What It Means to Need ‘Nursing Home Level of Care’ for Medicaid Eligibility

November 12, 2021

When applying for Medicaid’s long-term care coverage, in addition to the strict income and asset limits, you must demonstrate that you need a level care typically provided in a nursing home.  

Whether you are applying for nursing home coverage or through a Medicaid waiver program for coverage at home, you must meet the level-of-care requirement set by the state. Each state has its own criteria for determining if you meet the mandated level of care, and the criteria is not always clear.

The state looks at an applicant’s functional, medical, and cognitive abilities to determine if care in a nursing home is called for. In general, you must be unable to care for yourself or pose a danger to yourself without outside help. The following are the factors usually considered when making a level-of-care determination:

  • You need help with two or more “activities of daily living” (such as bathing, dressing, eating, moving, and going to the bathroom).
  • You need frequent medical care, such as assistance with medication, injections, IVs, or other medical treatment.
  • Your cognitive ability is impaired by Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia, you have trouble making decisions on your own, or you are unable to process information.
  • You have behavior problems, such as wandering away from home or aggressiveness.

When assessing a Medicaid applicant, the state will conduct the evaluation. The state may require a doctor’s diagnosis, but it will also likely require the applicant to answer a series of questions about his or her ability to perform activities of daily living as well the applicant’s mental abilities and behavior problems and the applicant’s family’s ability to provide support.

To apply for Medicaid, contact your local Medicaid office. An elder law attorney can help you navigate the Medicaid application process, which is not easy.

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