By Guest Blogger Erin Palmer, Writer and Editor at Bisk Education
Every day in the United States, millions of people play the part of a full-time caregiver to family members with disabilities and those fighting serious illness. It is a role that is not only demanding and challenging, but one that should be recognized and appreciated.
In November of 1994, the National Family Caregivers Association began celebrating the role of the family caregiver in an effort to raise awareness. In 1997, President Clinton signed the first proclamation, appreciating family caregivers, and every president since – regardless of their party affiliation – has signed one as well.
What was once National Family Caregivers Week has now become National Family Caregivers Month; a time to thank and support caregivers, as well as educate and empower them, so they may continue the important work they do with strength and motivation.
Can Family Caregivers Be Paid?
A common question asked by full-time family caregivers is if they can get paid for taking care of their loved ones. Whether you can receive compensation to take care of a loved one with disabilities depends on your state and the circumstances.
The need for caregiver financial assistance in the United States is pronounced, since most long-term care is provided by unpaid family members. Single-handedly, people are meeting the needs of the ever increasing aging population in this country. In an effort to support these honorable family members, the federal government enacted the National Family Caregiver Support Program (NFCSP) in 2000.
Although all states currently offer some kind of aid to caregivers, the specific programs can vary greatly from state-to-state and sometimes vary between jurisdictions within the same state. Also, programs that do offer pay don’t always provide it on a regular basis.
Besides financial support, many local programs offer family caregivers counseling, training, support groups and respite care, so that they can get a much needed break.
It should also be noted that in some states, Medicaid (not Medicare) will pay family caregivers to provide care at home. If your loved one is eligible for Medicaid, find out if you may be able to receive financial assistance.
Where Can I Find State Resources?
There are great resources both online and offline that will help you find various forms of caregiver assistance. One of the best places to start is with your Area Agency on Aging. They should be able to point you to various programs and services that can help.
In addition, the Family Caregiver Alliance offers the Family Care Navigator, a comprehensive state-by-state online resource that can help you find government, nonprofit and private programs in your local area. The site also includes information on government health and disability programs, as well as legal resources.
How Can I Be Paid as a Caregiver?
It is becoming more common for family caregivers to be paid directly by their loved ones. If deciding to go this route, make sure you and your loved one have a caregiver contract in place, which can prove your loved one is paying for a service and not giving a monetary gift. A history of cash gifts can disqualify him or her from future enrollment in the Medicaid program, so definitely look into getting a contract in place. Also, as the caregiver, it is your responsibility to pay taxes on your earnings, and your loved one must also report the payment on their tax forms.
Another avenue to consider is to check into your loved one’s long-term care insurance policy. Some plans offer a cash benefit that allows the policyholder to spend an agreed-upon amount each month on assistance. These policies are very expensive, thus, they are few and far between. However, if your loved one has one, then it is in your best interest to check into it.
In situations where you simply are not eligible for direct financial assistance, consider whether you qualify for claiming your loved one as a dependent on your income tax return. Your loved one doesn’t need to live in your house, but you are required to provide more than 50 percent of their basic living expenses.
Finally, you may be able to deduct various medical expenses. For instance, if you use your car to drive them to and from doctors’ appointments, or if you purchase their prescription medication, you may be able to claim these expenses as long as you are paying more than 50 percent of their medical fees.
If you are caring for a loved one who is a veteran, you may be eligible for assistance through the Department of Veterans Affairs Caregivers Program. Find out more by visiting http://www.caregiver.va.gov/.
If you are one of the millions of caregivers in this country, know that there is help out there which can alleviate some of your financial burden. Speak to your local office for the aging and research online for programs and services offered in your area.
Erin Palmer is a writer and editor who covers topics related to master’s in public administration programs. She also writes about nonprofit careers like how to become a nonprofit executive director.