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.

Thrown into the Deep End

May 18, 2010

Filed under: Caregiver Issues,Uncategorized — Tags: , , — Alexis @ 1:08 PM

Did you see Michelle Singletary’s column this weekend in the Boston Globe? I like her column, The Color of Money. She writes in a straight-forward, honest manner, with guidance targeted at “regular folks” like myself.

This weekend she wrote about essentially being thrown into the deep end of the pool of elder care. If you read her column, you saw that her feelings, questions, fears, and sense of being overwhelmed and without direction are those very same feelings that most children of seniors (or healthier spouses of seniors) are experiencing every day.

While I can’t make your parent or spouse healthier, and I can’t bring back their memory skills, I can make it easier for you to handle your new caretaking role. The elder law attorney’s job has many aspects – for one, I help elders stretch out their assets to stay at home for as long as possible.

How do I do this? We look at MassHealth benefits and Veterans Benefits as a way of bringing more help into the home. We look at selling the home and building an in-law apartment on a child’s house. We explore setting up a contract between parent and child that allows the child to quit her job and care for her parent but still earn some income. And if nursing home is a possibility, we explore ways to maintain a healthy spouse at home and also explore various methods of safely and legally transferring some assets to children.

But the elder law attorney’s role goes beyond this – my job is also to pull in other professionals who can help you become a better – and more sane – caregiver. I may invite in an Alzheimer’s coach to teach a family how to work with a family member who is changing before their eyes; a geriatric nurse to guide a thoughtful conversation on wishes for end of life care; a geriatric care manager to create and manage a schedule of home health aides – and more.

I can’t get you out of the deep end of the pool. Life takes our parents and spouses in certain directions. But I can teach you how to swim.

More Reasons to Write up a Caregiver Contract

November 13, 2009

I’ve been writing a lot about caregiver contracts lately. That’s because they represent the ideal solution for so many families.

Many children become part-time or even full-time caregivers for their aging parents. Sometimes a child needs to be paid for this – usually that is the only way she can afford to leave her job in order to stay home and care for Mom. And in some families, the parent insists on paying the child, or at least contributing to groceries and utilities – because she doesn’t want to feel she is taking advantage of anyone or being a burden.

Earlier posts describe why a written caregiver contract is important to prepare for the possibility of a future MassHealth nursing home application, but here is something that would apply more immediately:  in addition to drafting a good contract, an elder law attorney will also set the family up with a payroll service that will make sure the child receives the benefits of an employee. Namely, the child will have two special protections.

The first is worker’s compensation coverage. Have you ever helped a frail elder with a shower? How easy is it to hurt your back? Very. With a proper caregiver contract arrangement, that child can collect worker’s comp from her injury.

The second protection is the unemployment benefit. Sometimes, no matter how good a job a child does of keeping Mom at home, there comes a time where the care Mom needs exceeds what the child can provide, and she must move to a nursing home. Now the child is unemployed.

For so many families, paying a child to care for the parent is the best solution. Having informal, unwritten understandings is typical, but leaves both the parent and child open to too many pitfalls. By working with an elder law attorney to craft a good caregiver contract and to set up a payroll service to take care of the deductions and taxes, both the parent and child will be much better protected in the long run.

What Goes into a Caregiver Contract?

September 21, 2009

If as a parent and child, you have agreed that the child will care for her parent in exchange for compensation, you need to work with an elder law attorney to draft a caregiver contract, as discussed in earlier posts.

What will your attorney put into the contract? She will list details of the care to be provided, ranging from the hands-on care, meal preparation, shopping, laundry, to the right to a private room and evening quiet hours. Most likely, the attorney will bring in a geriatric care manager to develop a thorough care plan, and the attorney will incorporate the terms of that plan into the contract.

Rate of pay will be included. Can you just ask your parent to pay whatever salary you would like? No. The rate will be based on comparable work performed by professional agencies in your geographic area, such as home health care agencies.

The attorney will also help you arrange for the appropriate payroll deductions, such as Social Security and worker’s compensation.

Beware of trying to write a caregiver contract on your own – this contract will very likely be scrutinized in the future by MassHealth, Social Security, and the IRS. Avoid issues with these agencies later by working with an elder law attorney now to draft an appropriate contract.

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.

Being Paid to Care for Your Parents

January 28, 2009

As their parents have needed increased hands-on care and errand-running, many “Boomers” have been squeezed trying to juggle caring for their parents and performing well at work.  Our current economy has produced a mixed blessing for some – lost jobs means time to address their parents’ needs, but without economic security.

One solution is a “caregiver contract.”  This is a written agreement between the parents and the 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 her own family.  Only an elder law attorney familiar with the ever-changing rules of Medicaid should draft a caregiver contract, so that it will protect the elder in the event she needs nursing home care in the future.  If not done correctly, a caregiving arrangement can result in a later denial of MassHealth nursing home benefits.