The number one question asked in the AgingCare.com Caregiver Forum is, “How do I get paid for caregiving?”

Unfortunately, there is no clear-cut answer. The vast majority of family caregivers do not get paid to care for an elderly loved one. However, there are a few options that may allow a family caregiver to receive payment in exchange for the services they provide.

Personal Care Agreements

Not all care recipients will be amenable to this arrangement, but it is possible for them to use their own funds to pay a family member for the care they provide. It is important to complete a formal personal care agreement detailing this arrangement first. The document should be prepared to outline the services to be provided as well as the payment to be received. Keep in mind that a personal care agreement cannot be created for retroactive payment for past care.

To learn more about how personal care agreements work and how to draft one, read Personal Care Agreements: A Must for Caregiver Compensation and Medicaid Planning.

Government Sources of Caregiving Compensation

Accessibility to public programs and assistance vary widely by state and individual circumstances. Below is a list of resources to explore that may help caregivers receive compensation for their services or at least find some programs and assistance that can help offset the costs of providing care for a loved one.

Veterans Benefits

While there are many different benefits and programs available to veterans and their family members, the veterans pension was specifically established to help low-income vets. There are three tiers of financial assistance:

  • Level 1: Basic pension for those with the lowest income.
  • Level 2: Housebound pension for disabled individuals with low income who cannot leave their home at all or without great difficulty.
  • Level 3: Aid and Attendance (A&A) pension for those with low income who require the help of another person to perform activities of daily living.

The tax-free pension amounts are based on the veteran’s income and assets, and the funds can be used however the veteran sees fit. Both housebound and A&A are bigger pensions that are meant to offset the cost of increased care that eligible vets require. Keep in mind that surviving spouses of eligible veterans may also qualify for this monetary benefit.

For more information on veterans pensions and other VA benefits, visit the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs website or download a digital copy of our free Veterans Benefits Guide.

Medicaid Cash and Counseling Programs

People with low income and few assets other than their home may be eligible for health care coverage through Medicaid. This includes hospital care, doctor’s visits, home health care, personal care services, and long-term care. Medicaid recipients must meet many eligibility guidelines, including functional and financial requirements.

Medicaid is a joint federal- and state-run program. Each state has its own eligibility guidelines and coverage parameters. One particular program called Cash and Counseling provides Medicaid recipients with a set amount of money each month and the discretion to use these funds to pay approved care providers of their choice. This cash benefit can be used to pay for professional in-home caregivers, family members or even friends to provide care. In some states, Cash and Counseling may be referred to as participant-, consumer- or self-directed programs.

To learn more about Medicaid Eligibility and the Cash and Counseling Program, peruse AgingCare’s Medicaid content or visit Medicaid.gov.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

The Social Security Administration’s Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program pays benefits to low-income aged, blind and disabled adults. Unlike Social Security retirement benefits, SSI benefits are not based on a person’s prior work. Aside from increasing a person’s income, applying for and receiving SSI is useful because the eligibility guidelines are also the basis for many other programs, such as Medicaid, food stamps, etc.

To learn more about SSI and apply for benefits, visit the Social Security Administration website.

Help Planning to Pay for Senior Care

If none of the above options are feasible for you and your elderly loved one, try searching for other benefits and services. Even a single program that can help minimize your household’s financial strain can be worthwhile. Using local resources to help you navigate the system is often useful in determining a senior’s eligibility for benefits.

Benefits for Seniors

BenefitsCheckUp is the nation’s most comprehensive database of benefits programs for seniors with limited income and resources. BenefitsCheckUp is a free service of the National Council on Aging. This online tool accesses more than 2,500 federal, state and private benefits programs, including:

  • Prescription drug savings
  • Nutrition (including Supplemental Nutrition Assistance/Food Stamps)
  • Energy/utilities assistance
  • Income assistance
  • Legal aid
  • Housing services
  • In-home services
  • Transportation services

Area Agencies on Aging

There is a federally-mandated Area Agency on Aging (AAA) in your region, 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 care recipient’s situation and finances and make an appointment to meet with a counselor at the AAA. The staff there 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.

Hire an Elder Law Attorney

One of the many functions of a certified elder law attorney is assistance in planning for long-term care. A certified elder law attorney can help with determining eligibility for public benefits such as Medicaid for long-term care needs and provide assistance with benefit applications and a plan for the spend-down of assets.

Make sure the attorney you choose has experience specific to elder law in the state where your loved one resides. In addition, attorneys can pursue membership of specialized national consortiums. Look for a professional who belongs to the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA) or has recieved the Certified Elder Law Attorney (CELA) designation.

To find an elder law attorney near you, search the AgingCare Elder Law Attorney Directory.