Americans who take time off work to care for their aging parents are losing an estimated $3 trillion dollars in wages, pension and Social Security benefits, according to a new MetLife study. Meanwhile, the percentage of adult children providing basic care for their parents has skyrocketed in recent years.
If you’re like most, you don’t have time to read and analyze their 26-page report, so MetLife gives a top ten list of planning tips — financial considerations for family caregivers.
Since no top ten list can do it justice, we will post half the list now and half on Thursday. This will give you the chance to delve deep into those issues you need more information about. Here’s our take on their list topics 1 through 5:
1. Think twice about leaving your job to care for an aging relative.
It’s very easy to lose sight of your own financial future when trying to do the right thing for an aging relative. In addition to losing a paycheck, you could also be missing out on retirement benefits needed to support your own retirement. Leaving the job market now can also negatively impact your future job prospects. It may be difficult to maintain current job skills and loss of professional connections that make it harder to reenter the workforce down the road.
2. Check with your employer to see what benefits they can provide should you need to curtail your employment.
Your employer may be required to provide workplace accommodations under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) so that you can continue to stay in the workplace while caring for your relative. Here’s an FAQ on the FMLA from the Department of Labor. There’s also more information located on employee benefits at the Department of Labor web page.
3. Take Stock of what you have and your expenses for caregiving.
If you must leave work or curtail your hours, enter an agreement with your relative to be paid for your time spent caregiving. It may seem counter to your moral obligation, but it could provide a benefit to your aging parent. Sometimes the difference between qualifying for public benefits can be just a few hundred dollars in medical expenses. The care you provide may be considered a medical expense. By charging them for the care you give, they may then qualify for many more benefits under the public program than you could provide them on your own. In addition, it’s a tax deduction for the aging parent! A recent decision by the U.S. Tax Court provide guidance on when caregiving services are deductible (see Estate of Lilian Baral U.S. Tax Ct., No. 3618-10, July 5, 2011).
4. Look into Public Benefits.
There are many good resources listed on www.eldercare.gov. If you are local to the San Diego Area you can find senior resources listed on our website. Another great place to look is www.BenefitsCheckup.org to help find low cost or no cost services and programs to help pay for everything from utilities to prescription drugs. But be careful when applying for state and federal benefits (see government programs below).
5. Become knowledgeable about government programs.
While Medicare is the healthcare program for many adults, it is not all-inclusive.
Many insurance companies, including MetLife, sell Medicare advantage, or Medicare supplemental insurance policies. These policies DO NOT cover long term care. Some individuals enrolled in Medicare also qualify for Medicaid (MediCal in California) which is a state-run program covering a wider range of services. But be careful! If you at all unsure
whether you qualify, don’t apply for benefits before you talk with an elder law attorney or one that specializes in public benefits such as Medicaid (MediCal) or Veterans Benefits, specifically, the VA Aid and Attendance Benefit which could pay over $23,000 per year for
in-home care to a veteran who qualifies.
Stay tuned for Part Two…