Getting Assistance to Pay for a Parent’s Care

Long Term Care Planning

When an aging parent needs care, many people feel torn between their desire to help the parent remain at home and the need to work for pay. The dilemma can feel like an impossible one, but there is a possible solution: government assistance for family caregivers. In other words, family caregivers can, in some cases, get paid to take care of loved ones at home. This not only reduces or eliminates the caregiver’s need to work outside the home, but it allows seniors to be cared for in a familiar, comfortable environment by people they trust.

Unfortunately, many caregivers are unaware of the resources that can allow them to be paid for the work they do caring for an elderly parent. Since there are over a million people in Michigan providing literally billions of hours of unpaid care for family members each year, it’s worth exploring options for financial assistance for family caregivers. Here are three sources of assistance you can consider pursuing.

Medicaid MI Choice Waiver

Individuals aged 65 and older who require a nursing facility level of care are eligible for a Medicaid waiver program called MI Choice. The program allows seniors to avoid entering a nursing home (and paying for nursing home costs) while getting the care they need at home. The program is also available to individuals between 18 and 64 years old whose disabilities cause them to meet care requirements.

With a Medicaid waiver, seniors can receive “self-directed” services through their individual plan of service (IPOS). This gives them a greater voice in what care they receive and who provides it, including family caregivers.

In order to ensure appropriate use of program funds, there are fairly strict protocols to ensure both that the senior needs a nursing-home level of care, and that the family member is equipped to provide it. These protocols typically include an evaluation of the senior to confirm that they do require in-home care. Once care has been approved, a family caregiver may need to complete training and become “employed” by the agency that processes payments to caregivers. Then, while providing care, the family caregiver must follow agency procedures for documenting their hours and work performed.

It can be challenging to get approved for family caregiver payments under this program, but if you meet the requirements, you may earn upwards of $17 per hour for your services—more than many people earn working outside the home.

Veterans’ Benefits

Other forms of government assistance for family caregivers are available if the senior in need of care is a veteran. Under the Veteran Directed Care program, military veterans are empowered to use their monthly care budget to “hire” a family member as a caregiver. The program is available to veterans of all ages, not just seniors, who are enrolled in VA medical benefits and need skilled care for assistance with activities of daily living, which include bathing, dressing, and toileting. The VA sets the hourly rate for caregivers, which ranges between $8 and $21.

Other veterans’ benefits that provide family caregiver assistance include the Veteran Aid & Attendance Pension Benefit and Housebound Pension Benefit. These programs provide monthly payments that can be used to pay for the services of family caregivers. For a single veteran, the 2023 Aid & Attendance benefit amount is $2,229; for a surviving spouse, the amount is $1,439.

The Housebound Pension is income-based; the calculation includes the spouse’s income, so the benefit cannot be used to pay a spouse for care. However, it may be used to pay an adult child caregiver. Veterans and surviving spouses cannot receive both Aid & Attendance and Housebound Pension at the same time.

The Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers (PCAFC) is another VA program available to veterans who suffered a critical injury or serious illness in the line of duty and need assistance with at least one activity of daily living. The program offers qualifying family caregivers a monthly stipend of up to $2,750, as well as other support services such as respite care, training, and counseling.

Tax Credits

A tax credit is a dollar-for-dollar reduction of your income taxes (as opposed to a tax deduction, which reduces the amount of taxable income on which your taxes are based). For example, if you owe $3,000 in taxes but are eligible for tax credits worth $1,800, your tax bill is reduced to $1,200. Some tax credits are even refundable, meaning that if the amount of a credit exceeds the amount of tax owed, you receive the difference back as a refund.

The federal government provides tax credits as an incentive to engage in activities that provide a benefit to communities, such as pursuing higher education—or care for a family member in need of assistance. The federal Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit (CDCTC) is a tax credit for a portion of your expenses related to caregiving, up to $1,100 annually.

Tax credits do not provide hourly payments for your caregiving work, as veterans’ benefits and Medicaid waivers do. However, they do provide some financial assistance for family caregivers in the form of compensation for a percentage of their caregiving expenses, and all you need to do is claim your parent as a qualifying dependent on your income tax return.

To learn more about government assistance for family caregivers, work with an experienced elder law attorney who can help you qualify and apply for the maximum benefits available to you. Contact Estate Planning & Elder Law Services today.

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