What is the number one question caregivers ask on the AgingCare.com Caregiver Forum? "How do I get paid for caregiving?"
Unfortunately, there's no cut-and-dry answer. Programs and assistance vary widely by state and individual circumstances. But we hope to provide our caregivers with some options and programs to explore.
Administration on Aging
The AoA administers many national programs and services for elders, including health insurance counseling, legal assistance, protection from elder abuse and long-term care.
Area Agency on Aging
There is a federally-mandated Area Agency on Aging in your county or city. This agency is staffed by professionals who know every elder program and service, including available funding sources, in your area.
Gather up as much information as you can about you and your parent's situation and finances, and make an appointment to meet with a counselor at the Area Agency on Aging. The staff person can advise regarding programs and qualifications and even help prepare the necessary applications and documentation. You can find your local Area Agency on Aging in our directory and contact them directly to schedule an appointment.
The VA Improved Pension was established to help veterans who are in financial need. A vet does not have to have had long years of service to qualify for the VA Improved Pension. The veteran needs to have been in service for at least 90 days of active duty with 1 day beginning or ending during a period of War and have been discharged honorably. There are three tiers of assistance:
- Level 1: Basic Pension for those with the lowest income
- Level 2: Housebound Benefits for those with a physician certifying the applicant is in need of some daily help
- Level 3: Allows the highest countable income, provides the highest benefit, and is called Aid and Attendance(A and A).
The Improved Pension for A and A may be granted when the veteran or the surviving spouse requires the regular attendance of another person to assist in eating, bathing, dressing and undressing. It may also include individuals who are blind, in a nursing home or assisted living facility due to mental or physical incapacity. Learn more about Veterans Assistance.
Medicaid Cash and Counseling (Participant/Consumer or Self-Directed Programs)
If your elderly parent is eligible for Medicaid, Medicaid's Cash and Counseling program may enable direct payments to be made to you, the caregiver; however, the program is currently only available in a limited number of states (at the time of print, these states included Alabama, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington and West Virginia). To find out if your state has a Cash and Counseling program, contact your local Medicaid office. Cash and Counseling programs are often also referred to as "Participant/Consumer or Self-Directed Programs."
People with low income and few assets other than their home may be eligible for Medicaid health care coverage. This includes in-home care and personal care, such as help with bathing, dressing, cooking, cleaning, eating, moving around, and similar activities of daily living.
Medicaid does cover some of the costs of long-term care, but your elderly mom or dad must meet many eligibility requirements, including functional and financial requirements. Medicaid is a state-run program.
Each state has its own rules about who is eligible and what is covered under Medicaid. Medicaid planning often requires forethought, because a person must have very few assets to qualify for Medicaid coverage. The limit may be as low as $2,000, excluding the value of a home and possibly a car. A person must "spend down" before becoming eligible.
Medicare is our country's health insurance program for people age 65 or older, some disabled people under age 65, and people of all ages with End-Stage Renal Disease. Medicare has Two Parts:
- Medicare Part A (Hospital Insurance)
- Medicare Part B (Medical Insurance) (Most people pay monthly for Part B)
You can choose different ways to get the services covered by Medicare. Depending on where you live, you may have different choices. In most cases, when you first get Medicare, you are in Original Medicare.
In addition, if your elderly parent is a Medicare beneficiary, they might be eligible for Medicare prescription drug coverage, regardless of income, health status or current prescription expenses.
Our Medicare and Medicaid section will help you navigate through these programs.
Supplement Security Income (SSI)
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program pays benefits to disabled adults. SSI benefits also are payable to people 65 and older without disabilities who meet the financial limits. SSI pays benefits to the elderly and certain family members.
Unlike Social Security benefits, SSI benefits are not based on your elderly parent's prior work or a family member's prior work. SSI beneficiaries may also be eligible for food stamps in every state except California. Your elderly mom or dad's living arrangement is another factor used to determine how much SSI they can get. Benefits may vary depending on whether the senior lives:
- In their own home
- In someone else's household
- In a group care facility In an institution
Family Caregiver Support Program
Family Caregiver Support Program (FCSP) offers support services to family caregivers of persons age 60 and older, or adults of any age with dementia. Services include information to caregivers about available support services; assistance to caregivers in gaining access to supportive services; individual counseling, support groups and caregiver training; respite care; and supplemental services (such as emergency response systems and home modifications).
To access your local FCSP, contact your local Area Agency on Aging (can also be found in your phone book.)
If you're supporting an elderly parent, you may qualify for some tax relief. As a caregiver, you might be able to claim your elderly parent as a dependent on your taxes. You might also be able to deduct your medical expenses.
IRS Publication 501 gives details on dependency requirements, including caregiver income phase-out levels. In addition, you must be providing over half of their financial support for food, housing, medical, transportation, etc.
If the person lives with you, include a reasonable percentage of your mortgage, utilities and other household costs in determining your level of support. Those who are in an assisted living or long term care facility can qualify as dependents if the income and support levels are met.
Visit our Tax Tips for Caregivers section to learn more about the tax breaks available to family caregivers.
Counseling for the Elderly
The Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) Program provides free tax help to people age 60 and older. Trained with IRS materials and certified by an IRS examination, a network of volunteers provide tax counseling and basic Federal income tax return preparation services at community locations across the nation. Many of these community locations also offer free electronic filing services.
BenefitsCheckUp is the nation's most comprehensive Web-based service to screen for benefits programs for seniors with limited income and resources. BenefitsCheckUp includes more than 1,700 public and private benefits programs from all 50 states and the District of Columbia, such as:
- Prescription drugs
- Nutrition (including Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (SNAP)/Food Stamps)
- Energy/utility assistance
- Financial assistance
- Legal aid
- Health care
- In-home services
GovBenefits.gov is the official benefits website of the U.S. government, with information on over 1,000 benefit and assistance programs. Gather up all the information you can on your elderly parent's health, disability, income, wealth (as in property owned), whether a military veteran, education level and more. Access this site and answer every question that you can. Then, push the button and, within minutes, the site will respond with a list, details and access information for many beneficial government programs and services.
Home Equity Conversion Mortgages (Reverse Mortgages)
The purpose of the program is to enable elderly homeowners to convert equity in their homes to monthly streams of income, or except for Texas, lines of credit. Home Equity Conversions are also known as reverse mortgages.
To contact these organizations, see telephone numbers and website links on the next page.