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Caregiving in the Community

Help your older friends and neighbors — but protect yourself, too

If you're being paid, new rules apply

Does your older friend pay you for cleaning his gutters, driving him to doctor's appointments or doing his laundry? If so, consult a lawyer to draft a simple contract that outlines the duties and how much you're paid. This might sound unnecessary to you, but it's vital for protecting the person in the event he ever needed Medicaid benefits to cover long-term care.

"If Medicaid were to see transferred assets, it's going to take the position that all the elder did was make gifts to this individual," says Amoruso. And gift-giving could void Medicaid eligibility. "But that presumption can be defeated with a proper contract."

Is your neighbor insured?

Before you patch a leaky roof or agree to run the lawn mower, ask your friend if his homeowner's policy is up to date. "What if you got hurt?" says Amoruso. "The caregiver's doing something out of his own heart here, but it would be terrible if that affected his means of earning a living due to an accident."

Also make sure your own insurance policy is in effect. "If you shovel the walk and miss a patch, there's nothing that would prevent the homeowner from suing you for not doing it properly. As they say, no good deed goes unpunished."

Also of interest: How to manage someone else's money. >>

Cynthia Ramnarace writes about health and families. She is based in Rockaway Beach, New York.

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