Caregiver Cash and Expense Management

By Betsy Gold, Co-Founder, LeanOnWe

Don’t Forget These Minor Costs When Hiring a Caregiver

We are often so busy worrying about the cost of a caregiver’s salary that we often neglect to consider the other costs related to having someone in your home caring for a parent or elderly relative. The expenses are minor compared with the commitment you made to paying a qualified caregiver, but they need to be considered and accounted for when calculating the total financial commitment to in-home.

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Think about these expenses in advance when planning your home-care budget.

In briefing a caregiver about the needs of the elderly relative, it's common to cite food preferences and shopping needs. However, anticipating expenses related to your caregiver’s needs should also be part of your elder care plan.

In general, the family is expected to cover food for a caregiver who lives in the home, but not necessarily for a caregiver who commutes. A live-in caregiver is often cooking and preparing meals for his or her client and will eat the same meals as the client. The cost of their food is incorporated in the family’s weekly food budget. If, however, a caregiver has specific dietary restrictions or preferences, she may request a food allowance and then prepare her own meals separately. If providing a food allowance, a family can expect to offer $10-$12 a day.

If a caregiver who works for you is using his or her own car to drive your relative to doctor visits or on errands and outings, they must be reimbursed and the IRS mileage rate for business expenses is the standard for such reimbursement.

As of Jan. 1, 2023, the standard mileage rate for the use of a vehicle during work is 65.6 cents for every mile of business travel driven.

This rate changes annually, so be sure to check the IRS website at the beginning of each year. It's best to provide a ledger -- as simple as a small notebook -- so the caregiver can log mileage for reimbursement.

When a caregiver attends entertainment and outings with a client, the cost should be  covered by the family.  The costs for movie tickets, sporting events, museums, restaurants, and other activities they do together are part of the care provided and should be reimbursed by the family. You’ll want to establish a budget for discretionary cash, and the caregiver should track these expenses and keep receipts.

It is customary to offer a holiday bonus and even a thoughtful holiday gift for a caregiver you consider an important part of your family’s life. Birthdays, holidays, and sometimes ‘just because’ gifts are not only appreciated, but a lovely way of expressing your gratitude for the hard work your caregiver provides. If your caregiver works for an agency, it’s best to inquire about the company’s policies regarding gift giving. Some gift ideas may include a restaurant gift certificate, a massage, or a good book -- anything that lets the caregiver feel taken care of and appreciated.

Some states require that caregivers be given paid days off after a period of time working. In New York, for example, after one year of work, a caregiver is entitled to three paid days off. When you agree to hire a caregiver, write up a written notice of pay, such as this one required by New York. This can eliminate any confusion or ambiguity down the road.

The road to a conflict-free arrangement with your caregiver depends upon careful and articulated planning, along with a predetermined work agreement about reimbursable expenses. Responsible planning, and good communication, are the keys to a successful caregiver-family relationship.

About The Author

Betsy is a LeanOnWe co-founder and leads the Care Advisor Team that provides day-to-day support for their clients. Before LeanOnWe, Betsy was an award-winning journalist and business editor.