Will Medicare pay for a family caregiver?

A fellow caregiver asked...

My mother in-law is 80 years-old and she is home-bound on oxygen. She is also unable to care for herself without assistance. Will Medicare pay for her granddaughter to be her caregiver? I know that Medicaid will pay for such an arrangement, but I was wondering about Medicare.

Expert Answer

Unfortunately, Medicare does not have any program to pay a family caregiver. Medicare has only limited coverage for home care, and when it does cover home care it does so through a Medicare-certified home health care agency. It does not pay independent caregivers, family or otherwise.

In many states, Medicaid has a program to directly pay a person needing home care, and that person can turn around and use the money to pay a family member (or anyone else) to provide that care. But even if your mother-in-law does not qualify for Medicaid -- because her income or assets are a bit too high -- she might still qualify for such a direct payment program. That's because in many states eligibility for these programs is extended to people who have low income and assets though not low enough to qualify for Medicaid.

These payments work through a state program, called Cash and Counseling or other similar name, often run through the state's Medicaid program. To learn more about these cash assistance programs -- not all states have them -- go to the page on this site called How to Get Paid for Being Your Parent's Caregiver. If your mother-in-law's state has a Cash and Counseling or similar state cash assistance program, you can get information about it at a local Medicaid office. To find a local Medicaid office, contact the Eldercare Locator by phone toll-free at 800-677-1116, or online you can go to any search engine and type in "Medicaid" and the name of the state.