Should You Pay Family Members to Do Elder Care?

By Alex Jensen

Times are rough and money is tight. When it comes to elder care, this can put a huge financial and emotional stress on families. Many families are trying to come up with unique ways to handle the problem.

As we age, our parents age as well. This rather obvious statement leads, however, to a difficult moment. In this moment, we come to realize that we need to deal with their health care needs in some way.

In best case scenarios, our parents are often able to take care of themselves throughout life. In worst case scenarios, the become incapacitated or suffer from one of the many forms of dementia such as Alzheimer's Disease.

When the health of a parent deteriorates, we are forced to deal with it one way or another. There are the emotional issues involved, but the practical cost of care can be just as devastating.

Faced with an elder care situation, what should you do? The obvious answer is to get professional help. This can be hiring a nurse to come in every so often or going with one of the many assisted living facilities.

The problem with either of these approaches, of course, is the cost. Are you prepared to pay $4,000 or more a month? Can you afford to? For many people, the answer is simply that they do not have such money. This is particularly true given the financial state of the nation.

A unique option many family members are looking to has to do with bringing care in house. Instead of hiring professionals, the family designates one person to be in charge fo the care of the parents. They then pay that person for their time.

The advantage of this approach is primarily that it is a cheap solution. In these times, that cannot be an understated benefit. This advantage, however, is also burdened by many negatives.

Caring for a parent who is fading away is brutal from an emotional perspective. It can raise issues from childhood that most do not want to deal with. Even tougher, it can be very difficult to sit and watch someone close to you slowly fall apart. In the cases of dementia, many medical studies suggest the family members actually suffer more than the patient.

So, is designating and paying someone in the family to handle elder care a good idea? Not really. In a perfect world, such care should be left to professionals who know how to deal with the situation and do not have the deep personal attachment to the parent.

Obviously, we do not live in a perfect world. For many, this form of amateur elder care is the only real option. If you find yourself in this situation, just make sure the person in charge of the care gets a ton of support and plenty of time off.

Alex Jensen is with - a free Orange County assisted living placement service for seniors with and without dementia.

4 Responses

  1. "So, is designating and paying someone in the family to handle elder care a good idea? Not really." I could not disagree more. In all my experience, the people receiving the best care are by and large getting care from loving family members. It's not easy, but the problems with hired help in this field is that you 1) don't always know the character or morality of the person you're hiring, 2) if you hire an agency to coordinate it, your loved one can get a different person each day, 3) pay for hired help is often very low resulting in rapid turnover rate and inconsistent workers that may show up one day, not show up the next.
  2. Family members should play a pivotal role in their elder's care, but what type and how much depends on individual circumstances. Out-of-hand delegation to others is as unwise as automatically assuming that a family member has the skills to handle Alzheimer's or disability care. The one professional you should consider from the start is an objective and experienced advisor. Even if you do this after researching all the options yourself, it helps in planning and effecting a successful care regimen to have it reviewed by someone who can save you from mistakes and unnecessary costs.
  3. I thought this was a very good statement of the problem, and a strong conclusion with nothing to back it up. Elder Guru states the negatives for "professional care" (hired help.) ElderCareKeith adds professional guidance to family care. How about a family member getting some training and back up, along with an experienced advisor? After all, if outside help is not affordable, then improving and de-risking family help is a better answer than, "Not really."
  4. Just be careful which family member you "hire", and HAVE A CONTRACT with EVERYTHING spelled out!!!! We didn't, and what a huge mistake. Our family member spent Dad's money like crazy, and did not do things with him that we expected him to do. Emotions get involved, so expect big fights. Better to keep it as a business relationship.