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Seniors Caring for Seniors: Some Issues to Consider

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An increasing number of seniors who need assistance are being cared for by other seniors. Most commonly the caregivers are the spouses of the care recipients, but often they are not.

It’s not unusual for someone in her 80s to be cared for by a paid caregiver in her 60s or 70s. The article reports that in 2008, 28 percent of home care aides were over age 55. Older workers fill the paid caregiver role for a number of reasons.

Some need the income. For some, the part-time nature of the work fits their schedule and energy level. Also, if they are receiving Social Security benefits and are under their full retirement age, their monthly benefit may be reduced if they earn too much income.

Others simply enjoy the work and being useful to others. Often they started out as caregivers for family members and continued in the role when their family members stopped needing the care. And some seniors needing assistance feel more comfortable receiving it from someone closer to their own age.

Whether you’re a senior providing unpaid care to a family member or an older worker employed as a caregiver, considering the following issues can make the process work better for all concerned:

  • Follow the employment laws. If the care provider is not a family member, the employer must follow all of the state and federal laws for employers, including providing workers’ compensation and unemployment insurance, and paying the employers share of FICA. This is one of the reasons its often easier (though more expensive) to hire a care provider through an agency, rather than directly.
  • Pace yourself. Don’t take on too much. Whether you are providing care to a family member or are a paid caregiver, it wont do you or the person you are caring for any good if you get injured or ill, or simply lose your patience because youre exhausted. Take on what you can take on and get help, whether paid or from other family members, as needed to make the system work for everyone.
  • Check out the Medicaid program. Increasingly, states are expanding the home care they provide through their Medicaid programs, allowing at least some subsidies for in-home care, in some cases even to family members. Check with state or community senior agencies or with an elder law attorney to learn what is available where you live.
  • Don’t earn too much. As mentioned above, those workers who have elected to receive Social Security benefits before age 70 will lose some of their monthly payments if they earn too much. For those who have not yet reached their full retirement age (66 for those born between 1943 and 1954), the deduction is $1 of benefit for every $2 earned over $14,160. During the year of one’s full retirement age, the deduction is $1 for every $3 earned over $37,680, until the month a beneficiary reaches full retirement age. Once a beneficiary reaches full retirement age, benefits are no longer reduced due to income.

To read the New York Times article, click here.

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