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Senior caregivers: How much should you charge for your services?

Feb. 19, 2019

You’re almost ready to work with a new client. You’ve done the interview, visited the home and discussed the responsibilities you’ll take on. There’s just one thing: The client wants to know how much you’ll charge for your in-home senior caregiver services.  

Figuring out what you should be paid for your services isn’t an exact science. There are a lot of factors that can make your rate go up or down, including where you live, your credentials and how much you’re being asked to take on. You also don’t want to forget about extra tasks — like traveling or caring for pets — that might increase the workload and, therefore, warrant additional compensation. You want to be respectful of your client’s budget, but you also want to earn a fair rate for the care you’ll provide them. Before you decide what to charge per hour, here are some things to think about.

What to consider when determining your pay

When you’re deciding how much you should charge for your in-home senior care services, start by taking a closer look at what other caregivers charge, how much experience or training you have and the level of care you’ll be providing.

1. Average rates for in-home senior caregivers in your area

According to the 2018 Genworth Cost of Care Survey, home health aides in the U.S. charge a median of $22 per hour, but there’s a lot of variation from one place to the next. For example, home health aides charged a median of $27 per hour in Alaska in 2018 but only $17 in Alabama.

And that makes sense. What people need to rent an apartment or buy a gallon of milk isn’t the same everywhere, and some places have more qualified caregivers competing for jobs — both of which can cause pay rates to fluctuate.

Checking out what other caregivers are charging in your area can put you in the ballpark of what you should be charging, too. From there, you can adjust the rate up or down, depending on your own experience and the work involved.
 

Median pay rates for full-time home health aides (44 hours/week)
 

Location

Hourly

Daily

Monthly

Annually

National Average

$22

$138

$4,195

$50,336

San Francisco, California

$29.50

$185

$5,625

$67,496

Denver, Colorado

$27.50

$172

$5,243

$62,920

Detroit, Michigan

$23.75

$149

$4,528

$54,340

Savannah, Georgia

$22

$138

$4,195

$50,336

Alexandria, Louisiana

$16

$100

$3,051

$36,608

Source: Genworth Cost of Care Survey 2018
 

2. Your skills and experience

Similar to other positions, caregivers with more education and years in the industry tend to charge more for their services than their less-experienced counterparts, says Sam Cross, a home care expert and founder of Broad Street Home Care in Wilmette, Illinois.

Because some seniors require more advanced care, having certain certifications or licenses can put you in high demand, he says, especially when people are expecting to need more assistance as they get older. Qualifications that might warrant higher pay, according to Cross, can include:

  • Registered nurses

  • Certified nursing assistants (CNAs)

  • Certified Patient Care Tech (PCTs)

3. Level and type of care you’ll be providing

In-home caregivers provide a wide range of services, from simple companionship to fairly involved medical care. Generally speaking, the more you’re asked to do and the more complex the tasks, the more you can expect to earn.

“The patient’s medical history and medical needs play a large role in what rate to charge,” says Nicholas Rorabaugh, of Care to Continue in Athens, Georgia.

Individuals with dementia or a history of stroke or those needing specialized medical equipment, for example, tend to require a more complex level of care and that translates to higher rates for the caregiver responsible, he says.

Cross agrees, adding that in addition to assessing current needs, caregivers should also discuss how pay rates will adjust as those needs change over time.  

Another thing to consider is whether you’ll be caring for a couple, rather than one individual. If so, Cross recommends increasing your hourly rate by around $2 to $4, depending on the level of care needed.

4. Other benefits or compensation you might receive

What you charge on an hourly basis might not be the only way you’re compensated for your caregiver services. Some families might also provide perks in addition to your standard pay rate. Some examples, according to Cross, include:

  • Paid time off

  • Periodic bonuses, such as at the end of each calendar year

  • Overtime pay

  • Contributions toward health insurance premiums

What to charge for additional services

While every family and situation is slightly different, the rate charged by in-home caregivers generally includes all the basic tasks needed to help an individual live in their home, including prepping meals, managing medications, providing assistance while bathing, running errands, and doing light housekeeping, Rorabaugh says.

If you’re asked to take on additional responsibilities above and beyond what’s needed to care for the individual (or, in some cases, the couple), those tasks might warrant asking for little extra pay.

Some examples of additional services include:

  • Caring for pets

  • Traveling with the individual on trips or accompanying them to special events

  • Mileage reimbursement if using your own car to transport the individual around

What you should ask for these responsibilities might differ based on the added workload, norm or inconvenience, Cross says. For example, while holiday pay is typically around 1.5 to 2 times the usual hourly rate (the same rate as many other industries), how much extra caregivers charge for pet care will vary from one case to the next.

“Is it a cuddly cocker spaniel where they are making sure it has food and water, or are they taking a Rottweiler out four times a day and cleaning up after they go the bathroom?” Cross says.

The former might not warrant any additional pay at all, while the latter might increase your hourly rate by $1 or $2.

When to ask for a raise

One of the biggest mistakes in-home caretakers make when setting their rates is not discussing raises ahead of time, Cross says.  

Some seniors might not realize that caregivers should receive raises, just like employees in other sectors do, he says. But those periodic increases in pay are important in order for caregivers to keep up with rising rent prices and other costs of living.

Cross recommends caregivers and seniors include a schedule for raises in the original work agreement, including pinning down a minimum rate increase, such as $1 to $2 a year. Establishing a range (rather than a fixed amount) for the raise gives the senior leeway to increase the raise based on performance, he says.  

There’s no perfect formula to hone in on a fair pay rate for your in-home senior caregiver services, but thinking through some of these variables can help get you closer to a pay rate that’s fair for everyone involved.

Read next: How to ace a senior care job interview

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