By Brian Herd, Partner at CRH Law, our Lead Legal Professionals at Heather Hill Pathways.
We do a lot of work in the area of family arrangements involving adult children providing care to, or for, their parent/s. It is on the rise and likely to exponentially increase as we live longer and residential age care becomes more expensive.
If you’re thinking of doing it, here are 6 factors you might want to consider:
In the USA they found recently that family caregivers spend the equivalent of over AUS$9,000.00 a year of their own money towards their caring role which is not reimbursed.
You may have to do the same. However, you should not be backward in coming forward in being reimbursed for legitimate expenses you pay for in relation to the care (but see point 5 below). Even if you are entitled to a carer’s allowance or payment, it may not cover the costs you incur.
It might seem like the logical and rational thing to do in order to provide the care your parent needs but, can you afford to and what are the potential downsides for you if you do?
Keeping your job (if possible) would give you some form of safety net in the event that your caring role came to an end. If you gave up your job, it may be difficult to go back into the workforce particularly if you are an older adult.
Traditionally, men don’t seem to be comfortable with the ‘hands on’ demands of caring. They tend to prefer to delegate the task to paid help. Women, on the other hand, tend to get in and do it. That’s why, I suspect, there are more women carers than men. How can you achieve a better balance in the family?
You will be criticised by other family members for the care you provide even if, on any objective standard, it is very good. You may have to be prepared not only for the work of caring but the slings and arrows of discontent from your siblings (and your parent/s).
Many family carers are in the cohort of about to be, or recent, retirees. Those plans hatched for your retirement may have to take second fiddle to the demands of caring and for an unknown period of time.
It might sound anathema to many families but our experience tells us that having a written agreement in place about the roles and responsibilities of everyone goes a long way to ensuring the arrangement is transparent and in reducing the potential for dispute. No agreement, or an oral agreement, does little to achieve these ends.
The reality of the need for family caring is rising like a wave in a high swell approaching the shoreline. At least have a discussion with the family if you are thinking of entering this caring space – it will either ensure that everyone is on the same page or it may even convince you not to do it.
We are experts in the issues associated with family caring and documenting those arrangements – it may just be worth your while to have a chat.