Disability, incapacity, and paying for it is a huge concern for most people. We live longer, but frequently quality of life declines to the point that we need assistance--which is frequently provided by a family member or entering an assisted living facility. A 2009 survey found that 14.5% of the U.S. population – about one of every seven of us – is responsible for the care of a disabled person age 50 or over, up 28% since 2004. Increasingly, the elderly disabled are paying family members to care for them in family home. This raises a number of issues.
In their November 2010 issue, Financial Advisor magazine takes stock of the situation and urges caution and awareness. It may seem odd, unnecessary, or even heartless, but they advise that the arrangement be legally formalized, reported, and in some cases even treated as employment. The reason is two-fold.
First, by formalizing and documenting the arrangement, you make it legally acknowledged and transparent for both the care-giver and care-recipient. As the recipient of care, you may be able to claim an income tax deduction all or part of the payments as qualified medical expenses. Additionally, your payments will be well-documented, should Medicaid eligibility ever become an issue. Without this documentation, the unidentified transfer of funds to family members could be seen as an attempt to cheat the system.
Second, simply establishing a legal process for payment of care can help open up family dialogue, and raise awareness – especially among non-care-giving family members. Arrangements of this nature are bound to put stress on all parties, but dialogue, contractual understanding, and compensation can help smooth over difficulties for the care-receiver, the care-giver, and other family members. The care-receiver has a vital say in the arrangement, can avoid feeling like a “burden,” and remain a vital part of the family. Family members can discuss who is to administer care or how exactly they can support one another in fairly supporting the care-receiver. For that matter, too, sibling squabbles can be lessened when it comes to inheritance and estate arrangements if the family care arrangement is legally recorded.
Foresight, solid financial planning, and an awareness of the extent of any care arrangements are vital. You can learn more about long-term care and other elder law issues on our website.