Steps to Take When Becoming a Caregiver – Part 7

By Christine Steinmetz, JD, Hotline Attorney

This post is Part 7 of our series on caregivers. The Legal Hotline for Michigan Seniors receives phone calls each week from loved ones and caregivers asking what he or she can do when there are concerns about a loved one. This blog post will discuss caregiving and finances.

Many caregivers find it very rewarding to care for a loved one. However, caregivers often take time away from their work and other activities, which can affect their finances and ability to advance at work. The caregiver themselves may need assistance in paying his or her own bills because of reduced hours at work or the financial burden of caring for a loved one. According to AARP, family caregivers provide more than 95% of non-professional care. In addition, a caregiver spends on average $7,000 out of pocket on caregiving each year. The purpose of this post is to offer suggestions that could help caregivers to continue to provide care for a loved one.

First, there are laws that protect a person who is both working and caring for a loved one. The Family and Medical Leave Act, also known as FMLA, allows eligible employees to take up to 12 weeks, in a 12-month period, of unpaid leave and provides job protection to care for the employee’s spouse, child, or parent who has a serious health condition. Although the caregiver is not entitled to be paid, they are guaranteed his or her position when they return to work.

Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) has a “Home Help Services” program for people who are unable to care for themselves. The recipient would have to qualify for this program and must meet Medicaid’s income and asset tests. The recipient will also need a doctor to submit a form saying that the recipient needs in-home help. Once in the program, a Medicaid recipient hires a provider to help with daily-living tasks like bathing, eating, light housework, and laundry. Medicaid then pays the cost of the provider. This allows people to live in their own homes rather than in a nursing home or an adult foster care home. MDHHS will visit the recipient and evaluate how much help the recipient needs. Medicaid then tells the recipient how many hours of help it will pay for. Home Health Care clients can hire providers who are friends, relatives, neighbors, or employees of home-help agencies. When a Medicaid recipient hires a relative to provide help, MDHHS presumes that the relative is caring for the Medicaid recipient because of love and affection and MDHHS will not pay for past help. However, the recipient can contact an attorney to have a caregiver’s contract drawn up to allow the caregiver to be paid. These contracts must follow Medicaid’s rules; therefore, the recipient should have the contract drawn up an attorney. The amount the caregiver can be paid by MDHHS is determined by fair market value in the county where the care is given. There are exceptions to this program. If you have questions, please contact an attorney on the Legal Hotline to assist you.

Veterans also have special programs to assist the veteran and the caregiver. A veteran may be eligible for services called Veteran Directed Home and Community-Based Services, Veteran’s Pensions, and/or Aid and Attendance benefits to provide some financial support to caregivers. There is also a program that offers caregiver stipends. For information call the VA Caregiver support line at 1-855-260-3274.

Many local Area Agency on Aging offices in Michigan office respite services for caregivers. Although this may not relieve the financial burden put on a caregiver, it will allow the caregiver to take time for themselves. To find an Area Agency on Aging office near you, please call 517-886-1029.

For more information about services for seniors, please contact the Legal Hotline for Michigan Seniors at 800-347-5297.