Creative ways to be sure you’re not putting your own finances in jeopardy
Caring for an aging parent is a rewarding act of love — but it can be challenging, at times, both emotionally and financially. If you’re straining to find funds to cover your parent’s care, know that help is available.
Start by contacting your local Area Agency on Aging (AAA), where counselors can help you navigate the various government and state aid programs available to caregivers where you live, advises John R. Ratliff, chief of communications for the Ohio Department of Aging. Locate your closest Area Agency on Aging through the online locator at n4a.org. The Eldercare Locator website, eldercare.acl.gov, offers another helpful way to connect with service agencies that support seniors and their caregivers in your area.
Know that in some states, it is possible to qualify to be paid by Medicaid to serve as a caregiver for your parent, if you and your parent meet specific eligibility criteria. Guidelines for this financial assistance vary from one state to the next. Depending on where you live, these programs — if available — may fall under names such as Self-Directed Services, Cash & Counseling Programs, Community First Choice, Home & Community Based Services (aka HCBS Waivers), State Plan Personal Care or 1915 Waivers. These programs are meant to provide funding support for in-home care, as an alternative to institutional services. Your local AAA counselor should be able to advise you on whether or not Medicaid assistance for in-home care is an option for your family, based on your location and other criteria (including your parent’s care needs, income level and assets).
Another helpful resource, Benefits Checkup, benefitscheckup.org, created by The National Council on Aging, offers online tools to help older adults and their caregivers identify financial and other assistance services they qualify for but may not currently be receiving. The free service offers a quick way to determine whether your parent might be eligible for additional public or private assistance to pay for food, medicine, daily care or other expenses. Other potential sources of funding to support your parent’s long-term care include:
Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
SSI provides financial assistance for basic needs, including food, housing and clothing, to seniors ages 65 and over who have little or no income. Find out more, and get access to an online eligibility screening tool, at ssa.gov/ssi. SSI is managed by the Social Security Administration, but is separate from any Social Security retirement or disability benefits your parent may be receiving.
Long-Term Care Insurance
If your parent has a long-term care insurance policy, it may help pay for daily caregiving services, including bathing, dressing or feeding. Check the policy or talk with your insurance company to determine the payment levels for various provided services, as well as the maximum days of care the policy will cover.
Paid Family Leave
Four states — California, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island — provide paid time off from work for family caregiving. Both Washington D.C. and the State of Washington will adopt paid family leave starting in 2020, and the measure is being considered in other states as well. If your state currently mandates paid family leave, check with your employer or human resources office about eligibility requirements. You may be entitled to work benefits while caring for an aging parent. More information is available at ncsl.org.
Veterans Affairs Benefits, including:
Veterans Directed Home and Community Based Services (VD-HCBS)
Also known as Veterans Directed Care, this program provides financial assistance so that veterans enrolled in the VA health care system who require nursing-home-level care can instead hire personal care assistants, which can include family members, in order to continue living at home. More information is available at va.gov.
Aid & Attendance (A&A) Benefit
If your parent is a wartime military veteran or spouse already receiving a VA pension, he or she may be eligible for additional funds for assistance with everyday living through the Veterans Aid & Attendance Pension. Contact your local VA office or go to benefits.va.gov for more information.
Ultimately, most families utilize an array of sources, blending personal assets along with state and federal resources, to secure money to pay for long-term aging care. The website longtermcare.acl.gov, managed by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, offers a helpful overview of the various sources of funding available to seniors and their caregivers including various private options, such as utilizing equity from reverse mortgages, annuities, trusts and more.