Taking care of a sick family member can be rough, and also expensive. When a family member gets sick, there are a few options for care – and all of them cost a lot of money. A long-term care facility or home health aide can run a large bill, and taking time off of work to provide care can be equally draining on a wallet as well as emotionally. Some people try to make it work outside of office hours, which can wreak havoc on the person’s life. Respite care can be a huge gift, but it also costs money – unless it’s subsidized.
There are about 43.5 million people providing unpaid care to a family member in the US – that’s 7.5% of the total population. 34.5 million of those are providing care to a person over the age of 50.
The financial value of unpaid caregiving is a staggering $470 billion. That’s more than all paid caregiving, and about the same amount of all Walmart sales. The financial savings to Medicare are a boon for the program, while the caregivers give up some amount of financial security to provide this unpaid care.
Unpaid caregivers perform a multitude of tasks for their family member members on an average of 19 days per month. Some of the responsibilities include feeding, dressing, bathing, shopping, giving medications, and food preparation. Almost half of caregivers are 18-49 years old, and 34% are over the age of 65 themselves.
The National Family Caregiver Support Program
The National Family Caregiver Support Program (NFCSP) is a government-sponsored program to help support caregivers in their roles. The program funds respite care programs in individual states to provide respite for caregivers to get some rest and take care of their own needs. Some of the respite care might be in the patient’s home, but it can also be at a senior care center during the day or overnight at a skilled nursing facility, such as the Alameda Center, in Essex County, New Jersey. The purpose of the program is to allow the patient to live at home as long as possible, which greatly reduced the financial strain on Medicare the national healthcare system. When combined with other subsidized programs, such as tax credits for caregiving and other assistance programs, it can be enough to keep the patient in the home setting.
The process I fairly simple: the caregiver has to contact her local office and give over some information about her situation. When she gets approval, she receive either an amount in dollars to use toward respite care or an amount of approved hours for the care she chooses, and she can then decide how to use those hours or dollars.
Some of the factors that influence the amount the caregivers receive are her age, the amount of help she provides to the patient, usually measured in ADLs (activities of daily living), and her own financial status. Some of the minimum requirements are at least 40 hours of care each week that are unpaid.
Since the program is run by individual states, even though it comes from federal money, each program will look a little different. In general, the money is given in the form of a voucher, and there’s a pre-existing list of home care providers or facilities to choose from, but in some cases that can be changed. Based on income, some caregivers might have a copay to get the service.