“Among the many words used to describe family caregivers—invisible, overwhelmed, heroic, to name just a few—one is often just assumed. That word is “unpaid.” Although family caregivers are often praised as a critical part of the elder care workforce, most don’t get a paycheck.”
Many caregivers of elderly parents and loved ones need financial help. There’s the constant pressure of emotional and physical stress, but caregiving also can bring money issues. These can include things like paying for medical supplies and drugs that aren’t fully covered by insurance, transportation to doctor offices and therapy, home adaptations, home care and many other expenses. These expenses can destroy a caregiver’s budget.
It’s not surprising that many family caregivers wonder if they can get paid for taking care of their parent.
Next Avenue’s recent article asks “Can You Get Paid to Take Care of Your Mom?” The short answer? “It depends.” The reason it depends is because there are a variety of programs and resources that are eligible to caregivers based on eligibility requirements, as well as the state where you live, the age or condition of the senior for whom you’re caring, your relationship to that person, his or her income and assets, plus other criteria.
While none of the state and federal programs discussed below would replace a full-time salary with benefits, for some caregivers, the extra resources would be welcome.
- Long-term care insurance. If your parent has long-term care insurance that provides for in-home care, it may allow a family member to be paid.
- A private contract with a family member. Your parent or family member may have the resources to pay you if they choose. If so, a private contract or a personal care agreement may be the answer. However, this may cause family conflict and legal issues. Consult an elder law attorney to draft a contract that details your wages and your responsibilities. He or she will make sure that any effect on inheritances is noted. All interested parties, like siblings and other relatives, should also be informed and approve the arrangement in advance.
- Consumer-directed Medicaid programs. Every state, except South Dakota, has Medicaid programs that allow an eligible senior to hire, fire, and train their home care aides. These programs are called “Cash and Counseling.” Every state has its eligibility requirements. Family members or friends can be hired, but only 12 states allow spouses to be paid. When the request is approved, the state Medicaid agency creates an individualized budget based on needs and available resources.
- Paid family leave. The federal Family Medical Leave Act protects workers’ employment, when they take time off for the birth or adoption of a baby, or to care for a seriously ill family member. But it’s unpaid leave. A few states, like California, New Jersey, and Rhode Island, have programs that give employees the right to paid leave for these major life events. The states all have different payment schedules and eligibility requirements.
- Caregivers of veterans. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has several caregiver support programs. For primary caregivers of veterans injured in military conflicts after 9/11, there are monthly stipends, and other benefits to caregivers to include travel expenses, access to health care insurance, mental health services and 30 days of respite a year. Caregivers of other veterans, who require assistance and are housebound, may be eligible for the VA’s Aid and Attendance Pension Benefit. Some states also have programs for veterans.
- Vouchers for employed caregivers. Hawaii became the first state to provide financial assistance to full-time employed caregivers of older adults this past summer. The Kupuna Caregivers Act (kupuna means “grandparent” or “elder” in Hawaiian) provides up to $70 per day in vouchers for eligible caregivers. The voucher can be used to pay for services available through one of Hawaii’s Aging and Disability Resource Centers. The services include adult day care, case management, home-delivered meals and transportation.
- Tax credits. Twenty-three states have some type of tax credit for caregivers of dependent older adults. Tax credits can be deducted from their state tax bill, and sometimes a percentage of the amount on their federal tax return.
There are also other sources of support, like Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or Meals on Wheels to help provide food. There are other programs that pay for paratransit or homemaker services.
Finally, consider that caregiving that lasts for years presents financial challenges. You should have a comprehensive plan. Speak to an elder law attorney about the options for your situation.
Reference: Next Avenue (September 19, 2017) “Can You Get Paid to Take Care of Your Mom?”