Seniors & Aging

Déjà vu, Grandpa and Grandma! Part 3

Multi-generational living imposes its own dynamics. The Dallas Morning News’s Pamela Yip muses how the traditional family ethic, parents shepherding and subsidizing kids’ startup in life, morphs into the kids subsidizing the parents’ winding-down in life.

Typically, Mom and Dad’s cash-flow crisis, thanks to the exploding cost of living longer and sicker, is relieved. The kids cover part of the total family living costs, obviously cheaper and easier when they’re consolidated. She cites a study revealing that household expense increases when the parents move in by 23% for one, 42% for both; but, of course theirs drops by 100%.

Let’s check entitlements’ impacts, too. Social Security OASDI, Medicare and Medicaid don’t suffer, but SSI income reduces if the recipients aren’t contributing to expenses. Further, food stamps’ eligibility depends on the entire household’s income.

Income tax benefits: Maybe the kids can claim the parents as dependents, and their medical expenses as deductions -- or vice versa.

What about buying and titling things via the parents’ accounts, to maximize vendor discounts, lower interest rates, seniors’ property tax exemptions, and seniors-only offers?

Having endured my nearly eight dozen columns and OLLI seminars, you don’t need me to nag you again to assure that the folks’ estate plan instruments are there, valid, and appropriately structured and recorded, enabling you to care-give unobstructed -- Wills, powers of attorney, medical advance (”living will”) directives, do-not-resuscitate and medical orders for life-sustaining treatment, personal trusts, pay-on-death and beneficiary designations, and the estate operators’ manual -- Or, do you?

Which house among the family’s several? Or, divest them all and set up another -- at today’s booming real estate market prices? Net a welcome cash surplus from the project, to invest for precious liquidity and to generate needed income?

Realtors’ favorite phrase, “The three L’s” (Location, location, and location): Close enough to jobs, schools, friends, church, health care providers, vendors, recreation, emergency responders, transportation, home health care and assistance providers? Is family uprooting and re-rooting a vital issue, especially for children? Are the community’s civic-social, cost-of-living, transportation, public services, demographic, and climate situations favorable?

How about the house, itself? Which house is closest to being physically adequate, requiring the least adaptation expense? Besides the obvious absolute need for everyone to have their own space, as well as adequate kitchen/lounging/playing/eating/ bathroom/storage facilities for all, there’s the home-improvement contractor’s delight: Making the house elder-friendly and safe, not only for now, but for later as the folks’ abilities inevitably decline.

That’s a biggie, often-under-estimated, under-accomplished, and under-budgeted.

Charlie spent hundreds to add steps and railings to ease access via his entrance stairway, instead of thousands for a ramp. That worked fine -- for only a couple of years -- until his Parkinson’s predictably wheelchair-bound him permanently, requiring the thousands to “ramp-up”, anyway.

We know to arrange for easy-reach utilities, furniture, appliances and fixtures. Safety is paramount, too. Emergency responders tell us that around here at-home accidental falls, most incurring E.R.-trip injuries, along with fires ignited by forgotten or hard-to-turn-off appliances, generate the most emergency calls. Room-by-room step-by-step home-prep guidebooks cover far more items than we’ll ever think of ourselves.

Options for ADL-assistance caregivers, to supplement or substitute for family care-giving abound here, too.

We’ve explored adult day care; it can be super, but horror stories deter us from the short-sighted-tempting cheap cost of unlicensed, uninsured, unsupervised, unregulated, un-rated ones. Also, many families enjoy long-time relationships with beloved, dedicated, aide-servant “angels”, but we risk the uninsured liability for their on-the-job injuries. IRS aggressively classifies these engagements, no matter how casual, informal, or cash-paid, as employer-employee relationships, subject to the same mandatory liability, tax, and reporting obligations as all employers.

We can interview, and hire various vetted and referral/recommended care-givers through professional, guidance-helpful fee-based registries. They’ll likely cost more than the above “angels” and less than full-service-agency aides, but they’re likely also to be skilled, credentialed, sophisticated, and compatible. Still, they’re your, not the registries’, direct-engagement contractors.

Then, of course, the full-service home-care services agencies, such as OLLI guest-presenter Harry Willoughby’s Right At Home: You pay more, and get more. Besides all the above factors, they offer an even wider range of needed or desired services, such as transportation, administrative and financial business, informed guidance, communication and contact work. A key point: The care-givers are their employees, not yours; you don’t bear any employer risks or obligations.

We notice a developing innovative idea: You join and pay a lot of money, and in return the agency professionally creates and manages entirely an individualized plan of living for you, everything included. You live at home as long as it’s feasible and desired. You don’t need the kids at all. You hardly even need your own brain; you can watch TV all day. They do all the thinking and providing. Non-profit Lutheran Homes of South Carolina has such a deal (www.BeWellAtHome.org).

Now, we’ve scratched the surface about the back-to-the-family-home idea. The full story beckons among the many resources.

Whatever we decide, “L’chaim!” -- To life!

Contact Gary Newman at garynewman.clu@gmail.com. Your ideas and comments are always welcome.

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