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Statewide Respite Program Can Support Caregivers Caring for Elderly Loved Ones

Families responsible for the care of elderly loved ones may be eligible to receive financial assistance under a statewide respite care program that is intended to provide temporary relief from the physical and emotional demands of caregiving.

“Caregiver burnout is a serious problem that affects many spouses and family members who care for frail elderly and/or disabled relatives,” said Diane Silbernagel, Executive Director of HomeCare Options, the agency responsible for the statewide respite program in Passaic County.  “Respite services can give caregivers an occasional break so they can meet, more calmly, the daily stress and demands of caring for an impaired adult.”

These services, short-term and intermittent in nature, may include the use of companions, home health aides, medical adult day care, social day care, short-term in a licensed inpatient facility, and emergency care should the caregiver be unexpectedly unavailable.

According to Silbernagel, priority for financial assistance is given to those families where the impaired member is at risk of long-term institutionalization should their caregiver be unable to continue in that role.  This may be caused by such factors as stress, fatigue or illness.

Nearly 40 million caregivers provide care to adults (aged 18+) with a disability or illness – comprising 16.6% of all Americans. About 15.7 million adult family caregivers care for someone who has Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia. It is estimated that 65% of care recipients are female.  One in every three caregivers has reported feeling depressed.

Eligibility Requirements

If single or widowed, the individual requiring care is the only one whose income is considered when establishing financial eligibility for the program and determining the share of the cost to be paid by the individual.  That income must be no more than 300 percent of the federal Supplemental Security Income level (or not greater than $2,136 per month).  With an income of under $1,088 per month, the individual will be responsible for zero percent of the cost; while at the higher levels of the eligibility requirements, the individual would pay 25 percent of the cost.

If the individual is married, then both spouses’ incomes are considered in the eligibility requirement – even if only one spouse is going to participate in the program.  In the case of married applicants, both incomes are added together and divided by two to get the average.  If the resulting figure is no more than 300 percent of the federal Supplemental Security Income level (not to exceed $4,326 per month) one or both spouses are eligible.

Also considered are liquid assets (i.e. those that can be converted into cash within 20 working days), which must be below $40,000 for an individual and $60,000 for a couple.  These limits include funds in savings accounts, stocks and bonds, CD’s and IRA’s, but do not include the value of one’s home, care or household effects.

Clients eligible and selected for the program may receive services up to a cap of $4,500 during any calendar year.  The grant can be renewed each year provided the individual is within the original criteria for eligibility.

HomeCare Options will assess the family’s need for respite care and will draw up a service plan that specifies the appropriate services and delivery pattern.  For more information, call Mardochee Milford, program coordinator, at 973-523-2429.

For Immediate Release

Contact: Howard Matzner/Steven Clark
Andover Communications
(201) 482-4008