Paying Your Children to Care for You? Put it in Writing.

August 30, 2009

As they need more help with daily tasks, many parents prefer to have their kids helping them rather than hiring an aide. And many children want to be helping their parents, if only they could afford to quit their job.

One solution is for the parent to hire the child. I discuss some of the nuts and bolts of how to draft a caregiver contract in another post. I also previously discussed the advantages of caregiver contract in a down economy.

The message for this post is that if you plan to hire your child, or if you plan to work for your parents, everything must be in writing. If the parent eventually needs to apply for MassHealth, your chances of having the application approved significantly increase if the agreement was in writing during all those years that the child provided care. If it is not in writing, MassHealth may well declare that any money passing from the parent to the child was a gift – and a gift disqualifies a person from receiving MassHealth assistance.

Working with an elder law attorney will improve your chances of having the agreement approved by MassHealth, because an elder law attorney understands what needs to be in the contract not only to satisfy MassHealth, but also to help you comply with Social Security laws, income tax regulations, and employment laws.

Howard Gleckman’s New Book: Caring for Our Parents

August 25, 2009

Filed under: Estate Planning — Tags: , , , , — Alexis @ 5:27 PM

Driving to work on Friday, I had the treat of listening to NPR’s Robin Young interview Howard Gleckman on his new book, Caring for Our Parents: Inspiring Stories of Families Seeking New Solutions to America’s Most Urgent Health Crisis. I only caught the end of the interview, but it was so reassuring to hear him close with this message: we should all have our health care proxies and end of life wishes in order.

This is what I talk about when I give presentations and when I meet with clients. I’ve blogged about it – read about health care proxies here and about end of life wishes here.  This is such an important message to get across to people. A health care proxy lets someone else make health care decisions for you when you cannot make or communicate them yourself – anesthetic fog? dementia? shock from an accident? Without a health care proxy in place, your family could very well be forced to go to court and waste a lot of money, time, and emotion.

And making your end of life wishes clear will save your family a tremendous amount of anxiety, guilt, grief, and arguments. Give your family the gift of peace by taking the burden off of their collective shoulders – tell them ahead of time what you would want in a difficult situation.

It gives me hope to hear Mr. Gleckman advising a national audience to get their health care proxies and end of life statements in order. So many families would have such an easier time caring for their loved ones with these documents in place.

End of Life Wishes & Living Wills

Clients are always asking about living wills. Massachusetts law does not recognize a living will, and it’s also impossible to write a thorough, well balanced statement of your end of life wishes in just a few paragraphs.

I provide clients with a solution to their goal, but in a much better form. I give my clients a workbook called Your Way. It is published by a nonprofit in California, H.E.L.P.: Helping People Meet Aging-Related Legal & Care Challenges.

This workbook is twelve pages long and very thoughtfully walks the reader through various scenarios you could confront in an end of life situation and what kind of comfort and care you would like to receive. For example, what matters to you the most – being with friends and family? Listening to music? Being able to help dress yourself? Under various scenarios, would you want curative care or to be kept comfortable? Who do you want with you as you are dying? Where would you want to be? A twelve-page work book written by heath care professionals does a much better job elucidating your wishes than an attorney can do in a one-page living will.

If you are not a client of this office, then log onto the Your Way website and order a workbook. If you are my client, then you already have a copy. Complete the exercises and give your family the gift of knowing exactly what you would want them to do in a crisis situation.

Thank You Eunice Kennedy Shriver

August 11, 2009

Filed under: Special Needs — Tags: — Alexis @ 12:24 PM

We learned this morning that Mrs. Shriver passed away over night. I love that all the stories today discuss that she was the founder of the Special Olympics. After all, mentioning the name “Kennedy” in your morning broadcast would be enough to catch the attention of commuters still in their morning fog.  But they are all paying tribute to her great accomplishment, giving air time to a fantastic organization, reminding listeners that special needs kids and adults are in our communities, and that someone important loved them and devoted all of her resources and vast network to them.

Thank you to Mrs. Shriver and to so many in the Kennedy family for championing the needs of the special needs community and other groups that often need someone with some name recognition to get them into the spotlight. And to all of you who work tirelessly on behalf of the special needs community but don’t get your kudos on the front page – thank you!

Always Keep Time & Expense Records When Helping Another

August 6, 2009

So many children, nieces and nephews, and good neighbors pitch in to do heavy lifting for an aging or disabled family member or friend. You may be running errands, cleaning out a basement, doing weekly grocery trips. We do these things on a volunteer basis, usually receiving just reimbursement for purchases made. And when the hours pile up – like cleaning out a house or overseeing home remodeling – elders often insist on paying their helpers for their time.

If you are doing this sort of work for an elder or disabled person, it is imperative that the person you are helping (or you yourself, if she can’t), keep good records of expenses and time spent.

While this may feel wrong to you – afterall, you are doing this work out of kindness, it’s not a business arrangement – a lack of records can spell big trouble for the elder or disabled person later. If they will ever be turning to MassHealth (Medicaid) for care, whether at home, assisted living, or in a nursing home, MassHealth will examine the last 5 years of the applicant’s bank records. She will need to explain – and document – why she was paying you.

Without accurate records and receipts, MassHealth will likely reject the elder’s application. At that point, the only way for her to get the care she needs from MassHealth will be for you to return all the funds she paid you.

While it may feel awkward, do yourself and the person you are helping a favor and keep good time records and all receipts. And carry on with your good work.