It’s Time to Level the Playing Field for Caregiving Spouses

Jeanne Leyden is Director of Adult Family Care, the Adult Foster Care program at Somerville-Cambridge Elder Services

Providing daily assistance for those who can no longer live alone is no small commitment. Depending on the circumstances, it often requires sacrificing time, money, and work opportunities. Fortunately, there are MassHealth-funded programs that recognize this fact, and offer support for friends and family who help provide vital in-home care.

One example is Adult Foster Care (AFC), which provides training, compensation, and paid time off for live-in caregivers assisting those who need daily assistance. Another is the Personal Care Attendant (PCA) program, which allows eligible participants to hire and manage their own in-home care.

Unfortunately, neither of these programs are available to help caregiving spouses. But there is an effort afoot to change that. Sponsored by State Representative Jen Benson (D-Lunenburg) and State Senator Barbara L’Italien (D-Andover), An Act Regarding Spouse as Caregivers would amend state law to allow spouses to participate in AFC and PCA.

Federal law allows this, and it makes sense: consider that the AFC regulations allow for a son or daughter, niece or nephew, friend, or stranger to provide care through the program. The only people who can’t receive support through AFC are spouses and legal guardians. The rules are similar for PCA.

In that context, locking caregiver spouses out of these programs seems rather arbitrary. An Act Regarding Spouse as Caregiver isn’t looking to expand the eligibility requirements of these programs, but instead allow the participants to seek that support from their closest and most trusted companion.

This proposal is currently making the rounds at Beacon Hill, and there’s reason to hope it will eventually arrive on the Statehouse floor for a vote at some point this year. If you support the notion that spouses should also have access to these vital programs, we ask that you take a few moments to contact your state representative or senator to voice your support for H. 336 and S. 55, An Act Regarding Spouse as Caregiver.

Adult Foster Care and Personal Care Attendants provide essential supports that help people receive the care they need at home. If a spouse is willing and able to fill that role, it seems only fair to offer them the same level of support that’s available to virtually anyone else.

Jeanne Leyden is Director of Adult Family Care, a non-profit Adult Foster Care program at Somerville-Cambridge Elder Services that supports in-home caregivers across the Greater Boston, North Shore, and Merrimack Valley areas. For more information, visit or call 617-628-2601.