How can I get financial help for things like a ramp and hand rails to accomodate my disabled mother who now lives with me?

A fellow caregiver asked...

My mother just moved in with me. She is 76 and not able to care for herself. I make good money but it's just enough to cover my bills. How can I get financial help with renovations such as a ramp and handrails?

Expert Answer

If your mother has low income (only Social Security benefits, for example) and very low assets, she might be able to qualify for your state's Medicaid program. In addition to providing some regular home care for her, it may have a program that can help pay for safety or comfort improvements to her (in this case, also your) home. Here's how it works.

If your mother does qualify for Medicaid, normally she would get that Medicaid in-home care through a certified home care agency. But it's also possible -- depending on what state you live in -- to bypass the home care agency and have the state pay your mother directly for her in-home care. And in some states, this kind of cash assistance is possible even for people who have slightly too much income or assets to qualify for Medicaid.

This arrangement works through a state program called Cash and Counseling, or a similar program. The program directly pays the senior the same amount Medicaid would pay an aide from a home care agency. The senior can spend these funds on a family member or anyone else she chooses to take care of her. She would decide how much to pay per hour. And -- here's the direct answer to your question -- she can use some of the money to make home improvements for safety or comfort, or to buy personal care items.

The catch is that your state has to be offering this Cash and Counseling or similar state program. To find out more about these cash assistance programs, go to the page on this site called How to Get Paid for Being Your Parent's Caregiver. You can help your mother apply for Medicaid and Cash and Counseling, or for a similar state cash assistance program, at a local Medicaid office. To find the local Medicaid office near you, contact the Eldercare Locator by phone toll-free at 800-677-1116, or online you can go to any search engine and type in the word Medicaid and the name of your state.