Should You Pay a Relative to Take Care of Mom in South Florida?

As Geriatric Care Managers, we work with seniors and families to determine the best living situation for a senior needing long-term care. If home care is an option, at times it can be set up that a family member is not only the in-home caregiver, but also receives compensation to do so. To avoid family conflict, it is important to disclose this type of arrangement to other family members. For help with senior care in South Florida, visit Advocare.

Should You Pay a Relative to Take Care of Mom?

Growing numbers of families are compensating relatives who serve as caregivers to elders. But to avoid exacerbating tensions, it is important to disclose such arrangements to the entire family.

According to a report by the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP, 43.5 million Americans looked after a friend or relative age 50 or older in 2009, 28% more than in 2004. In a survey conducted for Home Instead Senior Care, a home-care franchiser, nearly 7% of respondents said they receive compensation for providing care to a relative.

Jeffrey Bloom, an elder-law attorney in Boston, says the number of such cases in his practice has quadrupled since before the recession. “I have several clients with adult children who are out of work,” he says. “Rather than pay someone else for care, many hire the child.”

Feeding the trend: the high unemployment rate, the rising cost of nursing-home care, an aging population and a 2006 change in Medicaid law that makes it harder for people who wish to qualify to give away assets. (Individuals are subject to strict limits, which vary by state, on the value of their assets in order to qualify for Medicaid benefits.)

When caregivers make financial sacrifices, elder-law attorneys say, it is often appropriate to compensate them. Some 37% of caregivers surveyed by the NAC in 2007 said they had quit a job or reduced their hours to accommodate their responsibilities.

There are several ways to compensate a family caregiver. Attorneys say many families pay an hourly wage. As an estate-planning tactic, others opt for annual gifts or a lump-sum payment designed to cover services over an extended period. Some arrange for the caregiver to receive a larger inheritance.

Which option makes the most sense will depend on factors such as the caregiver’s desire for income now versus later and the care recipient’s estate-planning goals. Families also must consider tax consequences. And if a parent may need to rely on Medicaid to cover future nursing-home costs, it is important to pay the caregiver in a way that is permitted under Medicaid law.

Regardless of the method selected, elder-law attorneys urge clients to disclose these arrangements to the whole family. When revealed after the fact, compensation agreements can create suspicions that result in family conflicts or even estate litigation, says Howard Krooks, an elder-law attorney who practices in Boca Raton, Fla., and Rye Brook, N.Y. (To find an elder-law attorney familiar with your state’s rules, go to www.elderlawanswers.com or www.naela.org.)

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