If you have a patient and caring disposition, you may be able to earn $10 to $30 per hour providing care to older adults. Notably, too, the old folks you help don’t have to be strangers. There are some programs that allow children, grandchildren and friends to get paid for taking care of their loved ones.

Breaking it down

But to understand how much you might earn and who will pay you, it’s important to break caregiving into categories — commercial and personal.

On the commercial side, private parties and caregiving agencies pay you to provide care for strangers. These individuals pay either through their own income and savings or through a long-term care insurance. (Theoretically, an elderly relative could pay you the same way. But, personal payments to related parties are relatively rare and may be prohibited by the rules of a long-term care policy.) 

Generally speaking, when a friend or relative gets paid to care for a loved one, it’s because the elderly patient qualifies for a Veteran’s benefit or Medicaid,. Medicaid is a government program for the poor. It is separate and distinct from Medicare, the government insurance program for the elderly.

Medicare typically does not pay for help with activities of daily living, but some Medicaid programs do. If your friend or relative has limited income and assets, but needs daily help, check into his or her eligibility for Medicaid or veteran’s benefits.

Job requirements

What does caregiving involve? Naturally, the answer varies. Some older people simply need assistance going to the market, running errands and, perhaps, making meals. In other instances, they require help with “activities of daily living.”  

What are activities of daily living? Eating, dressing, bathing, using the restroom, and being able to walk or “transfer” from bed to chair. When a senior loses a certain number of these activities, it triggers coverage under long-term care policies.

Many agencies that hire professional caregivers for seniors who have lost one or several “ADLs” require experience and some may demand licenses and certifications. However, most online platforms that connect clients and caregivers only require that you’re legally able to work and can pass a background check.

Finding work

One of the best online platforms to find caregiving work is CareLinx. This site allows caregivers to sign up, paying just $20 for a background check. Caregivers set their own rate of pay and put up a profile that includes a description of their experience and qualifications. Clients review profiles of local caregivers and contact those they want to interview and hire. The site says the national average pay is about $15 per hour, but it’s more in major cities.

What makes CareLinx special? It charges no monthly fees to caregivers and it insists on treating you — the caregiver — as an employee of the client. That’s important because it means that taxes are withheld from your wages and you pay just the employee’s share (7.65%) of Social Security and Medicare levies. When you are self-employed, as you are with most of the other online caregiving platforms, you pay both the employer and employee share of this tax, which doubles the amount you owe.

Care.com, GoNannies and Eldercare.com also provide matchmaking services between caregivers and clients. But all three of these companies charge monthly fees that range from $11 to $13. To be sure, if you get a job this way, the monthly fee costs only about an hour’s worth of work. (Most caregivers on these sites charge between $10 and $30 per hour.) But there’s no guarantee that the platform will help you find a job. 

You can also advertise your availability as a caregiver on general employment sites like Fiverr and Task Rabbit.

With these sites, you describe and price your services. For instance, you could offer to ferry clients to and from the market; take clients on a daily walk; to the movies; or make their meals. You choose what service to provide and how much to charge. You can charge by the hour or by the activity.

These sites do not charge monthly fees. However, they will take a commission from your earnings. Fiverr charges 20%; Task Rabbit charges 30% and adds a 7.5% service fee onto the client’s bill.

Caring for relatives

If you are caring for an elderly relative, you may be able to get compensation through a government program. These programs typically pay friends and relatives between $10 and $20 per hour. (Spouses, however, are excluded from getting payment.) The biggest challenge with these programs is determining whether the senior qualifies for aid and which program would provide it. 

Why? There are more than 400 of these government aid programs operating nationwide. And, while most aid is triggered when the senior has very little income and assets, specific requirements vary. Each local program can impose it’s own set of qualifications. Fortunately, a website called Payingforseniorcare.com has a qualification quiz that you can take to determine whether the senior you’re caring for is likely to qualify for one or several of the available programs. 

If a senior qualifies, these programs can provide payments to caregivers for years. The caregiver may also apply for respite care, which will pay another caregiver to come in when the family caregiver needs a break.

When independence isn’t possible

If the senior can no longer live in his or her own home, adult childen may be able to become adult foster care providers, moving the senior into the child’s home. If the senior qualifies, this would trigger room and board payments to the child.  Qualification depends on the level of care the senior needs and the state in which he or she lives. Payingforseniorcare also has a directory of adult foster care services by state.