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Bill Would Help Family Caregivers Across Pennsylvania

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For seven years, Angie Roman has balanced her career as a project manager with the enormous commitment of being a caregiver. First for her father, who had suffered a stroke, then for her mother, who had dementia and moved in with Roman’s family.

Both have since passed away. Now she is helping care for her aging in-laws in their home in Frackville, in Schuylkill County.

Roman, 61, and her husband, Phil, 62, moved from Yuma, Arizona, into his parents’ house this past spring to help 88-year-old Eleanor, whose congestive heart failure worsened in May, as well as Felix, 90, who is blind.    
Angie and Phil wanted to make it possible for them to stay in their own home. 

“This is where they feel most comfortable,” Angie Roman says. “This is where they feel the least stress. We are blessed that we are able to do this.” 

AARP estimates there are 1.6 million unpaid caregivers like the Romans in Pennsylvania who could benefit from legislation it supports to help them recoup some of their costs.

Angie and Phil miss their friends in Arizona. They can’t leave the house to do errands for more than about three hours at a time, and vacations are a distant memory.

There has also been a big financial hit. Phil closed his flood-restoration business when he moved across the country to become a caregiver. Angie took a job that allows her to work from home, leaving time to pitch in.  

Bill Would Offer $5,000 Credit

Caregiving can be expensive. 

A recent AARP study reported that family caregivers spend an average of $7,242 a year on out-of-pocket expenses, such as stairlifts, transportation and prescription drugs. 

The Romans pay about $300 a month for items such as wound-care treatment.

“Oftentimes, this means taking on debt and putting off saving. This financial toll is not sustainable,” says Teresa Osborne, who is the advocacy and outreach manager for AARP Pennsylvania.

“Some are on call 24/7, and they can’t even take a break,” Osborne says. At times family caregivers  stretch themselves so thin that they need to quit their jobs. “The economic implications are enormous.”

AARP is advocating for passage of the federal Credit for Caring Act, which would provide a tax credit of up to $5,000 to eligible family caregivers. AARP is asking its members to write to lawmakers in Congress to urge passage of the caregiver tax credit.   

Earlier this year, AARP Pennsylvania successfully pushed for a law, enacted in June, that beefs up benefits for the state’s Caregiver Support Program. 

The maximum monthly reimbursement increased from $500 to $600, and the lifetime reimbursement for home modifications and assistive devices increased from $2,000 to $5,000. 

An online family caregiver guide is available at aarp.org/pa. To request a print copy, call 877-333-5885.

For those like Angie Roman, tax credits and other programs would be a big help: “Having any kind of benefit is definitely a plus. It can be very costly.” 

But she says helping her in-laws stay in their home is gratifying. “The rewards are intangible. If I help my mother-in-law get into bed, she looks at me and says, ‘I couldn’t do this without you.’ ”

Cristina Rouvalis is a writer living in Pittsburgh.

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