Caregivers of elderly loved ones know how much time and energy are required by the caregiving task. Oftentimes, family caregivers are forced to choose between a career and caregiving. While caregiving is rewarding in and of itself, it doesn't pay the bills. The Congressional Budget Office estimated the value of "informal" care at $234 billion in 2011 (the most recent year calculated). This number has surely gone up since then. Since they give so much value, it seems only logical that family caregivers should be paid for their services. Although the path to payment isn't exactly straightforward, here are a few ways to become a paid family caregiver.
Depending on income level, medical eligibility, and the state, there may be programs available to help someone become a paid family caregiver. Important to realize is that these programs can go by different names, so it may take a bit of research. Names like consumer-directed, cash and counseling, or participant-directed are often keys. This type of benefit essentially allows a person to hire a caregiver, and family members are not excluded. Some states require that the caregiver become certified. Others require meetings with social workers or registered nurses to oversee care before someone can become a paid family caregiver. Regardless, the person in need of care must qualify for Medicaid Long Term Care benefits. Click here for a state-by-state Medicaid eligibility guide.
If an elderly loved one has some money saved up, but not quite enough to pay for an extended period of care, then spending down assets and applying for Medicaid may be a good option. Medicaid doesn't allow applicants to give assets away. However, they do allow people to spend down their assets as long as the money is going towards care. The money can go to a paid family caregiver as long as he or she is receiving the market rate. If this option fits, family members should make sure to write up a contract, keep track of formal invoices, pay taxes on the income earned, and stay within the market rate of pay. This is a great way to keep money in the family without breaking any Medicaid rules.
If the person being cared for has long-term care insurance, the policy may include in-home coverage. In some cases, in-home coverage can be used to compensate a caregiver of their choosing, including a paid family caregiver. Similar to spending down assets, it is important to make a contract, keep track of formal invoices, pay taxes on the income, and stay within the market rate of pay. If the policy is not clear on this option, family members should call the insurance company. An agent can clarify the policy specifics for paid family caregivers.
If none of these options apply, it is sometimes possible to work something else out. For example, an elderly loved one may write out a contract with a loved one and have the family member paid the same as a professional caregiver. This can at least alleviate some of the financial burden placed on the caregiver. Furthermore, there are programs designed to help family caregivers. These include adult day care, respite care, and in-home support. To see what benefits are available, visit the National Council on Aging's benefit check up site.
Guest Blogger: Max Gottlieb is the content manager for Prime Medical Alert. Prime Medical Alert allows seniors across the United States to remain safely independent with high quality, trusted medical alert equipment.