Am I wrong to ask my family to compensate me while caring for my mother?

5 answers | Last updated: Sep 20, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

I moved to Minnesota and am staying with my 93 year old mother. If I wasn't here, she would be in a nursing home - so I am her 24/7 caregiver. She has advanced mac.degen and doesn't see much anymore. I am in charge of everything: house, shopping, cooking, cleaning, laundry, dr appointments, meds, hair dresser, shoveler, yard clean up and companion. I don't pay her anything for room and board but feel I should be getting some compensation for being here 24/7. Other family members "visit" but don't DO anything. Am I wrong to ask for compensation? I've been here 22 months getting nothing and have bills to pay and the savings are GONE. She does pay me $70 twice a month for cleaning which doesn't even cover gas and car insurance being it's my car that is used for everything. Please advise - the bill collectors are starting to call!!!


Expert Answers

Carolyn Rosenblatt, R.N. and Attorney is the author of author of The Boomer's Guide to Aging Parents. She has over 40 years of combined experience in her two professions. As a nurse, she has extensive experience with geriatrics, chronic illness, pain management, dementias, disability, family dynamics, and death and dying. As a trial attorney, she advocated for for the rights of injured individuals and neglected elders. She is also co-founder of AgingParents.com.

You want to know if it's fair to ask for compensation for being her caregiver.

Of course it is, provided your mother has money with which to pay you.

The dollar value of what you are doing would exceed an average full time salary at another job. Your siblings are getting a ride without having to put in any labor, as long as you are willing to wear yourself out doing all that is needed.

I suggest that you call a family meeting to discuss all that your mother needs over a week's time. Caring for her, her home, appointments, yard, and providing transportation without getting anything other than a roof over your head and food is not a fair arrangement. Discuss your mother's resources, what it would cost to hire the several people it would take to do all you do, and add up the dollars before you have the meeting. Do your research to find out actual prices in your area. In other words, come prepared. Ask all family to attend. The meeting can be via email or phone if needed.

Ask for what you want. You stand no chance of getting it if you don't ask. You should also ask for compensation for the 22 months you have put in without any money being paid to you.

Even without asking, you should not have to pay for mom's gas, bills and other things if she has the money to pay for them. You should be getting reimbursement for these items and should be tracking your costs on a daily basis. You should be keeping clear, computer or written records of all you spend and all mom spends for her maintenance.

I think an important question is to ask yourself why you allowed your family to exploit you in the first place. Did anyone discuss how much you had to give up to take care of Mom? Now is the time!

If Mom has no money to stay in her home and pay for her own expenses, including caregiving, that's one thing. If she doesn't have money, you need to see an elder law attorney about Medicaid. If she does have income and/or if your siblings can pitch in with dollars, you need not continue as an unpaid slave, saying nothing to others.

Caregiving needs to be a shared responsibility. Some share with dollars or management, or yard work, transportation or other things. Some share by doing hands-on chores as you do, cooking, cleaning, etc. Research the true value of all your services. Make a written plan. Communicate it to your family in a meeting. Speak up. It's long overdue.


Community Answers

A fellow caregiver answered...

I took care of my mother for 6 years,( traveling back and forth from my house to hers which was just 5 miles away) before she became too disabled to live alone in her home.
Please make sure you have Power Of Attorney for her health care and personal affairs. My mother put her bank accounts in my name so I could pay the bills and make deposits without any problems. This made it easier to put her in Assisted Living, take care of her affairs and eventually sell her house to support her in Assisted Living. She is gradually declining in health and her dementia is worse so I am glad that I have control. Mother has been in Assisted Living for 2 years and is 93 years old.There are no sibblings involved and I remain her caretaker but it is much easier and I can take a day or two off a week. She is even allowed to have her pet cat at her place which I take care of for her. Mother still has needs. I have most of her expenses paid automatically via her credit card. The credit card company sends me their report and her bank account is automatically charged. It was just too much bill paying untill I arranged all of her expenses to come out of her account. My husband and I also have a house and bills which I was also managing. Mother still has her phone and TV, clothing, Dr., medication and food snacks as bills that comes out of her money. She gets three meals a day plus snacks and laundry provided . Her living area which consists of a liviing room, bedroom area and private bathroon,is cleaned once a week. Her health care is monitered via nurses provided from 7AM-11 PM. You must make it easier for yourself. Your Mother has lived a long life and you need to have a life where you can have time to enjoy yourself. Good luck to you


Babylettuce2009 answered...

Your generous heart is commendable. You don't mention whether your family members were part of your decision to move in with Mom. If they didn't weigh in they may resent footing the bill. Be prepared for them to say put her in a Nursing Facility rather than expect us to step up and help. Generosity is a choice and can not be forced on the unwilling.


Ca-claire answered...

Of course, you need to be compensated for your time, effort, and anything you have paid on behalf of your mother. It may be time for your mother to not be handling her own finances, if she thinks that $70 twice a month for cleaning is enough pay. Unsure where you live, but where I live that is not enough to clean the house. Probably way past time for a sibling meeting. Be prepared for the meeting, and it needs to be held without Mom first. Have a friend or neighbor stop in to visit, excuse yourself and go have the meeting. Each sibling needs to be heard. What my family did was have the oldest speak first, on down to the youngest. No interruptions were allowed. Then we went around the circle again. Spouses were not present, only siblings. We were able to work out what was needed, and who was going to do what, even though together in the past we could barely speak. When you come together for the good of a parent(s), it's different. Best wishes to you in this rough job.


Jpa answered...

Carolyn provided a good summary of the context. Def speak up. I don't "¨necessarily agree with Carolyn's characterization that your family has been "¨taken advantage of you. For example, in many cultures it is common "¨practice and accepted to care for family members without pay. It depends. Personally, I say def speak up. Let me start where Carolyn left off.

Here are some of the practical items "¨you need to look at:

1) Set Up A Personal Care Contract "“

Here is an example ( "¨http://www.caregivers.utah.gov/sample_contract.htm). Why? It's law (if "¨someone is paid over $1,7000 a year), it protects your mother's Medicaid "¨eligibility, it empowers your mother to alter the assistance she is getting "¨if she wants to, and it gets the family on the same page. The documents "¨are short and cheap to set up.

2) Discuss Payment Options

a. Pool Family Resources: Create a budget, talk to family members, "¨discuss financing, plan logistics (e.g., who will be responsible for "¨payments)

b. Increase Your Inheritance: Name the caregiver as the inheritor of "¨valuable items like a home (look into qualified personal trusts) or jewelry "¨or alter inheritance funds to allocate more to the caregiver

c. Access Veterans Benefits (if relevant) "“ Look here ( "¨http://www.vba.va.gov/VBA/) or call 1-800-827-1000. You can receive "¨benefits if your mother's husband fought in a war.

d. Become A Licensed Caregiver (Medicaid) "“ If your mother has access "¨to Medicaid call your local Administration on Aging ( "¨http://www.eldercare.gov/Eldercare.NET/Public/Index.aspx). See what "¨training they offer to people who want to become licensed Medicaid "¨caregivers.

e. Become A Licensed Caregiver (Medicare) "“ This is a different set "¨of training than Medicaid and can take longer. Look for courses at your "¨local community college. Also stop by your local hospital where your "¨mother made a most recent visit, they can provide you with a lot of "¨guidance.

f. Look into the Cash and Counseling Program (part of Medicaid) "“ "¨Your mother may be able to access the Cash and Counseling program (differs "¨greatly by state), which enables your loved one to receive money to cover "¨at-home medical expenses.

3) When It's Not Possible to Pay a Caregiver

a. Things you can suggest to your family "“ have them step in and take "¨over caregiving at a few scheduled times, schedule official part-time "¨caregiving from an agency/recommended caregiver, and pay for a vacation. You deserve payment, recognition and most importantly relieve from your "¨duties so you can continue with your individual goals and life.

I hope "¨some of this helps! JP