Resources For Family Caregivers During The COVID-19 Pandemic

Bay Alarm Medical

August 19, 2020

The COVID-19 virus affected long-term care facilities like nursing homes and assisted living communities long before it spread throughout the general population. Although long-term care facilities (LCTF) account for just 8% of COVID cases, those cases represent more than 41% of deaths from COVID in the US.

Many worried families removed their senior relatives (or are considering doing so) from LCTF and abruptly became caregivers. Is your family in this situation? Here are some ways you may be able to get help caring for your senior relative at home.

Some Medicare Advantage Plans Cover In-Home Non-Skilled Care

Medicare Advantage Plan booklet

“Can Medicare pay for family caregivers?” “Does Medicare pay for in-home care?” Until 2019, the answer to both questions was usually no. In certain circumstances, Medicare pays for in-home caregivers, but the benefit is limited, and must be prescribed by a physician.  Talk with your relative’s doctor to see if she qualifies for Medicare in-home caregiving.

However, beginning in 2019, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) loosened requirements to allow Medicare Advantage (MA) plans the option of covering non-skilled in-home care.  This helps people who need assistance with non-medical tasks like transportation to medical appointments, grocery shopping, cleaning, etc.  All covered activities must be designated as “medically appropriate by a licensed health care provider.

MA plans aren’t required to offer this benefit, but many do. Contact your provider for details.

Self-Directed Medicaid Services May Pay Some Family Caregivers

Grandpa with adult son and young grandson walking

Some state Medicaid programs offer direct payments that Medicaid recipients can use to pay family members for the time they spend providing care. These are called “self-directed Medicaid services” because the individual receiving the service selects their own care providers – subject to state requirements and qualifications.

Not all states participate, and program qualifications and rules vary by state. Some states limit the number of participants, while others won’t allow a spouse to receive payments for caregiving. Contact your state Medicaid agency for information about your state.

Veterans Administration Caregiver Support Programs

USA Veteran saluting the American flag

Every VA medical center has a Caregiver Support Coordinator on staff to help caregivers find support and enroll in caregiver programs and services.  Use the search tool to find a facility or call the VA Caregiver Support line at 1-855-260-3274.

Post 9/11 veterans may be eligible for the Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers, which provides stipends to family caregivers of veterans with specific injuries or health conditions. All caregivers and veterans are eligible for the Program of General Caregiver Support Services. That provides counseling, peer support, education, and training for family caregivers. Although this service doesn’t provide monetary stipends, it can help caregivers cope with stress, care for themselves, and provide better care to their family member.

Other Resources for Caregivers

Many local governments and non-profit and religious organizations also offer various types of caregiver support. Caregivers can also tap into informal networks and technology for assistance.

  • Informal helpers: Talk with family members, friends, neighbors, and members of your religious congregation about ways they can help and create a contact list. Just knowing you have back-up can help relieve stress.
  • Nutrition programs: Most senior centers, churches, and community centers temporarily stopped serving in-house meals, but offer free or low cost prepared meals for pick-up or delivery.
  • GPS medical alert with caregiver tracking: As many as 50% of dementia patients who wander away from home can suffer serious injuries or even die if they aren’t found within 24 hours. A medical alert system with a caregiver tracking option gives caregivers the ability to monitor the location of their loved one.
  • Respite care: Many adult day care programs are trying to keep seniors mentally and socially engaged with online activities like communal singing, games, and socializing.
  • Employee assistance programs: Your employer may offer some type of paid respite care or other benefit to employees caring for children or seniors.
  • Caregiver support groups: Being with other caregivers – even virtually – can be an important way to relieve stress and depression. You also get to share expertise and ideas with people in similar situations.

The Family Caregiver Alliance has a state-by-state navigator map that helps family caregivers find resources.

Author Tia Walker wrote, “To care for those who once cared for us is one of the highest honors.” At Bay Alarm Medical, we salute all family caregivers. Contact us through our Web site or call 1-877-522-9633 to learn more about how a home medical alert system can help protect your family and provide peace of mind.

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