Should You Tip a Caregiver After a Death?


Certified Care Manager, Aging Life Care Professional, and National Master Guardian Emeritus

A caregiver bonus after the death of a loved one is a very individual and personal decision. The fact is, caregivers don’t make much for the caring and compassionate work they provide. The average hourly rate for caregivers across the country is generally between $10 and $13 an hour. Many of these caregivers are not eligible for health insurance or other financial benefits and have difficulty supporting their families. 

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The problem posed by low wages in such a vital industry is the loss of direct care staff to other employment sectors that pay better. These issues are not your problem, but understanding the reality of the caregiving industry will help you make an informed decision. You might have paid $25 to over $40 an hour for the caregiver that worked for your loved one, but much of that money goes to the company for overhead.

The loss of a client can be like losing a family member for some caregivers. They, too, have caregiver grief, and no amount of compensation will change that. However, many families deeply appreciate how a caregiver has relieved their own caregiving burden and contributed in immeasurable ways—one way to show that appreciation is with a caregiver bonus.

Do Caregivers Usually Get a Bonus or Compensation After a Death?

If you have hired a caregiver privately without the involvement of an agency, you’re free to give the caregiver a bonus or compensation since agency rules don’t bind you. It is impossible to know how many caregivers receive a bonus after the death of a loved one since there is no way to track how many caregivers get a bonus. 

However, some agencies will require that any bonus goes through the agency and that amount is then given to the caregiver through regular payroll. Most caregiving agencies prohibit compensation outside regular payroll, as this could be viewed as coercion or exploitation of a vulnerable adult.

This policy is to protect the agency and the caregiver. Restrictions on bonuses during the time of service mean that after your loved one is gone is the perfect time to show your appreciation. 

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How Much Should You Give to a Caregiver?

How much you should give to a caregiver depends on several factors. Use caution when determining an amount if the bonus comes from the estate of your deceased loved one. Not consulting other family members in advance of the decision might be upsetting. And not every family member may have had the same fond feelings for the caregiver that you do. 

If your deceased loved one designated an amount in their will for a caregiver, approach this with caution since it could be viewed as undue influence. Consult an attorney to see if it is appropriate. When thinking about a caregiver bonus, consider these factors: 

  • The length of time the caregiver worked for your loved one

Some caregivers work for years for a family. You may want to consider those years of service when deciding on an amount. But, even a short-term service might be worthy of a bonus depending on other factors. 

  • The level of service

Examine the work that the caregiver performed. Look how responsible they were if they went out of their way to do things that weren’t asked of them. Did the caregiver show up for their shift on time? Did they take feedback? No one is perfect, and you can’t expect a caregiver to be perfect either, but focus on the positive aspects they brought to the job. 

  • Compassion and empathy

There are times when a caregiver and the person they are caring for connecting on a deep level. Compassion and empathy don’t require a deep connection. They just need a caring and committed attitude. This is especially true if your loved one had dementia. Sometimes the caregiving relationship is complicated, but the caregiver shows compassion and empathy regardless.

  • Good judgment

An exceptional caregiver shows good judgment during times of crisis or when they need to decide on behalf of your loved one. It is hard to teach the quality of good judgment, and some people just have it.

  • Creativity

If your caregiver has been caring for a family member with dementia, creativity is a valuable quality. People with dementia need stimulating and appropriate activities for their cognitive level. A creative caregiver tries out new things and keeps your loved one engaged and calm. 

  • Calm

Was your caregiver calm during chaotic or uncertain situations? Panicking doesn’t help anyone, and a good, responsible caregiver is calm and can respond appropriately or ask for help when they need it. 

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Other Ways to Show Your Appreciation to a Caregiver After a Death

Frankly, you may not have the financial resources to compensate a caregiver. Or there might be other reasons you aren’t comfortable providing a caregiver bonus. There are different ways to say thank you to a caregiver

  • Acknowledge their loss

So much goes on behind the scenes between a caregiver and your loved one. A bond develops that can be very special and unique. When you lose a loved one, the caregiver is losing someone too.

Acknowledge their loss and realize they are grieving too. Talk with the caregiver about their feelings and if there is anything you can do to help. A caregiver may not have access to grief counseling or have the opportunity to discuss their feelings. They will be off to a new client.

  • A thank you card or note

A thank you note to a caregiver may seem like a small token of your appreciation, but if you take your time and express your sincere gratitude, it can make a big difference. Caregiving can sometimes feel like a thankless job, and all too often, caregivers don’t get a simple thank you.

  • Offer to write a letter of recommendation.

The caregiving industry is constantly in flux, and caregivers often work for several different agencies or leave for another job altogether. Offer to write a letter of recommendation that the caregiver can use when they need it.

Be specific about the caregiver’s positive qualities emphasizing responsibility, integrity, and judgment. These qualities are transferable to just about any job.

  • Invite to the funeral or celebration of life

Inviting the caregiver to the funeral or celebration of life elevates their status to one of a close family or friend. A caregiver will deeply appreciate this gesture whether they can attend or not. 

  • Recognize the caregiver in the obituary.

It is a widespread practice to acknowledge important family, care staff, and health care providers in an obituary. Including the caregiver in the obituary and publicly thanking them are a great way to show how much they meant to you and your loved one. 

  • A gift basket

A thoughtful gift basket, perhaps even including a gift card, can be a wonderful way to say thank you. If you know that the caregiver has children, include some items appropriate for children. 

  • Write a letter to the owner of the agency.

Write a letter of appreciation to the owner or manager of the agency the caregiver works for. The agency may have no way of knowing how valuable the caregiver was to your family. Many agencies offer bonuses or gift cards to caregivers who excel at their work.

  • A spa treatment or massage

Caregiving is back-breaking and stressful work. You can be confident that most caregivers don’t have the funds to pamper themselves with a spa treatment or massage.

Cover both by getting the gift card from a business that offers both services so that the caregiver can choose. Make sure the company provides manicures and pedicures.

  • Gift cards

Gift cards can be an appropriate thank you, although a cash bonus might be better. There are a couple of reasons for this. If the caregiver loses the gift card, they have no recourse. Also, a caregiver might not appreciate a gift card to a specific place. If you decide on a gift card, a Visa or Amazon gift card will be better. 

  • Other affordable ideas

If finances are limited, consider small affordable tokens like a personalized keychain or necklace with a personalized message.  A simple flower arrangement, potted plant, or soft throw blanket are other low-cost ideas.

Be mindful of what they might appreciate, like a gas card, a gift basket with food items (which is always appreciated by men!), or something appropriate to their specific interests. 

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Caregiver Gifts After Death

Showing a caregiver appreciation after the death of a loved one is appropriate. Your task is to decide on how and when the gift will be most meaningful. In the emotional aftermath of a death, it can be hard to fit in thinking about the caregiver, but you will be glad you did when you do. 

  1. “Understanding the Direct Care Workforce.” PHI.
  2. “What is the Average Caregiver Salary by State in 2021?” Ziprecruiter.

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