Telling Tips is a series of articles from local experts to help you save money, make better decisions and plan for a better future.
We are such a mobile society that many only see their parents infrequently and, usually, during this holiday month. Your folks are getting a little older every day, and there may be some changes in their ability to do various things. Pay attention to some telltale signs including:
- Weight loss
- Less attention to personal hygiene
- Dirty or messy home
- Change in behavior — louder or quieter than usual, paranoia or agitation
- Remarks from their friends or other relatives
- Desire for isolation
- Not attending activities or usual social events
- Unopened mail, paying bills twice
- Unusual purchases
What can you do? Take them for a medical exam, including a physical and neurological visit. Check with their doctor to see if he can arrange for a home health aide through Medicare, Medicaid, the Veteran’s Administration, or others to visit regularly, or possibly a day care facility, or a money manager. A local family member, including grandchildren, might be able to visit a couple times a week. A frequent phone call during those other days can help. Some hospitals and schools have volunteer programs for their degrees.
Living alone can be very stressful. A button monitor is very helpful. Another choice might be an alternative living arrangement such as an assisted living arrangement, senior housing, or even a nursing home.
Another option might be to have your parents live with you. Not only may they be able to help you around the house and babysit, but for the grandchildren might even to get to know them and bond.
Tax wise, you may be able to claim your parents as dependents. To be dependents, they cannot be a dependent of someone else, they must be a citizen or a resident alien of the U.S., Canada, or Mexico, you must have paid more than half of their support for the calendar year, and their gross income must be less than the exemption amount ($3,800 for 2012) not including Social Security. Note that if you pay their medical expenses, those expenses may be deductible for you even if they are not your dependent.
If you are single, you may qualify for the Head of Household status if your parents are your dependents, and you pay more than half of your parents’ household expenses — and they don’t even have to live with you.
In addition, you may qualify for the “dependent care credit” — a percentage of earned income — if they are physically or mentally disabled. The IRS says: “An individual who was physically or mentally incapable of self-care had the same principal place of abode as you for more than half of the year, and was your dependent…”
You should contact your tax preparer to see how you might qualify.
One other thing you might do, as suggested by another financial planner, is to send them to jail. Consider the benefits:
- Seniors would have access to showers, hobbies and walks
- They would receive unlimited free prescriptions, dental and medical treatment, wheel chairs, etc.
- They would receive money instead of having to pay it out
- They would have constant video monitoring, so they would be helped instantly… if they fell or needed assistance
- Bedding would be washed twice a week and all clothing would be ironed and returned to them
- A guard would check on them every 20 minutes
- All meals and snacks would be brought to them
- They would have family visits in a suite built for that purpose
- They would have access to a library, weight/fitness room, spiritual counseling, a pool and education…and free admission to in-house concerts by nationally-recognized entertainment artists
- Simple clothing, i.e. shoes, slippers, PJ’s — and legal aid would be free, upon request
- There would be private, secure rooms provided for all with an outdoor exercise yard complete with gardens
- Each senior would have a PC, TV, phone and radio in their room at no cost
- They would receive daily phone calls
- There would be a board of directors to hear any complaints and the ACLU would fight for their rights and protection
- The guards would have a code of conduct to be strictly adhered to, with attorneys available, at no charge, to protect the seniors and their families from abuse or neglect
Ready to move in?!
OK, only kidding, but do pay attention to your parents. You’ll miss them when they are gone.
Have a good week.
Tip: Want extra money? Start your own business: consulting, pet sitting, lawn care, freelancing, blogging, babysitting, guide, refereeing or coaching, photographer/videographer, musical performance, etc. — turn a hobby into a business.
Joseph Reisman, of Joseph S. Reisman & Associates, has been serving tax prep and business accounting expertise from his Coney Island Avenue office for more than 25 years. Check out the firm’s website.