Oklahoma state capitol building and courtyard

Oklahoma Supports Family Caregivers with Groundbreaking Caring for Caregivers Act

At Trualta, we’re always keeping up with the latest innovations in caregiver support, whether it’s new technology or impactful legislation. This year started with the incredible and unprecedented Caring for Caregivers Act from Rep. Tammy West in Oklahoma, which will provide $2,000-$3,000 in tax credits to family caregivers to help them cover out-of-pocket expenses. Oklahoma is paving the way for other states with this groundbreaking legislation. 

We sat down with Rep. West to learn more about how the bill came to be and what it will offer. 

How does the Caring for Caregivers Act work?

The Caring for Caregivers Act is an income tax credit for Oklahoma residents who provide care for an older loved one who is certified to need help with at least two activities of daily living.

The tax credit is non-refundable and capped at $2,000, and if the loved one being cared for is a veteran or suffers from Alzheimer’s or other related dementias, the credit is increased to $3,000.

We are encouraging people to save receipts for things like the rental of a lift. There is an online portal or a form to register those receipts and receive the tax credit.

What expenses are eligible?

Expenses that aren’t covered by Medicare and Medicaid are eligible. This includes durable medical equipment like walkers, wheelchairs, ramps, lift chairs and adult diapers. It also includes expenses related to home improvements such as bathroom modifications or door widening. Other eligible expenses include home care and personal aides, as well as adult day care and respite services. 

How did you come up with the idea for this bill?

My family took care of my grandparents as they aged. The one wish my grandparents had was to stay home. It was a learning experience for us. Renting a lift is expensive. Home health care is expensive. Families need to have supports and Medicare doesn’t cover anything.

The bill came about from personal experience as well as community experience and seeing what families go through while caring for a loved one. It came from listening and seeing the need.

Is there anything like this in other states?

I didn’t realize when I started with Caring for Caregivers that it is the most expansive legislation of its kind in the nation. Another state offers a $500 tax credit for veterans. I am hoping it will be a template for others. 

Was this bill hard to get passed?

It was hard to get passed. It was a lot of work and took two years to get across the line. 

How are Oklahoma family caregivers finding out about Caring for Caregivers?

We have done multiple TV, radio and print interviews, in addition to a press release. We are going to local libraries and the AARP is working diligently to spread the word. We will continue to remind people to save their receipts throughout the year. There will be a big reminder at tax season. 

What would you like to tell people?

It is an effort of love. I know firsthand that caregiving is physically exhausting, financially exhausting, and emotionally exhausting.The work caregivers do is essential and I know it’s out of love. I know from my family’s experience it was the greatest gift to my family and my grandparents to have every moment with them until the Lord took them home. Helping to relieve burden for others is something I want to do.

Caregivers on average in Oklahoma spend $7200 out of pocket per year. The tax credit doesn’t cover all their costs, but it chips away at it and hopefully provides some relief. 

What would you like to tell other states?

They need to start listening and educating themselves on the need [for caregiver support]. The cost to the state of Oklahoma for someone to be in an assisted living or nursing home is $200 per day, approximately. If someone is using this tax credit, the cost of keeping someone at home is $10 per day for the state. It’s a good financial decision for the state. 

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