Each and every day Boomers are faced with an increasing need to manage the health and day-to-day affairs of their aging parents. All too typical is the story of Nance, a new caregiver who is, unfortunately, a single woman who already struggles with trying to make ends meet both financially and creating quality family time. Her plaintiff cry to me one morning… “Is there any way that I can get paid for the caregiving services I provide to my parents to help buffer this growing gap of time and energy?”
The response to Nance was not short, nor clear cut… the programs and assistance made available vary from state to state, and according to individual circumstances that come before them. Following my discussion with Nance, I realized the value of providing others in her shoes the same options for which to search, with the caveat that not every state will have the exact program or organization.
Administration on Aging
An organization administering national programs and services for the aging, including health insurance, long term care, caregiver training, counseling, and elder abuse protection.
Area Agency on Aging
A federally mandated program in each county – the organization is staffed by professionals knowledgeable about all elder programs, services and funding sources in the area.
A Pension program established to help veterans in financial need. To be eligible, the veteran needs only to have been in service for at least 90 days of active duty with 1 day beginning or ending during a period of War and have been discharged honorably. There are multiple layers of assistance ranging from a basic pension to the highest benefit which may be granted when the veteran or the surviving spouse requires the regular attendance of another person to assist in eating, bathing, dressing and undressing. It may also include individuals who are blind, in a nursing home or assisted living facility due to mental or physical incapacity.
Cash and Counseling
At such point as the parent becomes eligible for Medicaid, they might also quality for the “Cash and Counseling program,” which may provide direct payments to you, the caregiver. (Note: The program is currently only available in the following states: Alabama, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington and West Virginia.)
If your aging parent presents with low income and few assets other than their home, they may be eligible for Medicaid health care coverage. Most caregivers, new to the process, are not aware this benefit includes in-home care and personal care, such as help with bathing, dressing, cooking, cleaning, eating, moving around, and similar activities of daily living.
A state-run program, Medicaid does cover some of the costs of long-term care; however, your aging parents will be called upon to meet a great number of eligibility requirements, including functional and financial requirements.
Each state’s requirements vary, and the option should be assessed with your parents’ overall planning – which requires serious forethought – to ensure any necessary “spend down” is best managed to your parents’ benefit in fulfilling eligibility requirements.
I doubt seriously there are caregivers who not aware of our country’s primary health insurance program for people age 65 or older, some disabled people under age 65, and people of all ages with End-Stage Renal Disease. Medicare provides Part A which offers Hospital Insurance and Part B, covering Medical Insurance. Your elderly parents may actually be eligible Medicare prescription drug coverage – regardless their income, health status, or current prescription expenses
Supplement Security Income (SSI)
If your parents were identified as disabled adults – this benefit should be assessed. The benefits for this program are also available to people age 65 and older – even without disabilities – if they meet the financial limits. In states other than California, these benefits are expanded to include food stamps.
As you are making the assessment for requesting this particular benefit, bear in mind the benefits vary depending on whether your aging parent resides:
- In their own home
- In someone else’s household
- In a group care facility
- In an institution
Family Caregiver Support Program
This particular program offers support services to family caregivers when your parent is age 60 and older, or a parent of any age diagnosed with dementia. The benefits include:
- Information to caregivers about available support services;
- assistance to caregivers in gaining access to supportive services;
- individual counseling,
- support groups and caregiver training;
- respite care; and
- supplemental services (such as emergency response systems and home modifications).
Contact for this program is normally through the local Area Agency on Aging.
Pick up a copy of the IRS Publication 501 and review the dependency details when you feel you are providing significant support to your aging parents and seeking tax relief by claiming your parent(s) as a dependent on your return. If you are relatively certain you are providing over half of your parents’ support for food, housing, transportation, medical, etc., you may be able to include a reasonable percentage of your own expenses for mortgage, utilities and other household costs to calculate your level of support. Furthermore, you will find that even if your parent(s) reside in an assisted living or long term care facility – they may still qualify as dependents, if your income and support levels are met.
Counseling for the Elderly
If you find yourself immobilized with fear of the unknown when it comes to assisting with your parents’ taxes, The Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) Program will provide provides free tax assistance to them. This network of volunteers are trained with IRS materials and certified by an IRS examination to provide tax counseling and basic Federal income tax return preparation services at community locations across the nation – many of which offer free electronic filing services.
Sometimes life just treats you kindly! Including more than 1,700 public and private benefits programs from all 50 states and the District of Columbia – Benefits Checkup can rightfully be considered our nation’s most comprehensive Web-based service to screen for benefits programs for your parents should they have limited income and resources. The following may apply, and should certainly be considered as an overall strategy for assisting your parent(s) or bridging the gap which may currently exist between what you want to provide and what is financially feasible for you:
- Prescription drugs
- Nutrition (including Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (SNAP)/Food Stamps)
- Energy/utility assistance
- Financial assistance
- Legal aid
- Health care
- In-home services
Another little known information site includes government information on over 1,000 benefit and assistance programs. You will need to have readily available all the information you can on your aging parent’s health, disability, income, wealth (as in property owned), whether a military veteran, education level, etc. Once you have the information together, you access the site, respond appropriately to the questions – the final result will be a very useful list of details and access information for government programs and services of which you might not otherwise be aware.
This list is fairly comprehensive, and I trust will give you insight and information that expands your capacity to also better manage the care of your aging parent(s). Should you have further questions with which I may assist you, please feel free to leave a comment below; I will respond at my earliest convenience.
Tonia Boterf |The Practical Expert Life Coaching, Aging Speaker and Author of Real life Solutions to Help Care for Aging Parents