A reader recently asked: “Can I get paid to take care of my mother who is elderly and needing full-time care? Up until recently, I had been working two full-time jobs but had to quit both jobs in order to care for my aging mother, who is disabled and unable to take care of herself since her release from the hospital. I am an only child, and not trying to make money off of my mother’s situation, but simply want to provide the care she needs (like her Miracle Ear hearing aid) while also taking care of my own responsibility to pay the bills and buy food. Do you or your readers know if I can get paid to provide care for my mother?”
Maybe. Some states in the U.S. provide programs that pay family members to take care of an elderly parent, but they are typically quite limited and not likely to offer very much money on a regular basis, at least not enough money as a realistic alternative to your full-time job earnings. In the U.K., there is a program called “Carer’s Allowance”, which is a benefit to help people take care of someone who is disabled. For more information on the carer’s allowance in the U.K., please see Directgov for more information on who can or cannot get carer’s allowance, as well as how much money is provided to the caregiver.
If you are one of 70 million people providing unpaid care giving for a family member, you know that the time and energy spent taking care of aging parents or other family members can become quite burdensome with few options available, leading some people to quit their jobs in order to provide needed care for an aging mother or father. Experts in in-home care understand that family members often make the best caregivers, assisting in very personal care such as bathing, dressing, cooking, cleaning, food preparation and other daily living activities, that elderly family members may not want or feel comfortable receiving from strangers, even if the care would be provided through a licensed home health care agency.
In some cases, if the parent, spouse, friend or other person being cared for is eligible for or on Medicaid, the Cash and Counseling program (available in some states) can pay you a sum of money if you have been designated as the personal home care aid to help pay for food, medical needs, transportation, bills, etc. How much money is paid depends on a Medicaid assessment of need as well as the current pay rate for in-home care aids in your state. Some states offer similar programs for low-income seniors, even if the senior doesn’t qualify for Medicaid (called Medi-Cal in California). If the person being cared for has long-term care insurance that includes in-home care coverage, the benefits can be used to pay you in some cases.
If the elderly mother or father has their own financial resources, it may be a good idea to draw up a short contract wherein you agree to work as a home health aide with an agreed upon salary, setting specific terms of your work duties and responsibilities, as well as when and how you will be paid. The Elder Care Agreement (Form 85) provides clear, easy-to-follow instructions in how to write a caregiver contract in the book 101 Law Forms for Personal Use, which is available in both hard copy and electronic versions.
Once you have a written, signed and dated version of the contracted agreement, that both you and your parent are in agreement about, make several copies and give one copy to your parent and keep another copy for yourself. The other copies can be saved in a file, along with other important papers such as wills, insurance, financial documents, etc. Having a written contract can help reduce or eliminate stress and problems between caregiver and parent, as well as problems with siblings in situations where one family member is doing most (if not all) of the work. If your parent ever needs to go into a nursing home and isn’t already on Medicaid, the agreement will show that these payments to you were legitimate, and not a feeble attempt to “hide” money in order to qualify for Medicaid.
As a direct result of our country’s dependence on family members to provide care for loved ones at home, the U.S. federal government enacted the National Family Caregiver Support Program (FCSP) in 2000, developed by the Administration on Aging (AoA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The program calls for all states, in partnership with local area agencies on aging and community-service providers to offer five direct services that best meet the range of caregivers’ needs, including:
- Information to caregivers about available services;
- Assistance to caregivers in gaining access to supportive services;
- Individual counseling, organization of support groups, and caregiver training to assist caregivers in making decisions and solving problems relating to their roles;
- Respite care to enable caregivers to be temporarily relieved from their care giving responsibilities; and
- Supplemental services, on a limited basis, to complement the care provided by caregivers.
All states in the U.S. now provide some type of help for families under FCSP which focuses needed effort on family care giving relief, including counseling programs and support groups, training and respite care. To learn more about the specific help offered for family caregivers in your state including official contact information, email and website (if available), go to Family Caregiver Support State Contacts for more information on family caregiver services, or you can search for Home Health Care Agencies in your state, as there is currently over 8,846 Home Care Agencies on file at HomeCareFiles.org.
Check with your local Social Security Office, as they may be able to offer some help by directing you to the right agency for you, as well as information about Hospice Care, etc. To find the nearest Medicaid office or other in-home care program services available, visit the Eldercare Locator and inquire about direct payment programs for in-home care for family members.
If your state requires caregivers to be state-certified in-home care aides, you can learn the specific requirements for such certification by visiting the National Family Caregivers Association or the Family Caregiver Alliance for more information. Some adult schools or community colleges offer low-cost certification classes, so be sure to check out those options as well.
Depending on the situation, you may be able to claim your mother or father as a dependent on your taxes, claiming a portion of your parent’s medical and living expenses as a deduction, as well as costs of nursing home care. Some employers offer elder care assistance with their benefit plans, so if you must go back to work, talk to your employer to see if this is something they offer. If you go to benefitscheckup.org, you can check into any possible local or state grants or programs that may reimburse you for some care giving expenses.
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