Most people who receive help to enable them to live at home, get that help from a family caregiver. More than 40 million people in the United Sates provide care for a family member. In almost all situations, they provide the care without receiving any financial compensation.
Caregiving is a financial liability for the caregiver. Research studies show that most caregivers are employed and have reduced the number of hours they work to meet the care recipients needs. Therefore, the caregivers have less income to meet their own needs. Additionally, family caregivers with reduce hours in paid employment, accumulate fewer credits in their Social Security accounts, thereby causing them to receive lower Social Security benefits in retirement. For many caregivers, the needs of the care recipient require the caregiver to stop all employment. This creates a gap in their years of uninterrupted employment. If that caregiver should become disabled, at a later point, the interruption in paid employment might disqualify them for Social Security disability benefits. For most caregivers, access to health insurance is through full-time employment. For many caregivers, health insurance benefits are eliminated when work hours are reduced. In instances where coverage is still available to a part-time employee, the premium the caregiver pays is increased.
In other countries, family caregivers are compensated for their income reduction, given Social Security credits for the time spent caregiving, and provided with health insurance. The USA has begun to add programs to the caregiving system that will provide financial reimbursement to family caregivers. In CT, the PCA program can pay certain family members to provide family care to a relative 65 years or older, or an adult 18 – 64 years with a recognized disability. The caregiver must live with the care recipient and cannot be the spouse of the care recipient. The care recipient must need assistance with at least 2 activities of daily living, such as bathing, eating, meal preparation, or help taking medications. In addition, the care recipient must meet financial guidelines. Single individual’s income cannot exceed $2313 monthly and assets cannot exceed $1600. The home in which the care recipient lives, his/her vehicle and personal contents of the home are not included as assets. For a married care recipient, there are significantly higher income and asset limits to provide financial protection for the spouse. There is a waiting list for this program. Application can be made by calling 1-800-445-5394.
The other program in CT that provides payment to family caregivers is for a very limited number of veterans. The Veteran Aid & Attendance program can reimburse caregivers who are providing care to a veteran who gained veteran status post 9/11. The Veterans Administration is working on developing new programs to assist caregivers who provide care for other veterans. It is wise to maintain contact with veterans’ benefits counselors. To learn more about veterans’ benefits, visit the website of the Department of Veterans Affairs at https://portal.ct.gov/DVA
It is also very important that a family caregiver lets their elected representatives know what the financial impact of caregiving is in their lives and ask their representatives to examine family care policies of other countries that recognize the contributions of family caregivers with financial reimbursement and not just words of thanks. Find your legislators.