Will the Government Pay You For Taking Care of an Aging Adult?

Certified Care Manager, Aging Life Care Professional, and National Master Guardian Emeritus

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It may be of no surprise that caregivers need help. About 53 million Americans provide care without pay to an ailing or aging loved one, and they do so for an average of nearly 24 hours per week. Many give up jobs or curtail their employment to provide this care, which can put a huge strain on their financial resources.

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The answer to the question of “will the government pay you for taking care of an aging adult”  is both good and bad news. The good news is that there are several federal and state programs that will pay you to be a caregiver for your family member. However, the bad news is that these programs have strict qualifications that can make it difficult to get access to said programs.

We recommend applying for any and all programs that you think you might qualify for. If you don’t apply, then you won’t have a chance of being accepted. The process can seem daunting and overwhelming, but with help from your Area Agency on Aging or the Veteran’s Affairs (VA), you can get through the process more easily. You can also work with an attorney that specializes in applying for benefits like these.

What Situations Allow You to be Paid for Taking Care of an Aging Adult?

Most situations that allow you to be paid for taking care of an aging adult are income-based, which means that your family member has to be low income to qualify.

The only exception to this is if your loved one is a veteran and had an honorable discharge from the military. But, there may still be income qualifications that have to be met.

What Programs Will Pay You to Take Care of an Aging Parent or Other Adult?

The programs that will pay you to take care of an aging parent or adult are either federal and/or programs that are administered by the states. The Veterans Affairs programs are federal programs with guidelines established by the federal government. 

There are special programs administered by the states for certain circumstances. Contact your Area Agency on Aging to see if you qualify for any of these programs. Some of the programs are listed below.

Medicaid self-directed care

To be eligible for any Medicaid-directed program, your family member has to qualify for Medicaid in the state where you live. Each state has different income requirements, but income and assets have to be below a certain threshold.

These programs let states grant waivers that allow qualified individuals to manage their own long-term home-care services. This is an alternative to the traditional model where services are managed by an agency. In some states, that can include hiring a family member to provide caregiver duties.

Here are some specifics:

  • Some programs can pay family caregivers but exclude spouses and legal guardians. Other programs will only pay caregivers who do not live in the same house as the care recipient.
  • A doctor needs to sign off on the need for care.
  • Your loved one is allotted a certain number of hours per week based on their physical and mental health condition. As the family caregiver, you will receive a paycheck based on the hourly rate for providing care. 
  • Enrolling in your state program means following certain steps for self-directed care. This includes assessment, planning, budgeting, and selection of a caregiver, who might be a family member.
  • Contact your state Medicaid office to find out about eligibility criteria.

Indirect payment via tax credit

The IRS Tax Credit or the IRS Credit for Caring Act gives eligible family caregivers the opportunity to obtain a tax credit equal to 30 percent of expenditures listed on behalf of their loved one in excess of $2,000 a year. The maximum credit is $3,000 a year. Here are the IRS requirements for getting this tax credit:

  • You need to be a direct relative of the care recipient (parent, adult child, spouse and others who qualify per the “dependent” definition)
  • You need to assist a person of any age with physical or mental functional disabilities
  • You need to have adequately documented the expenses  
  • And you need to have earned taxable income of at least $7,500 for the year in which you claim a tax credit

Veteran’s programs

There are four veterans programs that will pay a family caregiver, which are listed as follows:

Veteran Directed Care is a program for Veterans who need personal care services and help with activities of daily living. Examples include help with bathing, dressing, or fixing meals. This program is also for Veterans who are isolated, or their caregiver is experiencing a caregiving burden.

  • This program provides a budget of approximately $2,200 a month — which enables veterans to choose the goods and services they find most useful. This can include a caregiver to assist with activities of daily living, such as bathing, cooking, feeding, dressing, using the bathroom, and adjusting prosthetic devices. The veteran chooses the caregiver and may pick any physically and mentally capable family member including a child, grandchild, sibling, or spouse.
  • VA medical centers determine eligibility. 

Cash and Counseling is a specific program that helps post-9/11 veterans. This is how it works:

  • Eligible care recipients must receive the care in their homes, in their caregiver’s home, or in independent living communities of the type that do not offer care support (i.e. assistance with activities of daily living, such as eating, bathing and walking).
  • Eligibility under this law that passed in 2010 is limited to veterans who were injured in a military conflict after September 11, 2001.
  • Together with a VA advisor, the veteran must develop a comprehensive “Care Plan” with budgets, care tasks needed, and details about the family caregiver.
  • The long-term care plan may then need several modifications before it is ultimately approved.
  • The vet can then hire a caregiver and obtain other supplies like wheelchairs, special beds, oxygen supplies, etc. 
  • Finally, the administering agency, which differs in each state, sets up checks or other forms of payments for all pre-approved services and supplies, including home care.

Other benefits may also apply, including traveling expenses, mental health services, and respite care for 30 days per year to give the primary family caregiver time off.

The Aid and Attendants Program supplements a military pension to help cover the cost of a caregiver, who may be a family member. Aids and Attendants’ benefits are available to veterans who qualify for VA pensions and meet at least one of the following criteria:

  • They require help from another person to perform everyday personal functions such as bathing, dressing, and eating.
  • They are confined to bed because of disability.
  • They are in a nursing home because of physical or mental incapacity.
  • They have very limited eyesight, less than 5/200 acuity in both eyes, even with corrective lenses, or a significantly contracted visual field.

Surviving spouses of veterans may also be eligible for this benefit.

The Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers program is for veterans who became seriously injured in the line of duty on or after September 11, 2001. This program requires that the veteran meets certain criteria, such as the following: 

  • Require personal care services to perform one or more activities of daily living.
  • Require supervision and protection based on symptoms of neurological impairment or injury.
  • Require the assistance of a family caregiver to live safely in a home setting, for a minimum of six months.

Being paid directly by your family member

Although this is not a government benefit, it is an idea worth exploring. If a person has sufficient financial resources they can pay a family member to provide care. This can be done in a couple of different ways.

For example, If this is a personal agreement, you will need to draw up a contract with the person you are taking care of. Consulting an elder law attorney is advisable to make sure you have protections in place for both of you. Remember, you will need to count payments as income on your taxes.

The other option is to work for a personal care agency. You may even decide to become a certified caregiver. Your loved one pays the agency and the agency pays you. There are advantages and disadvantages to this option.

The advantage is that the company takes care of payroll, insurance, etc. The company can also provide another caregiver in your absence. The disadvantage is that as a caregiver you may make less money per hour.

Getting Paid to Take Care Of an Aging Adult

As more people become caregivers, the programs that exist to assist caregivers are not enough for those who provide uncompensated care each year. As of now, the U.S. does not have nearly enough resources to pay caregivers for the tireless work that they provide. 

Figuring out how to get paid to be a caregiver is a little like playing a game. It will take some time and effort to find and apply for programs that can help you, but well worth it if you can find the help. 


Sources

  1. Medicaid.gov. www.medicaid.gov/about-us/contact-us/contact-your-state-questions/index.html
  2. “Geriatrics and Extended Care.” US Department of Veterans Affairs. www.va.gov/GERIATRICS/pages/Veteran-Directed_Care.asp
  3. “Eligibility for Veterans Pensions.” The US Department of Veterans Affairs. www.va.gov/pension/eligibility/
  4. “VA Caregiver Support.” US Department of Veterans Affairs. www.caregiver.va.gov/support/support_benefits.asp
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