Social security for family caregivers

Those who provide home care to a relative who is in need of care can claim benefits from long-term care insurance. But how exactly does the insurance help family caregivers? And what financial and social supports can caregivers expect?

At a glance

  • Care recipients who are cared for at home can apply for a care allowance and pass this on to family caregivers, for example.
  • Those who care for a relative with care level 2 or above are entitled to statutory pension insurance, unemployment insurance and accident insurance, subject to certain conditions.
  • If family caregivers fall ill or are in need of a rest from their caregiving responsibilities, long-term care insurance covers the costs of a relief (stand-in) caregiver up to the legally stipulated maximum amounts.
  • Free training courses are available for family caregivers and volunteer caregivers.
  • Home consultations are provided by professional care services, depending on the individual care level and care situation.
A mother and daughter face each other, laughing.

Goal of long-term care insurance – supporting family caregivers

Caring for a loved one at home can be a strenuous and stressful task. Family caregivers should therefore be supported as much as possible and have their efforts recognized. Their social security and the specific support provided by long-term care insurance differs depending on the individual situation. The level of support provided is largely determined by how great the care needs are and how much time the caregiver spends providing care. 

What is the care allowance?

The care allowance is not aimed directly at family caregivers but it often provides them with a means of support. People who are in need of care can apply for the care allowance so that they themselves can receive the care they need. If the assistance of a professional nursing service is completely or partially waived, relatives often take on the caregiving role themselves.

Many people who receive care from or are supported by relatives, friends or acquaintances pass their care allowance on to these caregivers in recognition of the care they provide. However, they are not obliged to do so.

Important: Care allowance applications must be submitted to long-term care insurance funds or private insurance companies. The monthly amount is intended to ensure that the person in need of care can be cared for at home. The amount depends on the individual’s established care level. Those at care level 2 or higher are entitled to apply for the care allowance.

When are family caregivers entitled to social insurance cover?

Family caregivers are entitled to social insurance benefits if they are providing unpaid care at home to one or more care recipients at care level 2 or higher for at least ten hours a week, distributed regularly over two or more days.

If you are providing care to a loved one and you meet these conditions, you are considered a “caregiver” for long-term care insurance purposes. This means that you are covered by statutory pension insurance, unemployment insurance and accident insurance.

Important: The long-term care insurance provider will pay pension insurance contributions for the caregiver, provided that the caregiver is not simultaneously in employment for more than 30 hours a week. The amount of the contribution depends on the care level of the person who is being cared for and their specific care situation.

The long-term care insurance provider will pay unemployment insurance contributions for caregivers who have left their job to provide care to a relative in need of care and for caregivers whose unemployment benefits are interrupted while they provide care to a relative in need of care. This means that caregivers do not lose their insurance protection and, provided that the further requirements are also met, they are entitled to unemployment benefit and active employment promotion benefits, unless they make a seamless transition into a new employment situation on completion of their caregiving responsibilities.

Caregivers have statutory pension, unemployment and accident insurance.

Family caregivers who meet the necessary criteria also receive statutory accident insurance cover at no extra cost. In addition to physical (body-related) care measures and help with household management, the insurance also covers nursing care measures in the various areas specified by the legislation on long-term care insurance. Potential outward and return trips are also insured if the caregiver and the person in need of care do not live in the same household.

Family caregivers – what happens when a caregiver is ill or on vacation?

If family caregivers fall ill or need a period of rest, the care insurance provider will cover the costs of a relief (stand-in) caregiver subject to certain conditions.

Caregivers can take advantage of this respite care allowance if they have been caring for their relatives for at least six months. The long-term care insurance fund covers the costs of respite care for a maximum of six weeks a year. During this time, the person in need of care continues to receive half of the care allowance normally received. The long-term care insurance provider also continues to cover pension and unemployment insurance contributions for the caregiver.

If family caregivers fall ill, the long-term care insurance provider will cover the costs of a stand-in under certain circumstances.

Respite care can also be applied for in the event of an hourly absence, for example if the caregiver has to attend regular appointments. Other forms of respite or replacement care are offered by semi-residential day and night care and short-term care

An alternative to professional care services – what training is available?

Unlike nursing professionals, many people who care for their relatives lack both practical experience and expert knowledge. The long-term care insurance funds are required to provide free courses in nursing care to support these caregivers in their tasks. These courses are not always offered by the long-term care insurance providers directly, and are often run in collaboration with welfare organizations, adult education centers or educational associations.

Courses in nursing care not only impart practical skills and information about hygiene and health, but also knowledge of social benefits or the law relating to adult guardianship. Among other things, family caregivers learn useful manual handling techniques and practice how to protect their own backs when lifting and carrying. The course may also cover how to deal with stress and burnout, suffering, anger, death and grief. In addition to general courses, there are also special courses on offer, for instance on the subject of dementia. Nursing care courses also provide an opportunity to share experiences with other family caregivers.

Your long-term care insurance fund will give you information about which courses are available in your area. Individual training sessions in the home of the care recipient can also be arranged on request.

Care services – what are “counseling visits”?

Regular consultations (also known as counselling visits) by an approved care service in the care recipient’s home are intended to ensure that care recipients remain well cared for and that caregivers have all the information they need. During these consultations, professional nursing staff provide advice, for example on nursing aids, home modifications or applications to change the care level. The long-term care insurance provider covers all costs involved. 

Care recipients who receive a care allowance are obliged to have a visit at the following intervals:

  • every six months for those at care levels 2 and 3
  • every three months for those at care levels 4 and 5

Anyone who is assigned to care level 1 or does not claim care allowance only is entitled to a visit every six months.

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