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Dollars & Sense: Caregivers, Our Unsung Heroes

By Roberta L. Nestor

November is the month we traditionally give our thanks for the many blessings we have in our lives.  National Caregivers Month is also in November and dedicated to acknowledge and honor our nation’s caregivers.  It is estimated that over 40 million individuals provide a staggering $470 billion dollars annually in unpaid care for their loved ones.  That is almost twice as much as is actually spent on homecare and nursing home services combined.

According to the National Alliance for Caregiving, it is estimated that 43.5 million people age 18 and older are providing unpaid care for others who are over age 50.  This would amount to 19% of all American adults.  The profile of the average caregiver is a 50 plus year old female that is taking care of a 77 year old woman, and that is usually her mother.

We all know someone who is caregiver and this is the month to thank them for all that they do.

Caregiving has gone through extremes over the last decade and providing care for aging parents is more common than not.  Our caregivers sacrifice more than just their time.  They sacrifice their own families, their own health, and in many cases they devastate their own finances.  If the average age of the caregiver is 50 plus, then that individual will be rewarded with less in social security benefits, smaller retirement accounts and, depending on the situation, they could be at risk to lose their own health coverage.

Should someone be expected to provide unpaid care for family members?  In any family that question will spark much debate, especially amongst siblings.  While families may all agree that they want to keep mom or dad at home for as long as possible, it is rare that the caregiving is equally divided.  Utilizing a Personal Care Agreements (also known as Long Term Care Support Services Agreement, Elder Care Contract or Family Care Contracts) is one way to protect the caregiver as well as the person who is receiving care.  This is a binding agreement that clarifies for a family what tasks are expected in return for a stated and agreed upon compensation.

Having a written agreement can help to avoid family conflicts about who will provide care and how much money will actually change hands.  Because of this, it is advisable to discuss this option with family members in advance so that any concerns can be resolved.  Another added benefit to these agreements is documentation for the state.  Should the person you are providing care for ever need state supported home care (or transitioning to a nursing home), the agreement will also show the state where the money is going and what services are being provided.

Long term care situations are difficult for all family members.  Sadly, at one point or another, money becomes a primary focus in the majority of family caregiving situations.  Having a Personal Care Agreement can offset potential confusion among family members who are concerned about bequests to heirs as well as avoiding misunderstandings as they relate to the amount of money that will be inherited.

Seek the advice of an elder-care attorney (specializes in planning for long term care).  You are creating a contractual agreement between the care recipient (employer) and the caregiver (employee).  That relationship will require withholding and taxes as well as consideration of any employee benefits (health insurance, vacation time, etc.).   There are great advantages to these agreements for all parties involved and because of the physical and financial demands of caregiving, caregivers should look at all options.

Roberta L. Nestor is a financial advisor practicing at 491 New Haven Avenue in Milford, CT offering retirement, long term care, investment and tax planning services.  She also offers securities and advisory services as an Investment Adviser Representative of Commonwealth Financial Network – a member FINRA/SIPC and a Registered Investment Adviser.  Fixed insurance products offered through Nestor Financial Network are separate and unrelated to Commonwealth. Commonwealth Financial Network or Nestor Financial Network does not provide legal or tax advice.  You should consult a legal or tax professional regarding your individual situation.  Roberta can be reached at Nestor Financial Network, 203-876-8066 or roberta@nestorfinancial.com.

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