Compensation for caring for a relative at home

Julie Dadiskos combs her brother Larry Levesque’s hair on Tuesday August 17, 2022, in addition she and her husband, Chris, have added to their East Lyme home for Larry and his mother, Jeanette Levesque. Dadiskos receives a state-sponsored family support program to care for his brother and mother. (Dana Jensen/The Day)

Julie Dadiskos helps her brother Larry Levesque put on his watch on Tuesday August 17, 2022, in addition she and her husband, Chris, added to their East Lyme home for Larry and his mother, Jeanette Levesque. Dadiskos receives a state-sponsored family support program to care for his brother and mother. (Dana Jensen/The Day)

Chris Dadiskos, right, and his mother-in-law, Jeanette Levesque, share a laugh while spending time in the backyard of their East Lyme home. Dadiskos’ wife, Julie, receives a state-sponsored assisted living program to care for her mother and brother Larry. (Dana Jensen/The Day)

Chris Dadiskos gives his brother-in-law, Larry Levesque, a thumbs up after Larry played his guitar and sang Happy Birthday to him on Tuesday, August 17, 2022, as they and his wife, Julie, and his step- mother, Jeanette Levesque, spend time in the backyard of their home in East Lyme. Julie Dadiskos receives a state-sponsored family support program to care for her mother and brother. (Dana Jensen/The Day)

At almost 62, Julie Dadiskos had her hands full.

She worked five days a week in Spicer’s Marina office in Groton while caring for her mother and older brother at her home in Niantic, who had had to use a wheelchair since suffering a brain injury in 1988. Her husband, Chris Dadiskos also worked full time.

It was all getting too much.

But Dadiskos was not about to hand over the care of her family members to a nursing home or other facility if she could. Her brother, Larry Levesque, was born with special needs and had lived with at least one parent his entire life. After Larry and Julie’s father, Fred Levesque, passed away in 2002, their mother, Jeanette Levesque, cared for Larry for 13 years on her own while living with him in Portage Lake, Maine.

Six years ago, the Dadiskos expanded their Attawan Beach neighborhood home and moved Jeanette and Larry to Niantic to live with them.

Subsequently, Dadiskos heard about the state Department of Social Services’ Adult Family Living program, which provides support, including financial assistance, to family members or friends who act as both primary caregivers at home and as guests. The program has been compared to “adult foster care”.

Once enrolled in the program, Dadiskos, 65, qualified for a tax-free allowance that allowed her to retire three years ago and focus full-time on caring for her brother and mother.

“It just made the decision a little easier,” Dadiskos said of the financial support.

In January, Chris Dadiskos retired from his position as dockmaster at the Shennecosset Yacht Club, allowing him to provide more assistance to his wife. He turned 70 last week, an occasion Larry marked by strumming his guitar as the family, gathered on the deck of their home, sang “Happy Birthday.” The scene was idyllic.

“We are so grateful for this arrangement,” said Julie Dadiskos. “We love being home and not having to run to a facility. My mother is doing very well; at 89, she looks fantastic. … Larry, he’s 70 now, doing very, very well.

Another southeastern Connecticut family, the Zanardis, also give high marks to the Adult Family Living program.

Brett Zanardi’s father Dean broke his neck in an accident in 2015 and spent a year in hospital after surgery. Brett and his mother Denise saw an attorney specializing in elder care who took them to the Adult Family Living program and Mary Scagliarini to Assisted Living Services, one of the private home care agencies that acts as an intermediary between the ministry of Social Services and Families.

Were they interested in a convalescent home? Help with life? Not if there was a way to avoid them, the Zanardis told Scagliarini.

“She was a complete lifesaver,” Brett Zanardi said. “She got us into the Adult Family Living program and my dad has been home since May 2016. Other than a few slips and falls that required hospitalization and rehabilitation, we haven’t had to take him out of the house since. more than six years. ”

“The stipend I get has helped me a lot,” said Zanardi, who works part-time as a youth basketball coach and lives with his parents. He and his mother, a college paraprofessional, provide Zanardi’s father with round-the-clock care.

Zanardi said he was especially grateful that he was able to keep his father out of a convalescent home during the pandemic.

“When we realized it was an option, it was a no-brainer,” he said of the Adult Family Living program. “I hope more people learn about it.”

***

A survey by the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP, the organization for retirees, found that more than one in five Americans cared for someone with special needs in 2020. Nearly 53 million Americans provided unpaid care to a family member or friend, an increase of about 9.5 million since 2015.

More than 60% of family caregivers were also working.

These statistics speak to the likely appeal of the Adult Family Living program, which remains relatively unknown despite having been around since 2013 in Connecticut. Some have found it an especially attractive option during the COVID-19 pandemic, motivating families to find alternatives to nursing homes and other residential facilities.

In fiscal year 2021, approximately 3,000 participants took advantage of the Adult Family Living program, which the Department of Human Services offers through the CT Home Care for Elders program and the Personal Care Medicaid Waiver program.

For the state, Adult Family Living can be profitable. According to DSS spokesperson David Dearborn, in fiscal year 2021, the state’s net Medicaid cost to cover someone living in a skilled nursing facility was approximately $45,123 after federal reimbursement. . A participant in the CT home care program for seniors, using services that may include adult family living, cost the state $17,079 after federal reimbursement.

Adult Family Living is for seniors or people with disabilities who receive care from a provider who lives at home. Services can be provided in the recipient’s or caregiver’s home, whichever is preferable to the recipient. The Provider must live with the person receiving the Adult Family Living Services and cannot be a spouse or other “legal responsible relative”, a term defined as a person who has a duty, under the provisions of the law of the ‘state, to take care of another person.

Caregivers act as employees of Adult Family Living Providers―licensed private intermediary agencies that oversee the Caregiver. These agencies ensure that adult residences meet required specifications, including ensuring that the home is clean and in good condition, complies with all applicable building codes, health and safety codes and ordinances, and meets the recipient’s need for confidentiality.

Beneficiaries must be over 65 or have a disability, need help with at least one of the tasks listed under activities of daily living ― eating, bathing, dressing, getting around to another, grooming and maintaining continence ― and meeting income requirements. The program provides four levels of care depending on the complexity of the beneficiary’s needs. Caregiver allowance is based on level of care and can be up to over $500 per week. Benefits are paid through the provider agency.

The Medicaid personal care assistance waiver covers the cost of a personal care attendant to assist people ages 18 to 64 who have physical disabilities with their activities of daily living.

“Compensation makes such a difference,” said Scagliarini of Assisted Living Services, which has offices in Cheshire and Westport and clients across the state, including Dadiskos and Levesques as well as Zanardis.

“Typically a provider (enrolled in the program) quits their job to provide care, or maybe they’ve lost their job or are working part-time,” she said. “It works for many families. There’s also independent living and assisted living, but they don’t work financially for everyone.

“It’s such a good program,” Scagliarini said. “I’ve seen it change people’s lives.

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