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What You Need to Know about Becoming a Family Caregiver

how to become a caregiver for a family member

Information and Support Programs for Caregivers of a Family Member or Friend

Have you recently become a caregiver for a family member or friend? Are you considering becoming a caregiver? Learning how to become an effective caregiver for a family member means sifting through many different options of how your loved one will receive care, including whether you should do home care or place your loved one in a nursing home.

You might also have questions about personal care or how your loved one can receive assistance with an activity of daily living. Family caregivers not only have questions about the logistics of long-term care, insurance and possible access to Medicaid programs for their loved one, but also about caregiver support for adult children and other caregivers in Pennsylvania.

Not only are there care programs out there to support your loved one through home and community based services, such as Community HealthChoices or Veteran-Directed Care (VDC); but there are also long-term services and supports for family caregivers that offer things such as caregiver training and respite care, such as the Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers (PCAFC) or the Pennsylvania Department of Aging (also known as the Area Agency on Aging). We’ll also look at Pennsylvania’s version of the Consumer Directed Personal Assistance Program.

Learn more: Can a Spouse be a Paid Caregiver in Pennsylvania?

Personal Care, Home Care or a Nursing Home?

The first thing is to decide whether or not your loved one needs personal care or medical care and where they will receive care at. If your family member or friend only needs help with an activity of daily living, such as dressing or bathing, personal care, also known as home care, is the best option for them. If your family member or friend needs medical care, then you’ll be deciding between home health care and placing them in a nursing home.

Now let’s look at some of the support options that may be available to you and your loved one.

Pennsylvania Community HealthChoices Program

Community HealthChoices (CHC) is the Pennsylvania managed care program that helps eligible individuals receive home care and long-term services and support. Community HealthChoices helps coordinate a patient’s health care coverage to improve the quality of their healthcare experience.

Who is Eligible for Community HealthChoices?

An individual is eligible for CHC if they:

  • Are 21 years or older
  • Receive both Medicare and Medicaid
  • Receive long-term services and supports through Medicaid because they need assistance with an activity of daily living

Benefits for Caregivers and their Family Member or Friend

There are benefits for both patients and family caregivers through Community HealthChoices including but not limited to:

  • Adult daily living services/help with an activity of daily living
  • Durable medical equipment and medical supplies
  • Meal delivery, nutritional counseling, food supplements
  • Non-medical transportation
  • Home health aide/nursing
  • Medical/dental services
  • Prescription drugs
  • Vehicle and home modifications
  • Respite care
  • Counseling

Consumer-Directed Services (CDS)

You may have heard of the nearby program known as Consumer Directed Personal Assistance Program. The Pennsylvania version is known as Consumer-Directed Services (CDS). This program is administered through the Office of Long-Term Living’s Home and Community-Based Services and gives patients more choice about where they receive services. This program is available to patients who are over the age of 60, or individuals with a disability who need long-term services and supports.

Common Services Available through CDS

Some of the common service elements include:

  • Service coordination via a care manager/service coordinator who helps with the patient’s individualized care program with a person-centered approach
  • Quality management to make sure the patient is satisfied with their long-term services and supports
  • Easy access, helping patients find the support they need through their local Pennsylvania Department of Aging/Area Agency on Aging
  • Consumer direction, which is an option that allows the patient to employ a personal attendant
  • Health and safety supports

Veteran-Directed Care (VDC)

Veteran-Directed Care (VDC) gives veterans of all ages the opportunity to receive home and community based services they need in a consumer-directed way. This care program is for veterans who need help with an activity of daily living, such as bathing, dressing or fixing meals. It is also for veterans who are isolated, or for those whose family caregiver is experiencing a burden. Participants in this program are given a budget for services that are managed by the veteran or by the veteran’s representative.

Who is Eligible for Veteran-Directed Care (VDC)?

All enrolled veterans are eligible for Veteran Directed Care (VDC) if they are eligible for home and community based services, meet the clinical criteria for the service, and it is available. Services may vary by location.

What Services are Available?

Services vary by location, however some of the services that may be available to you and your loved one include:

  • Assistance an activity of daily living, such as eating, dressing, bathing, toileting, and personal grooming
  • Assistance with mobility
  • Grocery shopping

Pennsylvania Caregiver Support Program

The Caregiver Support Program is administered through your local Pennsylvania Department of Aging/Area Agency on Aging. The focus is to help individuals who assume the role of primary caregiver and to encourage a healthy, ongoing relationship with the care receiver. The program does this through a variety of caregiver supports.

Available Services Through the Caregiver Support Program

Services for caregivers in Pennsylvania include:

  • Care program management
  • Benefits counseling
  • Caregiver training and education
  • Reimbursement for ongoing expenses related to caregiving services/supplies including but not limited to:
  • Respite care
  • Consumable supplies
  • Assistive devices
  • Supportive services

Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers (PCAFC)

The Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers (PCAFC) is offered through the VA and offers support for family caregivers of eligible veterans.

Who is Eligible for PCAFC?

A veteran is eligible if they:

  • Have a single/combined service-connected disability rating of 70% or more
  • Are in need of personal care services

What are the Services Offered?

The primary caregiver may receive:

  • A monthly stipend
  • Access to health insurance
  • Mental health counseling
  • Certain beneficiary travel benefits when traveling with the veteran to appointments

Final Thoughts

There are many options available for caregivers in Pennsylvania to help care for a family member or friend, from caregiver support to care options for your loved one. The first step is to decide on the care needed and where it’ll be received. The next step is to find the right support program for you and your loved one.

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