News / USA

Getting Paid to Look After Elderly Relatives

Lawyers draw up contracts that offer compensation for taking care for mom or dad

David Fowler and his wife, Gloria, receive $1,000 a month to care for his mother, Mary Ruth, 94, a retired teacher.
David Fowler and his wife, Gloria, receive $1,000 a month to care for his mother, Mary Ruth, 94, a retired teacher.
Ashley Milne-Tyte

Millions of Americans are looking after an older family member. A survey a few years ago put the value of family care-giving at $375 billion a year. And while care-giving has traditionally been something family members do for their elders, a growing minority of these caregivers is actually paid to do the job.

Since the economic downturn began, elder law attorneys across the country have been drawing up more contracts that deal with how to care for mom or dad, and get compensated for it.

Paying for family care

David Fowler and his wife, Gloria, take care of his 94-year-old mother Mary Ruth, a retired teacher. She was widowed in the 1960s and lived on her own until a few years ago. But when her eyesight started failing, they moved her from Indianapolis into their home in Ogallala, Nebraska.

Mary Ruth is blind now but she’s still pretty self-sufficient. She climbs the stairs and dresses herself, although David and Gloria lay out her clothes. She’s started showing signs of dementia, so they make sure she takes her medication as directed.

David says it’s a joy to care for his mom and he’d do it for free, but he doesn’t. Mary Ruth pays her son $1,000 a month as part of an agreement that was initially his brother’s idea.

"At first we were kind of uncomfortable with what he was talking about because…..I don’t want to make a profit off of my mother," says David. "That’s just not in our way of thinking."

But the money is welcome. David will soon turn 70. He and Gloria both work part-time. For years they owned a photo studio in town and put everything they made back into the business.

"Well, as it turned out digital really killed the small mom-and-pop portrait studio and our business was worth maybe half of what we had anticipated when we sold it," says David.

Everyone in the family is happy with the payment arrangement. Nothing was put in writing. But elder law attorneys say families should draw up a formal personal care contract.

Protective measure

Lawyer Howard Krooks says it’s a way to protect the older person. There may come a time when they have to go into a nursing home, have very little money left, and should qualify for Medicaid, the government’s medical assistance program for poor Americans. But there’s a catch.

"The monies you paid to the family caregiver absent an agreement in writing will be deemed to have been gifted by you to the family caregiver," says Krooks, "causing a period of delay wherein which you will not qualify for the Medicaid benefit."

In other words, Medicaid may not pay for care for months - or even years - because it considers dollars given to a family member to be money that could have been saved to pay for nursing care. But if both parties sign a contract before the family caregiver starts the job, Medicaid accepts that as an employment agreement.

Growing business

Krooks says his business in this area has doubled in the last several years. Other elder care lawyers say the same. Why are more families turning a personal relationship into a business arrangement? Krooks points to the recession. Some of his clients are adult children who were laid off and can’t find new jobs.

"They find themselves in a position of care-giving and there’s a way to really satisfy two needs: the need of the parent for the care - and the parent would have to spend a whole lot more money to hire a third party to provide similar level of services - and the need of the child to be able to earn one’s keep."

He expects the number of paid family members to keep rising even as the economy recovers, because the need for care-giving is growing as America’s population ages.

Of course, money is famous for causing family feuds. Krooks has seen arrangements fall apart because one relative hated the idea.

"They were frankly looking to have another family member provide the services in an unpaid manner," he says, "so that more money could be left in the estate and hopefully when the parent died, they would get more money."

That’s not a problem in the Fowler family. For one thing, there’s not much of an estate to leave. For another, everyone gets along -  even if David does tease his mother about the family hierarchy.

"You always loved me best," he tells her.

Mary Ruth answers with a laugh. "That’s what all three of you say. But there’s no good, better or best in this family. They’re all best. At least to me."

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video VOA EXCLUSIVE: US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian War Massacre Anniversary Resolution

update Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs countermeasure at UN More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prisoni
X
Heather Murdock
July 01, 2015 8:59 PM
As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs