My in-laws recently passed away within weeks of each other. They were over 90, had lived full lives, and were both amazing people, but in their last years, they had become frail and were at a point where living on their own unassisted was out of the question.
They weren't ready for a rest home, so the family decided the best course for them would be a live-in carer. After several (zillion) interviews and a lot of consulting, we finally chose someone we thought would suit them.
As it turned out, she was an amazing choice as a home health care aide. Sarah had boundless energy, a positive attitude, and an ability to dole out tough love when necessary. She quite literally made my in-laws last month's dignified and comfortable.
Despite having become almost like part of the family, the part that takes care of the seriously hard stuff whilst we flitted in and out, it never dawned on my in-laws to leave a little something to Sara to say “thank you” after they were gone. Until, that is, my ever-gracious sister-in-law mentioned it tactfully to her mother one day.
It was as if a light went on in her head and within the day, she had contacted the family lawyer to make an amendment to her will and leave a stipend to Sara. When my mother-in-law passed, Sara was more than touched by the gesture. The small gift left her with a feeling that she not only did her job but that she did a good job and was appreciated. At the same time, it made my mother-in-law feel good to know she had done something to show her gratitude. Win-win!
Protect Yourself and the Caregiver
In this case, the family suggested something is left to the home care worker, but this is not always the case. If it is something you would like to do, make sure to run it by your family first, not to ask permission, it's your money, but to alert them so they know it was not done unscrupulously.
Once you have told everyone your intentions, keep in mind that many states have built-in protection laws to prevent any monkey business from occurring. For example, there may be a $20,000 limit on what a caregiver is allowed to receive before it is flagged and challenged under state law.
If the gift is above the allocated state amount and family members are already in the know, they can allow the will to go forward as written. No messy legal action needs to take place and everyone walks away happy.
In the end, it just takes a little planning and foresight to keep warm memories alive between your family and caregiver after you have gone.