A Dependent You Can’t Claim on Your Taxes

When our kids are growing up and consuming every last second of our time, not only do we get the payback of watching them explore, grow and learn about their environments, but we also get to claim them as a deduction on our taxes for the year!  Even if they are born on the last day of that year, they are a deduction.

My son did not cooperate with that one, waiting instead to be born on January 2nd…. Oh well, I guess he still turned out to be a keeper…….

But later in life, we can find ourselves slaves to another ‘dependent’; one that does not necessarily come with ‘deduction’ status.  That would be Mom.

Many people find themselves becoming slaves to their parent’s lives; getting over-wed to the obligations of caring for an aging parent and putting their own lives on hold.

And why is that so dang hard???  Why so exhausting?

If your mother and/or father are filling your days with demands, negativity and suspicion, it can leave you feeling totally drained and inadequate.  When you can’t seem to get everything done, you are left feeling that you didn’t get anything done.  Then, Mom may be angry or Dad may express disappointment which only make you feel more inadequate!

It can rapidly become a vicious cycle that feels like it is consuming your entire life.

Years ago, families could take care of an elderly loved one through the end of life.  It usually lasted several weeks to months and then the difficult times were over.  You could take your mother to live with you for that last month or two and cope with a situation that was not likely to last very long.

But with the advances in healthcare people are living much longer but also much frailer than they used to.  The medical management of chronic conditions can take us well beyond a couple of months time.  People are living at home with all kinds of medical intervention; it’s no longer just the occasional oxygen. It’s helping with trips to the doctor, climbing in and out of the car with the walker or wheelchair and learning to do things that the ‘nurse’ used to take care of.

And being frailer, there is an increased demand on the physical care needs as well.  Help with the house, yard, grocery shopping and meal preparation.  Mom or Dad may even start to need help with bathing and dressing.

Then there are all of the financial and legal matters that you may need to get on top of.  Trying to find out if there is a Will, Power of Attorney, Advanced Directive; and if they exist, where are they and what do they say?  If they don’t, you may find yourself trying to get your parents to get them done before it’s too late.  You may need to discuss the financial situation and try to help your parents manage their assets as best you can.  And doing this all with parents who really don’t want to talk about it and don’t want to be a ‘burden’!

It’s enough to make even those of us that know the industry inside and out, take a deep breath and just hang on for the ride; keep putting one foot in front of the other, figuring out the next best action and then doing it.

Most caregivers spend 8-10 years or more providing this care.  That’s a long time to be exhausted!

To put some icing on that cake, you may also be dealing with communications from your parents that make you feel guilty and as though what you are doing is just not right or not enough.  Many elderly people become very manipulative in their behaviors, which is a challenge in itself; it’s not you, it just is.

You may not get a tax break for all that you do, and you may not get the appreciation that you would like to have so I urge you to get some support! Find a place to unwind and a person to listen.  Take some ‘me’ time if you can.  Share with us here so that you will know that you are not alone and that it is OK to feel frustrated.

So, what do you find the hardest part?  Are you ‘under suspicion’ (a very common problem with early dementia)?  How do your parent’s depend on you and how are you coping?

On the journey with you…….Kathy

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8 responses to “A Dependent You Can’t Claim on Your Taxes

  1. I’m finding that my sister is much more involved in my dad’s care than my brother and I are. Yes, she has the PoA and is responsible for all of dad’s financial business, but she also visits him almost every day, rushing from her job to eat her lunch with him, then running back to work. We did not see our dad that much when he was well and living at home. I saw him once a month, tops. My sister’s activity with dad makes me feel bad but, at the same time, she’s completely stressed out and overwhelmed. I don’t know how to tell her to back off and give herself some time for herself.

    • Sometimes that message can’t come from you. It may need to come from somebody else. She runs the risk of caregiver burnout keeping up the pace that she is. I tell my clients that they won’t be good care-takers unless they take care and often that means working together to identify realistic expectations and create boundaries that protect the caregiver. Some family members get immersed in their obligations to the detriment of their own health and wellbeing. It ‘takes a village’ to care for aging parents and many people try to do it as the Lone Ranger.
      If I can help be the voice of reason in any way, please let me know! (that’s kinda what I do these days…..) You know where to find me…..

  2. WOW, Kathy, you couldn’t have said it better. I often deal with the “Lone Ranger” family member… the one who feels that they have to do everythng even at the the expense of their own health. It may take that particular person, in this particular case, the sister, of Jmlindy422, to finally hit the breaking point before she will actually accept some help or accept she needs some help or respite from the burden of care (no one ever calls or allows it to be called a “burden”) but we all know that it is a huge load to carry. I hope that the sister will let someone, anyone in to give her a break before she burns out and finds that she just can’t give anymore.. that will be such as shame because she is doing so much and her heart is in the right place, just giving too much (love) and not giving herself enough (love) to know when to say stop… It often takes someone outside the family to step in and say enough… take care of yourself or you won’t be any good to the one you so desperately want to take care of… thanks for the blog…

    • Looks like we are singing in the same choir! Caring for an aging parent can make you feel like you are in an emotional grinder. If you don’t find a way to break away from the 24/7/365 nature of caregiving, burnout is, sadly, inevitable. Thanks for stopping by and joining the conversation!

  3. My dad passed away 5 1/2 years ago, and had dementia for a few years before that. He sometimes accused family members of stealing things from him. He thought my husband and I stole his car. Truth was, we *bought* the car from him because he could no longer drive.

    My mom does not have dementia like that, thank goodness. She can’t handle a checkbook, but she can carry on a conversation, even if she forgets a word now and again. She’s physically frail, however, and needs round the clock care. So she’s in a nursing home.

    I have POA for her. For me, one of the hardest things is the stress of writing out a check to the nursing home every month and seeing how quickly her money is running out. I know the process of applying for Medicaid is looming and I don’t know what will happen then. The nursing home where she lives has some Medicaid beds, but there is a waiting list for them. If her money runs out and her name hasn’t made it to the top of the list, we might have to move her to a place that isn’t quite as good, where she’ll have to adjust to a whole new set of people and routines.

    I haven’t told her this. Why worry her, when it might not happen?

    • I understand the stress you are under in writing that check every month! It’s not cheap. It is very stressful to feel that you are managing your parent’s assets and you see them dwindling away.
      I would just encourage you to be as proactive as possible if you see that time coming. You may want to consult with the ombudsman in your area. I worked in long term care for many years and we never put anybody on the curb! Don’t let them bully you if it comes to this point. Be her advocate! They must have a realistic and good discharge plan (which should not rely on family taking her home if they are unable and/or unwilling).
      You may want to check out some of the local facilities that accept more Medicaid residents so that you know what some of those options are should you need that. I know that some of our ‘County Homes’ offer very good care. Then, if you see the time approaching and your mother has to be admitted to the hospital for anything, you may be able to leverage an admission to another facility by utilizing her Medicare benefit following the hospital stay!
      And I agree…..why worry her at this point…..

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