Are Virginia, Maryland and/or DC Among the Best or Worst States for Supporting Family Caregivers?

A recent Facebook Live event, Caring for the Caregivers, featuring Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-California), occurred last week. The biggest takeaway was that word is starting to spread on Capitol Hill that family caregivers need more support.

The live discussion was centered around the Credit for Caring Act and what it would mean for the 53 million caregivers, who moderators dubbed as “the unrecognized backbone of the long term care system.”

U.S. Lawmakers are Aware of Caregiving Challenges

Moderators pointed out that lawmakers recognize that families in every community and walk of life face caregiving challenges that may last for years and that financial sacrifice is one of these challenges. Here are some of the statistics mentioned:

  • Family caregivers are providing $470 billion in unpaid care each year — doing everything from helping prepare meals and paying bills to assisting with medication and general activities of daily living — most often so that their parents, spouses, and other loved ones can continue to live independently in their homes and communities.
  • A whopping 61% of caregivers are also holding down a job.
  • On average, America’s family caregivers pay more than $7,200 a year out of their own pockets to help loved ones stay independent, AARP research shows. Caregiver pay is typically low, so that comes to 26% of a typical caregiver’s income using the nationwide average, which makes it a huge strain on a caregiver’s monthly budget.
  • Six in 10 caregivers now have medical duties, AARP research shows. In recent years, family members have been taking on medical and nursing tasks that used to be handled only in a medical facility. These include operating medical equipment, caring for wounds, administering injections, and monitoring medications. According to AARP, “this makes caregivers a new class of health care providers, and it has transformed people’s homes into centers of health care.”

The Credit for Caring Act, which addresses some of these issues, has not yet become a law. We are following it though and will update our readers if and when it does!

State Ranking if Caregiving Supports and Services

As you likely know, the state where you live can have a big effect on your overall quality of life. This is also true for Americans providing unpaid care to an older adult. The state that a family caregiver calls home can be a major factor in the supports they have available in their role.

Each of the 50 states vary widely in the availability of supports and services for family caregivers — from laws that make it easier for working caregivers to take time off to care for an aging loved one to the number of high quality senior care providers in each state.

Some states are doing a good job by easing the financial burden on caregivers and by providing mental, emotional and physical support. Others aren’t performing at their best. Here are some rankings according to the Long-Term Services & Supports State Scorecard, which measures state-level performance from the viewpoint of users of services and their families.

  • Virginia report: Overall, Virginia ranks 19th in the US when it comes to Long-Term Services and Supports. Although nursing home costs are 245% higher than the national average, Virginia ranks 12th when it comes to affordability and accessibility of long-term care. Unfortunately, Virginia ranks 48th when it comes to support for caregivers, including how the state supports working family caregivers, person and family centered care, and other factors.
  • Maryland report: Overall, Maryland ranks 13th in the US when it comes to Long-Term Services and Supports. Although nursing home costs are also around 245% higher than the US average, Maryland ranks 6th when it comes to affordability and access of long-term care. Maryland ranks 14th overall when it comes to support for caregivers, including supporting working family caregivers, person and family centered care, and other factors, even though the state ranks 45th for person- and family-centered care.
  • DC Report: A link to the state report is not available for Washington, DC. Overall, Washington, DC ranks 14th in the US when it comes to Long-Term Services and Supports.

Across the US, the Scorecard found significant progress in the enactment of public policies that support working family caregivers. More states and localities are recognizing the competing pressures on family caregivers and offering flexibility to use accrued sick time for family caregiving responsibilities. States are also enacting paid family leave programs to ensure that family caregivers do not risk losing their paycheck when close family members need help. Since the last Scorecard, the number of states with paid family leave programs tripled from three states to nine states.

The Best and Worst Paying States for Paid Caregivers

Recently, Business.org ranked the best-paying and worst-paying states for paid caregivers, by comparing the average caregiver salary with the average salary in each state. Here are some stats:

  • North Dakota ranks the best for caregiver pay, with an annual mean wage of $34,020— which is still 35% less than the average worker in North Dakota.
  • Due to the higher cost of living in our area and higher salaries of workers, the District of Columbia ranks last on the list, with caregivers being paid 67% less than the average worker. Virginia is a close second, with caregivers being paid 61% less than the average worker.

Improvements are Being Made in Caregiving

Some states are leading the way in providing more formal supports for family caregivers, improving the quality of care, and investing in public resources to create high-performing systems to meet growing demand. However, as a nation, we need to do more and do better to improve the experience of care for families and help older adults maintain a high quality of life as they age. As mentioned earlier, the Credit for Caring Act will certainly prove to be helpful, if passed. We will continue to keep our readers up to date on caregiving policy and helpful resources for caregivers!

Planning in Advance for Long-Term Care

The significant costs of long-term care, particularly in our area, can impact retirement plans, savings, and the level of care a loved one receives. That’s why it’s so important that people speak with an experienced elder law attorney about long-term care preferences and to put a plan in place.

Medicaid Planning for Long-Term Care

Medicaid planning can be started while you are still able to make legal and financial decisions or can be initiated by an adult child acting as agent under a properly-drafted Power of Attorney, even if you are already in a nursing home or receiving other long-term care. In general, the earlier someone plans for long-term care needs, the better. But it is never too late to begin your planning.

To begin long-term care planning (and incapacity and estate planning) right away, please call us to make an appointment for a no-cost initial consultation.

Fairfax Elder Law: 703-691-1888
Fredericksburg Elder Law: 540-479-1435
Rockville Elder Law: 301-519-8041
DC Elder Law: 202-587-2797
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