Becoming a caregiver for a friend or family member is often a selfless act, but it does not always have to be a thankless one. Caregivers often give up much of their time, energy, resources, and even careers to take care of someone who needs help taking care of themselves. Caregiving does not discriminate as it can affect children, adults, and the elderly. The causes may vary, be it from injury, disability, chronic illness, or mental capability.
While some people are able to hire professional caregivers, for many others, however, a desire to provide in-home care, or the rising costs of caregiving makes it too costly to hire full or part-time care. As being an informal caregiver can become a full-time role, it is important to know that you are not alone, and there are many resources out there available.
Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
The FMLA provides up to twelve workweeks of leave for “covered employees” in a 12-month period for a number of different reasons. Pertaining to the discussion of caregiving, it specifically allows for an employee to care for a spouse, child, or parent who has a serious health condition. There is also additional time provided to those who are providing care to spouse, child, or parent if they are a military member on “covered active duty.” This is a Federal minimum requirement, and there are now many states which may offer additional family and medical leave as well.
Paid Caregiver Program
Across the United States, there are a number of various programs that can help pay family members acting as caregivers. While the programs can vary in scope and in their eligibility criteria, PayingforSeniorCare.com has created this tool to help caregivers cross-reference programs and potential eligibility.
Medicaid Cash/Counseling Programs
For those caring for someone who suffers from a disability or chronic condition and meets the eligibility requirements for Medicaid, there may be financial assistance available. If they qualify this assistance may be used to purchase necessary home and community services, and almost nearly every state provides access to self-directed services. That said some states may require you to become a certified Medicaid provider or meet other requirements. As the rules and requirements are under constant change, it is always important to review your state’s conditions.
Structured Family Caregiving
Though not as common, more-and-more states are being approved by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to offer Structured Family Caregiving. In essence, this allows for a family caregiver to receive payment and other support for their care of a family member. The conditions are more stringent than other programs requiring Medicaid eligibility, the need for 24-hour care and supervision, and requires that the care recipient require help with one or more of the Activities of Daily Living (ADL). For more information, Seniorlink.com has put together a fantastic article exploring the state-by-state guidelines in their blog “How to Become a Paid Caregiver for a Family Member.”
Long Term Care / Eldercare Financial Planning: Public & Private Assistance
Speaking of not having to do it on your own, with an aging population and continued resources going into long term care research, there are both public agencies, private organizations, and specialized advisors who can provide assistance at little to no cost. While paying for advice may at first seem like yet another expense, these professionals can often provide advice on critical decision making that could save far more money in the long run.
Some examples of specialists that you might seek out:
Navigating the resources available to caregivers can be a long and winding road, but it does not have to be taken alone. At every stage of the caregiving process, caregivers should know that there are many organizations available to help them organize and to better understand their role as a caregiver. Other friends and family members can also be a huge support system and should be included and relied upon when able. And with that, I leave you with this:
“There are only four kinds of people in the world. Those who have been caregivers. Those who are currently caregivers. Those who will be caregivers, and those who will need a caregiver.” — Rosalyn Carter
Andrew J. Crosby, CFP®, ChFC®, RICP®
Lead Financial Coach