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National Family Caregiver Support Program (NFCSP)

Thursday, October 8, 2020

If you’re caring for a family member who is living with a disability, then you might qualify for assistance and benefits through the National Family Caregiver Support Program (NFCSP).


In this article, we will discuss all you need to know about the NFCSP as a care provider.


We’ll discuss what is the purpose of the program, how you might benefit from it, what are the eligibility requirements, and more. 


If you’re a New York resident, we will also cover some details specific to NFCSP in NY.


What is the National Family Caregiver Support Program?


The National Family Caregiver Support Program (NFCSP) is a federal program that allocates funds to states and territories via grants to provide aid to informal caregivers.


For example, if you’re someone who is caring for a senior family member, or if you’re a parent or grandparent caring for a child with a disability, then you might be eligible for NFCSP.


This is different from formal care providers like nurses or home health aides.


There are many benefits to informal care from family members. 


An older adult might feel more comfortable getting care from a loved one than a stranger at a care facility. Informal care also allows them to stay connected to their communities and to continue living in the comfort of their homes.


For a child, being cared for at home by family members could be more nurturing and comforting than at foster care.


But caregivers often have to sacrifice to be there for their loved ones. You might have had to cut back on work hours, or maybe you spend less time pursuing your hobbies.


The NFCSP exists to provide support to caregivers like you so that providing care for your loved ones becomes more sustainable long term. 


The history behind NFCSP


The National Family Caregiver Support Program (NFCSP) became the law when congress reauthorized the Older Americans Act (OAA) back in November 2000. 


Although the program is funded by the federal government, it is administered by the states. So, if you qualify for benefits, you would communicate with the relevant agency in the state where you live.


NFCSP is administered jointly by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Administration on Aging (AoA).


The program has been a significant success. Because it was doing so well, in 2006 the age requirement for older caregivers was lowered to 55, increasing the number of participants by almost 20 percent. 


The budget for the program also increases each year, as we will see below.

The 2020 update to NFCSP


The program went through a change in 2020 that could further benefit people caring for children at home. 


Previously, states could only spend ten percent of their total budget for older adults caring for a relative child (not their own children). 


That cap has now been removed, which would allow respective communities to allocate funds in a way that best suits their needs.


What benefits can you get from NFCSP as a caregiver?


Now that we’ve covered the basics about the National Family Caregiver Support Program, let’s take a look at what you, as a caregiver. can expect as far as benefits if you qualify.


1. Access to information


Your local area NFCSP agency conducts various outreach activities to keep you, the caregiver, informed, and up-to-date regarding all the services that are available to you.


These services are designed to make your job as a caregiver easier.


Your local agency might provide information through community outreach efforts like brochures, local newspapers, or announcements in local media.


If there is a local event such as a health fair, you may find information there as well.


The area agency may also conduct more targeted outreach to identify potential community members who are caring for someone with a disability at home.

2. Assistance in accessing services


After you receive the necessary information, you will also get assistance with accessing any NFCSP services that are relevant to you.


You may get individualized information based on services within your community that would be relevant to you and the person you’re caring for. 


Your area agency might help you go through the process of defining your specific problems and needs. Then they can help you identify and connect with available services in your area to address those needs and problems.


If possible, the area agency may also follow up with you to make sure you actually got access to the help you needed and to make sure it is making your life as an informal care provider easier.


3. Counseling for care providers


The purpose of counseling is to help you make better decisions and solve problems when it comes to providing care for your loved one.


Counseling can be done individually, through support groups in the community, or through caregiver training. These counseling channels will be organized by the area agency in your locality. 


If you’re sharing care responsibilities for the same care recipient, then counseling could take place in a group setting for all care providers involved.


A few examples of the types of counseling available for care providers through NFCSP:


  • Individual or group counseling
  • Peer counseling
  • Grief counseling
  • Mediation resolution


Counseling support groups


If there is a large enough group of care providers in your community, then the area agency might create, support, and maintain support groups to promote better communication between caregivers.


Support groups don’t necessarily have to meet in person, and they can also meet online, or even via telephone.


Support groups can be designed based on multiple factors. 


For example, it could be based on the relationship between the care provider and the recipient, such as people caring for their children or spouses.


Or, it could also be based on the type of condition affecting the care recipient, like neurological diseases, joint health issues, etc.


The duration of the support group meetings or training sessions can vary widely depending on the needs of the specific group. They can be a few hours long, or in some cases, range from full-day to ongoing weekly meetings.


The purpose of these training/support groups is to equip you with the skills, expertise, and resources necessary to handle all aspects of caring for a loved one with a disability, and not only their medical condition.


Here are just a few examples of things you might learn about through NFCSP’s counseling programs.


  • Assistance with activities of daily living (bathing, grooming, laundry, etc.)
  • Legal matters (power of attorney, wills, etc.)
  • Nutrition, health, and wellness
  • Mental health issues (stress reduction, anxiety management)
  • Managing difficult behavior


4. Respite care


Respite care is a benefit through NFCSP to provide temporary relief to care providers.


As a care provider, you have your own needs beyond caring for your loved one. Maybe it is date night with your spouse, catching up with friends, other charities you’re involved in, or it could be simply that you need a night off to relax and do nothing.


Respite care provides you that relief by temporarily taking over the care responsibilities for your loved one.


Since every family’s needs might vary, area agencies try to arrange different types of respite care to meet your specific care requirements.


Here are a few different types of respite care available for care providers and recipients:


  • In-home personal care
  • Temporary home health aide
  • Overnight respite care (long-term care facility e.g. nursing home, assisted living)
  • Day service for adults (adult social day care, day health care)


Respite care services facilitate the needs of both the caregiver and the recipient, thus making informal care more sustainable long term.

Eligibility for respite care through the NFCSP program


To be eligible for respite care through the National Family Caregiver Support Program, the person receiving care must qualify as frail as defined in the Older Americans Act.


To qualify as frail, the care recipient must meet the following requirements.


1. The care recipient must be unable to perform at least two activities of daily living without significant help from another person. They must need physical help or verbal guidance.


2. The care recipient must need continual supervision from another person due to cognitive impairment. If they are unsupervised, they might be at risk of causing severe harm to themselves and/or others.


5. Supplemental services 


Supplemental services are a broad category of services designed to meet the miscellaneous needs of caregivers. 


They are separate from the information, support, training, or respite services listed above.


But there is a limit to what an agency can spend on supplemental services, which is capped at 20 percent of its total funding. 


Supplemental services are defined vaguely on purpose so they can be flexible, and funds can be allocated more effectively by communities to meet their unique needs.


Here are some examples of supplemental services through NFCSP.


  • Personal emergency response systems
  • Home modifications to meet care needs
  • Assistive technology for caregivers
  • Disposable supplies
  • Nutrition help
  • Transportation


The eligibility requirements for supplemental services are similar to respite care. The care recipient must meet the definition of frail (see above) under the Older Americans Act.


The bottom line on benefits through NFCSP


The services through NFCSP work together with other community-based programs to make informal caregiving as sustainable and feasible as possible.


The idea of providing care for a loved one can be stressful and overwhelming. 


You might wonder if you’re qualified and capable of caring for your family member in a way that makes sure they can live with comfort and dignity. You may also feel stressed about whether there are adequate resources that are available to you.


The services through NFCSP have been shown to help with such concerns.


Evidence suggests these services, as mentioned above, can help alleviate stress, anxiety, and even depression among care providers.

How does the NFCSP program work?


Let’s take a look at the process behind how the NFCSP is coordinated all the way from the federal level to local communities.


As we mentioned previously, the NFCSP is managed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Administration on Aging (AoA) at the federal level.


They are the ones that secure funding for the program and then work with various state agencies to distribute funds to support the five categories of services and benefits explained above.


How is NFCSP funding allocated?


The funding for the program is distributed to each state according to their percentage of the population at/over the age of 70. 


Each state then distributes funds to Area Agencies on Aging (AAAs) based on various criteria, depending on the state.


Collaboration with other community groups


The Area Agencies on Aging (AAAs) use the funds from the NFCSP to provide services and support, within the aforementioned five categories, to caregivers.


The AAAs may provide the services themselves, or they might contract with service providers, depending on what would work best to give the caregivers what they need.


The NFCSP requires that either the AAAs, or the service providers they contract with, coordinate with community agencies in your area that are providing similar services. 


It has been shown that when AAAs collaborate with local community groups, the support efforts are more successful. 


The community groups can vary widely, including schools and other organizations working with children.


Priority benefits through NFCSP


According to the law, if the states have to make a choice due to limitations in funding or resources, they must prioritize support and services to older adults who are most at need, both socially and economically.


For parents or grandparents caring for younger family members, resources must be prioritized to first mme the needs of those caring for children with severe disabilities.

The funding history of NFCSP


The NFCSP has been a successful program in supporting informal caregivers. In turn, it has helped improve the quality of life for those living at home with an illness or disability.


As a result, the funding at the federal level has been steadily increasing for NFCSP since it started.


Here are the figures for the fiscal years 2015 and 2016.


  • FY 2015 - $145,586,000
  • FY 2016 - $150,586,000


According to Congressional Research Services, the overall funding for the Older Americans Act (OAA) is $2.1 billion in 2020.


Of that figure, 8.9 percent was allocated to family caregiver services, which is essentially NFCSP.


8.9 percent of $2.1 billion is $186,900,000, which is the funding for NFCSP in 2020.


Matching and maintenance by states


There’s a requirement that each state must match its federal allocation of funds by 25 percent toward family caregiver services.


So, for each million dollars a state gets from the federal government, it must also provide $250,000 towards caregivers.


The law also requires that the funds through NFCSP must be in addition to any other support programs currently present in the state or community. 


In other words, the funds for NFCSP can not be used to replace any other programs for caregivers.

Eligibility requirements for the NFCSP benefits


The Older Americans Act was revised in 2016 to include the following groups among those who can receive support and services through NFCSP.


  • Family members or other informal care providers above the age of 18 caring for adults 60 years of age or above.


  • Care providers above the age of 18 caring for loved ones with Alzheimer’s (or related conditions) at any age.


  • Relatives (who are not parents) above the age of 55 caring for children under the age of 18.


  • Relatives (including parents) who are 55 or older caring for adults (18-59) who are living with disabilities.


How many caregivers received services through the NFCSP?


  • According to recent surveys, here’s how many caregivers benefit from the NFCSP services and support each fiscal year.


  • Overall, more than 700,000 family caregivers receive benefits.


  • More than 1.3 million contacts are given to caregivers, helping them access support, training, counseling, and other resources.


  • More than 100,000 caregivers get access to counseling, support groups, and training, helping them better deal with challenges of providing care.


  • More than 600,000 caregivers benefited from respite services, totaling nearly 6 million hours temporary relief from providing care.


How to apply for the NFCSP program in New York


If you're an informal care provider in the state of New York, you will have to contact the NY Office for the Aging, and inquire about how you can get the application process started.


Here is their contact information:


Phone: 1-844-697-6321


Email: NYSOFA@aging.ny.gov


Mailing Address:


2 Empire State Plaza, 5th Floor

Albany, NY 12223

Get compensated as a family caregiver through CDPAP


As an informal care provider in the state of NY, you might also qualify for compensation for your care services, through a different Medicaid program called CDPAP.


CDPAP is a NY Medicaid program to compensate family members and friends who are assisting loved ones living with disabilities, and need help with activities of daily living.


For more information, including eligibility requirements and how to apply, be sure to check out our CDPAP guide.

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