Caregiver Compensation: An FAQ Guide

Christie was overwhelmed. Ever since her aging mother’s stroke six months ago, she had been her primary caregiver. Every day before work Christie would drive to her mother’s house to help her get out of bed and make her breakfast. On her lunch hour, Christie would dart across town to bring her mother lunch, eat with her, and help her around the house. And of course, on her way home each day Christie always stopped by to help her mother with dinner and get her ready for bed.

caregiver compensationChristie was overwhelmed. Ever since her aging mother’s stroke six months ago, she had been her primary caregiver. Every day before work Christie would drive to her mother’s house to help her get out of bed and make her breakfast. On her lunch hour, Christie would dart across town to bring her mother lunch, eat with her, and help her around the house. And of course, on her way home each day Christie always stopped by to help her mother with dinner and get her ready for bed.

It felt to Christie as though she had two full-time jobs, and with a family of her own, she just couldn’t juggle both for much longer. She knew her mother wanted to continue living at home, but she also knew her mother needed more care than she was able to provide in her current situation. Neither of them wanted to consider nursing homes, and Christie didn’t know the first thing about hiring a caregiver. Would it be expensive? Should she quit her job and get paid to be her mother’s caregiver? Would Medicaid cover home care costs? She had so many questions and didn’t know where to go to get answers.
If you’re looking after an aging loved one and are considering hiring a caregiver or becoming your loved one’s full-time caregiver, you also likely have a lot of questions about caregiver compensation. Let’s take a look at some of the most frequently asked questions about caregivers so that you ensure your aging loved one receives the care they need.

What is the average rate for caregiver compensation?

This will largely depend on which state your loved one lives in and whether they live in a major metro area. Often the cost of companion caregiving, which involves providing aid with daily tasks such cooking, laundry, and basic personal care, is higher in cities due to the increased cost of living. Generally, live-out caregivers are paid anywhere between $10.50 and $18 an hour while full-time live-in caregivers are typically paid a minimum of about $24,000 a year. Of course, these rates will vary depending on skill level, experience, and expected tasks. Certified nursing assistants, for instance, will be paid on the higher end of the spectrum.

Can you get paid for taking care of an elderly relative?

The short answer is yes, it is possible to be paid for taking care of your aging loved one. Unfortunately, however, there are limited ways that a family member can get paid to be a caregiver:

  • Veterans Affairs: VA offers two programs, Aid & Attendance and Housebound, that pay pension-eligible vets an additional monthly sum specifically to pay for caregiver services.
  • State-Run Programs: Each state has its own initiatives that aim to keep aging adults in their homes by employing family members as caregivers. These programs are typically funded by Medicaid. Here in California, residents may apply for In-Home Support Services (IHSS), which allows your loved one to direct their own care, including hiring their preferred support workers.

Be sure to do your research and take advantage of the funds that may be available to you as a family caregiver.

Are there any tax deductions for family caregivers?

Yes, there are live-in caregiver tax deductions that you may qualify for as a family caregiver. If your aging loved one qualifies as your dependent, for example, your taxable income can be reduced by $4,050, which can make a significant difference on your return.
In order for your loved one to qualify as a dependent, you and other family members must pay more than 50% of their living expenses, their income must not exceed the annual limit, and they must not file a joint return. If your loved one is someone other than your parent, they must also have lived with you for at least six months. Be sure to check the IRS guidelines to see if you qualify for the live-in caregiver tax deduction program.
If your loved one isn’t considered a dependent by the IRS, there may still be tax deductible expenses for caregivers of older adults that you can take advantage of. The Dependent Care credit might be applicable if your loved one lives with you and you have to hire care for them so that you can work. Also, be sure to look into deductible medical expenses, auto expenses, and home repairs, as these can be beneficial to include on your tax return.

Does Medicaid cover home care?

Medicaid does cover home care services if your aging loved one is also receiving skilled care, such as occupational therapy or nursing care. If they aren’t, however, there are other state-run programs and non-profits that may help cover the cost of care. In the San Francisco area, for instance, Institute on Aging helps provide home care and programs for aging adults so that they can remain living independently in the community. Most long-term care insurance policies and programs like In-Home Support Services (IHSS) will cover the cost of these programs.

Can I get respite care if I need a break from caring for my aging loved one?

There are many ways to get the support you need to prevent caregiver burnout. Signing your loved one up for an adult day program can be a great option, and there may be financial assistance available to help with the cost of these programs. There are also in-home care agencies that can provide temporary relief. If money is an issue, consider asking other family members to help out. Remember, your well-being is important too!
Eventually, Christie found a program that provided home care and support services that her mother qualified for, which was a huge relief for her. She still visited her mother daily, but now she could actually enjoy the time she spent with her mother rather than being distracted by all the tasks she had to accomplish. Getting professional home care also benefited Christie’s mother. Not only was she getting the best care, she no longer felt that her needs were causing stress for her daughter. The best part was that Christie’s mother was able to remain living at home and retain much of her independence while getting top-notch care. It was, as it turned out, the best decision for both of them.
Institute on Aging provides programs and services for aging adults and adults with disabilities living in the San Francisco Bay Area. To learn more about how we can help your loved one live independently and age gracefully, contact us today.

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