It is not uncommon to have family members provide care for their aging parents or relatives. This is understandable when one considers that most people would be more comfortable with their own family than with a stranger providing assistance with their activities of daily living. In fact, according to a recent study, about 21% of the population provides such family care. These generous persons provide an average of 21 hours per week over a period of 4.5 years.
One problem with this approach, however, is that family caregivers are often forced to cut back on their employment or even quit their jobs in order to provide for their parents. Especially in a difficult economy this can create financial hardship for the caregiver and that person’s immediate family. Hence, many persons ask if there are any government programs that will pay family caregivers to provide care for their loved ones.
Medicaid does have a home and community based “MI Choice” waiver program. To be eligible, a person cannot have over $2022 per month in income and more than $2000 in countable assets (spouses can keep greater amounts). The program does pay for a certain amount of care for elderly or disabled persons in the home, which can benefit family caregivers by giving financial support and avoiding caregiver burnout. Respite services, which allow for out-of-home respite care up to 30 days per year, medical supplies and equipment, and counseling can also benefit the family caregiver. However, MI Choice will not pay family members to provide homemaker or chore services or personal care.
Medicaid has some regulations that permit family caregivers to be paid directly out of the assets of the elderly person. Medicaid requires that a person spend down assets to $2000 or less before it will pay for nursing home care. One can be in a nursing home and do this spend-down or one can pay their family to provide care in the home while spending down these assets. The payments count toward Medicaid spend-down and will not disqualify the person from Medicaid when nursing home care is needed. However, there are rules for this that are strictly followed and it would be wise to seek legal counsel before attempting such payments.
The Veteran’s Aid and Attendance program is another way of paying for family caregivers. The pension requires that the applicant meet the income and asset requirements, but with competent elder law assistance most can qualify. The pension will pay for in-home care by a non-family provider or a family provider, or (especially to help avoid caregiver stress) a combination of both. Currently a veteran or the veteran’s surviving spouse can receive between $1000 and $2000 a month to help pay for care in the home or in an assisted living facility, tax-free.
Through careful planning and foresight, families can make use of available programs to provide in-home care for their elderly loved ones for as long as possible with less stress on the family caregivers. If you or someone you know could be helped by skilled Medicaid planning or Veterans Benefit planning, please contact Heritage Elder Law toll-free at: 1-877-731-4357.