For how many hours should we pay my sister's live-in caregiver?

A fellow caregiver asked...

My 87 year-old sister is having a friend move in with her to assist, cook and help with her to remain home. The friend will have free room and board and free use of my sister's car. My sister can still get around with a walker, dress herself, etc. How many hours per week do you feel were obligated to pay his hourly rate? He will have his own bedroom and bath plus a 500 square foot room in the lower level to use as his private living room.

Expert Answer

As Founder and Director of Circles of Care, Ann Cason provides caregiving, consulting, and training services to individuals and public and private organizations involved in eldercare. She is the author of Circles of Care: How to Set Up Quality Home Care for Our Elders.

Caregiver pay is often a touchy subject for families. Room and board and a nice space is wonderful-----However it is difficult to know the benfit of having a friend living in house. One way to look at it is what you would have to pay an agency for live in care. It could run anywhere from $175.00 a day to $500.00 a day.

One important thing to do at the very beginning is to get clear and in writing what your sister's and the family's expectations are. What is he required to do? Also, what hours is he expected to be at home and with your sister? Is he expected to be available to take her to the doctor, hairdresser, shopping. Should he watch television with her in the evening? Will he do the laundry? What will happen if he gets sick? Who will take his place during his illness? Will he have any days off? Can he go out in the evening to a movie etc.

Can you help him and your sister to carve out a life for themselves which is nourishing to both of them. If this relationship meets the needs of helper and helped, it could go on for a long time. It could be of great benefit to the family as well. Without some mutual understanding of what is expected, it might not turn out well.

Without some mutual appreciation and formality and structure for communication, you can pay $5000 a month and it won't work out. If you can attend to these issues, you could pay $1500 and it would last a long time.