Many baby boomers find themselves caring for an aging parent or parents. If you have a large family, the responsibility can be shared among your siblings and other family members. Unfortunately, some family members do not make themselves available to assist nor do they have concern for the aging adult, so often the eldercare falls on only one or two children. These individuals then shoulder the entire responsibility for the care of the aging parent(s) - often at great personal sacrifice - including loss or decrease in income, additional financial burden, and loss of many hours of personal time.
If you are currently juggling your own home and family care and are now adding the care of an aging parent or relative, there may be some financial help available to you. Monetary compensation may be available in certain circumstances.
Before contacting any of these organizations or departments it is best to have the individuals’ financial records and also their medical records and history.
Contact Medicaid to find out what it takes to become eligible for direct payments for your services. Get specifics by contacting the Medicaid Eldercare Locator at (800) 677-1116 and asking to speak with someone who can help with direct-payment programs for in-home care. Medicaid coverage includes provisions for personal care, including tasks you have probably already been doing. Dressing, meal prep, bathing, plus household tasks like cleaning, laundry and shopping are included.
In some states including Pennsylvania, Medicaid's Cash & Counseling Program is available to seniors. This program pays seniors directly so they can arrange for their own in-home care from companies like Visiting Angels, Home Helpers and others.
Contact your state and local Health and Human Services office if the person you are caring for has already qualified for one or more low-income local, state or federal programs. Your relative might qualify for in-home care from a person of their own choosing, so explore every aspect the HHS office has available that fits your individual situation.
If your parent (or other individual you want to assist) has long-term care insurance with in-home benefits, investigate the coverage yourself or seek the assistance of your relative’s attorney or financial advisor. If coverage is available, request forms and documents to claim caregiver benefits. Be advised that careful records of the type of care, times and dates of care, etc. must be kept and supplied to the insurance company. Required record-keeping is often a time consuming task, but it does allow you to obtain some compensation for your personal care and assistance.
As soon as you can, draw up an agreement that shows when care began, the specific tasks you will perform, the number of hours per week you will work, how much you will be paid and how and when you'll be paid. Caregiving agreements can be changed or modified. It is always better if all parties involved understand the arrangements. Some people have turned reimbursement into a bequest. Drawing up a personal agreement is recommended and your elderlaw attorney will be able to assist you with this step.
In some cases, you are required to become a certified caregiver. Often it is the only thing standing between you and collecting a modest salary for caring for your loved one. Some government programs require this, but others do not.
Certification classes can be found at the National Family Caregivers Association or the Family Caregiver Alliance, local high schools and community colleges and sometimes local community hospital programs. Many are offered for a small fee.
In many cases, compensation is available only if your parent or loved one has long term care insurance or if their resources are low enough to fit into Medicaid’s income levels. If your senior makes or receives too much money (or just enough to get by), but does not fit into Medicaid’s required income levels, these solutions may not be available to you. Remember that it is always better to ask and look into possible assistance to try to make your life a bit easier.
Some of you may say that you could never accept payment for taking care of your parents. You might insist it is your responsibility. You owe them that much. That is probably true. In the case where your care is required for an ongoing period and no other options are available, situations may make it necessary to obtain some type of assistance. If you are a sole proprietor and have your own clients and caring for your loved one means losing time, income and business because you cannot adequately take care of those clients, seeking some type of available compensation may be the only way you can continue to care for and spend time with an aging parent or grandparent.
Each situation is different. Every family has unique circumstances to handle. There is always much information available for Caregivers but it is often wise to seek the advice of a qualified professional such as a qualified Elder Law attorney. Always understand that help and assistance are usually available but it often takes time to research and review available options. Pennsylvania Caregiver Support Program information can be found here.