After my father died, my sister and I were left holding the bag as to what to do with his belongings, as well as having the responsibility of tying up loose ends. In addition to the caregiving hours we racked up before Dad's death, little did we know that managing the myriad details and documents after his death would be no less time consuming. Long story short, the process of closing the book on Dad's life and paperwork took a little over three years.
Which leads me to ask out loud the unthinkable question, should we family caregivers get paid for our time and energy when it comes to caring for elderly parents?
A whopping sixty-five percent of older people with long-term care needs rely exclusively on family to be there for their every need. And yet, the unpaid work family caregivers unselfishly deliver tends to go unnoticed as a contribution to the family unit and society as a whole.
We're at a critical crossroad. When push comes to shove it's rare that any of us say "no" to our parents when they are I need. In fact, family caregivers tend to completely rearrange their lives and their livelihoods as a way to help keep their parents' quality of life afloat. And there are severe financial consequences to this decision that no one seems to want to talk about outside the safe haven of caregiver support groups.
Isn't it time we make it acceptable to ask for getting paid for family caregiver services in some way, shape or form? I'm not suggesting hard fast rules as to how to make this happen. I'm simply putting it out there that now is the time to stop beating around the bush, talk about possibilities as adults, and discuss the possibility of getting paid for family caregiving with parents and siblings.
The concept of getting paid for family caregiving is simple; the taboo on this idea is another matter. Many people believe in the notion that we should care for each other out of love and duty, and this family value is deeply rooted in our moral code. But do family caregivers have to go broke in the process?
Enough said. Here are a few ideas on getting paid. One family of four adult children has decided that one sibling at a time takes unpaid family leave, and the rest of the siblings pay an agreed amount of money per month to cover expenses and an agreed upon wage for caregiving. When family leave is over, another sibling steps in and the process is repeated.
Another family I know has agreed that the caregiver daughter is the recipient of her parents' home after they die. The siblings are grateful for the work she is doing day in and day out.
In both of these situations, the employment contract is spelled out in writing in a legalized document prepared by an attorney. No stone has been left unturned.
As far as I'm concerned, family members, partners, and friends deserve to be paid for helping loved ones. They work long and hard, and the value of their caregiving contributions is priceless.
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