55Plus: Elder Law – Nursing home alternative during COVID-19


What is the alternative to being in a nursing home? That question is top of mind for many seniors now, due to the high risk factors of coronavirus. Those who are wondering how they can pay for care at home should consider the Frail Elder Waiver (FEW) program (sometimes referred to as the Choices program). As the name implies, the FEW allows people living in the community to “waive” the usual income limits. A senior who would otherwise be medically eligible for a nursing home using the MassHealth criteria can, instead, qualify for MassHealth benefits at home. The asset criteria for qualification are exactly the same:

  • The senior cannot have more than $2,000 in countable assets.
  • The spouse can own the home, can have other assets up to $128,640, and can have unlimited income.

For seniors who have too much in assets, the same strategies are available to allow the senior to restructure assets at the last minute, and then qualify. For more information, please feel free to contact me at 508-860-1470, or abergeron@mirickoconnell.com. I will also focus on this issue in my June virtual seminar, “Getting Care at Home During the Pandemic,” which will be aired on your local cable station, Martha’s Vineyard Community Television (MVTV). You can also find the seminar on Frank and Mary’s YouTube channel, youtube.com/elderlawfrankandmary. Frank and Mary’s YouTube channel may be a helpful resource during COVID-19, as my co-hosts and I address many common issues facing seniors, and the resources available during the pandemic, through the weekly local cable TV shows.

Arthur P. Bergeron is an elder law attorney in the Trusts and Estates Group at Mirick O’Connell.