According to AARP, roughly 38 million Americans, or about 11.5% of the population, are currently providing unpaid care to a family member. This unpaid care accounts for roughly $600 billion if those same caregivers were actually being compensated for their combined 36 billion hours of service.
If you’re one of those 38 million Americans offering free care to a family member – it might be time to start taking steps towards earning some income for your services.
Before You Apply to Be a Paid Caregiver
Before you start looking into becoming a certified and compensated caregiver, there are some things you need to know – namely, the level of commitment you’d be signing up for.
Becoming a caregiver is a thoughtful and loving way to make your time matter to someone else, however it comes with its fair share of stressors and responsibilities, especially if you’re caring for someone with an illness or in the later stages of the aging process.
Obviously, the role requires a large time commitment. The National Alliance for Caregiving (NAC) and AARP report that on average, caregivers provide roughly 24.4 hours of care per week, depending on the needs of their loved one. For almost 25% of those caregivers, that time commitment climbs to over 41 hours – the equivalent to working a full-time job.
The job also requires significant physical and emotional capabilities. You need to be physically fit enough to help a loved one carry out the physical tasks they can’t do on their own, while still being emotionally available around the clock for continued support, even in the face of significant obstacles.
Becoming a family caregiver can yield incredibly fulfilling results, but it takes a real commitment to achieve the results you hope for.
How to Start the Process
The first steps towards becoming a paid family caregiver vary state-by-state. In most instances, it requires some level of training and licensing or credentialing, especially if you want to be paid via Medicaid or Veteran’s Affairs programs. For other payment options, such as tax credits or local programs, the requirements are less rigorous.
To be eligible to be compensated via Medicaid requires different processes depending on the state you want to be a caregiver in. Most states include a consumer-directed personal assistance program (CDPAP), where care recipients can specifically hire relatives as their paid caregivers, but they typically require credentials on the part of the relative.
These credentials are usually obtained after being employed by a state organization as a home care aide or advanced home care aide. They sometimes also require attending classes and fulfilling a certain number of hours of basic training.
To see the requirements for your state specifically, visit Medicaid’s website.
The Veterans Affairs (VA) Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers is another method for family caregivers to receive compensation if the person they’re caring for is a veteran.
Veterans qualify for VA caregiving services if they meet all of the below requirements:
- The Veteran has a VA disability rating of 70% or higher
- The Veteran was discharged from the U.S. military or has a date of medical discharge
- The Veteran needs at least 6 months of continuous, in-person personal care
Any relative or person living with the veteran full-time can apply for caregiver compensation either online or by mail with VA Form 10-10CG.
One of the most straightforward forms of compensation for family caregivers comes in the form of tax credits. Tax credits can be collected by family caregivers who report dependent care expenses for the loved one in their care. The IRS offers a quick Interactive Tax Assistance quiz to help you determine if you qualify for a tax credit.
Long-Term Care or Life Insurance
Some insurance policies include stipulations that allow family members to be compensated as caregivers. Unlike basic health insurance, long-term care insurance includes coverage for support services like personal caregivers.
These policies vary on a case-by-case basis depending on the status of the person signing the insurance claim. There are typically time or financial limits on most of these insurance plans so you need to speak directly with your policyholder or advisor to know exactly what you qualify for.
You can access a clear description of what these policies typically entail at LongTermCare.gov.
Take Your Care Beyond Your Home
If caregiving is truly your passion and you take pride in helping others, it could be worth looking into working with an in-home care agency, such as SYNERGY HomeCare.
SYNERGY HomeCare will provide you with the tools and knowledge you need to become a source of support for more than just your immediate family, as you can touch several members of your community who need help the most.
For more information on caring for a loved one at home, download SYNERGY HomeCare’s free Family Caregiver Ultimate Guide.
SYNERGY HomeCare offers no obligation home assessments. Find a location near you or Contact us to talk to a Home Care specialist.