A bill has been introduced in the Wisconsin Legislature that would help families who struggle with the high costs of caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s or other disabilities. The help would come in the form of a non-refundable tax credit designed to offset some of the expenses incurred by families caring for a loved one.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, in Wisconsin alone, there are an estimated 193,000 people providing unpaid care for someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia. These unpaid caregivers put in 219,000,000 (that’s two hundred and nineteen MILLION) hours of unpaid care. If this care were valued it would be worth $2,775,000,000. (That’s two TRILLION 775 million dollars.) Caregivers make financial sacrifices – 48 percent cut back on spending for themselves and 43 percent cut back on saving because of the out-of-pocket cost of caring for someone with dementia. (The full report on the 2017 Alzheimer’s Facts and Figures can be found here.)
My family played roles as unpaid caregivers when my parents were living with me. My brother Richard moved back to Wisconsin from his home in New Mexico, to care for both of our parents when they moved in with me after my father was struck by cancer – he had been my mother’s primary caregiver. I took time off work to take my mother and father to doctors appointments, and made modifications to my home. My brothers Brad and Bob came in to provide respite, and Brad helped my parents to manage their finances. We are not alone, many families do the same thing. We were, and families like us are, simply doing what needs to be done.
The Wisconsin bill that would give caregivers a tax credit is SB 528 / AB 631. You can find the full text of the bill here. It was introduced on a bipartisan basis by Representative Ken Skowronski and others. It provides a non-refundable tax credit of up to $1000 for people who incur expenses for supplies and services needed for a loved one. The credit is based on half of the qualifying expenses. In other words, if a person spent $2000 in qualified expenses for a loved one, the tax credit would be the full $1000. The credit is limited to people who have an adjusted gross income of $75,000 or less for single filers, and $150,000 or less for joint filers. The bill is not limited to people with Alzheimer’s, it would include costs incurred for caring for an adult family member with any type of qualifying condition.
How would it work? Here are some examples of what could be used for the credit for a qualified filer:
- Spending $800 to have a grab bar installed in the shower of your home would get a tax credit of $400.
- Paying $1500 in a year for an aide who comes in when you need to be away from your loved one would net a credit of $750.
- Spending $2000 on legal fees related to your loved one would allow a credit of $1000.
- Spending $500 on incontinence supplies such as Depends in a year would provide a $250 tax credit.
- A caregiver who lost four hours of wages due to having to take unpaid time off to take a loved one to the doctor would not get a credit under this bill because the bill does not cover lost wages.
By allowing families to recoup some of those out of pocket costs, this bill would help ease the burden of caregiving. It is a step in the right direction.
What happens next? The bill is assigned to the Committee on Mental Health, and is scheduled for a public hearing on December 12, 2017, at 11 a.m. in Room 225 NW of the Wisconsin State Capitol. The details of the hearing are here. As a matter of fact, this bill is one of six that are scheduled for hearing that day, all of which are bills designed to improve care, services and awareness related to Alzheimer’s and Dementia. A summary of all six bills can be found here.
Here’s what you can do: Your legislators need to hear from you. Share your stories as caregiver for someone with Alzheimer’s or other special needs. Submit written testimony in support of the bill (and any of the others as well). Written testimony should be submitted to Representative Tittl, who is the Chair of the Assembly Mental Health Committee. You can do this by sending your testimony electronically to the committee clerk: Steve.Hall@legis.wisconsin.gov . If you prefer, you can testify in person. Even if you are reading this after December 12th, you should still contact your own legislator to express support for the bill. You can use this map to find your state senators and representatives.
In Wisconsin, we are beginning to make progress toward much-needed care and support for people with Alzheimer’s and their families. Let’s keep moving forward!