As if managing our own little family’s money wasn’t hard enough, I’m also in charge of my elderly dad’s financial life. He’s in his 90s and has pretty severe dementia, so it’s absolutely necessary that I step in.

Last fall, Dad developed pneumonia and ended up in a rehabilitation center for a couple of months. I kid you not: The insurance hassles related to a rehab stay are mind-boggling. Enough to make an adult kid want to find ANY solution other than a rehab stay for an elderly parent.

One good thing came out of all this, though. By pure luck (ok, and maybe some divine intervention of some kind!), I found a folder in my dad’s papers titled “Tricare.” I had a vague sense that this was an extra insurance program my dad had through his federal government pension. But he rarely used it when he was of sound mind. There was only one piece of paper in the file–coverage for some long-forgotten dental services.

On the off chance that it could help us pay for several thousands of dollars of rehab services that weren’t covered by insurance, I contacted Tricare. I told them my dad had dementia, I was handling his finances (I have power of attorney), and could they tell me 1) If he had some sort of coverage through Tricare and 2) What kind of benefits did he have?

It turns out that he indeed has this coverage! It kicks in after Medicare and Blue Cross pay their shares of his medical costs. It took several months of exchanging information back and forth, and at times was a huge pain in the butt to deal with, but it turned out well: Last week, Tricare ended up paying more than $4,000 of my dad’s rehab stay — money that would have come directly out of his accounts! I felt like we won the lottery!

Even better, I just found out yesterday that Tricare will also pick up the copays for my Dad’s prescriptions– a value of almost $200 a month! While Blue Cross covers most of my dad’s prescription costs, we still fork out small copays of $10 here and $20 there. My dad has a lot of meds, so I was paying his pharmacy about $200 a month. No more! The pharmacy now bills both Blue Cross and Tricare, so we pay next to nothing for his meds.

And it gets even better: Because of my dad’s dementia and the fact that he wasn’t able to tell me about his Tricare coverage, the plan is also going back and reimbursing us for my dad’s prescription charges for 2007, 2006, and 2005!

And those funds are much needed. My dad’s care runs about $3,500 a month at a private adult foster home. It’s wonderful care, but it’s not cheap. Those of you with elderly parents know what I’m talking about.

The bottom line: Research every possible insurance program for which your elderly parent might be eligible. You never know when you’re going to find a golden lining.