Aging Care: 7 Tips for Caring for Elderly Parents

by | Mar 15, 2024 | Estate Planning, Long-Term Care, Medicaid, Veterans Affairs | 0 comments

Many adult children wonder what their aging parents may need and how can they can help care for their parent at home.

More and more children are living with their parents and caring for their parents at home as they begin to need support for their care.  This situation can occur either with the parent moving in with the child or the child moving in with the parent.  Children and their parents are finding that living together is a better arrangement, both financially and emotionally than moving to an institution.

But living together is a big adjustment for everyone, and it is important to be prepared. Preparations can range from making physical adjustments to the house to figuring out finances. There are simple steps you can take to ensure your parents are safe as they age.

Tip No. 1: Work out the financial details first.

This will alleviate tension between parent and the caregiving child as well as maintain harmony with non-caregiving siblings of the caregiving child.  The following are some things to think about financially when a parent begins to live with a caregiving child.

Shared Housing Agreement

Determine how much the parent will contribute to household expenses (or how much the child will contribute if the child is moving in with the parent). Creating a written agreement relieves any ambiguity about the amount contributed by the parent or child.  This maintains harmony among non-caregiving children by setting the amount of the parent’s contribution under a clear, fixed standard.  It can also help with planning for Medicaid benefits by verifying that payments are for fairly compensated household expenses and not gifts to the child.

Care Agreement.

Care agreements are an increasingly popular way to ensure a caregiving child is compensated for the child’s work. A care agreement (also called a personal care contract) is a contract between a parent and a child (or other family member) in which the parent agrees to reimburse the child for caring for the parent. These agreements have many benefits. They provide a way to reward the family member doing the work. They can help alleviate tension between family members by making sure caregiving is fairly compensated. In addition, they can be a be a key part of Medicaid or VA Pension planning, helping to spend down savings and otherwise be a tool to qualify for such benefits, if necessary. It is important to understand both the benefits and shortcomings of a care agreement.  Consequently, we highly recommended that agreements be drawn up with the help of a qualified elder law attorney.

Tax Exemption

A caregiving child may be able to claim a parent as a dependent and get a tax deduction if the child provides more than half of the parent’s support during the year.  This would allow the caregiving child to get an income tax exemption for the child’s parent.  We recommend consulting a tax advisor to see if claiming the parent as a dependent is applicable.

Public Benefits Assistance.

Assuming a typical full-time job consists of a 40 hour workweek, taking care of a parent 24 hours a day, 7 days a week is the equivalent of working 4 full-time jobs at once.  Giving the caregiving child regular breaks and periods of respite are key to keeping the caregiving child healthy and free of burnout.  One way to provide time off is to access other sources to help pay for home care during the child’s time off.  Medicaid, under its home and community based waiver program, will provide some hours of home care that can alleviate the constant care burden on the child.  The Veterans Administration will also pay a pension to qualified veterans and surviving spouses of qualified veterans to help pay for some home care delivered by a third party.  An elder law attorney can review benefits available to the parent and assist with overcoming any barriers to eligibility.   Most elder law attorneys will also assist with applications for these benefits.

Asset Protection

Medicaid “rewards” caregiving children in a couple of ways by providing certain safe harbors under its transfer rules.  Ordinarily, a transfer from a parent to a child results in a penalty where Medicaid refuses to help the recipient for a period of time due to the gift, or transfer, made by the recipient.  However, certain exceptions apply to these rules, especially for children who are caring for a parent.  For example, a parent may transfer his or her home to a child if the child moves in with the parent and provides care to that parent for a period of two years that then keeps the parent out of an institution.  Also, a parent who moves in with a child can purchase a life estate in the child’s home.  As long as the parent continuously resides in the home for a period of one year, the funds provided for the purchase can be transferred to the child without penalty.

All of these options can have different tax, public benefits, and other results. It’s best to consult with an attorney to determine what makes the most sense in your particular situation.  To assist in completing a plan for the caregiving child living with a parent, contact Stinson Law Firm (317) 622-8181 today to schedule an appointment to review your options.

Tip No. 2: Prepare for Cognitive Decline

Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia affect more than 5 million adults aged 65 and older, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Keep your parents safe by understanding their current cognitive abilities and any risks they may face for future decline.

Consider setting up a routine for your parents’ day-to-day lives. This might include social engagement and spending time with you and other family members, which may become even more crucial if their cognitive health has deteriorated.

Tip No. 3: Recognize the Risks Older Adults Face

Knowing the risks seniors face can help you begin an action plan for your parents. It may be difficult for some older adults to complete tasks they could do before with ease.  Examples of those tasks can include:

  • Taking medication correctly and on time
  • Remembering things, keeping up conversation, or multitasking
  • Getting help in a medical emergency, such as a fall
  • Eating healthfully
  • Moving safely around their home

Being aware of these common concerns can be an important first step in doing everything you can to protect your parents as they age

Tip No. 4: Ensure Medication Compliance

If your parents have health conditions that require them to take medication regularly, you should take time to make sure they are adhering to their prescription instructions. It may be a good idea to routinely review the medications your parents take, the name of the medications, and any potential side effects.

You may consider creating a medication schedule that you can both follow, so that you (or a home care provider) can check in and confirm your loved one is remembering to take medications when necessary.

Tip No. 5: Equip Aging Parents for Medical Emergencies

Older adults are vulnerable to falls and other medical emergencies. If you work outside of the home, you may have concerns about your parents being able to act quickly in ensuring they get emergency medical attention when they need it.

To help your parents respond to emergencies, consider using a medical alert system. With a medical alert system, your parents will have emergency assistance at the push of a button. Many different companies offer this type of service. An online search can help you narrow it down.

Tip No. 6: Prevent Household Injury

Household injury is a major risk for seniors. You should do a sweep of the home and remove all potential hazards, including unsecured electrical cords, household products and chemicals, or loose rugs. Fix broken handrails on staircases, install grab bars in bathtubs, and ensure there is adequate lighting in the home. Taking each of these steps, and any others you see fit, can help avoid a preventable injury.

Tip No. 7: Plan for Meals

Seniors, especially those that live with memory issues, may not eat regularly. Without adequate nutrition, older adults may fall ill, or any current condition may worsen. Many seniors across the United States are food insecure. Fortunately, there are certain Medicare Advantage grocery benefit programs as well as other free or inexpensive meal delivery services, such as Meals on Wheels, that deliver nutritious meals to seniors.

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