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

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 Answer

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.