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How to Become a Paid Caregiver for a Family Member: 6 Steps to Uncovering Financial Assistance Options for Family Caregivers

Serving as a caregiver for a family member is one of the most rewarding jobs you can do. Not only do you get to spend time with your loved one, but you have the opportunity to ensure she receives the best quality care possible. You don’t have to worry about strangers who may not be sympathetic or attentive caring for your loved one when you become the primary caregiver.

Unfortunately, being a caregiver for a family member carries a price. Caregivers often have to significantly reduce their number of hours working outside the home or leave their jobs completely in order to provide quality care for their loved one. This means that caregivers are spending hours assisting loved ones with daily tasks, cooking meals, taking them to appointments, ensuring their safety and well-being, and providing companionship but are not being compensated for their time.

One study shows that 31.3% of caregivers who help significantly impaired people have financial difficulties related to caregiving, and another study shows that caregiving increases the likelihood that women will experience poverty or rely on public assistance. Thus, caregivers lose a great deal of income when they care for their loved ones yet also often have to pay for caregiving expenses out of their own pockets.

That’s why caregivers need to know how to get paid for taking care of their loved ones. We share a few steps you can take to receive compensation for caring for your family member:

  1. Determine your eligibility for Medicaid’s Cash & Counseling Program
  2. Opt into a home and community-based services program
  3. Determine whether your loved one is eligible for Veterans Aid
  4. Determine whether your loved one has a long-term care insurance policy that provides for caregiver compensation
  5. Determine whether your company offers paid leave for caregivers
  6. Determine whether your family is willing to pay you for your caregiving time

If you need to become a paid caregiver, look into the following possibilities for caregiving compensation.

Step 1: Determine Your Eligibility for Medicaid’s Cash & Counseling Program

If your loved one is eligible for Medicaid, you may receive financial aid from the Cash & Counseling Program. This program is available in 15 states and provides people with disabilities, including senior citizens, the option to manage a budget and determine how to use their money to pay for goods and services directly relating to their personal care needs. Program participants may use their budget from the Cash & Counseling Program to hire and pay for caregivers, so you may be able to receive payment if this financial aid program is available in your state. To determine your family member’s eligibility for this program, contact your local Medicaid office.

Step 2: Opt into a Home and Community-Based Services Program

Many seniors are eligible to opt into a home and community-based services program (HCBS). HCBS programs, such as services provided by Caregiver Homes, deliver ongoing support and care oversight to assist caregivers while providing them with a tax-free daily stipend to make the financial burden of caregiving easier to bear.

These programs typically are available to Medicaid beneficiaries who receive in-home care. And, these programs are not limited to seniors; they often are available to people with intellectual or developmental disabilities, physical disabilities, or mental illnesses. Overall, the guidance and financial assistance HCBS programs provide to caregivers enable them to focus on providing quality care instead of worrying about financial problems.

Step 3: Determine Whether Your Loved One Is Eligible for Veterans Aid

Around the United States, some veterans who are in danger of being placed in nursing homes can enroll in Veteran-Directed Home and Community Based Services programs that empower them to manage their own care, which includes hiring and paying for in-home caregivers. Another option for veterans who require in-home care is a benefit known as Aid and Attendance. This benefit may be used to cover assisted living, nursing home, and in-home care costs including paying family caregivers.

In many cases, your loved one must need assistance with activities of daily living and fall in line with income and asset guidelines. If you need more assistance in determining your loved one’s eligibility for these veterans benefits, contact your local Veterans Affairs office or your local veterans service organization.

Step 4: Determine Whether Your Loved One Has a Long-Term Care Insurance Policy That Provides for Caregiver Compensation

According to the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance (AALTCI), some long-term care insurance policies do include provisions for paying a family member who provides care. First, you need to determine whether your loved one has such a policy. Then, you need to determine if caregiver payment is one of the benefits included in the policy. If you need clarification about your loved one’s long-term health insurance policy, contact the agent or the insurance company and specifically ask about the caregiver payment benefit.

Step 5: Determine Whether Your Company Offers Paid Leave for Caregivers

As more families require at least one member to serve as a caregiver for aging parents, companies are realizing that they need to assist employees with paid leave. If you find yourself serving as a caregiver to a family member while you are employed, your company may offer an elder care program or benefit. Companies like Deloitte and Nike are allowing up to 8-16 weeks of paid leave for caregiving employees, and nearly 20% of companies today offer some form of paid family leave with a provision for caring for an elderly parent.

Step 6: Determine Whether Your Family is Willing to Pay You for Your Caregiving Time

Considering the amount of money you are saving your loved one and the rest of the family by serving as the primary caregiver, you are well within your rights to ask your loved one or other family members if they will compensate you for your time. Chances are, the family would be paying out of pocket for a home health aide, which the Genworth Cost of Care Survey reports would cost an average of $3,861 per month. To protect yourself and your family, meet with an attorney to draft a contract to explicitly state your work and payment schedule. This contract may be used later in the event your loved one needs to apply for Medicaid or enter an assisted living facility or nursing home.

Overall, you need to know your loved one’s eligibility for various government programs, insurance policy benefits, employee benefits, and family payment options if you hope to become a paid caregiver for a family member. Spending a few hours determining your eligibility will be worth it when you get compensated for all of the time and energy you give to provide loving, attentive care for your loved one.