Response to Comment Made to my Post regarding Family Caregiver Agreements

I had an interesting response to my post dated February 4, 2012, regarding Family Caregiver Agreements (see below).  The response to my post stated as follows:

“A caregiving contract?  That is absurd.  A child should take care of there [sic] parents no matter what and never be paid to do so.  A child should do all that out of the kindness of their heart and not expect money….”

I wholeheartedly agree that children should take care of their parents and/or help the parents make appropriate arrangements for the best possible care out there!  However, here is just one example of a typical client’s situation that DOES warrant a paid caregiver contract, notwithstanding the love and care between the parent and child – the case below describes a mother and a daughter/caregiver:

Daughter is unemployed.  She is taking care of her mother.  She needs income badly and has a hard time meeting her expenses and her debts are increasing.  Due to the amount of time she spends caring for her mother, she not only has an extremely difficult time searching for a job, but she has no idea how she would realistically work at a job due to all of the hours she devotes to her mother and her mother’s care needs.  Mother cannot afford home health care or adult day care and relies on her daughter.  Mother is the widow of a veteran.  By arranging a paid caregiver contract between mother and daughter, mother qualified for VA pension benefits (aid & attendance) and daughter now has income to pay her bills and not go deeper into debt.  Daughter feels a tremendous sense of relief.  Mother now has added income from the VA to help pay for care, and her daughter/caregiver is less stressed.

To the person who made the comment, thank you for reading my post, and I hope you come back and see my reply!

Reduce Taxes by Making the Most of Medical Expense Deductions

Following is an article I wrote for Ellenbecker Investment Group, Inc.  I thought many of you might find it useful (and do not forget to gather your financial information throughout the year in order to help avoid tax time stress!):

Are you or a family member paying for assisted living or skilled nursing care?  All or a portion of these expenses may qualify you for a medical expense deduction on your personal tax return!  First, in order to itemize taxes using Form 1041 – Schedule A.  Medical expenses exceeding 7.5% of your adjusted gross income qualify for the deduction.  You might be surprised at the wide variety of deductions available.  Take a look at the following list, and if any of the items apply to you, consult with your accountant or attorney.  Allowable deductions include:

Medicare Part B and D premiums; long-term care insurance premiums for qualified policies; ambulance bills; annual physical exams; eye exams; glasses; surgery; hearing aids; artificial limbs; artificial teeth; bandages and medical supplies; oxygen; wheelchairs; body scans; x-ray costs; diagnostic services; car mileage to and from medical appointments; transportation to and from medical care such as bus, taxi, train fares; dental treatment; drugs (prescription, not over-the-counter); home care; hospital care; nursing care; personal care; assisted living facilities and nursing homes (includes the cost of meals and lodging if the principle reason for being there is to get medical care, and if the reason is not personal); advance payments for lifetime care (a nursing home deposit); capital expenses to install special equipment in your home for medical care (i.e. wheelchair ramps, installing grab bars, lowering cabinet doors, grading the ground outside the home to provide better access).

With health care costs continually rising, it benefits you to take the time to document the previous listed expenses and run the calculations.  This is especially true for those on a fixed income.  Whether your deduction is hundreds or more, ever little bit helps!  Take the time to save your documentation!

February 25th – A Very Special Day in My Family

Years ago, one of my closest friends gave me the best piece of advice I ever received and I am offering the same advice to my readers.  My grandmother, who lived alone, was having health issues and had been in a rehab facility for some time.  Eventually, after she returned home for awhile, it was determined that she needed assisted living, and then hospice.

This was a new situation to me and I did not know how to react or what to do.  My grandmother lived a state away, in Illinois, and it seemed that every minute of mine was filled with managing my law practice and dealing with my daily life.  My friend told me that the coming weeks would be a period of time in my life that I would never get back.  She told me to spend it wisely.  I listened to her advice.  Each and every weekend I dropped anything and everything I was doing and I drove to Illinois to visit my grandmother.

I had wonderful visits with my grandmother.  I knew the visits meant alot to her, and they meant alot to me.  Not being one for telling people how I feel, I also wrote her a letter telling her how much she meant to me and why.  After she passed away, it meant a great deal to me to hear that she kept my letter in the night stand next to her bed.  I know that she read the letter and I know that she knew how I felt about her.  Knowing that gave me a true sense of peace.

Of of the last things my grandmother said to me was, “Joanne, you need to write.”  Well, Grandma, I am doing that now, and I honestly can’t think of anything better to write about than how much you meant to me, and how happy I am that you knew it.  I am happy to pass on some of the best advice I ever received.

Happy birthday, Grandma, on the 25th day of February.

Family Caregiver Agreements, and “Getting back on the Horse”

GETTING BACK ON THE HORSE!  Well, every spring it’s bound to happen.  My horse is 17 years old, but he doesn’t act like it.  Every spring the warmer air causes him to get a special “spring” in his step (pun intended) and often he will buck!  While riding last weekend, he bucked, and I found myself sailing through the air.  Mid-air, I thought, “I hope this ends well!”  Thankfully, it did!  I had a soft landing, some sore muscles the next few days, and a bruised ego, but otherwise, I was still in one piece!  Nonetheless, after this incident, I took the opportunity to do what all of us should do on a fairly regular basis:  I reviewed my Last Will & Testament and my powers of attorney.  None of us can predict when accidents happen!  The best thing about reviewing your estate planning documents periodically is to know that you have prepared the best we can.  I reviewed my documents, so don’t forget to review yours!

FAMILY CAREGIVER AGREEMENTS

More and more, my clients find themselves either caring for a parent, or a parent client finds themselves in need of care, often provided by a son or daughter.  Some clients have sold their homes and have moved in with a son or daughter.  On occasion, a child has moved in with a parent to help the parent with care needs.  In some instances, the situation involves a son or daughter taking time to buy groceries and drop them off, cook on occasion, and arrange for and drive their parent to doctors appointments, etc.  If you find yourself in this situation, I recommend you consider a caregiving contract where the son or daughter is paid a reasonable fee for the care being given to the parent.  Caregiver agreements accomplish many goals, including:  (1) allowing the son or daughter to be compensated for time he or she is unable to work (or taking time off of work) to provide care, drive mom or dad to the doctor, shop, help with a bath or shower, cooking, dressing, etc.; (2) avoid “gifting” penalties from Medicaid (Title 19 or XIX); and (3) provide a medical expense deduction if the parent otherwise qualifies for Aid and Attendance benefits from the VA.

Special Message to the Waukesha Rotary Noon Club

I thank the Waukesha Rotary Noon Club for the opportunity to speak to the members yesterday about veterans benefits.  I was thoroughly impressed with the club and all that you do.  I would also like to thank the veterans in the group for their service – you do us all proud.  Regarding the contest:  the winner will be the first person to email me and correctly identify the new page I will be adding to the website in the coming weeks.  The new page will either be reflected along the top or the left side of the home page.  Good luck!  Thank you again, Joanne