One medical event such as a heart attack, stroke or debilitating illness can undo decades of hard work and savings. Instead of enjoying the fruits of your labor in retirement, you require around-the-clock care at a nursing home.

The money you have set aside to provide for yourself now and your children in the future now has to go for nursing home expenses that can quickly drain the healthiest bank account.

Medicaid provides assistance to low-income individuals, including those 65 and older to financially cover long-term care. The joint federal-state program is the largest payer of nursing home bills in America. Eligibility varies by state. However, federal minimum standards and guidelines exist.

Simply stated, assets and monthly income must fall below certain levels to qualify for Medicaid. Strategies that include rearranging finances and legally sheltering assets can be effective in providing the money necessary for long-term care. Additional benefits of Medicaid planning include asset preservation for your loved ones and financial support for a healthy spouse.

Even with proactive planning, risks exist, specifically those that could disqualify you from eligibility. Part of the application process involves a review conducted by the state that looks back at your financiers for a specific period before the date you applied.

Generally, the time frame is 60 months. If you transferred assets to your family members any earlier, you will be forced to wait for eligibility.

Prevention comes with proactive steps to ensure long-term care is covered and assets are protected for loved ones. The time to start planning is while you are healthy.

In fact, it may be now.