.

For more information, visit, call 605-353-7340 or toll free at 1-800-529-0900. The 2006 SD State Fair will run August 31st through September 4th.


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