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At the start of 2020, Arizona began a pilot program to reimburse caregivers up to $1,000 for housing improvements such as ramps and grab bars or assistive technology like hearing aids or medical alert devices to help their loved ones age in place.
Lawmakers have allocated $1 million over two years for the Arizona Family Caregiver Reimbursement Program, and are limiting it to participants with incomes up to $75,000 for individuals and $150,000 for couples.
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Arizona's new program is among only a few nationwide to help with caregiver costs, according to Boston College's Center for Retirement Research.
"The costs associated with caregiving are high, and the resources can be hard to find,” says Dana Kennedy, AARP Arizona state director.
50 percent reimbursement rate
The money allocated to the Family Caregiver Reimbursement Program is not a lot in a state with an estimated 870,000 family caregivers, almost 1 in every 8 residents. Its 50 percent reimbursement of expenses up to the $1,000 maximum for each family member who qualifies should help at least 1,000 families caring for a disabled adult who needs help with at least one activity of daily living such as bathing, being mobile, dressing, eating, moving from a bed to a chair or using the toilet.
Steps to qualify
Arizonans can receive up to $1,000 in reimbursements for expenses that qualify.
1. Call the state's Caregiver Resource Line at 888-737-7494.
2. Answer questions from the screening specialist who answers the phone. The specialist makes an initial determination on whether a person qualifies for the program.
3. Fill out and submit a copy of the application that will be sent via mail or email as well as a medical need verification form and a Form W-9 for tax purposes.
4. Wait about 90 days for officials to review the documents. They will notify the applicant about the next steps.
The money can't be used for daily living costs, regular household repairs and upkeep, or expenses that insurance or other sources will reimburse. The renovations or equipment must be started or bought after Jan. 1, and the grants will be awarded to those who qualify on a first-come, first-served basis.
After two years, the trial project will be evaluated to determine if it should continue. The Arizona Department of Economic Security's Aging and Adult Services division is overseeing the program.
In the long run, the modest grants save the state money by keeping people safe at home longer, thereby delaying or preventing the need for more expensive care in taxpayer-funded institutions such as nursing homes, supporters say.
"We will collect data on the initial use, and if it proves to be as successful as we expect, I would like to expand the program,” says state Sen. Heather Carter, a Phoenix Republican who cosponsored the bill.
Fran and David Buss have lived in their home in the desert foothills of Tucson for more than 32 years and hope never to leave. But they need to add two ramps to their single-story house so 77-year-old Fran Buss, who is partially disabled and has grown more frail, can navigate the step up to the front door and the step down to the study more easily, says David Buss, 72, a retired chaplain and his wife's caregiver.