The Importance of Family Caregiving


Family caregiving has always played an integral role in American society; and the need for this essential service will only continue to grow as our population ages. The following statistics highlight the importance of family caregivers in the United States:


·        According to the United States Administration on Aging, there are more than 46 million people aged 65 or older living in the U.S. That number is projected to increase to more than 98 million by the year 2060.




·        An estimated 10,000 Baby Boomers retire every day.


·        It is anticipated that by the year 2050, 37 percent of elderly Americans will need some form of caregiver support. (An increase from 27 percent in 2012).


·        According to the National Alliance for Caregiving, approximately 44 million family caregivers in the U.S. provide financial and/or societal contributions towards the wellbeing of loved ones.


·        According to a recent study published online by Health Services Research, the cost for “informal” caregiving of the elderly by relatives and friends is approximately $522 billion annually.


·        According to a 2011 MetLife study, women older than 50 who leave their jobs prior to retirement in order to serve a family caregiving role forfeit approximately $324,000 in wages, retirement benefits, and Social Security benefits.


·        The National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine published a report in early 2016 that found that individuals caring for elderly family members devote about 253 hours a month to caregiving (about the same as two full-time jobs).


Need for prior estate planning


Given these statistics, it is more important than ever that our seniors have suitable estate planning in place.


·        Durable Power of Attorney. Family caregivers should strongly encourage their elderly loved ones to have both a Durable General Power of Attorney (for financial, tax and other matters); and HIPPA-compliant Advanced Directives (for all health-related matters). Healthcare providers and financial advisors should have copies of these documents as well.


·        Medicaid Planning. This is a complex but incredibly important piece of seniors’ estate planning. If and when it comes time to consider applying for a nursing home residency, the federal Medicaid program, which is regulated by each state, conducts a “five-year look back period” at individuals’ financial transactions. Specifically, “regulators are looking for two things: if [the applicant] is hiding any money and if [he or she] has given any away.” There are certain exceptions to this general rule and it is very important to discuss your family’s options with a reputable and experienced elder law attorney.


·        Social Security Benefits. Elder widows may be entitled to Social Security benefits. In fact, according to the caregiving organization,, a widow 65 or older could miss out on approximately $15,000 in Social Security benefits if not properly requested. 


In order to avoid a guardianship situation that may be extremely emotionally taxing and expensive, contact an experienced elder law attorney – licensed in the state where your loved one(s) live – before things turn messy. This will preserve everyone’s dignity and avoid family conflicts once it becomes clear that caregiving needs to begin. 


 Caregivers Need Support and Respite


In addition to the economic toll faced by family caregivers, caregivers may suffer physical and mental burnout if they do not have sufficient support and respite. Studies indicate that family caregivers of their elderly loved ones have higher rates of anxiety, stress, depression, and chronic disease than the general population. 


Therefore, it is critical to provide the necessary emotional, financial, and physical support of our nation’s family caregivers, as well as provide them with respite when they need a break. This ensures that family caregivers continue to provide the best possible care and support to their elderly loved ones.


Importance of Caregiver Contracts 


Providing a defined set of guidelines for families and family caregivers is important so that everyone is on the same page– including expected tasks, schedule of care, and financial compensation. This can be accomplished through the careful drafting and execution of a legal document known as a caregiver contract. If possible, a caregiver contract should provide the caregiver for basic expenses as well as lost wages and IRA contributions. 


Additionally, a caregiver contract is important for Medicaid planning purposes. Payment to a family member for caregiving services must avoid the appearance of a financial gift. Regulators will scrutinize any monetary transfers to family members; and the existence of a well-drafted caregiver contract is important in that regard. The last thing anyone wants is for his or her elderly loved one to be disqualified from receiving Medicaid benefits. 


Like any legal document, a caregiver contract should contain specific terms and conditions. Seeking the counsel of an experienced elder law attorney will provide you with peace of mind knowing that everything is drafted appropriately. 


The field of elder law is constantly evolving as our country recognizes the needs of our aging population.  For assistance with elder law matters, contact Loftus Law Offices, PLLC today. We can be reached at 603-465-7178 and at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..