Caregiver Conundrum

24 Apr

Dear LetterBalm: My mom, who is in her late 80s, had a stroke three years ago. The family pressured me to quit a good job to become her caregiver for $150 a week. I sold my apartment and moved into her house, where my sister already lived. I do everything – cook, clean, shop, run errands, make repairs and do some caregiving for my mom. My sister has a well-paying job (she pays me the money), so she pretty much comes home late and hangs out with her boyfriend and friends. She gets annoyed if I ask her to take over for a few hours so I can go out with friends or have time to myself. She doesn’t think I should have a vacation either. My two brothers don’t live here and don’t help out, and they fight with my sister because they think she’s wants the house after Mom dies. It’s a mess here, and all this is making me ill. What to do?

–Slave Laborer

Attack your problems in logical order. First, research home health care costs. Depending on the state where you reside and your mother’s needs, home health care can cost from $1,700 to $3,800 a month. You’re a bargain at $800, and you do a lot more. (Ms. L.B. doubts a caregiver will wash the windows and fix the sink.) Then, talk with an attorney about to do if the house is in your sister’s name – she is paying for upkeep so she has a strong position. But you need to know your mother’s position if the family hires a professional caregiver or if she goes into assisted living, which may entail selling her home. Call a family meeting, and, armed with your information, present the financial facts. Rehearse ahead of time, keep cool and don’t let your sister hijack the discussion:

Folks, thanks for getting together. We’re here to talk about what’s best for Mom. I’ve got some important information, so please let’s listen before we all jump in. First of all, here are the financial facts: A professional home care giver costs between $1,800 and $4,000 a month and won’t be here 24/7 and do all that I do for the $800 a month I’m getting. If Mom goes into a home, we probably will have to sell the house. So, as I see it, we have two choices: I can go back to work, and everybody pitches in financially for a professional caregiver during the day. Or, I stay on for considerably more money – everyone contributes – and time off during the week and an annual vacation. Mom needs regular care, so when I am off, you’ll either have to pick up the slack yourselves or pay someone to do it. I know Megan has assumed most of the responsibility for the house and my allowance, so we need to accommodate this fairly. I suggest we hire an attorney to help work out a signed agreement among the four of us. For Mom’s sake, and our peace of mind, please let’s stop this squabbling.

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