Can I Get Paid to Care for a Family Member: Elderly Mother or Father?

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.

Related Post:

How to Care For an Elderly Parent
Nursing Home Rating System Worrying Nursing Home Industry
Taking Care of Aging Parents as a Family

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22 Responses to “Can I Get Paid to Care for a Family Member: Elderly Mother or Father?”

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  1. Janice says:

    Hi Lin! Thank you again for your response and interest. I do not think that an attorney is going to change the current federal regulations especially since these regulations were probably passed by attorneys who are in Congress. I am very close to a number of attorneys and judges in my area and they are also frustrated with allot of this nonsense. Once I am through the medicaid process if they do in fact rule that my compensation for my Mom’s care is a gift to me, I do have the right to appeal before a judge which I will do. Also, I am going to look into what it will take for me to go before Congress. This nonsense has to stop. Children who are really trying to do right for their parent or parents and who put their own lives on hold to provide care should not be treated as though they are criminals and interregated. In my case I am still very involved in my Mom’s care even though she is now in a nursing home. I do not feel that I should have to spend days and hours making copies of years and years of checking and savings account statements and many other documents. We family members are already extremely stressed out watching the loved one waste away and should not have to deal with this on top of it. Thank you again for your interest.

  2. carol says:

    Janice,
    I am in the same boat, I started caring for my mother in 10/02. She moved in with us after my father died. Whom I took care of for 2 months while he was dying. I am married and have 4 children under the age of 10. Three years ago I had twins born 7 days before a rehab center discharged my mother who was recoving from ovarin cancer and several strokes. I have done it with out any outside care from family or in home nursing. My mother had some money and has helped us fix things in our house she has been generous. Now we find out if she needs to go into a nursing home Medicaid goes back 5 years and any checks written over a thousand dollars are considered gifts. In the state that I live in (CT) the monthly nursing home cost is $9464 per month, so for every $9464 that she has given out in the past 5 years she recieves a 1 month penalty. In other words if she gave out 100,000 for example she can enter a nursing home but medicaid will not pick up for 10 months. We also are finding out we should have had a caregivers contract put in place. She should have been paying me. She would declare employee tax and I would declare income. Not a hundred % on how this works. I am meeting with a lawyer in two weeks. My problem is my mother has gifted my siblings money, so when she goes in a nursing home they (my siblings) are never giving one cent and it will fall on me and my husband. I wish I had looked into all this 6 years ago. But who knew. If your interested I will let you know what both the lawyer and an accounting tell us what to do now and down the road.
    For all caregivers find out your rights up front, because 6 years later is to late. God Bless everyone who is a caregiver people don’t realize what we give up to care for an elder parent.
    Thanks,

    Carol

  3. Becky says:

    How do you know how much is the right amount to pay a family member to care for an aging adult?

  4. Lin says:

    Carol, I apologize for the delay in responding to your comment. I’ve been sick myself lately and have a couple sick kids as well and I actually forgot to reply to your comment. I’m so sorry. Please DO come back and let us know what the attorney tells you. I would like to know myself and I’m sure any readers/visitors to this site would like to know as well.

  5. Lin says:

    Becky, that is a tough question and I’m not sure I can give you a definitive answer. I know in some states in the U.S. certified caregivers (non-related care givers) are paid in the range of $10.00 per hour to $14.00 per hour. Keep in mind that these non related caregivers are certified caregivers and have the education (licensing ??) necessary to provide such care.

    If you are considering drawing up a written/signed contract with the elderly parent, I would recommend talking with a local attorney in your state about what the specific laws are in your state to prevent any problems in the future. It’s always best to speak to an attorney who handles such things, so you’re not blindsided at some point down the road due to not knowing the legalities involved.

  6. taffy says:

    HELLO JANICE:I JUST GOT THRU READING WHAT YOU HAVE GONE THRU WITH YOUR MOM.I JUST WANT TO TELL YOU I AGREE 100% AND MORE ON WHAT YOU SAID.THERE NEEDS TO BE SOMETHING DONE ABOUT THIS!FOR THE”CAREGIVERS” WHICH JUST SO HAPPEN TO BE THE CHILD/CHILDREN OF DYING PARENT.I JUST LIKE YOU HAD MY OWN BUSINESS GOING ON AND A SINGLE PARENT TO BOOT!MY DAD STARTING GETTING SICK AND FOUND OUT HE HAD BLADDER CANCER. SO,I OF COURSE WOULD GO BY AND VISIT AND HE PROGRESSIVELY GOT WORSE. SO,I WOULD HELP HIM AND EVENTUALLY LOST MY JOB,INSURANCE,MY LIFE AS I ONCE KNEW IT. HE IS DECEASED NOW AND I AM THANKFUL THAT I STOOD BY HIM.IT WAS PURE HELL THO’ FIGHTING FOR HIS RIGHTS AS WELL AS MY OWN!!I AGREE IT IS INSANE! LET’S TAKE IT TO CONGRESS!ALL OF US IF WE LIVE LONGER ENOUGH ARE GOING TO GET OLD.WE LOVE OUR PARENTS BUT SHOUKLD NOT BE STRIP OF OUR DIGNITY AND LIVES BECAUSE OF THE WAY THE SYSTEM IS SET UP. IT IS TIME FOR A CHANGE!! BIG TIME!! I WILL NEVER RECOVER FROM THE HELL THAT I WENT THRU JUST FOR LOVING MY DADDY!NOW AT THE PRESENT MOMENT I AM TAKING CARE OF MY MOM! WE AS CAREGIVERS NEED TO JOIN HANDS AND TAKE A STAND!PLEASE REPLY AND LET ME KNOW WHAT YOU THINK! THANKS AND HAVE A BLESSED DAY!!

    • Lin says:

      Taffy, taking care of elderly parents is definitely a challenge, and the government system as it is doesn’t do much at all to help families help each other. With Social Security being in question and possibly/likely to disappear altogether at some point, it causes concerns for many families trying to figure out how to care for and provide for mom/dad in the elderly years and be able to keep their jobs and their own lives intact.

      I would like very much to see the government step in and make some serious improvements to their system. With increasing concerns over nursing home care and simply a family’s wish to not put their parent in a nursing home and provide the needed care as a family, caregivers need to have much better options where they can be paid to care for their elderly parent that won’t cause the caregiver to go bankrupt, lose their job, insurance, homes etc. I’m not so sure that I’m convinced that the government as a whole really cares about what is going on with the elderly, their families trying to provide care, and whether there is adequate pay or not.

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