Nearly one million people are unpaid family caregivers in Washington state. A new state benefit will help both people needing care and their family caregivers cover the cost of care.
WA Cares is open to all workers in the state – full time, part-time, gig workers even those near retirement and those with a pre-existing condition. The funds will help residents stay in their own homes longer with assistance for paid care if they face challenges due to dementia, cancer or other illnesses. The new benefits are even available to pay a family member to be a caregiver.
A new report has great news for more than 70,000 workers in the Vancouver region who will soon be building up WA Cares benefits. It’s something all Washington residents should be aware of, even if there isn’t a need right now. Anyone can end up in need of help or be called to help a loved one in an instant, like what happened to Christina Keys, a Vancouver area resident who has been a caregiver for her mother, who had a stroke at the age of 63.
“A lot of people have this mentality: ‘it’s just not going to happen to me,’” Keys said. “Let me tell you from personal experience, the likelihood of you becoming a caregiver or becoming the one needing care is high.”
An estimated 3.1 million Washington adults under the age of 65 have a pre-existing condition, such as diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure, lupus, depression, sleep apnea or asthma.
“WA Cares covers all workers, including those with pre-existing conditions.”
WA Cares will provide $36,500, which grows with inflation, to help pay someone when there is a need for help with tasks like dressing, bathing, making meals and getting around as a result of an injury, illness, disease or the normal challenges that come with aging.
Vicki Bickford of Vancouver is aware of the necessity for assistance from both perspectives. She was a single mother raising three boys, and worked as a home care aide to people with cancer, Alzheimer’s, and disabilities. Now she has arthritis and anticipates needing help in the future.
“It’s a fact: the vast majority of us will need help with basic activities like dressing, bathing, making meals, and getting around at some point in our lives as a result of an accident, injury, illness or disease,” she said. “Now I have aggressive arthritis, and even walking up stairs is tough. Someday I’ll need help with daily tasks, like grocery shopping, bathing, and moving around the house. With WA Cares I’ll be able to pay a home care aide to help me, and replace my stairs with a ramp.”
People of color and particularly women are more likely to leave a job to care for family members. putting an even larger strain on their household income.
“As a single mom who also takes care of my own mother financially, I only have a few months rent in my savings,” said Selena Ostergard of Vancouver. “I see how people end up needing help with things like showering and meals due to an injury or a chronic condition. WA Cares funds will stretch our dollars so we don’t have to choose between getting internet and healthy meals or getting help with dressing and showering.”
Another reason WA Cares can be so beneficial to state residents is because so many don’t have a large amount of savings for even things they know are on the horizon, such as retirement or a college fund for their kids. When you unexpectedly have to hire an in-home aide for yourself or a family member, or leave your job to take care of a loved one, a fund you can tap into to help cover the cost is a lifeline.
The median American savings account today contains less than $5,300, which isn’t going to go very far in terms of in-home care. To qualify for Medicaid requires draining all your savings and assets.. WA Cares will offer some immediate relief for you and your family.
The WA Cares Fund is expected to generate $3.9 million in jobs and other economic benefits in Washington communities. A dollar spent through WA Cars on a home care provider, repair person or medical supplier generates another $1.50 in economic benefits in local communities and businesses.
Washingtonians are fortunate to live in a state forging innovative solutions to life’s inevitable challenges like the need for long term care.
Learn more at WeCareForWACares.org
We Cares for WA Cares is a coalition of consumer advocates including AARP, Alzheimer’s Association, Lupus Foundation, Multiple Sclerosis Society, and Physicians for Social Responsibility.