Getting paid to take care of your elderly parents: It’s a hot topic among caregivers, and the opinions behind the morality of it can be strong. Some people believe it’s unfair to charge rent since your parents took care of you as a child, some feel guilty asking even if a parent insists on paying, and others feel it’s perfectly acceptable to ask given the added expense of another household member—especially when home modifications, special foods, or round-the-clock care are required.
So, what should you do if you’re one of the 40 million Americans taking care of an elderly parent in your home? Everyone’s situation is different, so there is no one-size-fits-all answer. However, there are a few things to consider to help you make the right choice for you and your mom or dad.
Use a term other than “rent”
If you’ve spent even a few minutes in caregiver forums, you may have noticed using the term “rent” is what often spurs debate. Instead, consider calling it “shared expenses,” “living expenses,” or something similar to avoid negative connotations.
Talk to your parent
The best thing you can do is have an open, honest conversation with your parent to get their thoughts before they move in. Avoid coming off as confrontational by working together to create a realistic list of care expenses, then show them how that fits into your current budget. Doing this exercise as a team can help Mom or Dad understand the additional financial strain on your household—especially if you’re also caring for your own children. You can also compare these expenses to the costs of other options, such as nursing homes, which are often pricier.
If your parent struggles with dementia or another condition that makes it impossible for them to have this conversation, speak with an elder care attorney. They can help you understand the rights of each party and give advice on how to proceed.
Sit down with siblings
Are your brothers and sisters willing to chip in to cover care expenses for Mom or Dad? Since people can feel strongly one way or the other about charging rent, this may be the toughest conversation you’ll have. Use the expenses and budget you put together – including alternative options – so your siblings can see the math and how you’re providing the most affordable solution. This will also help them see you’re not out to make a profit – you just need help covering basic costs.
Get advice from an expert
Did you know that elderly parents living with children free of charge may not be eligible to receive full social security benefits or Medicaid? Government benefits such as these are determined by a lot of factors, including income and expenses, and have strict rules. An elder care attorney or Social Security representative can help you understand eligibility requirements and may even have recommendations on how much your parent should chip in each month.
Determine how much to charge
If you and your parent agree they should pay rent, talk about a fair price. You shouldn’t charge more than what it would cost for them to receive professional care. Home care and independent living costs are the least expensive options for seniors and can range from $2-3k on average. That number doubles with nursing homes.
On the flip side, if you overcharge, it can hurt your parent’s chances of qualifying for Medicaid.
When it comes to nailing down a number, there are a few different ways to find a baseline to work with:
- Divide total household expenses between you, your spouse, and your parent
- Consider reducing Mom or Dad’s share of the expenses if, for example, they don’t eat much or use very little water
- Find out how much paid caregivers in your area charge for the type of care your parent’s needs (e.g. Alzheimer’s care)
- Calculate your mom or dad’s current living expenses like apartment rent, groceries, and utilities
- Research how much a local room rental is going for, then factor in groceries, utilities, etc.
A Place for Mom offers a helpful calculator to help you compare home care costs to assisted living.
Once you agree on a price, establish a routine payment schedule and outline everything in a written document you both sign. Sure, it sounds really formal, but it can help protect both you and your parent in the long run.
Taking care of your parents as they age doesn’t have to be a huge financial burden. Many parents insist on paying their own way – especially when it means they get to live in a comfortable environment surrounded by their loved ones. Just remember to be fair, honest, and do your research.
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— Bay Alarm Medical (@BayAlarmMedical) June 28, 2016
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