As highlighted in a recent article in The New York Times, an increasing number of seniors who need assistance are receiving that care from other seniors. Most commonly the caregivers are the spouses of the care recipients, but older paid providers are a close second.
In fact, 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. It goes on to say that by 2018, nearly one out of every three caregivers will be older direct care workers.
Older workers fill the paid caregiver role for a number of reasons.
Some need the income, and the part-time nature of the work fits their schedule and energy level. Also, if they receive Social Security benefits and are under the age of 70, their monthly benefit may be reduced if they earn too much. In cases like this, a part-time job is their only option if they want to avoid sacrificing their Social Security checks.
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 who need 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 employer’s share of FICA (this is the so-called “nanny tax” and it applies to child care workers, home care aides, and even housekeepers).
Pace yourself. Whether you are providing care to a family member or are a paid caregiver, don’t take on too much. It won’t help you or the person you care for if you are injured, ill, or simply lose your patience because you’re exhausted. Take on what you can handle 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.