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Getting Paid to Take Care of Your Aging Parents

MP900430490More family members than you’d imagine, do step up to take care of their elderly parents, losing time that would otherwise be devoted to other family members, their careers or self-care. Most go unpaid, but that may be changing.

The financial and emotional stress of taking care of elderly parents or sick loved ones can take a toll on caregivers, who are usually overworked and under-appreciated. They end up paying for drugs and medical supplies that aren’t covered by medical insurance, driving parents to and from numerous doctor’s appointments and treatments and sometimes even modifying their own homes so Mom or Dad can move in with them. Over time, the costs of these expenses and lost wages add up, and the result can be a financial disaster.

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. Tax credits. Almost half of the states in the US (23 states) offer some type of tax credit for caregivers of dependent older adults. However, each state has their own requirements for eligibility and types of expenses that are allowed. Bear in mind that these are not refunds or benefits. Tax credits simply allow you to deduct a certain amount from your state tax bill. Depending on your eligibility, you may be able to deduct a certain amount from your federal tax return.

Do yourself and your budget a favor and don’t overlook other resources that are available for the family member taking care of a dependent adult. There are programs like Meals on Wheels or SNAP (Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program) that help with food costs. There are also programs that may help with paratransit or homemaker services.

Keep the long view in mind. If you might be caring for a loved one for an extended period of time, you’ll need to have a comprehensive plan. An elder law attorney will be able to explore the options and help put you in contact with community resources.

Reference: Next Avenue (September 19, 2017) “Can You Get Paid to Take Care of Your Mom?”

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