Depending on where you live, it can cost anywhere from $10.00 an hour to $25.00 an hour to pay someone to sit with an aging relative. It's expensive. In my opinion, paid help should be reserved for instances when you have no other choice. If you are the primary care coordinator for a family member, I recommend putting $5.00 in a jar every week as an emergency fund for just such occasions. If you have an abundance of siblings that all live too far away to help, consider hitting them up for the fund also. To ask for $5.00 every few weeks is not a lot to ask.
That said, here are five proven ways to get home care for almost free.
1. Offer food
The widow at church, your college-age son or niece, a neighbor, and almost anyone who is single is a good candidate. The trick is to make it a meal that prepared and only needs reheating. Prepared and delivered meal providers are out on the internet in abundance. Also try grocery stores, cooking schools, caterers and private chefs. If your prospective helper drives and the store or chef is between them and your aging relative, you might be able to get them to pick up a week’s worth of meals on their way. You can pay for the meals by credit card over the phone. When you consider the cost of a meal in comparison to a couple of hours of caregiving time, it's a bargain.
2. Laundry Privileges.
Laundry is a valuable incentive with college-aged helpers: a niece or grandson college student can kill multiple birds with one stop. They can study, get their laundry done, and eat a good meal. You might even get them to do a load of Grandma’s laundry too. Instead of those three hours costing you up to $75.00, it cost a meal, some detergent, and a little water.
3. Gift Cards.
When the family asks what Grandad wants for Christmas or his birthday, say $10.00 and $20.00 gift cards. Use these to pay people for chores around Grandad’s house. When people come to do chores, they also are making conversation and putting a fresh set of eyes on your loved one. I can’t tell you how many times I learned about my dad’s gout flair-up or some other nagging health situation from the kid who dropped off groceries or the boy who took the trash cans back and forth from the road. The helper would leave me a note in the Comments and Concerns section of my Dad’s binder – just to let me know they had been there. While they were at it, they would also note the complaint or that they saw dad limping. Invaluable information.
4. Car Borrowing Privileges.
When dad can’t drive anymore, you can sell the car. Or, you can use it as a loner in exchange for an evening or an hour of sitting with dad. I did this with my Dad’s truck and my mom’s car. There’s always a neighbor or niece or nephew who is moving or who’s car breaks down. If you are open to the possibility, announce the availability at church or on your Facebook page. Loaning someone the car for the week in exchange for an afternoon or evening out for you is a great trade.
5. Lawnmower privileges.
Get an arrangement going with the kid down the street. He can use Dad’s riding mower all day Saturday mowing neighborhood lawns to make money as long as he mows Dad’s yard for free. Better yet, make him drag a chair around for your dad too. They’ll become good partners. Dad will make sure he does a good job. And someone is around all afternoon with Dad so you can be someplace else.
Dad spent 40 years accumulating all that woodworking equipment. Or, Mom spent 20 years accumulating all that crafting junk. Instead of having a sale, let neighbors and friends borrow the space or equipment in exchange for a little time with mom or dad. I had a client with so much crafting stuff, her daughter and primary care coordinator invited the church ladies over every week for a craft night. They could use any of mom’s stuff, no charge. It was great entertainment for her mom, and it gave her daughter an evening off.