Ask Miriam – March 2022

Published On: March 4th, 2022Categories: Ask Miriam
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Dear Miriam,

I am one of three siblings, and Mom has been living in my home since dad died of Alzheimer’s a few years ago. She has not been diagnosed, but I am sure she also has some kind of dementia. I’m afraid to leave her alone anymore since she has a habit of leaving the stove on, but both my husband and I still work full-time. I remember how it was with my dad, so I know she will need more care as the dementia gets worse. I’m not sure what to do. I could take early retirement to stay home with her, but our income would take a big hit. Since Mom moved in, I’ve never asked her to pay for anything other than her personal expenses, although I know she does have savings as well as her pension. If I stop working at my job, can I instead have her pay me to take care of her? I don’t know how else we could afford it.

—Money Questioner

Dear Money Questioner,

I’m so glad that you wrote. Who takes care of a person in the family with dementia and how does the caregiver manage the costs are good questions. Caregiving is a time-consuming responsibility— very much like a job. And the answer can look different for different family situations.

In your own situation, there is someone – you – who is willing to be a caregiver, but you need financial support in order to do so. The first option would be to speak with your siblings and suggest that you be paid a salary to care for your mother using her funds. If the family agrees, you can then consult with an elder law attorney who can assist with drawing up a contract stating what your duties are and how much you will receive.

In some situations, there may be conflict when family members do not agree. Perhaps they are worried about the person with dementia running out of money, or they are hoping there will be enough left for an inheritance. You (or a family mediator) can point out the benefits of paying you to provide care, such as avoiding the cost of placement in a nursing home or of having to hire someone more expensive. The final decision will rest with the person who is legally in charge of your mother’s finances.

Another way that a family member can be paid to provide caregiving in the state of California is through a program called In-Home Supportive Services. Generally, to qualify for this program, the person receiving care must be eligible for Medi-Cal which is a state insurance program for those who are low-income and do not have savings.

Dealing with money issues with family members can be challenging. While you are going through this process, if you are met with resistance, try not to take your siblings’ reactions personally. You will need extra support for yourself, so talking to a good friend or a family member who is not affected by the situation can help. I also encourage you to join a support group where you will find other caregivers experiencing similar challenges.

For more information and support regarding how to manage challenging family relationships and caregiving, please call our Helpline at 844-435-7259 or visit our Legal & Finacial Planning page.

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