Being a family caregiver is different for everyone, and can change over time for individuals. As the needs of a loved one develop and shift, a volunteer caregiver may find themselves missing time at work and feeling increasingly stressed.
A confluence of lifestyle factors have come together to create a juggling act for many families: people are living longer but often needing assistance with tasks of daily activities as they age and abilities change; both adults (who may also be parents of young children at this time) tend to work outside of the home; individuals tend to move farther away from family and therefore need to travel to help out.
“Research consistently shows that both men and women—across race, ethnicity, gender, economic status, age, and political affiliation—support a comprehensive program to provide paid family and medical leave to assist with family caregiving or personal medical needs,” states the Center for American Progress, an independent nonpartisan public policy institute, on their website.
The Center for American Progress reported that although the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) “guarantees eligible workers access to unpaid leave for up to 12 weeks in a 12-month period,” up to 40% of workers do not have access to this benefit because of employer size and hours worked requirements.
AARP found that as of November 2019, only nine states offer pay for workers who need time off for caregiving. They note that the estimated 41 million family caregivers in the United States provide 34 billion hours per year of unpaid caregiving.
There are details for California, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Washington state plans on the AARP website.
It’s important to know that money paid during leave may be taxable. Also, depending on the state or company, there may be leave allowed but it is not paid. Some states or employers might require 30 days advance notice for taking leave.
Hiring a professionally-trained caregiver to take some of the burden off so a family caregiver doesn’t miss work can be a solution. There are many different types of care that can fit specific needs, and it can be customized to a few hours per week or scaled up to 24/7 care—and then scaled back down as needs change and availability of family caregivers changes too.
As family caregivers can find themselves in a predicament between taking time off and paying for care, it’s helpful to know how professional care can be paid for too. There are a number of existing benefits—VA Aid & Attendance, long-term care insurance, Medicaid, Medicare Advantage, and even some life insurance policies—to tap into to help offset care costs for families.
It can take a bit of research to learn what state and employer options there are to care for a loved one, as well as to coordinate care with a combination of paid and volunteer caregivers, when paid family leave is not available.