Caring for Elderly Parents - What's Right?


My brother and sisters and I have been taking turns taking care of our elderly home-bound dad who is still grief-stricken from losing our mom over a year ago. He used to have faith, but has all but lost it. My husband and I have tried to take him to Mass and have a priest visit weekly with communion, but that still doesn’t help. We all take turns visiting dad and bring meals or make meals there and spend quality time with him. Some of us sacrifice our weekends and our days off or our nights after work. He doesn’t want to move and is a difficult person to get along with. He also says he doesn’t need home health care. I think he needs assisted living facility, but he says no.

My sister quit her job 2 months ago and said she was going to spend that time with dad. So she started taking care of him “giving him quality care and companionship and good food” that she said he had been missing for 2 years. She boasted at how much fun it was to be with him and how the days were so good with him and he was doing much better. My husband and I didn’t see the change in him at all. We all still go to our assigned days and were very thankful she had volunteered to be with him 4 hours a day for 4 days during the week. After 2 months, we found out she’s been paying herself an hourly rate for spending that time with him out of the checking account at a home health aid’s rate. We all have power of attorney. I wasn’t consulted, but the other sibs said they thought it was a great idea – that it was a win-win situation.

How do you put a price tag on taking care of your own dad? Where do you draw the line? We still go and visit and spend quality time with him on our assigned days, with meals and groceries and other tasks that he needs done (doctor appointments, cleaning, etc.) And what about the days she can’t go because she’s busy with other stuff and one of us always goes in her place like we always would, who gets paid? How did money come into this? Doesn’t this put a bizarre twist on caring for your elderly parent? We wouldn’t think of accepting payment for visiting our dad, and that’s exactly what she’s doing. She’s visiting him and making him dinner just like we all do.

I have been praying for guidance on this. How do I just look at this as a gift and move on and not think about the salary, because I would never think of being paid? I’m concerned for her because she truly believes she’s the best daughter and caregiver because it comes from the heart – she’s not a practicing Catholic or practicing anything. How can it come from the heart when it’s attached to a paycheck? I need guidance. I want to do what’s right and be grateful for this. :shrug:


If she is going to get paid, it should have been a joint decision. If she is putting in much more time than the rest of you and you all agree to the schedule, then I can see her receiving some compensation. Exactly how much would again need to be decide among all of you. And if she can’t make a paid slot, than she doesn’t get paid – same as a real home health nurse.

Contact your county or diocese and see if anyone can recommend an “elder-care planner”. Basically a person who helps families assess what an older relative needs in terms of care and helps you navigate the process to get that. When my mom fell last summer we had someone moderate one family meeting. It was very helpful to have an objective viewpoint about what was reasonable to expect and what wasn’t.

If your dad is mobile enough, you might want to look into senior centers and “elder day-care” programs. He may enjoy having lunch and participating in their activies a day or two a week. That would give all of you a break and allow your sister to possibly start part-time work again so she doesn’t feel the need to get paid for caring for dad.


Did your sister quit her job with the express intent to take care of your dad and paying herself from the checking account without consulting you? Or were other sibs consulted and they said it was fine? Everyone having a power of attorney complicates family matters. Like saying if everyone is responsible, then no one is.
I see your point though. I would never compensate myself for taking care of my mother, because I did not compensate her when she raised me. It came from the heart and goes back to it.


Very short notes
1) Personally I would not begrudge her the money since she DID quit her job and home health aids don't make that much anyway...
2) It does sound like she went about it the wrong way just taking it upon herself to pay herself.
3) Is your Sister making more money now than when she was working? (probably not)
4) I wonder what her overall family financial circumstance is? (needy not greedy?)

I understand your feelings about how you all share in the burden of caring for your dad - spending time and cooking so forth, but it does sound as though she is spending a bit more time on a regular (daily) basis and if you were to move your dad to an ALF, there would be costs - higher costs.

Like I said, it sounds like she didn't really go about this in the best of ways, but it also doesn't sound like she is really being greedy either...Of course there is a lot we don't know...



[quote="Josiegirl68, post:1, topic:245637"]
I have been praying for guidance on this. How do I just look at this as a gift and move on and not think about the salary, because I would never think of being paid? I'm concerned for her because she truly believes she's the best daughter and caregiver because it comes from the heart -- she's not a practicing Catholic or practicing anything. How can it come from the heart when it's attached to a paycheck? I need guidance. I want to do what's right and be grateful for this. :shrug:


Contact your financial planner and/or estate attorney to make sure your sister is complying with terms of your father's estate. If she is not, you may have legal legs to stand on with regards to financial elder abuse. If she is legally allowed to draw a salary for caring for your dad, and she is paying herself within legal limits (i.e., not paying herself an exorbitant monthly salary or paying herself for hours not worked or services not peformed), I don't know what you can do.

An example: a friend of mine quit his job to care for his grandmother, who was suffering from dementia. She had no money to speak of, but the county they lived in paid him minimum wage to be her caregiver plus sent a home health aid to their house for ten hours a week so he could get some respite. He did this for a couple of years before she died. So, in some places at least, there is some expectation that relative-care givers are paid for their service.

I suppose in an ideal world people could/would quit their jobs and care for sick/elderly relatives without monetary compensation; however, in this life there are bills to be paid and food to be bought and futures to be considered and rooves to be kept overhead. And as long as she wasn't draining the estate dry with her salary, I would be thankful to have a blood relative willing to extensively care for dad.


I am not exactly sure of the legalities, but I find it odd that one person can write a cheque to herself without your knowledge when you both have power of attorney. Would that not require 2 signatures?

Nonetheless..... yes she went about it the wrong way. However, just because you personally would never accept money for caring for your dad.... it does not change the fact that your sister sees it differently and has a right to her opinion. On the one hand, I can see your sister's point. I would not spend too much time doing for others who can not reciprocate unless a pay cheque was involved. On the other hand, I don't see her point. No one could ever pay me enough to take of an elderly relative.

The only thing your sister did wrong was make a decision without consulting you. However, if she manages to actually take the money without your knowledge.... It seems she hasn't done anything illegal

Sibling disputes are hard



i cant see an answer to this anywhere in your post: does dad agree to sis getting paid?

however that gets answered, it seems to me the foundational question is this: is it wrong to be paid for taking care of an elderly/ needy relative?

i think the foundational answer is "no."

is it wrong if the individual would ONLY help provide care unless they were paid? sure. it would seem to be a sin of omission-- refusal to offer a corporal work of mercy.

but, it should be impossible to make that guess (judgment) about your sister. there are, though, ways to know how much care should be paid for/ how much charitably given.

add the a combination of medicaid benefits that would pay for home care PLUS the amount of time your siblings agree should be paid for out of dad's account. on a weekly basis, who's willing to cover those paid hours? who's willing to cover unpaid hours?

finally, though, if dad has a sizeable account, all siblings should be careful to
1. not compete to shine as "the good child."
2. ignore the seeming efforts of any siblings who appear to be competing for "the good child" status.

3. do everything as if your dad was a gentle, beloved, though destitute man. i.e., as if he were Christ Himself.


You need to check with an attorney about the scope and limitations of the powers of attorney both you and your sister have.

In most states your sister's actions would be highly suspicious if not outright illegal. As your father's agent your sister has a duty to act in his best interest alone. Hiring herself if she has no special skills, for less than full time and not getting the consent of the rest of the family (or most importantly your father) raises a lot of red flags. You need to discuss this with an attorney.

You should be aware that if your sister's actions are illegal in your state it is called conversion (or theft) and in main states there are mandatory double damages for abuse of a fiduciary position. Furthermore as her sister (because you are family) you might be liable for anymore she takes after you were made aware she was paying herself a salary.

Your sister could be affecting your father's ability to get on Medicaid and have other state help he may need in the future. Most states would consider such money paid out to be a gift and will penalize him for it. Again talk to your attorney.

Whether you "think" or your sister "thinks" she deserves to be paid really doesn't matter. Talk to a lawyer and find out what the laws of your state say about the situation.


What does your dad think about the arrangement and how does he want to see things go, long-term, in his home…


So, it sounds like the other siblings were consulted.

If it's legal, I don't see a problem with it. Just like I don't have a problem with workers at a not-for-profit making a salary. Should they get paid to help poor people? Or, for that matter, priests. Priests have to care for us as their children, yet the Church still pays them.

If she quit her job to take care of your dad, she may still have to pay bills and take care of herself. While we'd all love to take care of people for free, that's not always possible. Further, if she's making money at a home health aid's rate, she's probably not making very much.


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