Q.  My husband has become quite frail and needs care on a daily basis. To enable us to continue to live in our home together, our daughter has been assisting with his care on a daily basis and has switched to part-time at her own job in order to help. Our other children live out of state and are unable to assist. We would like to do something special for our daughter.  Any suggestions?

A. A caregiver contract might be the perfect solution.  According to a recent study by MetLife, nearly 10,000,000 Americans age 50 and over care for an aging parent. The cost impact upon the child rendering care — in terms of lost wages, pension and Social Security benefits —  averages approximately $300,000.  To help soften this loss of income and employment related benefits for your daughter, you might actually hire her to help care for your husband.

Such an agreement comes with a number of benefits: it helps replace your daughter’s lost income from her own job; it recognizes her contribution in a meaningful way; and, it may actually help your out-of-state children feel less ‘guilty” about their inability to render daily assistance. Since it is linked to the hours of service she actually renders, the care contract might be a better alternative to increasing her share of any inheritance, an approach which could otherwise create sibling resentment down the road.

This arrangement may also help your husband qualify for government benefits:  If he is a veteran, these ongoing care expenses may enable him to qualify for a monthly veteran’s pension, even where his disability is unrelated his military service, provided that he meets the other pension requirements.  Further, monies paid pursuant to a properly drawn care written agreement would usually not be considered prohibited “gift” transfers, an important factor should you or your husband later need care in a nursing home and choose to apply for a Medi-Cal subsidy.

The caregiver agreement must be in writing.  It should include a description of the duties to be performed, the estimated number of hours per week or month that performing those duties will require, and the rate or manner of compensation, which must be reasonable. Compensation can even be made via an “up-front” lump sum payment to cover future services to be rendered over your husband’s lifetime, calculated using life expectancy tables.

Since your daughter will be receiving income, she should report that income on her own tax returns, and you should arrange for an endorsement on your homeowner’s insurance policy to comply with workers compensation laws.  You should also make payroll deductions when you pay your daughter, so she can continue to build Social Security credits toward her own retirement. A bookkeeper or tax preparer can easily show you how to do this or can do it for you periodically if you prefer.  Also, be sure to discuss the agreement with all of your children so that everyone feels good about the arrangement.

If handled properly, this can be an excellent solution to your concerns and be a “win-win” for the entire family.