Author Topic: Can Home Help Volunteers accept gifts??  (Read 3846 times)

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ThreeCrows

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Can Home Help Volunteers accept gifts??
« on: January 16, 2013, 09:29:45 AM »
I have a question for any of you who work in caring for the elderly, or know someone who does.  A bit of background:

My MIL is 89 years old, and while still sharp has her "fuzzy-headed" days.  Despite that she still takes her daily walk (with her little cat accompanying her), can cook her own meals and does light housework.  She's helped out by two organisations who provide Home Help: they do her grocery shopping, do the housework she can't manage, and sometimes her Home Helper will just take her for a drive or share a pot of tea and a chat.  DH and I come around every day - we live two suburbs over, a 5-minute drive (for DH) or a half-hour walk (for me, I don't drive), and we stagger our days so she always has company.  She also attends a weekly "elderly group" where she can liaise, chat with friends, or take part in one of their outings.

This happened two years ago, but DH is still steaming about it.  MIL's mother loved theatre and ballet, and would take her children to the theatre regularly.  MIL had a wonderful collection of theatre programmes dating back to the early 1920's/30's, when she was a girl.  I loved looking through them, as I used to work in theatre and used to collect theatre programmes myself.  MIL's programmes weren't rare as such, but would be valuable to an avid collector.

One day I dropped by for lunch.  After the meal I asked if I could look through the programmes again.  MIL said "Oh, I gave those to 'Kay'!"

'Kay' is one of her Home Helpers whose husband took a job in another state, so she had to give up her job with the organisation, but took the time to visit every one of her clients to say good-bye.  During her visit she spotted the pile of antique programmes on the sideboard (where I'd left them from my last visit) and asked to flip through them.  While she was admiring them she mentioned that she and her husband had worked in theatre, and he would just love to see them, they'd both worked in a couple of the theatres some of the programmes came from, weren't they a wonderful piece of theatrical history, etc. etc.  MIL (not realising how much I liked them) offered the lot of them to her as a gift.  Kay was delighted and accepted them.

I was disappointed all the programmes had been given away, but accepted it, after all they're MIL's to keep or give as a gift.  But DH was LIVID.  He's furious that a charity-paid home help would take anything from one of their clients.  He's also afraid that MIL might give away her best jewellery, the watch his father gave her, some of the antique pieces in the house, to the next home help who admires them.  I know MIL's not that dotty, but DH won't be convinced.

Here's my question: when working as a Home Help, especially with the aged or age-impaired, isn't it a rule to refuse any gift offered, especially a valuable one?  DH even toyed with the idea of lodging a complaint against this woman with the organisation that used to employ her, but I talked him out of it - she's moved out of state, and might not work in Aged Care anymore, and what good could it do?  It's not like we can demand back a gift that my MIL gave to someone she thought would get more pleasure out of than we could.  His reply was to wait and see those programmes up for sale on e-Bay.

I'm not angry that MIL gave the programmes away - she's a generous, giving woman - just sad that I don't have them to look through anymore.  But I'm really peeved that Kay accepted the offer.  DH wants to catalogue what valuable jewellery pieces MIL has, and keep them at our house.  Which one of us is right?  Just wondering.

camlan

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Re: Can Home Help Volunteers accept gifts??
« Reply #1 on: January 16, 2013, 09:40:13 AM »
It probably depends on the rules of the organization. Some probably prohibit their workers, paid or voluntary, from accepting anything. Some may allow gifts of food and drink. Some may not have any rules at all.

There might be a rule about not accepting gifts over a certain dollar amount. If Kay's organization had such a rule, Kay may have thought that the programs were not worth very much at all and thought it was permissible to take the gift.

You'd have to contact the organizations to find out what their rules are. It might be worth doing that even now, so that you know what the rules are. The organizations might allow their workers to accept some small gifts--I can see them allowing that, as many people would likely want to give their helpers a small Christmas gift or the like.

Sadly, if your MIL has valuable jewelery in the house, it might be worth safeguarding it somehow. Not so much that she might give it away, but the more people allowed into her house (and it will be more as time goes on, not fewer), the greater the risk that someone might steal something. I am not saying that all home care workers are thieves--my dad had some wonderful people caring for him--but there is always the chance. If your MIL isn't wearing the jewelery, then it might be safer to lock it up.
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Outdoor Girl

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Re: Can Home Help Volunteers accept gifts??
« Reply #2 on: January 16, 2013, 09:46:37 AM »
I would think they would be allowed to accept token gifts.  I know my mother got a number of small things from her regular patients at Christmas as a home care nurse.  Things like some home baking or a box of chocolates or a hand-made apron.

But 'Kay' should not have indicated such interest in, let alone accepted a gift of, the programmes.  Beyond the pale, IMO.
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Sharnita

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Re: Can Home Help Volunteers accept gifts??
« Reply #3 on: January 16, 2013, 09:53:08 AM »
I agree that it depends on the business.

As far as the jewelry, unless your DH has been given legal authority to do that he would technically be stealing. Just because he is his mom's closest relative does not mean he get's automatic veto power on who she chooses to give her stuff to. I realize it can be frustrating a.d you worry somebody might fleece her but unless DH has power of attorney, not his call to make. Ot does sound like she has her faculties so relocating her valusbles to your place for safekeeping could look a little grasping IMHO

MorgnsGrl

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Re: Can Home Help Volunteers accept gifts??
« Reply #4 on: January 16, 2013, 09:54:40 AM »
I suspect a lot of people would view old theater programmes like old magazines, something that could be either saved or recycled. Things like that get thrown away or recycled all the time, when elderly people pass away and their families need to clean out their homes. Is it possible neither MIL or the home help aide realized or cared about their potential monetary value? I'd imagine MIL just viewed them as a nice piece of memorabilia, and thought it was lovely that the home help aide was so appreciative of them and wanted to do something kind for her, but figured it was no big deal.

Thipu1

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Re: Can Home Help Volunteers accept gifts??
« Reply #5 on: January 16, 2013, 10:29:57 AM »
Gifts like this to helpers are a great gray area. 

Where MIL lives, cash tips from residents to employees are strictly forbidden.  A fund is set up for contributions to provide end of the year tips for the staff.  Yet, residents are perfectly fine if they provide a helpful maid or handy-man with a small, end of the year gift.  Cookies, home-made preserves or a bottle of wine are examples.

A gift of something like theater programs are more problematic.  These can have monetary value or sentimental value but what has been done has been done.  I don't see anything you can do. 

oceanus

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Re: Can Home Help Volunteers accept gifts??
« Reply #6 on: January 16, 2013, 10:34:59 AM »
This was two years ago?  You or your DH should have called the organization and asked their policy as soon as you found out, since it bothered you/him.  Different organizations have different policies.

nrb80

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Re: Can Home Help Volunteers accept gifts??
« Reply #7 on: January 16, 2013, 10:53:52 AM »
I think this is a difficult subject, for the volunteer/worker and for the client/client's family.  From the volunteer/worker's perspective, she was given something of no obvious value, just sentimental value, by an elderly lady due to a shared interest.  It's awkward, especially if she is unaware that your husband has such a keen interest in the property.  I think she was complimenting the collection, and making conversation. 

I was in a somewhat similar situation, which included lots of handwringing.  I provided pro bono legal services for a somewhat elderly, homeless woman.  It was a hard case.  At the end of it, she sent me a thank you note and a small handmade bracelet - with cheap beads, I make jewelry and I guess that this did not cost her more than $3.  I was torn on what to do.  Is this technically "jewelry" and therefore of value?  Should I send it back?  Is it rude to send it back?  How would I feel if I was a close relative?  Would the lady, who had to expose her deepest secrets and accept help from someone young enough to be a granddaughter feel humiliated and slighted?  I ended up graciously accepting, giving thanks.  I don't know if that was the right choice. 

Outdoor Girl

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Re: Can Home Help Volunteers accept gifts??
« Reply #8 on: January 16, 2013, 11:54:15 AM »
While she was admiring them she mentioned that she and her husband had worked in theatre, and he would just love to see them, they'd both worked in a couple of the theatres some of the programmes came from, weren't they a wonderful piece of theatrical history, etc. etc.  MIL (not realising how much I liked them) offered the lot of them to her as a gift.  Kay was delighted and accepted them.

I see the bolded as fishing.  And think that Kay should not have done so.

I was in a somewhat similar situation, which included lots of handwringing.  I provided pro bono legal services for a somewhat elderly, homeless woman.  It was a hard case.  At the end of it, she sent me a thank you note and a small handmade bracelet - with cheap beads, I make jewelry and I guess that this did not cost her more than $3.  I was torn on what to do.  Is this technically "jewelry" and therefore of value?  Should I send it back?  Is it rude to send it back?  How would I feel if I was a close relative?  Would the lady, who had to expose her deepest secrets and accept help from someone young enough to be a granddaughter feel humiliated and slighted?  I ended up graciously accepting, giving thanks.  I don't know if that was the right choice. 

And I think you did absolutely the right thing.

My Dad was a teacher.  One Christmas, he got a gift from a child he knew didn't have much.  Dad felt the gift was too expensive and was torn on what to do.  He asked around in the staff room.  Turns out, the child's mother was an Avon representative and although the gift was likely quite expensive retail, with her discount, it would have been much more in line with what Dad felt was acceptable.  He was glad he asked other staff rather than talking to the child.
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bopper

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Re: Can Home Help Volunteers accept gifts??
« Reply #9 on: January 16, 2013, 01:51:31 PM »
It would be good if he had called the agency and discussed the issue.  As you say, there is a fine line between taking a bunch of old paper vs. valuable collectors items.  What is their policy for the volunteers if the client started giving away valuable items?

YummyMummy66

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Re: Can Home Help Volunteers accept gifts??
« Reply #10 on: January 16, 2013, 02:29:59 PM »
I work for an agency that provides care to senior citizens.  We provide personal care or home helper/companionship care.  I do both.

Yes, we can accept some gifts from our clients, within reason.  We cannot or should not accept money.  If the client wants to give us money, they must go thru the agency.

As far as personal items, anything that is deemed valuable, (whether monetary or a heirloom), should be cleared with the agency first.  The agency knows whether or not the elderly person(s) themselves can give the gift if they wish or if they must contact any family members.

We are allowed to receive small gifts without having to go thru our agency. Things like items at Christmas, etc.

Today, my main client(s), the husband, (his wife is the one I care for), was looking thru a bag of his wife's.  It had toiletries and things in it, such as for traveling.  He had asked me if my daughter might like anything in said bag.  WE went thru the bag and there were a few things I could still use for his wife.  Some things had to be thrown away.  I knew this was something his daughter(s) did not want.  There are a few items in said bag, which I know my daughter will probably not want, nor that I could use, but I also know it was not something that Goodwill would want either.  So, I took said bag, will let my daughter look thru it and toss whatever is left.  Client does not need to know  and he is happy that his wife's bag could be used by someone else.  He is slowly starting to go thru things in his home. 

In your case, I don't think in any way that care giver should have accepted this gift without contacting her agency to contact the client's children to see if these were something that they might want.   This is just my personal opinion. 

And yes, I think most agencies have a gift clause in their contracts that they sign with their employees.  It is too late now.  Your dh should have contacted the agency as soon as he found out.  But, if your mom is in her right mind, there might not have been anything your dh could have done, because if she was the one who contracted with the agency, the agency would call her to check up on the situation and whatever mom says, would go. 
« Last Edit: January 16, 2013, 02:33:46 PM by YummyMummy66 »

Hmmmmm

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Re: Can Home Help Volunteers accept gifts??
« Reply #11 on: January 16, 2013, 03:54:57 PM »
I think it is a tough situation.  I don't think a comment of "My DH would love to see these" is always fishing.  Sometimes it is a statement of fact.  If I'm at a arboretum and say " My sis would live to see this flower" I'm not fishing for them to pick the flower and send it home.

Since so many elderly try to pass on their cherished item to people who would enjoy having them.  I can see where if offered the volunteer could have assumed no one in your MIL's family was interested in owning them. 

I am sorry your DH lost his opportunity to have this keepsake.

White Lotus

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Re: Can Home Help Volunteers accept gifts??
« Reply #12 on: January 16, 2013, 04:10:43 PM »
I agree there is nothing you can do about this now, but that calling the agency to find out about policy and explain the situation may prevent future problems.
My MIL keeps her jewelry in a safe deposit box, with others on the box, of course, to foil burglars.  It is in their neighborhood, walking distance, and not a problem for her to get what she wants when she wants it, though things tend to hang around at home for a while before she gets them back in the box.  She enjoys going through her jewelry and changing things out when she visits the box -- it is fun!  She only keeps what she wears daily at home.  This may be a solution for jewelry and other small items of exceptional value. 

Sharnita

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Re: Can Home Help Volunteers accept gifts??
« Reply #13 on: January 16, 2013, 05:11:27 PM »
The difference is that is sounds like DH wants to keep the jewelry safe from her and what he considers to be her sometimes fualty judgement.  From the post it sounds like he doesn't want her to be able to access it to give it to the wrong people.  That is quite a bit different from taking steps to prevent thieves from getting access.

BatCity

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Re: Can Home Help Volunteers accept gifts??
« Reply #14 on: January 16, 2013, 05:18:31 PM »
I'd like to add my two cents as this is indeed a grey area. 

On the one hand, people should be allowed to gift as they please, within legal limits.

On the other, I saw what happened with my grandmother.  As she got older, she started giving away family heirlooms right and left, often in odd ways (wrapping a single silver spoon and giving it to a friend's daughter as a wedding gift is one I remember).  By the time she passed, nothing of value was left.  And yes, she was survived by my grandfather, who should have been paying more attention*.

A few years later, the same grandfather started dating again.  His lady friend "Millie" was ever so sweet, and daffy as a duckling.  One day I was at her home for lunch, and she kept trying to give me her family silver collection.  I called her son and gave him the heads up so he could intervene before she gave everything away.

*This wasn't really a big issue for my family, as we didn't really want the family heirlooms ourselves, but I doubt the recipients had much use for a single, unmatched silver spoon either.