Taking on the responsibility of providing full-time care for an aging parent, spouse, or other loved one can be a rewarding, yet challenging experience. Being a primary caregiver helps you rest assured that your loved one is receiving compassionate care from someone who will go above and beyond to ensure they are comfortable and looked after.
Despite your good intentions to create a comfortable environment for your loved one, full-time caregiving is a significant time commitment. There is also a financial reality that the caregiver must face. Fortunately, family members who want to serve as caregivers may have options to help cover the expense.
What Is a Caregiver, and What Do They Do?
Professional caregivers work with seniors to meet their needs as they age. As individuals get older, their needs change and they may need more help going about their day.
Examples of the kinds of help caregivers provide include:
- Bathing and grooming
- Help with toileting
- Medical appointments and medication compliance
- Cooking, cleaning, and grocery shopping
- Care for animals
- Coordinate benefit care/speak to insurance companies on the senior's behalf, if authorized
Professional home care is not inexpensive in that there is often a four-hour minimum charge, even though the person needing care might just need assistance for an hour or two per day.
Family Caregivers: Know the Downsides
Having a family member serve in the role of caregiver can make for a better experience for your loved one and, in some ways, give you peace of mind as well. However, there are some downsides to be aware of if you are considering becoming a family caregiver.
Your own health, both physical and emotional, can be negatively affected when taking on the burden of caring for a family member. Be sure to engage in self-care, maintain a healthy diet, and watch out for signs of stress and burnout. When you do need a break, consider looking into respite care.
If your loved one has specific medical issues that will require the attention and expertise of a professional health care provider, you may want to reassess whether you should take on the role of family caregiver.
In many cases, a family member will supplement care provided by professional home caregivers.
Taking care of a loved one who is getting older or who is disabled will likely require a great deal of your time, too. You may find yourself not performing as well at work or having a longer commute as you fulfill the needs of your ailing loved one. Not to mention that your own immediate family may be missing out on valuable time with you while you are caregiving elsewhere.
In turn, this could mean you will have less time to hold down a full-time job. In fact, a recent AARP survey indicated that about 20 percent of family caregivers reported experiencing a high level of financial stress. Nearly 30 percent of them stopped saving altogether as a result of providing care for their loved one.
In these challenging economic times, you must be able to support yourself while ensuring the best care for your aging family member.
Can Family Members Get Paid for Their Work as a Caregiver?
Fortunately, certain programs are available to help family members care for ailing relatives. You may need to do a bit of research to find the right option for your circumstances.
In Michigan, the elder can pay a family member, other than their spouse, for care, but it is essential that several requirements be followed in case the elder has to ever apply for Medicaid. The requirements include that the medical need for care must be documented by a physician, there must be a detailed, written Medicaid-compliant care contract in place before the caregiver is paid, the amount paid must be reasonable. If these requirements are not in place, Medicaid may consider all of the payments made under the care contract to be a gift or divestment, which will result in a period of ineligibility for Medicaid. This is an area where it is important to consult with an experienced Elder Law attorney to avoid problems later.
The Department of Veterans Affairs Aid and Attendance program can also provide a source of income to pay for home care for wartime veterans and their widows.