Q. We would like to tip our mother’s home health aide on a regular basis. Is there an accepted formula for this? Or does everyone just do their own thing? Jane L., Roslyn, NY
A. Your desire to “tip” your parent’s caregiver as a way to show your appreciation for their loyalty and hard work is a thoughtful gesture. This is especially true if a home health aide pitched in with extra hours, or went beyond the call of duty during a difficult time. But, as your question suggests, there isn’t a “formula,” as there is in restaurants. So, it is indeed up to you, but here are some general guidelines to consider.
To begin, I would wait at least 60 days from the caregiver’s start date so your mother and you can get to know her well and make sure that she is a good fit for your mother’s needs.
If the home health aide was placed by an agency, check to see if they have any gift policies in place. Some specifically do not allow their caregivers to accept gifts from families. Other companies request that gift-giving be done through their offices to avoid any misunderstandings.
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It’s a good idea to decide as a family on the tipping policy so it’s clear when a gift is appropriate and how much is given. This will help prevent discord among family members who think the primary family caregiver is being too generous.
I recommend that your parent not be the one to give cash gifts directly to her aide. Instead, it would be better if you, the family caregiver, gives this gift on behalf of your parent. However, If your mother would like to give her a non-cash special birthday or holiday gift I think that is an appropriate gesture.
If, as you stated, you want to tip often, consider the many ways you can show your appreciation besides giving cash. Depending on your budget, gift cards for the local cinema, grocery or department stores always makes a hit. A more extravagant gift could be a night or two at a weekend destination. This provides the caregiver a much needed respite, particularly following a rough patch of health problems.
Finally, whatever you choose to give, it’s always nice to include a personally written note to offer praise and express your thanks. Just like our mothers instructed us in our younger days!
Nancy Stein, Ph.D., is the founder of SeniorityMatters.com, a local caregiver advisory and referral service for South Florida seniors and their families. You can contact her at nancy@ senioritymatters.com.