Despite best efforts, few people are prepared when the time comes to send their parent to a nursing home. While some senior’s health gradually declines and your moment of decision is less clear, other seniors have a sudden incident, such as a fall or an illness, that makes the decision to move to a nursing home clear.

Regardless of circumstance, the moment of decision can appear out of nowhere and it’s important to prepare. To do so, there are several confusing Medicaid myths to debunk. Before explaining those, let’s define Medicaid.


According to the Social Security Administration, Medicaid is a jointly funded, Federal-State health insurance program providing health coverage for the following populations in every state:

  • Low-income people
  • Families and children
  • Pregnant women
  • The elderly
  • People with disabilities

Common Medicaid Myths

  1. Waiting period. Of the many myths related to Medicaid, the notion that it takes up to five years to receive Medicaid benefits is one of the hardest to shake. While it is true that the application process can be time consuming and that the state may need to investigate your eligibility further, the myth that it takes five years to see the benefits is not true. In most cases, benefits should be available within three months. If time is of the essence, an experienced elder law attorney can expedite the process.
  2. Quality concerns. While not always the case, most care providers in nursing homes are unaware which patients are private-pay and which are on Medicaid. Because Medicaid funding comes from federal and state government, reduction in benefits are always possible, but the care should remain equal.
  3. Give up assets. To qualify, you may have to work with an elder law attorney to strategically spend-down your assets. The government has a five-year look-back period in which they examine your finances for any significant changes to assets.

While it’s impossible to know if or when your parent will be moving to a care facility, it’s possible to stay reasonably informed of the assistance that may be available to you.