Getting Paid as a Family Caregiver

Becoming a family caregiver requires a tremendous amount of time, energy, and effort. For many, it becomes a fulltime job. Or, more to the point, providing ongoing care makes it impossible for you to maintain a fulltime job.

Depending on your circumstances, it might not be feasible for you to go months (or years) without the steady check that full time employment would bring. So asking for compensation isn’t selfish; it’s realistic. It means putting yourself in a position where you’re able to provide the care your heart is asking of you.

There’s a lot to know about receiving compensation as a family caregiver, though.

Whether you’re able to receive payment for your services depends on a few factors, including:

• Where you live

• Whether you have an agreement in place with your family

• Whether your loved one is covered under a government or private benefits program

Here is a general overview of the various paths toward compensation available to family caregivers in the United States.

Benefits Programs That Might Provide Compensation for Family Caregivers

The first step is to find out whether your loved one might be eligible for caregiver benefits under one or more government and/or private programs. These might include:

Long-Term Care Insurance

Families who haven’t talked about long-term care insurance should consider doing so soon. Some plans provide compensation for family caregivers. (Check your policy, as some exclude same-home residents.)

Medicaid

Each state’s Medicaid program allows qualifying individuals to hire a caregiver of his or her choice (pursuant to Medicaid guidelines). But state rules vary as to whether the caregiver can be a relative and/or resident in your home. Some states exclude spouses

but allow everyone else. Meanwhile, a handful of other states have set up a special program just for family caregivers called Structured Family Caregiving. Talk to your state’s Medicaid office — or an attorney — to find out which rules apply to your loved one.

Some private organizations offer limited support (financial and otherwise) for seniors, veterans, and/or people living with disabilities who need in-home assistance. In some cases, these organizations may be limited to those suffering from a particular disability or disease.

Find Out if Your Employer Offers Paid Family Leave (and Check the Law in Your State)

While FMLA does not provide a federal guarantee of paid time off for family care, some states have extended FMLA to provide that protection. Additionally, some employers offer limited periods of paid time off to care for close relatives.

Family Care Contracts: What You Need to Know

The easiest way to get paid for your services as a family caregiver is simply to make arrangements for your loved one to pay you. But be careful — an informal approach often leads to problems. There are tax consequences, for one thing. And other relatives may dispute the payment as the result of undue influence or duress, especially after death.

The best approach is to treat the relative-caregiver relationship like an employer-employee relationship. Even if the “employer” is your parent, they are paying you to provide a service, and you should have a written contract to reflect that.

Make sure this Personal Care Agreement (sometimes called a family care contract) spells out the duties you will perform and the compensation you’ll be paid.

This agreement will be important if your loved one applies for Medicaid later (because Medicaid will examine records from the previous five years) or if you run into disputes involving the IRS and/or the estate.

Some families arrange for alternative forms of compensation, such as a larger inheritance or a non-monetary gift. If you go that route, it is critical that you discuss the arrangement with an attorney beforehand because the implications in tax law and/or

estate law can be profound. Your lawyer can also help you anticipate allegations of undue influence or other claims that might arise during probate.

Your Options for Claiming Compensation After Your Parent Dies

Unfortunately, if you did not enter into a Personal Care Agreement with your loved one during his or her life, your options for making a claim from the estate after their death are limited. Talk to an attorney, however, about your specific situation before reaching any conclusions regarding your rights under state law.

Always Talk to an Attorney

If you want to apply or arrange to be paid for your services as a family caregiver, you’ll need to fully understand the applicable law and its implications. Personal Care Agreements often represent the best approach, but every situation is unique. An experienced attorney in your state can help you determine which approach is best for you.

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