Paying Your Caregiver Under the Table

September 20, 2018

Filed under: Caregiver Issues,Financial,Living at Home — Alexis @ 1:47 PM

Hiring a caregiver is an expense, no question about it.  Some families are lucky enough to be able to find the perfect caregiver among their circle of close family and friends.  When finding a caregiver on their own rather than through an agency, lots of families prefer to pay the caregiver under the table because it’s cheaper than using payroll.  And lots of caregivers prefer direct payments because they make more that way – wouldn’t we all prefer to make more money?

But here’s the problem with this arrangement.  Or more precisely, several problems:

  1. Both the employer and the caregiver are committing tax fraud. You really don’t want to be caught for this.
  2. The caregiver, by not using payroll to pay into her Social Security history, is setting herself up for a lower Social Security payment upon retirement. This will make things a lot harder on her in what are supposed to be her golden years.
  3. The caregiver is not covered by worker’s compensation in the event of injury. That leaves her in a lurch if she gets hurt on the job.  Or, it leaves the family in a lurch, as she can try to sue the employer to recover for her injuries.
  4. The caregiver is not covered by state unemployment benefits when the job ends.

No one wants to pay taxes, and payroll costs add to the employer’s financial commitment and reduce the caregiver’s take-home pay.  But if you run the numbers to see exactly how much the cost changes would be for both the employer and the caregiver, hopefully you will decide that the cost is not as much as you expected, and the protections will be worth it.

As the employer, once you decide to start using payroll, you have options for how to manage that.  If you are an organized person and don’t mind or maybe even enjoy “HR” type of work, you can run payroll on your own and submit the required periodic filings to the employee and the government.  You can use QuickBooks or similar programs to help.  If you don’t have the patience or stomach to do it yourself (I don’t), you can use any payroll agency that works with small employers.  Care.com caters specifically to home-based employers.  (I’ve never used them but love that they are a Massachusetts company.)

If you would like help determining the best way to manage payments to your caregiver, please call us.

 

 

 

How Not to Sign Documents for Your Parents

Filed under: Caregiver Issues,Estate Planning,Uncategorized — Alexis @ 1:43 PM

Very often, adult children find themselves in the position of signing documents on behalf of their parents.  This could take the form of signing a parent into a hospital or nursing home, signing a Medicare notice, signing the lease at an assisted living, etc.

When signing documents for a parent, do not sign just your own name.  On most documents, that makes you the financially responsible party!

ALWAYS sign this way: your name, comma, your role.

For example: “Alexis Levitt, POA for Cpt. Jack Sparrow” or “Alexis Levitt, POA” or “Alexis Levitt, HCP”, etc.

Signing your own name can open you personally to unwanted liabilities.  Always remember that you are not signing as yourself, but as an assistant to your parent.

Last Week Tonight’s John Oliver Has Something to Say About Guardianships

September 10, 2018

Filed under: Caregiver Issues,Elder Abuse,Estate Planning — Alexis @ 1:14 PM

Have you seen his piece on guardianship?  It’s scary, they are extreme though not rare examples that he uses, and being John Oliver, the bit has its funny moments too.

As one of the spotlights, he tells the story of a couple who were put under guardianship, even though they perhaps were still competent (they certainly appear to be in the video), and then their guardian financially abused her power and basically ignored the couple’s everyday needs.  The couple ended up trapped in an assisted living and couldn’t get out, even though they had the mental and financial ability to leave, because a court had stripped them of the right to make their own decisions and manage their own money.  How did that happen?  He doesn’t give the back story, but in all likelihood, either they weren’t presenting well or they were difficult residents, so whomever was having a tough time with them is probably who brought the guardianship case to court, and a judge, assuming that all was in order, approved it.

Bottom line?  Don’t leave yourself in a position of ever needing a guardian!  In Massachusetts, we have two types of court-appointed fiduciaries:  a “guardian” handles your health care decisions, and a “conservator” manages your assets and finances.  (In the video, John Oliver refers to both of these as “guardians.”)  Why would a court appoint a guardian and/or conservator?  The vast majority of the time, it is because someone has become incompetent (typically due to dementia) AND never signed a durable power of attorney and health care proxy.

In a durable power of attorney, you name someone who you trust to handle your finances for you, should you reach a point where you are unable to do so.   (Technically, the POA springs to life immediately, but most agents understand not to use it until you need them to.)  In a health care proxy, you name someone who you trust to manage your health care if you reach a point where you can’t make or communicate your own health care decisions.  (The HCP springs to life only once a doctor certifies that you have reached that point.)

In both cases, the key is to name someone who you trust, and to name alternates as well.  If you don’t name alternates, and if your primary agent can’t serve when you need them to, then you are back in John Oliver’s video, where, should you become incompetent, or in some cases, if you are competent but a troublemaker, someone will go to court to have a guardian and conservator named over you.

If you would like help creating your durable power of attorney and health care proxy, please give us a call.

Elder Care Workshop Series at Norwell Public Library

March 13, 2017

Filed under: Alzheimer's,Caregiver Issues — Alexis @ 2:02 PM

Getting older? Taking care of someone who is? Come to this series to learn some helpful tips from local Elder Services professionals.

 

Wednesday, March 15:

“Learn to Speak Alzheimereze”

Discover tips to work with a person who is changing before your eyes and to learn to speak ‘Alzheimereze.’

Presented by Alzheimer’s coach Beverly Moore.

Wednesday, March 29: 

“Hospital to Home”

Understand how to make a successful transition from hospital to home.

Presented by Kim Bennett, LSW, of Visiting Angels, Inc.

“Do I Need Palliative or Hospice Care?”

Learn about the difference in important care choices.

Presented by Catherine Harrington, BA, RN, of Norwell VNA and Hospice.

***Workshops will be held at the Norwell Public Library from 6:00 – 7:30 p.m. Registration is requested, but not required via email at Doreen@alexislevitt.com or calling 781.740.7269.

This series is sponsored by the Law Office of Alexis B. Levitt, the Norwell Council on Aging, and the Norwell Public Library.

Elder Care Workshop Series at Norwell Public Library

March 7, 2017

 

Getting older? Taking care of someone who is? Come to this three-part series to learn some helpful tips from local Elder Services professionals.

Wednesday, March 8:

“Who Can Help Me?”

Find out how to access elder services in your community.

Presented by Susan Curtin, Director at Norwell Council on Aging.

 

“Elder Law 101”

Get to know the basics of preparing for your future.

Presented by Attorney Alexis B. Levitt.

 

Wednesday, March 15:

“Learn to Speak Alzheimereze”

Discover tips to work with a person who is changing before your eyes and to learn to speak ‘Alzheimereze.’

Presented by Alzheimer’s coach Beverly Moore.

 

Wednesday, March 29: 

“Hospital to Home”

Understand how to make a successful transition from hospital to home.

Presented by Kim Bennett, LSW, of Visiting Angels, Inc.

 

“Do I Need Palliative or Hospice Care?”

Learn about the difference in important care choices.

Presented by Catherine Harrington, BA, RN, of Norwell VNA and Hospice.

 

***Workshops will be held at the Norwell Public Library from 6:00 – 7:30 p.m. Registration is requested, but not required via email at Doreen@alexislevitt.com or calling 781.740.7269.

 

This series is sponsored by the Law Office of Alexis B. Levitt, the Norwell Council on Aging, and the Norwell Public Library.

 

 

 

Cohasset Alzheimer’s Association Presentation on Dementia-Related Behaviors

February 2, 2017

Filed under: Alzheimer's,Caregiver Issues — Alexis @ 9:44 AM

This looks like a good presentation coming up soon in Cohasset. Presented by the Alzheimer’s Association, participants will learn how to “decode” what an Alzheimer’s patient is trying to express through their behavior. For example, someone lashing out verbally might be doing so because they are frustrated that they are cold but can’t find the words to say so. Come learn how to understand what a behavior is really saying and how to respond.

Event will take place on Wednesday, February 8 at the Cohasset Senior Center from 10:00 – 11:30 a.m. For more information and to register, click here.

Are You Caring for Someone Who Wanders?

December 22, 2016

CMS (the agency that manages Medicare and Medicaid) recently put out this interesting FAQ piece on wandering. The piece is aimed at managers of day programs and assisted livings, but there are a lot of useful nuggets in here for people who are caring for loved ones still at home who tend to wander.

Have You Been Appointed Representative Payee?

December 21, 2016

If you are caring for a loved one who receives Social Security and who cannot manage the Social Security benefits on her own, then you can ask the Social Security Administration to name you (or someone else) as your loved one’s “representative payee.”

This is not a difficult job, but there are some things you need to know. The Social Security Administration has developed a series of videos to help you understand your new job. You can find the videos here.

Alzheimer’s 10th Annual Educational Conference and Caregiver Day

April 14, 2015

Filed under: Alzheimer's,Caregiver Issues — Alexis @ 11:03 AM

I will be on the afternoon panel of this day-long conference.  This year’s annual conference features the film “Alive Inside,” which shows how music can reach into the depths of our souls even when are minds betray us, and some speakers focusing on how to communicate with the person with demential emotionally.  The ever-popular Dr. Paul Raia from the Alzheimer’s Association will be the key speaker for the day.

At the end of the day, a panel will take questions from the audience.  It will be myself, Dr. Raia, Maureen Bradley, who is a nurse with the Royal Health Group, and Eve Montague, who is a music therapist with the South Shore Conservatory.

This event is sponsored by the Alzheimer’s Association, the Alzheimer’s Partnership of the South Shore, Partners Healthcare, and Linden Ponds.  So far 200 people have registered.  If you would like to join us, please do, it’s a very affordable all-day conference – just $40, including lunch.  It takes place at Linden Ponds in Hingham.

See here for more information and to RSVP.  Please note that there are several events listed on that page – be sure you are looking at the Caregiver Conference info.

See you there!

The Importance of Caregiver Contracts

October 2, 2014

Filed under: Caregiver Issues,Financial — Tags: , , — Alexis @ 12:40 PM

A goal that my clients bring up in meetings time after time is that they wish to stay in their own homes for as long as possible. Many people, however, find the cost of bringing help into their homes to be daunting. Elders are increasingly turning to their adult children for in-home care. As thanks, to reimburse the child for their time and expenses, or a combination of both, elders often wish to “pay” the child. But should the elder need nursing home care in the future, MassHealth will view informal payments as gifts, which could prevent the elder from receiving public assistance. So the question is, what is a family to do?

 

One solution is a “caregiver contract.” This is a written agreement between the elder(s) and their adult children, laying out tasks the child will perform and a rate of pay. Set up along with worker’s compensation and the usual payroll deductions, this provides an income stream to the caregiver while giving the parent what most elders want – being cared for by his or her own family.

 

Caregiver contracts benefit both parties. The caretaker child gets the benefit of worker’s compensation, in addition to reportable, reliable income for state and federal income tax purposes. (You may not think that’s a benefit – but paying taxes can be much better than the consequences of being discovered as delinquent!) The elder gets to remain in his or her home with a familiar caretaker, often at a rate much less expensive than those charged by home health agencies. Should the elder require MassHealth to pay for nursing home care, he or she can prove that the payments were just that – payments – and not gifts.

 

Only an elder law attorney familiar with the ever-changing MassHealth rules should draft a caregiver contract, so that it will protect the elder in the event he or she needs nursing home care in the future. If you believe a caregiver contract would be helpful to you, please do not hesitate to contact my office.

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