November is National Caregivers Month. I am writing this blog post to honor the dedicated and wonderful caregivers that I have met over the past 17 years and to provide some guidance for current caregivers.
As an elder law attorney in Boston, I have met some amazing caregivers. I have seen spouses, children, siblings and grandchildren that have devoted their own lives to care for their loved ones, so that they could remain at home despite having significant medical needs. When I walk into a house and see a hospital bed and oxygen tank set up in the living room, I see the love and dedication that it takes to keep a sick loved one at home.
Caregiving can take a toll on you and your own life. It is almost always harder than anyone expects that it will be. Please consider the following tips and precautions that you should take when you are a caregiver.
1. Caregiver agreements
If you want to be paid for the care provided, you need to have a carefully written caregiver agreement drafted by an Elder Law attorney before you begin providing the care. Without this agreement, the money paid to the caregiver will likely be considered a gift and it will cause a significant problem if and when your loved one needs to apply for Medicaid (called “MassHealth” in Massachusetts) benefits.
The caregiver agreement should be supported by a written evaluation from a Geriatric Care Manager to document the care that is needed and provide a reasonable payment for the services.
The Caregiver Agreement is also helpful in avoiding any misunderstandings with other family members.For example, if one adult child is willing to care for his/her parent and will be compensated, it helps to have a written agreement so that everyone understands the care that will be provided and the compensation that will be paid.This can often reduce resentment among the siblings.
Caregivers should also consider the income tax consequences.Income received as payment for care should be reported on your personal income tax return.
2. Bring in additional help
It is almost impossible to care for a sick person around the clock and still take care of yourself. You should get all of the help that you can. Private in-home care is one option. However, this can be expensive. Medicaid (also called “MassHealth”) offers programs that provide help to those living at home that meet certain medical and financial requirements. As an elder law attorney, I am often able to assist people in qualifying for these programs, even when they think that they will not meet the financial requirements. It is extremely difficult to be the sole caregiver around the clock. Any additional help that you can get will be a relief.
3. Consider respite stays for a break
If you find yourself getting frustrated or tired, take a break. Many assisted living facilities and nursing homes offer short term respite stays so that caregivers can have some relief.
4, Be honest when It is more than you can handle:
When the care needed goes beyond your abilities, it is often better for everyone to move your loved one to a different setting. You may not realize how intense taking care of your loved one is until you are doing it. If it is not working, it is better to consider alternatives, such as assisted living or nursing home care. If you are worried about the cost of nursing home care, please call us to see if we can assist you in protecting your assets.
Are you a caring for a sick loved one? The attorneys at Senior Solutions LLC, Attorneys at Law, are experienced Elder Law and Estate Planning Attorneys. We are here to help you ensure that you take the steps that you need to help take care of your loved one and support you as a caregiver.
Please call us at 617-489-5900 to take the first step and schedule a consultation. Please visit our website for our free ebook guide: “ABC’s for Caregivers for legal and long term care planning".