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BenefitsLink > Q&A Columns >

Q&A: Eldercare-- The Work/Life Issue

Answers are provided by Joy Loverde, Eldercare Author & Consultant, Silvercare Productions

Getting Paid To Take Care Of Mom

(Posted April 25, 2003)

Question 14: A woman here in Arizona cares for her partner, who cannot take care of himself due to a stroke. Supposedly the state pays her for the care she is providing, which she would not receive if she were married to the gentleman.

My question is: Do you know if any such program actually exists and how do I contact them to see if I would qualify? (The individual who mentioned this is not very forthcoming regarding what this program that she is involved in is). I am interested in determining if it would apply to my circumstance of being the caregiver for my 85 year old mother. I am finding it very difficult to hold down a full-time work situation and meet the needs of my mother in terms of doctor's visits, medication schedules (making sure she takes the correct medication at the designated time), etc. If such a program exists, possibly I could work part-time and accomplish what needs to be done in terms of my mother. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Answer: Eldercare in the workplace is a proliferating concern and, understandably, it is difficult to hold down a full-time job and meet the needs of our aging parents. I receive dozens of emails a month from employed family members asking if government funding is available to pay caregivers and more generally, how they can access free programs and services for themselves and their loved ones.

The hardest thing about these types of questions is that the answers vary depending on the particular state or county in which you live. Almost always, the programs require very personal financial information as part of the application process.

For starters, visit BenefitsCheckUp, which is a website managed by the National Council on the Aging. This online service is a 50-state (including District of Columbia) program that provides public benefit screening. It was developed to address a growing issue: millions of older adults are eligible for benefits but aren't receiving them.

Benefits from health coverage and supplemental income to help in paying utility bills are available to older adults from a wide array of public programs, if they know about them and how to apply for them. Chances are you will learn what benefits are available for you, regardless of your income. Here is the web address:

Some hospitals and social service organizations (like the YMCA) offer training programs for caregivers who, upon completion of the program, qualify to be paid for their services. Call your local agency on aging to see if such a program exists near you. To locate the nearest aging agency, call the Eldercare Locator at 800-677-1116.

Also, if your mom has long-term care insurance, some policies pay for family members to provide the care after they have completed a caregiving-training program.

One more thought ... Many family members provide valuable services and supplies for elderly parents and are never reimbursed for it. Then comes the day of reckoning and Mom and Dad are both deceased, and the estate gets split equally among all the children. And the caregiver child feels absolutely ripped off. The fact is, there is no legal obligation for the parent to pay a child. Without an employment agreement in advance, the law conveys "no right or entitlement" to family caregivers. With extended-family households now a thing of the past who says you shouldn’t be paid for your services? At the heart of the issue is a cultural paradox: The notion that family members should care for each other out of love and duty is rooted deep in our definition of decency. Yet, because most men and women now are employed in their caregiving years, the financial stakes of caregiving have risen.

You would be wise to speak up about your financial needs-- with your mother and any other family members such as siblings. Perhaps if your mother is made aware of your financial predicament, she will not hesitate to offer to pay you – now or later on through her will-- in return for your hard work. Make the arrangements while you still can. A written, legal document is needed, typically including the rate of pay, a description of services and a prohibition against transferring the agreement.

You’re in my thoughts and prayers.

Joy Loverde

Aging Parents' Care: Are You Ready? Check out The Complete Eldercare Planner (Times Books), as seen on the Today show.

Important notice:

Answers are provided as general guidance on the subjects covered in the question and are not provided as legal advice to the questioner or to readers. Any legal issues should be reviewed by your legal counsel to apply the law to the particular facts of this and similar situations.

The law in this area changes frequently. Answers are believed to be correct as of the posting dates shown. The completeness or accuracy of a particular answer may be affected by changes in the law (statutes, regulations, rulings, court decisions, etc.) that occur after the date on which a particular Q&A is posted.

Copyright 1999-2008 Joy Loverde of Silvercare Productions
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