Care for Choices: A Salary for Family Caregivers

Life, for most of us, is a juggling act where work, family, home and play are a few of the many things we try to balance. But what if you could get some of these pieces to fall into sync with each other? A number of new articles I have read pointed out as to how Vermont seems to be doing this for its citizens. In 2005 the state known for its maple syrup, Ben & Jerry’s and forward thinking began to implement Care for Choices, a new plan for Medicaid-eligible seniors who need assistance. The choice in this case is twofold: the elder can stay at home and the assistance is given by a family member, friend or neighbor who is paid by the state to provide homecare care for the individual. (In the past I have written articles as to how the internet can help in managing family caregiver duties. In this case it’s the state, at least in Vermont, which is offering it’s own helping hand by paying family senior care caregivers whose finances or time is strained when trying to balance both work and family.) The question is why Vermont is doing this anyway? Well, the reasoning is fairly simple; the state simply needs to be proactive. According to the May update from the Vermont Department of Disabilities, Aging & Independent Living, ” the state’s fastest growing age group is…65 to 74, [which is] projected to grow 62% during the period 2005–2015. ” The report stated that in 1996, Vermont spent 88% of its public long term care dollars on nursing homes facility care leaving 12% for home and community-based services.

Today, the figures are 68% and 32% respectively, giving Vermonters greater choice in their long term care options.  And it isn’t just Vermonters who benefit, the state does too, withe caregivers being paid an hourly rate about $10, with an eight-hour day costing $80, whereas skilled nursing facilities cost the state on average about $122 a day. But there are still a few unanswered questions, is this keeping those seniors who do not require skilled care out of nursing facilities? Or worse yet, keeping those who need skilled care inside their homes with caregivers unable to provide them with all the care they need? How many people not requiring skilled care have been made to move into a facility preemptively? Also, will this really make a financial difference to the state? These are the types of queries that only time will be able to answer. What we know so far is that the number of Medicaid-eligible seniors in skilled nursing facilities has dipped and rates of homecare have increased since the Care for Choices plan first came into action. And every person’s scenario will be different. However, in my opinion, every time the state steps in to ensure that a senior’s needs and desires are met should be applauded. I’m sure many Vermonters welcome the opportunity to aid seniors with household chores, getting dressed or even rides to a doctor’s appointment. The ability to know that the state will compensate you for your work can actually take financial pressure off from many family caregivers. And whether this proves the best option for a particular person comes down to personality, compatibility and needs;similar to the process of choosing the right facility for yourself or a loved one. And no one can argue that choosing is better than being told.